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Giving Cancer the Middle Finger: Quality Problems in Fundraising

September 1, 2015

• Brooke Purdy

It shouldn’t be easy to promote a film about CANCER.  We didn’t have a movie with a built-in audience; no zombies or Zach Braff. What we had was a project our entire team believed in, passionately. We are making a comedy about cancer but we didn't want to belittle/patronize anyone else's experience.  There are five of us spearheading this campaign and we wanted to enter the crowd funding arena prepared… like Gladiators, only super poor ones. Before we became filmmakers, most of us started in the theatre and we already knew how to beg, borrow and scrape. It is part of our theatrical psyche.


But raising money for an independent film is a far bigger challenge and we knew we had to do our homework. So, our entire team took a crash course in crowdfunding. We stalked EVERYTHING Emily Best and Seed&Spark posted on YouTube and their seminars through the #stayindietour. We all binge watched Emily Best’s videos. Our favorite was  “Crowdfunding to Build Independence.”


Then we invested in a consultation with Kathleen Minogue at Crowdfund Better. She gave us a one-on-one (or really one-on-five) dissertation on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. We then took an intensive hands-on workshop with Kathleen and Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage who helped us own the fact that we are making a comedy about cancer. To be as bold and unapologetically human in our campaign prep as were in the writing of the film.


            [See our email blast: Do you know what is hilarious? CANCER!]  


It’s easy to forget when we’re buried in prep work, that we are making a film about cancer. And It’s funny. When people give to our campaign, they are using their dollars to laugh in cancer’s face, to give cancer the middle finger. That’s the message that cancer organizations can partner on.  That’s the message that you don’t mind talking to that person you haven’t seen in twenty years about.  That’s the tentpole of the campaign.  Every campaign has to find that.  You’ll think you’ve found it several times, but when you actually find it, it will be so easy to make that 30 second teaser. 


We began shooting our pitch video and building our message in May, shooting some rough draft interview footage. We wanted to talk about the project and all the details, but we also needed to grab people’s attention in the first 30 seconds. After that first pass, we honed in and crafted the video further before we ever borrowed the ‘nice’ camera and put on grown up clothes.


We scraped together 10k (This is a euphemism for - we borrowed from the healthiest credit card- NOW we’re “officially indie’) to shoot 30% of our script before our launch. We called in a lot of favors: our friends catered and did craft services, people donated time and loaned us equipment.  For nine days in July, we shot the scenes that took place in the directors’ home then took some of that behind-the-scenes footage to fill in our pitch video.


Then, we threw a launch party on a Saturday to soft launch our campaign. We threw it on the set (while we would have loved to rent a big party screening room, we wanted every dollar on screen). We invited not just people who would give money, but people who had supported us in other ways – the people we thought would be our foot soldiers, telling their friends about the film.  We also did more than just ask for money – we gave them something.  We got local press before the launch and blew up the article for people to read. We had a photo booth where people could share their own quality problems. We made the party interactive. Every 45 minutes, we screened footage, hilarious teasers, touching trailers and we filled everyone up with wine & cupcakes before unleashing them on our Seed&Spark site to start the initial bidding. Feeding someone? HUGE. Always lead with snacks & a tasty beverage.  People respond. With $10,000 by the end of the launch party and $20,000 within the first three days.


Our goal was to have 30% of our target 30k by our hard launch on Tuesday.  We blew past that. In fact, by Monday night we were so close to the Greenlight, that we decided to raise our ask to 50k. We knew our film was a 100k budget and we’d be doing another tier of fundraising, so we decided to capitalize on the momentum and raise our ask now.

A week into the campaign, we’ve made it to 65% of a 50K goal.


To keep our momentum going, we are diligent (some might say obsessive)  about social media. Posting daily pictures on Instagram, tweeting both funny sayings and direct calls to action on Twitter, emailing our friends and family daily, sending bi-monthly newsletters. Other than personalized calls/texts/emails, Facebook has proved to be the social media channel that gets the most action.  We also sent letters out to partner with local and well-regarded Cancer Organizations. We wrote a press release ourselves, reaching out to reporters we had worked with on previous films. We put ourselves out there.


So why do we think this campaign has been so successful so quickly?


Our project’s cause is something people already care about, and we’ve taken a human approach. We’re not afraid to laugh. A lot. We also did our research, and hired some pro’s before launching to help us sidestep some expensive mistakes. Finally, we have passionate team of people who aren’t afraid to do the legwork. Who care enough to pull the late nights to help give cancer the middle finger.


Read more by

Brooke Purdy

The Quality Problems team: Brooke Purdy (writer/co-director), Doug Purdy (co-director), Jen Prince (producer), Colette Freedman (co-producer), Jhen Webberly (co-producer) www.qualityproblemsfilm.com

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