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Harnessing Social Media to Fund Graduation Thesis Film

On March 31st, 2014 I launched a 30-day Kickstarter crowdfunding project to fund my graduation thesis film. KONOYO is a Japanese style supernatural short film set in Scotland and Japan. The film tells the story of a teacher's struggle to unlock the mystery of one of his elusive students. My film has evolved to become a personal story drawing on my experiences living in Japan. I wrote and directed the thesis film and brought it to life on screen with +25 of my fellow students. On location at Playfair Library Old College, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Our crowd-funding campaign was successfully funded blowing past our target by 200%. A large part of the success of the campaign comes from the having a great team and a concept that you truly believe in and resonates with your audience. On reflection, the campaign included a few key points that helped us meet our target:

The following is a 30-day campaign timeline that you may find helpful:

Pre launch

To make your project stand out above the noise you should come up with three important lists:

Personal Email List:

This is a list of friends and contacts from your personal circle of family, friends, colleagues, drop them a note at the beginning and the end of the campaign. Don't over contact people on this list even if this list is not that big hopefully through the power of word of mouth it will spread. This is exactly what happened for my campaign as I was surprised by how many people I didn't know got involved.

Digital Media List:

This is a list of media outlets (blogs, forums, etc.) that cover your project. This depends on the genre of your project. In my case I was making a Japanese supernatural/horror movie so I reached out to blogs that cover Japanese horror movies, etc. and share your story.

Social Media List:

This is people you can approach to spread the word about your campaign on social media. This will include a range of established figures in your genre  (authors, speakers, and personalities) that you can ask to retweet or repost your campaign story.

Konoyo Kickstarter campaign graph

Konoyo Kickstarter campaign graph

Week 1

As soon as the project goes live, it is time to hit up your personal mailing list and Facebook project group to ask them to spread the word, retweet, and repost. Towards the end of the week it is time to widen your reach by hitting up your social media and media list - following up if you need to do interviews or other promotions (we definitely could have done a lot more with this step). In the first few days we achieved more than half of our £500 targeted goal. They say the first and last weeks are when you receive most of your pledges, this was definitely true in my case.

Week 2

The second week of the project can be a bit slow but keep plugging away and following up with your social media and your media outlet list. Also, having a positive team will help during this phase.

Week 3

The third week or somewhere near the middle of your campaign will be very slow and the pledges will begin to slow down to a trickle. This is a good time to follow up any interviews or contacts with your media outlet list. However, towards the end of this week things really began to heat up.

Week 4

This is a week when pledges seem to come in at steady pace. It is now time to send out emails to any of social media or media list that may have not picked up the coverage. Also towards the end of this week I sent another blast out to my personal contact list. During this week everyone seems to get in your corner with the pledges tending to increase and come in a little quicker. It was a very humbling feeling to double our target with the help of the community.

On location at Cramond Causeway, Edinburgh, Scotland

Lessons

1. Make a good pitch (video): Use your concept to motivate and build a skillful project team (first acid test for your idea), and then use that same team to promote the campaign. If you don’t have one already, create a private Facebook group to communicate with your team.

2. See yourself as contributor first and avoid the “build it and they will come mentality.” In other words, be humble and generous in everything you do. The crowd-funding process is all about telling a story.  Ask yourself…why does my film deserve funding? Put yourself in the role of a backer.Make sure your backer rewards are relevant and generous, check other similar campaigns for ideas but try to be unique.

3. Nobody likes to be the first person in, so have a stable of family and friends standing by to give your campaign that initial push on launch day. Notify your family and friends well before the launch date and get them on board so you will be funded from the first day.

4. Repost any positive buzz that comes from your campaign. For example, one of the tracking campaign websites showed our short film was trending at #4 on the Top 100 Kickstarter short film projects. Also, share you story with relevant blogs and forums in your genre and repost any articles or interviews they run.

5. In my opinion one of the biggest advantages of Kickstarter is the chance to build a fan base and start an ongoing relationship with your backers for future projects as wellFor example, we had one reward level that we broke even with but produced over 40 backers. As soon as possible translate this into an email list to keep in contact with your backers.

Crowdfunding has now become a legitimate way for creative people to launch ideas. However, don't be fooled, campaigns are no easy task and you will have to pay the price in terms of time and effort to get it off the ground and also keep up to date with your backers. In my opinion Kickstarter is a great alternative source of funding for creative projects.  Besides KickStarter there are other platforms available like IndieGoGo, Kiva, Peerbackers, Fundable, Bloom VC, and SquareKnot that are making it possible for people with ideas to leverage the power of the crowd in their growth. Either way, if you are a grad student harnessing social media is a great way to fund your graduation thesis film.

Written by David Simpson