Feb 1, 2013

Renee Tillott on Crowdfunding

Category: Making Movies Crowdfunding
Renee tried to raise enough money through normal channels for her first film since leaving Australia. In the end, crowdfunding was the only - and as it turned out - the best way. Renee tells her inspiring story of raising money against the odds and offers insights to first-time crowdfunders along the way. 
[see full transcript]

Contact Renee Tillott at renee@ibladefilms.co.uk and visit the completed Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/GeoffreysBelt.

Transcription of Interview with Renee Tillott [RT] by Julian Darley [JD]  (2013-01-31)

JD: Welcome to the Ruthless Guide. I’m Julian Darley and my guest today is Renee Tillott, writer and producer of Geoffrey's Belt, which recently had a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. It’s no coincidence that the topic for ruthless dissection today is crowdfunding.

JD: Q1. Can you give me the tweet length pitch for Geoffrey’s Belt? [0:22]

Yes. Geoffery's belt is a true romance about a woman's sexual awakening and a husband who loves her.

JD: Q2. What made you decide to go for crowdfunding? [0:30]

RT: Desperation really. We tried other avenues for funding, including trying to get sponsorship, looking at brand endorsements options and things like that and after about eight months of kind of talking about ownership of content and and writing business plans and things like that I just decided that I just want to make a movie and this seems like the best way to do it. It had been recommended to us by other people, and we had been to quite a few seminars so we were familiar with the concept. I felt quite daunted about taking it on - I'm not the most prolific social media person, although that all changed during the campaign. It seemed to be the best way for us to get our project off the ground really.

JD: Q3. How did you come up with and develop your crowdfunding campaign story? [1:20]

RT: Well initially we worked with someone who'd run a crowd campaign before to shoot our pitch video, and it was supposed to be exciting and engaging and all of these things and we didn't enjoy that process and we felt that what we really wanted to be - and the campaigns that we have been looking at online, because when we decided to crowd fund the first thing we did was to look at what other campaigns were doing and which ones were successful and we decided that we wanted to just be really honest and kind of heartfelt in our pitch video and talk about what the film meant to us and why we felt that it was important to give people a little bit of context for the film because it's our first short film here in the UK as Iblade films so we didn't have a body of work that we could but we can sell to people so we had to sell the idea based on the quality of the script and why we felt it was really important to to make the story.

JD: Q4. How did you calculate what your goal should be? [2:20]

RT: We were we were really nervous about not reaching our target, even though we had gone for the flexible funding target that Indigo lets you have, we didn't want to have our campaign be viewed as unsuccessful but we also wanted to raise enough money to actually be able to make the film. We didn't want people investing in something and then kind of doing a bit of a shoddy job and not being able to deliver what we'd promised. So we basically calculated the minimum that we felt we would need to make the film, pulling in all of our favours with cast and crew and everyone working for free, so it was a barebones budget, and it was always our aim to go over that budget, and we knew by looking at the statistics on Indigo go that most successful campaigns do go over budget by a certain percentage, so so our aim was to go over by aroundabout 10%, and and I think we ended up going over by 13%, or maybe 17%.

JD: Q5. How did you decide how long to make your campaign? [3:24]

RT: I'd been to quite a few seminars and the thing that everyone was talking about in the seminars was how much hard work it is to run the campaign, so there's a factor in their opinion to keep the momentum going, but also a lot of these seminars had talked about how having a longer campaign was not necessarily more beneficial: I think the concept being perhaps there's no sense of urgency so people kind of think I'll give to that later - one of those things where you've got plenty of time, so you kind of put it off. So initially, we were going to do a 30 day campaign and when we started getting a campaign organised on Indigogo, one of their one of their statistics was that the most successful campaigns are 45 days long. So we went for the 45 day option, but in hindsight I think I would have done the 30 days because I felt like we kind of lost a bit of momentum in the middle of the campaign. We had a lot of activity at the beginning and a lot of activity at the end, which is to be expected on a campaign, but it's very difficult when there is no activity - with all of your social media and stuff you have to work a lot harder to keep it in the public eye, whereas if you're capitalising on when people are giving and when things are happening I think it's a bit easier to manage a shorter one.

JD: Q6. You just mentioned social media and you mentioned earlier on that you weren't the greatest social media operator I think when you started this. Can you say a bit about what happened, what transformed you, if you like, if that did happen, and what you did – because I think this is something that's really vital to people who are running campaigns, and many people are not that used to social media, so anything you've learned there could be really helpful. [5:14]

RT: Well I've learnt so much and I'm still learning more more and there's still a lot more work that I need to do in that area. But one of the great things about a campaign you have to utilise social media and that's how everyone is getting publicity these days anyway, so your campaign becomes the marketing blueprint, if you like, for your project going forwards. By doing a campaign you're testing your audience – who's interested, who wants to hear your story, whether you're doing a first film or whether you're doing it for a product, it doesn't really matter, I think it's really, really useful. I didn't even used to barely check Facebook and all of a sudden I'm contacting people through Facebook - we created a Facebook fan page for the project, we created a twitter account for Geoffrey's Belt and started tweeting from that account. I tweeted from my account and my director Tom Bacon tweeted from his account. It was kind of all guns blazing really, and it's a really great way of engaging with other filmmakers and people who are interested in the subject matter. You use hash tags and if you see conversations that are happening on twitter, you can enter in those conversations and of course you have to put your link to your campaign which is really useful, post pictures, if you have a cast picture or any of the developments throughout the campaign, you can shout out through social media. You you kind of create a little bit of a storm about it and that directs people's people to your campaign because there's lots and lots campaigns out there and you've got to find a way of getting people to notice your campaign and social media is a really great way of doing it.

Indiegogo have a thing which they called Gogo factor, which is people liking your campaign page and tweeting from your campaign page. So by getting in touch with people on social media that are familiar with all these things you then get them to like and tweet from your campaign page and that raises your profile on the Indigogo website and you get what they called Gogo factor. We actually made Campaign of the Day and managed to make the front page at one point and all that happens through social media, which you then continue after the campaign and all through pre-production and post-production right up to distribution of your film. So [social media] is a very, very useful tool. It's hard work though, it's very time-consuming – a lot more time-consuming than I was expecting to maintain all of those those balls in the air with social media but you get better as you go along.

JD: Q7. You mentioned that you were concerned about not making your target what effect did that have on you and what did you do about it?  [07:57]

RT: We were very aggressive at the start of our campaign in terms that we'd already talked a lot to people about the fact that the campaign was going to happen, so people knew about it already. We just kind of made sure that we hit the ground running and started tweeting from day one getting in touch with all of our our family and friends. The initial kind of money is going to come from people who are close to you – no one wants to give money to a campaign that no one giving to. They need to see a bit of enthusiasm. They want to believe you're going to make your campaign target because otherwise they're investing in something that is not going to succeed.

So that's what we did at the start of our campaign, and we actually raised quite a significant amount of money in a short period of time at the start of our campaign, much quicker than is normal and also much quicker than we were expecting, which was fantastic. I think it was in the second week of the campaign that we'd 50% already, and we've made campaign of day. We weren't expecting it to happen so soon. So we kind of knew at that point that we were going to make our target, but obviously it was still important for us to go over target because the budget was the minimum amount that we required. We wanted to make the campaign as successful as possible and you just have to keep that campaign at the forefront of people's minds to make sure that it goes the distance.

JD: Q8 did you make contact with the mainstream media? [9:23]

Yes, we utilized varying kinds of online film communities. We did some interviews with them – I did an interview with the Smalls, which is an online community based here in the UK. Tom did an interview interview with the Rabbit press. And we managed to get the campaign – not so much the campaign – a kind of a soundbite for BBC News about crowdfunding, because it's very much a topic of discussion at the moment - it seems to be the way a lot of people are getting things done, particularly with the lack of funding that is available over here at the moment. We were very lucky.

It's not just the media though, there are other aspects to running the campaign, that we weren't expecting, which was people were getting in touch with us and offering other services for the film, like discounts on hiring equipment, and things like that. So the buzz that was happening around the campaign is having a wider kind of benefit to the actual project really.

JD: Q9. How have you dealt with Pope reward fulfillment? [10:25]

We were quite worried about making sure that we were fulfilling all of the perks that we had talked about. So when we made the perks, we made sure that we were offering things and the amount of things – because you can limit how many of a certain perk is available for people to contribute to – we made sure we we were physically able to fulfill all all the perks that were that people had bought. Basically, we've kept a list of all the people that contributed, and anything that we could do immediately, like a phone call saying thank you and tweeting about people and Facebook about people, we basically did straightaway, which was part of our marketing campaign for the campaign itself, so that has kind of a twofold use.

Most of the other perks won't actually built be fulfilled until we are onset or in post-production or when the film is actually released. But Indiegogo – I'm not familiar with the others – has got a very useful kind of dashboard of what people have given, and therefore what perks you owe them and all of that kind of stuff. We're keeping people updated with the project and basically crossing off things as we can.

JD: Q10. Before launching your campaign, how long did you prepare for? [11:46]

RT: To be honest, it depends on how you define prepare. Like I said, we'd been to a lot of seminars so we knew kind of how worked, but we didn't feel that we necessarily completely understood it, but we certainly knew a lot more than perhaps some people did because we'd been doing our research and looking at campaigns other campaigns.

I would say if I was going to do it again, which I hope to do in the future, I would have prepared a lot more, because once we made the decision to do the crowd funding campaign, we actually launched the campaign very quickly. We did a few different takes for our campaign video, but once we had that, we were up and running within a week.

What I would do next time, I would probably spend a good three months laying the groundwork for the campaign before I launched it - and by background work I mean I mean identifying the groups, the social media groups of people that would be interested in what I'm doing and the subject matter of what I'm doing and making sure that the project is very visible before the campaign is launched and try to get as much publicity as I can beforehand. I would probably spend a good three months doing that, I think, making sure that your project is very present on Twitter and Facebook and really have history to the campaign before you even launch it, so that when you start you don't have just have nothing for people to look at, they can kind of see how the project has been developing before the campaign is launched.

The other thing I think in that preparation period - I would plan how I was going to manage that campaign more. It was just sheer hard work and determination, but I think you can be a lot smarter and make it a lot easier for yourself if you plan your campaign: how many updates you're going to do, what those are going to be. Some of the things that we did that we found quite useful: we didn't talk about all of the people involved with the campaign at the start, we added them in like a new person each week, so it gave us something to talk about – new material on the campaign page, which gave people a reason to go back and have another look. It gave us things to tweet about, it gave us updates for our Facebook page and things like that. So I think planning and trying to gather an audience for that campaign, you can't do enough of really, before you start.

JD: Q11. Is there anything special on the Indiegogo site that people should utilize? [14:05]

Yes. I think Indiegogo were very, very helpful in promoting our campaign – they won't do it without you, you have to do instigate it, but they will re-tweet you, they tweet about your project.

They offer a lot of advice even before you launch your campaign on how to run a successful campaign. If I was doing it again, I would definitely be following @Indiegogofilm on twitter and some of their more vocal followers and seeing what the kind of chatter was on twitter about other people's campaigns: how they were going, what they were finding it difficult, and then looking at the Indiegogo sites to see what advice they have about how to raise your profile, what preparation works and what you need to do.

It's actually all on there, but I didn't actually find it all until after the campaign started. Luckily, I acted quite quickly on it, but I think if you've done that beforehand, you would have a much better chance of success. Even the liking and tweeting from the campaign page, I didn't actually realize those things from the start – it was only by following @Indiegogofilm on twitter that I learned about those things.

And ask for help because they're very communicative – they will e-mail back to you, they will give you advice, they will tell you why they think your campaign is successful, or not, and what they suggest that you should change. So let them work for you. They're there to help, they want your campaign to be successful, so you may as well make the most of that and learn from the experts really.

JD: Q12. Finally, do you have any warnings or 'tough tips' for anyone starting out on their first crowdfunding campaign? [15:37]

RT: Well, I think the biggest one is to prepare: lay the groundwork of all your networks and of all the people that you want to be contacting. Be prepared to work really hard. Do your research, see what’s successful – does someone have a similar campaign to you running at the moment? And try to come up with some really good perk ideas to make your to make your campaign original. Work hard; plan your campaign and get out there and do it!

JD: Thank you Renee. That was Renee Tillott - writer and producer of Geoffrey's Belt - on the Ruthless Guide discussing crowdfunding with me Julian Darley. Please sign up to ruthlessguide.com to hear news of more discussions and dissections.