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Crowdfunding Your Film

Lesson 3 of 13

Messaging to Your Audience

Emily Best

Crowdfunding Your Film

Emily Best

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Lesson Info

3. Messaging to Your Audience

Lesson Info

Messaging to Your Audience

So we're already crowdfunding and one of these things that these interview questions air really getting us to is messaging. We're trying to figure out what you're saying about your project That's compelling where you are saying it. What are the social media platforms and who's gonna help you amplify that message right? Who are the sort of the influencers or potential partners along the way who might help you tee up your message? And the interesting thing about this information is that it could positively effect the actual thing that you make. So if you go out and you discover Oh my gosh, Oddly, I interviewed 25 people and, like 23 of them, said, I like techno music. Maybe you want to put some of that into the score of your film. Or at least consider putting that in your pitch video right? Because you know, there's a really compelling argument for why that's appealing to your crowd. Um, in another case, you might consider that. So when we made our my first feature film called Like the W...

ater We this was sort of the genesis of seed and spark. The wish list came from we needed a way to raise money. We didn't want to ask for a pile of money. We had, ah, whole bunch of stuff that we needed more like, Well, just ask our friends for stuff and see what happens. And we needed 20,000 in cash. We raised 23,000 cash and hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans and gift of stuff, and the cool thing about that was, um, we got offered locations that were so beautiful and so beyond what we thought we could ever get. We rewrote the script to incorporate them, and I think it's because we communicated something about what we really wanted our film to be and our community expanded the empathic space in which we were creating, and that made a much better movie than we would have made if we'd stayed very insular and sort of behind closed doors. This is another like this is part of the creative element of crowdfunding. I think it's so exciting. So get good at this message testing. I think it's gonna make you better. Filmmaker um, partnerships can take a long time to onboard. I can tell you how often filmmakers were like, Oh I'm making an LGBT film. I'm gonna get the a C l u on board or I'm gonna get, you know, P flag on board. I'm gonna get all these organizations on board. I'm, like, Cool. How right? Those organizations are assaulted with partnership requests. They have massive mailing lists that they use for their own purposes. Right. So if you're going to get a partner or a brand or an influencer of any kind on board, you want to do this style of interview, you know, uh, in order to figure out really how you can appeal to them. So you need to know first what they need, right? You can't go to them asking for something. You have to go to them offering something. So, um, brands all have something usually pretty well articulated. Called brand pillars. It's a car company. It's pretty much always gonna be like prestige in innovation or something like that. Um, but you really want to go into a partnership meeting speaking their language with a clearly articulated argument of Hey, I know you guys air working on expanding this initiative. Here's how my project and the audience reach can help you do that for nonprofits who certainly are, you know, as overworked and underpaid as filmmakers, particularly they have their own fundraising initiatives. Are you making something that could help them raise money later? So I have this incredible documentary that I'm making or I'm making, you know, a film that's sort of an allegory about the role of hatred. Could I could I cut something down for you that could be useful to you at your annual event or it your fundraising efforts? What do you have to offer that will make them help get to their mailing list And always make sure to let everyone know what you're up to ahead of time because you never know who in your network will be like, Hey, I'm working on something. This happened to us last year. We decided to take this class on the road at the very beginning of the state. In Detour, I got in a car in L. A. Drove across country with Nicole, our community manager, and then Eric, our director of Crowdfunding. We taught this class in 21 cities in 35 days, and I was talking about it because we were trying to figure out. Like what are we gonna call this? So as we were just generating the hashtags stay in detour. Um, we found out from a friend of mine that he had just started a company that was servicing independent filmmakers with some some storage and data transfer stuff. And he was like, Hey, can I give you guys some gas money and you tell people about it? So we got our first stay in detour sponsorship just cause we were chatting about it online and the current iteration of the state and the tour is now sponsored by G Technology. Now you can imagine that once I had already done all this audience building of going to see in 21 cities in 35 days and thousands of email addresses later, I had a really compelling argument. Toe y G technology might wanna get involved with us, and they have been an unbelievable partner since then because we really understood how we could help each other. But these things take a long time to onboard, right? Sometimes it's because you have to do a lot of audience growth, and sometimes it's because it takes organizations a long time to you know, be able to approve all these things. So be patient and persistent with partners, and don't expect them to come on board inside six weeks. It can take 6 to 18 months sometimes, you know, and for documentaries, that's hard. We just have to be thinking about this stuff in advance. Um, tone is really interesting when you think about how you're communicating with your audience. Jill Soloway, in a speech recently, actually said about, You know, writing and filmmaking. It's your tone that you sell right. That's your brand, your unique tone as a filmmaker. And if you think about the filmmakers you really love and admire, it's not that they make films about all the same stuff. It's something very special about the tone in which they make it. That is why we follow them. And this is where social media can become incredibly useful in developing and honing your tone. So if you're like me and you're afraid sometimes that social media might drag your very soul out of your body, um, I feel like this makes me feel better. And Erica Anderson, our director of Crowdfunding, came up with this Venn diagram, Your tone is really just the intersection of who you are and who you want to reach, right. So there's all this pink stuff over here that you get to keep. There's all this great stuff over there that you don't need to know about. There's a lot of stuff we could have found out about Brian that we didn't ask him right that wouldn't necessarily have been useful for our particular purposes. And so your interview questions are really helping you understand lots of the different elements that will help you develop a tone that is the effective intersection between who you are and who you want to reach. If you're not a really smiley exclamation point E person, there's no reason you should have to do that to effectively communicate with your audience because it doesn't fall in the Pink zone, right? The interesting thing about social media is that three years ago, when we started seeding spark, they were saying 321 is the golden ratio. Three things about other people for everyone, uh, self promotional post. And then a year and 1/2 ago, they were saying 5 to 1, and the most recent one I heard was nine toe 19 things about other stuff for everyone. Self promotional post. It sounds discouraging, but I think this is actually really cool, as far a storytellers are concerned, because it means you have to become a hub of cool information and articles and inspiration in and around the stuff we're working on. Well, this puts filmmakers at a tremendous advantage because we are always doing research about our movies, right. Whether you're documentarian or you're a narrative film maker, you might be going out and taking pictures of locations. You might be reading articles that are inspiring to you. You might be watching films that are really exciting to you. All of these are fodder for us, a social media account that really starts to give people a sense of your tone as a filmmaker. And I think what's particularly great about that is it helps people get involved with your process of inspiration. And I mean, if you want to look to the YouTubers, who are so incredibly good at building big fan bases, they really show us how successful process as product can be, right. So I had a great time following Lindy and her husband, Chris, in the process of making their film because they shared a lot of stuff that was inspiration in and around the film they were working on, and I haven't seen a single clip from it. But I feel tremendous affinity towards it and a great amount of excitement about it, because I've been following along in the process. And I also read about, you know, really interesting LGBT issues because they were posting stuff and I got certain inspiration, like I'm not even a horror fan. But now I'm excited because they have tapped into something that's pulled me in. Um, the way that you do this well is through message testing, and that essentially means not everything you say and not everything you write is really gonna appeal to your audience. Social media becomes a tool for you to learn about what works best for your audience, for what you're thinking for your crowd. So try five different messages and they don't all have to be about your movie, right? Keep track of what works. That means you're not just like posting 20 things on social media a day because you might be posting 10 things on Social Media Day and seeing how well they perform. And it would be interesting if ah bunch of people said, Well, I get my news from The Daily Show and last week tonight and some other people said New York Times NPR, And you discovered that Wow, at this time of day stuff that I post that sounds like last week tonight that's a little more satirical does really well. And at this time of day Oh, so so interesting. My, uh, my audience, who's sort of the more area diet more serious crowd is really responding to stuff that I post in the evenings. And my, uh, my satire crowd is responding to stuff in the mornings. Well, okay, now I can schedule my social media post a little bit more informed and make sure I'm reaching my audience where, when and with what language they're interested in. Yeah, this takes work. It's, you know, it takes about as much work as scheduling your movie does or anything like that. Um, you have to test, too, because sometimes you'll put stuff out there and like, well, that didn't work at all. They don't care about those images. They don't care about that text, you just hone it over time. It's not an exact science. You'll get a feel for it. It just means you're going back over your social media and discovering what works and what doesn't. My Twitter followers are pretty much only interested if I se and or retweet something witty and satirical, like the serious stuff. They don't care. I've learned that, like, that's what my crowd responds to cool, I'm It's a lot of pressure to be witty and funny. Old time. I'm not very good at it. There are some pro tips in tone. Andi, if you took nothing else away from today and I hope you're awake by now, take this. Do not ask for help with a donation because, by and large, unless you're back by five a one C three. That's not even true. You want to ask your audience to join what you are offering with a contribution. That means you are contributing something and they're contributing something, and together you'll make something magnificent. Why is this really important? Well, um, let's talk about the power dynamic of please help me with a donation audience up here, You little shit. down here, right? I have this really incredibly cool thing that you could join. With your contribution, we can ride this rocket to the moon together. Both astronauts going to the minute, right? Totally, totally different dynamic. And you know, if I could if if if I could change one thing in the world and I leave this world behind, it would be with artists not understanding themselves, as you know, starving artists who need patrons necessarily so much as we are creative entrepreneurs offering really cool, meaningful shit to the world. Right, Storytellers. We've had them as long as humans can speak. And that's because they teach us about how the world inside of us works. It's really important service. And it's okay to want to be paid for that and considered equal with everyone else is not a lesser job in the universe. Um, so don't plead offer. Altruism really works. I have one here. Nia, on vacation was a film that was crowdfunding and her, uh, she started in the last week of a campaign called in honor of neon vacation was like eat, pray, love. But on a Greek island and in honor of was the film about honor killing, not similar films, but she tweets early on in her campaign. So much great independent film to support at Seeding Spark in honor of film is almost at their goal. Make it happen here. What I love about this, you know, piece of altruism is it also demonstrates a real understanding of the culture of plenty. She doesn't believe that audience, for in honor of is not audience for her. She doesn't believe that money for in honor of is not money for her. Doesn't know these filmmakers. She was in New York. These filmmakers were based in L. A. She just was doing this because she thought it was cool. And that was a really authentic, altruistic way and got a ton of response. And, most importantly, when in honor of film reached their goal, What do you think they did? Well, they spend the next three weeks coming back and tweeting about me on vacation, right? So she created community with people she didn't even know through a couple of tweets. It's pretty cool. Sean Mannion, who I'll talk about some more, made a time travel short called Time signature. And when he was tweeting about it, he said. Are you a fan of big Alonso's time crimes that inspired our short time signature? Currently on seed and spark, his world of inspiration? He was offering to you. I never heard of Big Alando. I looked it up. It was cool, right? Or I'm a fan of a galan. Does time crimes And I'm like, Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. He's being very specific about who his audience might be in that moment. And the response to this is going to tell him something about who he's effectively reaching or not. Right These air. Very good ways to message test.

Class Description

Raising money and gathering resources is crucial for making movie dreams a production reality. In Crowdfunding Your Film, Emily Best will lay out your options for getting early support and identifying the fundraising sources that will bring your work to life. 

When her film Like the Water needed a last-minute infusion of capital, Emily was inspired to start Seed&Spark – the crowdfunding platform she runs as CEO today. In Crowdfunding Your Film, she’ll share both her front-line fundraising expertise and her years of experience helping others raise the money needed to make their films a reality. 

She’ll teach you how to: 
  • Create an effective social fundraising strategy 
  • Crowdfund your film 
  • Crowdsource gear and supplies 
  • Create incentives for the audience during every stage of production 
You’ll learn how to develop a community of contributors and supporters that ensure you have the resources you need to make your vision come to life. You will also learn to build momentum so your audience will follow your film creation from beginning to end and your film has an audience from the beginning. 

Fundraising and acquiring all the necessary filmmaking materials can be a tremendous source of pressure, but it doesn't have to be. In Crowdfunding Your Film, you’ll get real-world insights and practical approaches to funding your film without fear. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Social Media Handbook.pdf

Crowdfunding Prep Schedule Template.pdf

Crowdfunding Campaign Schedule Template.pdf

Education Deck.pdf

Homework Incentives Worksheet.pdf

Homework Audience Worksheet.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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a Creativelive Student

Excellent source of information re crowd funding for films (docs & narratives, short & long form.) THANK YOU Emily Best!!! You were great, love what you are doing with Seed & Spark. THANKS Creative Live. Love how you bring creative learning to your audience.


This was my introduction to Seed & Spark. Since I have read a number of articles on the same presented by Emily Best and her business partner. So impressed with what they are doing, I have recommended it to all of my readers--all of whom are filmmakers. Emily's approach to crowdfunding as explored in this video series is top notch. I would recommend this series to everyone whether the novice or the more experienced crowdfunder. David W. King, Michigan Movie Media 2.0


So happy to have found, AT LAST! a comprehensive approach to fundraising. Information on this subject is often contradictory and sketchy. Emily brought it all together. Thank you.