Crowdfunding has always been a mystery to me. I never really understood how Filmtrepreneurs could raise $50,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000 to make their films. I tried once with the “if I built they will come” idea but they never came.
When I discovered this week’s guest, Emily Best CEO and founder of the indie film crowdfunding website Seed & Spark, I had to get her on the show. I attempted to squeeze out of her every bit of crowdfunding knowledge I could. We discuss:
- How to create a successful crowdfunding campaign?
- What are the biggest mistakes indie filmmakers make when crowdfunding their film?
- How should indie filmmakers crowdsource (building an audience for you or your film)?
- How do indie filmmakers determine how much to ask for when crowdfunding?
- How do you build a killer crowdfunding page and video?
- What incentives should you give when crowdfunding?
- How do you determine if your film has an audience?
All of these questions on crowdfunding are answered and more. Seriously this podcast is a condensed master class on crowdfunding. I was selflessly asking the questions I wanted the answers to and now you guys benefit as well. Enjoy!
Right-click here to download the MP3
Alex Ferrari 1:10
So today, guys, we have a indie film Crusader. On the show, her name is Emily Best she is the CEO and founder of seed and spark the crowdfunding platform for independent film. She's going against the big boys going against Kickstarter and Indiegogo and she's kicking their butts in my opinion, her passion for filmmakers and her passion for getting films funded is amazing. And I when I heard her on another show, I it's like I have to get her on. I gotta get her on the show. So sit back and get ready to be inspired by Emily Best of seed and spark. Thank you so much Emily for taking the time out to talk to the indie film hustle tribe. I really appreciate it.
Emily Best 1:56
You bet I have to warn you that my dog might make himself known at some point during this podcast.
Alex Ferrari 2:02
His name is Alan Alan Allister. Yes, I've heard of him. And he's very famous throughout the indie film world.
Emily Best 2:10
Alex Ferrari 2:10
Yes. We would be honored if he would be here we do a guest a guest spot on the show. Great. So let me ask you. So you're obviously the CEO of seed and spark. So I wanted to ask you first and foremost, how and why did you start Seton spark?
Emily Best 2:28
Well, when I realized that what I wanted to do was make independent films forever. Um, I spent a lot of time researching what that would take. And my so I went to Sundance, I went to American film market, I talked to a ton of filmmakers, I talked to distributors, I talked to finance ears, I talked to sales agents. And I determined that the current climate is far too unfriendly for independent filmmakers. Because granted, this was happening, essentially, at the so we had this sort of conflagration of events in independent filmmaking. Digital technology advanced to a place where you could get really good video footage on your cell phone, but DSLR cameras were starting to make production really cheap. The next thing that happened was DVDs tanked. And there was the rise of digital distribution, except all of the businesses had built up their infrastructure as if DVDs were going to be the way that people consumed things forever, which I might say is rather short sighted. So when you when you thought you would be able to get 1499 for something that now people only thought was worth maybe $1.99 if you're lucky. Yeah, that messed up a lot of stuff really fast, right? And, and so in 2011, after I produced my first feature film called like the water. I thought, well, I really like to do this, but it looks to me like the environment for women and for people of color. And for people who want to tell diverse different stories is particularly messy. But what was interesting is that if you looked at what was getting funded on crowdfunding platforms, consumers were saying I want the weird I want the different I want the diverse I want the boundary pushing, I want the life changing. They weren't saying I want another romantic comedy. That's what they were definitely not saying. Okay, so it was just a really interesting time to come into filmmaking and seed and spark rose out of my experiences making like the water but also my desire for there to be a sustainable filmmaking career in the future.
Alex Ferrari 4:56
Very interesting. So and then when you made like a water, I heard that you had an experience with Ed burns during that process and that it was kind of like, he lied to you in many ways.
Emily Best 5:08
Alex Ferrari 5:10
I don't wanna I'm not setting you up, but I do.
Emily Best 5:12
My best friend Caitlin lied to me. Yes. Edie only sort of partially supported it. So I was making I was in a play. I was co producing a play in in New York called Hedda gobbler. So Norwegian classic. And Caitlin Fitzgerald was playing Hedda. And also, at that time, co starring opposite Ed burns in a movie that he was making. One of the first that he made with the five D, called newlyweds. And he was shooting newlyweds nights and weekends with his friends in their houses on a DSLR camera. And so when the group of women collaborators who made had a gambler decided we wanted to make another piece of work together. We had been thinking about theater because that's what we had been doing. And Caitlin got us all a little tipsy one night and said, Guys, we should just make a movie. It's so easy. And to be fair, Eddie made it look easy.
Alex Ferrari 6:11
No, no, Edward Edward Burns at this point is Edward Burns. He's not like, you know, right off of brothers mcmullin or anything like that. I mean, he's,
Emily Best 6:17
This is 2011. It's three years ago. He's young.
Alex Ferrari 6:21
He's He's, he's Ed burns at this point.
Emily Best 6:23
He's a big deal. Yeah. And so. And of course, because I was the producer in the room, they turned to me, and they're like, you'll produce this feature film. And I was like, Oh, sure, no problem. If it's, there you go. There he is. Yes. If it's easy, sure. I'll do it. And so she invited me to set and I got there and I rang the doorbell of like a cool Tribeca apartment, and the door opens and then, you know, devastatingly handsome man says, Hey, I'm Eddie, come on in. And I get to watch them shoot a film The crew up for which is Ed burns behind the camera directing and like rewriting as he goes, his cameraman who he or his cinematographer, who he's worked with for years, and their sound guy, and that's it three people,
Alex Ferrari 7:16
Three very high, highly experienced and skilled people.
Emily Best 7:21
Correct! Yeah, um, but three people on the left, sure. Zero crew, zero equipment, zero. And I thought, Oh, my gosh, I can totally do this. I just need to find an experienced cinematographer and a sound person. And we'll be fine, right?
Alex Ferrari 7:36
Emily Best 7:38
So I did that I went and found an experienced cinematographer, by the name of Eve Cohen. And we told he, what we do, I brought her to New York, I'd met her on a movie in Philadelphia, I brought her to New York, to meet with Caitlin to talk about the movie we wanted to make. And it was a a, an independent drama set in Maine in the summer. And Ede Cohen immediately said, there's no way you will be able to shoot this film on the five D. And we were like, What do you mean, but we don't understand what movie making would be if we don't shoot it on the five D. And all of a sudden, I was off on a very different adventure, right, which is to say, I wasn't shooting a running gun mockumentary in New York City that I might have been able to do on, you know, with a stripped down crew, the kind of movie we were making took a lot more resources and a lot of learning. So in the journey to, you know, learning how to produce a film while producing a film, which is a journey I actually recommend to everyone. It was a great film school. As long as you hire people in the key positions, who already know what they're doing. That was really where I started to see the role of community and audience as essential to the health of the independent film business model, right? There's so much stuff we didn't have to spend money on, because the community was like I'm in, let's do this. Here's a coffee, here, your picture cars from a local car dealership, here are all your locations that were way more spectacular than anything you had imagined. And the reason that we were able to engage a community that way is because we told them specifically what we needed. So we didn't ask for funding, we gave them a list of everything we needed. And we said, support us in whatever way you can. Based on these things, like a wish, like a wish list. It was exactly like a wish list, or a wedding registry. And we sent it to everyone we knew. And we needed to raise $20,000, we raised 23,000 in cash and hundreds of 1000s of dollars in loans and gifts of locations and goods and services. So that was when I started to see Oh, there's a there's a real community organizing aspect around these ideas. I wouldn't know until we went on to the festival circuit, how meaningful that would be what a beautiful audience building tool and audience sort of evangelist tool. The wish list would be and it was only then that people In the industry, who I was meeting and talking to about our journey started to say, well, that's really interesting. Have you thought about offering that to other filmmakers? Which is tantamount to them saying, you know, have you considered a tech startup? And I was like, easy everyone, I only just decided I was gonna be a filmmaker. But as I as I started to really explore it as a possibility. I really, I really understood that. We have a responsibility all of us as independent film creators to change our business in a way that makes it easier for us to build sustainable livings. But we can't expect someone else to do it for us, we have to do it together.
Alex Ferrari 10:45
Emily Best 10:46
That's really I mean, that's really the foundational kind of principle of seed and spark is we're looking for something that is about sustainability for artists and diversity of content for audiences. Those two things are a very powerful economic engine.
Alex Ferrari 10:59
And I've I guess, in recent years is the term like sustainable career or making a living at your art, these concepts are fairly kind of new. I haven't heard them I've been I've been in the business for 20 years. And I, I never heard of that before. Everyone was always looking for the golden ticket. You know, everyone was looking for the lottery ticket, you go to Sundance, and you win. And, you know, you get Harvey Harvey gives you a million dollars. And
Emily Best 11:25
yeah, somebody let's talk about that golden ticket for a second. Yes. Here's the actual economics of that golden ticket, please. You are, there are 15,000 independent feature films made in the US alone, every year 12,000 films from around the world are submitted to Sundance 17 of them make it into competition. So just do that math really quickly, right? 17 divided by 12,000. That's point. Oh, 1%.
Alex Ferrari 11:56
I love that you have a calculator right there.
Emily Best 12:01
4.01%. Now of those films that go into competition, some of them sell for amounts greater than their budget. And those are the ones that get a ton of publicity. And often ones that were earmarked for those deals before they walked into the festival, right. Most of those films end up doing some service deal or DIY distribution, which is not what people think happens to most of the films at Sundance, but that is what happens to most of the films at Sundance. The few films that when the golden ticket, let's say sell to The Weinstein Company, or I mean, that might be one film a year, sell to Focus Features, they so they have independently financed and produced this film. And now they are going to utterly dependently distributed, and they will never get back any data about who watched their films or where or what their email addresses are, they will never get back. Or they certainly won't get back control of the IP. And most importantly, they almost never make any money. So I have a friend who was an executive producer on two of the most lottery ticket like films that went one went through Sundance got picked up by a major distributor hadn't had an Oscar campaign, the other one got picked up out of Sundance was made on a super low budget, bought for a couple million bucks and then did like $15 million at the box office. Beyond the the sale price out of the festival, those investors never saw $1 back from this $50 million box office. Right now. That's because the entire system is set up to preference the distributor, they have to recoup the costs of marketing and the cost of delivery and a lot of other costs. That they won't tell you what
Alex Ferrari 14:01
the hell they are creative accounting, right?
Emily Best 14:04
Yeah. So there's all sorts of creative accounting to make sure that the filmmaker never sees $1. Now, if you are very lucky, that deal might get you an agent and a studio deal, which is cool.
Alex Ferrari 14:21
But the percentages are so I mean,
Emily Best 14:24
we're now talking about point, point, point point, we're not talking about 1% of the point oh 1% in the first place.
Alex Ferrari 14:31
Exactly. It's like so miniscule, it's it's just like lottery tickets. It literally is lottery ticket odds.
Emily Best 14:35
It's almost worse. So so one of the things that I am fond of saying is like I'm perfectly happy saying I'm the 99% that I'm not so special, that my film is going to be the point oh 1% of the point oh 1% and I'm okay with that because actually, I don't like to sit around and wait to be picked. And frankly, I don't think any artists particularly like to sit around and wait To be picky, we're making stuff because it matters to us. And we want to communicate with the people to whom it also matters. That's the whole point. So that we would rely on a system that keeps us as far away from the people who are as aligned with our values because they want to watch our stuff as possible. has never made sense to me. I'm not making films for distributors and making films for audiences, right? And so there's, there's a real this notion that you can go off into a hole and make these marvelous things and then once you emerge, they will just see the merit and pick you a narrative that has kept us small and poor for long enough.
Alex Ferrari 15:46
That's I'm I'm about to like join the revolution with you wherever you go, let's let's go cuz, I mean, it's almost like chegar era. I mean, seriously, it's, it's, I love it. I love listening to you talk about it, because you're so passionate about what you're saying. And it's so true. And like I said, I've been doing this for 20 years, I've been in post and I've seen a lot of feature films come and go Sundance winners and other independent films. And it's so true, like the system is built to kind of keep the artist poor and broke because like you just said there's 15,000 movies made a year. So if nothing comes out this year with others, that's another 15,000 movies coming out next year. And they keep building into this this machine of and never, never allowing they just basically spitting up and chewing out the artists. And God knows what kind of artists or you know, writers or directors or any kind of artists have been just chewed up and never we we made him never, we might have already lost another Martin Scorsese of this generation or another Tarantino because they just couldn't get through, or they just gave up because of this, this machine. And now the technology i think is so like things like seed and spark and you know, the the cost to start making movies is gone down so much that it's now about not as much about making the movie. Do you agree? It is about making good art. But now it's about building your audience, which is my next question. Like how important is understanding your film's audience before you even begin to crowdfund
Emily Best 17:17
it's incredibly important. It's in fact essential. If you don't spend that time before you crowdfund, you won't crowdfund you will friend, fund. And friend, a family friend, right? Yeah, which is what most people end up doing. And then they're like, I don't understand why I couldn't raise more money. And it's like, well, do you know who the people are? Who want to see your movie? Did you spend time finding out where they were on social media? And how they like to be spoken to? Did you do any research into the organism in organizations that service these people? Or did you think that if you build it, they will come, which is the same Pick me Pick me mentality as before, it is really hard work to build a sustainable business, which is what an independent, sustainable film career is. It's a business, right? It's hard to build a business. But it's incredibly rewarding. And you get to go to work every day with the people you care about. And you get to control the creative decisions. And you get to interact with the people personally, who say, Oh, my God, this thing you're doing changed my life. Right? So I feel like part of the reckoning is also to say what is enough? Right? Like,
Alex Ferrari 18:25
yeah, like, do you have to have billions and millions of dollars to be happier? Can you make a sustainable income,
Emily Best 18:31
like if you could make $65,000 a year making the content that you care about, and living in? I don't know, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I recently learned it cost $500 for a really nice two bedroom apartment is beautiful. Oh, my goodness. Like, I actually think the real examples of sustainability are going to come first, as sustainability through these new technology platforms are going to come first and foremost, in places outside of Los Angeles in New York, where access has has been granted in a in a new way to audiences and distribution through technology. And people are not quite so caught up in the pygmy mentality that has driven this city to you know, Botox and lip injections for whatever, nearly a year. Exactly. No, it's I mean, it's, it's true, because I actually think it the so I hear filmmakers get sort of anxious about, well, if I have to get good at marketing, too. Won't that take away from my filmmaking? And I think what about the detriment to the filmmaking or the acting or the writing that comes from being desperate to be picked, doesn't seem desperate to be picked, make you revert to the mean doesn't being desperate to be picked make you want to look as much as possible, like the other people who are being picked doesn't desperate To be picked, make you want to write the thing that looks like other things that have been picked, desperation to be picked does not make you more creative, it makes you more
Alex Ferrari 20:09
desperate and desperate. It makes you
Emily Best 20:12
more similar to other things. And that's not. That's not creative to me, if you look at what gets funded through crowdfunding, like I said before, it's the super creative, daring, interesting stuff. So audiences are demonstrating to us that they're smart, they're hungry, and they're supportive of your creativity. Right? The important thing to remember is it's not audiences, like this big faceless mass, it's your audience. It's the group of individual humans with their own interesting lives, who respond to similar things in the world that you respond to, these are this is your tribe, right? Which is actually the name of the company that we use to make like the water. So it's really about finding your people. And, and I think that gives you much more creative freedom than working in a system where you're desperate to be picked.
Alex Ferrari 21:09
Absolutely. And if you ever heard of a film called Kung Fury, yes, it was brilliant, the way that guy would package that movie. And he crowdfunded. And he did very well, crowdfunding, but but my god, he found his audience he completely sold to his audience, whether you like the audience or not, like the movie or not, but the guy's super successful by you know, it was a short film on top of it wasn't even a feature. Yeah. But so let me ask you a question. What? When should a filmmaker begin creating their audience or following?
Emily Best 21:42
As soon as you have ideas, I mean, here's the thing. We're all on social media anyway, right? Audience obviously starts with the people who like you, as a human, those are your friends and family. It's not like you like or not considering them. So probably, you're on a couple of social media platforms, and you're already starting this. But you have also this world of inspiration that defines your creative art that you're probably, you know, looking at online, and I'm reading articles about and writing things about and making little short vignettes about and cutting things together. These are all ways to see the conversations with people who might be interested in the same things. Probably, if you're a huge fan of kung fu movies, you're aware of where kung fu fans hang out, right? And you can go interact with them, because that's the beauty of online, everybody's participating now. It's really a matter of, you know, being involved in the community of interest that's inspiring you, that's where it starts, it should actually ultimately be kind of natural. Right? Right.
Alex Ferrari 22:47
Emily Best 22:48
yeah, you're already you're already doing it anyway.
Alex Ferrari 22:51
So then, with with the whole building an audience, there's one like kind of, I want to say it's like a dirty secret, but things that people don't like to talk about, which is an email list. It can you talk about how important that email list is in building this, this audience.
Emily Best 23:05
So, you know, I think one place that we can get confused is we can get obsessed with the notion of building the audience. And we'll look at any metrics that indicate to us that people like what we're doing, it'll be things like Twitter followers, and Facebook fans. And the problem is, the ultimate goal is not Twitter followers, and Facebook fans, the ultimate goal is getting people to pay money to watch your movie. That's the goal. That's how are getting them to watch your stuff. I don't know if you want them to pay. Your ultimate goal could be starting a movement, it could be getting as many people to watch your film as possible. It could be getting as many people to pay to watch your film as possible. You have to set your own goals. But I'm pretty sure nobody, no filmmakers out there being like, I want to be big on Twitter, right? Like, my goal, like Twitter is a means to an end, which is I want to be big on Twitter, so I can get a lot of people to watch my movie. Here's the thing. On average, you can expect a conversion rate. That means people who see something on your social media to taking the action you want them to take, like funding your crowdfunding campaign are or signing up to see your movie have about 1%. Right? So if you have 10,000 followers, you can only expect 100 of them to show up and do anything, right. That's not like, that's sort of a jarring idea, right? It doesn't mean the 10,000 people might not be aware of it. But what you really want them to do is take action. With email lists that are appropriately managed, you can see a conversion rate of 20 to 30%. Right? The number of people on your email list is way more important. Well, why is that? Well, it's super easy to follow someone on Twitter, you quickly click one button. What's a little bit harder is to get them to sign up for your mailing list because you either have to interact with them personally and like exchange business cards or hand them a sign up. She did your screening, or you end up, you know, doing something online that's so compelling that they're like, hey, I want to sign up for more updates from this person, you have to create that call to action. And then people have to take that step with you, it means that they want to get more deeply engaged with you. And frankly, you should test your ability to get people to take that action before you ever launch a crowdfunding campaign or distribution campaign, because you need to know how good you are at messaging your audience and getting them to really understand why they should do anything with you.
Alex Ferrari 25:35
That's a great, great, that's great information. What, um, let me ask you another question. What do you think is the state? What are your thoughts on the current state of film distribution as a general statement, oh, this is a whole other podcast.
Emily Best 25:48
It's really messy right now. Um, it's very hard to make money on small films right now. Because most of us have still produced things. I'm kind of in the old model of raising as much money as we can, you know, making it making it for as much money as we can. And then thinking about distribution, or even folks who are crowdfunding are still not leveraging crowdfunding. With distribution in mind. They're only leveraging crowdfunding with fundraising in mind. And again, just like twit, the end game of Twitter is not to get Twitter followers. But to get people to watch your movies. The endgame of crowdfunding is not just to raise money, but to get people to watch your movies, right? crowdfunding is just another slightly more involved social media and storytelling tool. The your crowdfunding page is as much of a storytelling tool as your Twitter profile or your Facebook page. And so I think we're still behind in some senses really strategizing and thinking about our distribution before we make films. And, and part of the reason I think the economics are so tricky is we let the script utterly dictate how much a film should be made for, right, which in some cases is fine, because there's a lot of resources to put to it. But sometimes there are scripts that really have a, you know, a smaller audience, demonstrable audience reach, and if you've demonstrated, you can get, you know, 10,000 people to spend $5 a piece on your film, right? And that's as far as you think it can go? That's $50,000. Right? Right. If you if you want to crowdfund $100,000, and then make $50,000 back, that's not a bad deal. Right? Right. That's a pretty good universe. But if we're, I mean, we just have to also get really honest about like, the capacity and what it takes to really make money on stuff. And I'm not saying that you shouldn't make things that can't make a profit, I'm saying that there are models that are actually built so that you are doing it for reasons other than making profit, and crowdfunding is one of those is if it's really meaningful to people, and it's meaningful to enough people, they will fund you to make this thing that maybe doesn't have huge commercial reach, but is meaningful to a small subset of people and you can still make some money on that because the community has brought it into being um, I just think the longer that we sort of continue to do things the same way the Messier it's gonna be the other thing is like, we just haven't caught up to the fact that most of us carry a device in our pockets every day that can allow us anyone to shoot, edit, distribute and consume a movie. Right? That is a fundamentally like industry shifting technology. And we have not caught up and part of it is because the you know, there are a lot of distribution middlemen who stand to lose a lot of money if we get to what these devices can do for us.
Alex Ferrari 29:04
as as as basically as as, you know, things like VHS and gumroad, and YouTube and Vimeo pro and all these other, kind of like killing the middleman thing out and just going directly to your customer. The technology is changing so rapidly, like, you know, how long How long is he to spark been around?
Emily Best 29:25
Alex Ferrari 29:26
three years. So, you know, three years in the indie film world, three years is massive. Things are changing so rapidly. It's nice to find like I just heard of, I've just heard the other day of tug, which I I never heard of before. I just had never come through. I'd never, never came through my ears.
Emily Best 29:47
Yet someone from Ted on this podcast. They're fantastic. And they're incredible. And we work with them.
Alex Ferrari 29:51
Yeah, I know. Can you tell them real quick, can you just just say a couple things about tug.
Emily Best 29:55
Sure, tug is a way to crowdsource your theatrical release. So they have relationships. With 90% of the theaters in the country, and it works on a promoter basis, so anyone in any if you put your film on tugg, anyone in any city can say, I would like a screening of that film in my city. And they can go about pre selling tickets. And if they hit the minimum threshold, and that threshold is determined by how much the filmmaker wants to make, how much the theater wants to make, and how much the promoter wants to make, they sell the minimum number of tickets, that screening is guaranteed, and you have a theatrical screening in the city you didn't even think of, because somebody who liked your movie decided they wanted to do it there.
Alex Ferrari 30:32
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. That's absolutely brilliant. And that's a game changer. Absolutely, in many, many ways. Now, I'm sure you've seen a ton of pitch videos, can you give us an example of a bad one? and what not to do?
Emily Best 30:58
Sure. So um, it is very common. And I don't know why I think it's because we just get nervous about asking for support that filmmakers making pitch videos, forget to apply their filmmaking techniques to the pitch videos, and they end up making pitch videos that like their, their aunt would like but wouldn't care about. So it's not uncommon to see a filmmaker you've never heard of or seen before. Sit down in front of a camera in lousy light with bad sound and say, Hi, I'm Emily, I'm making a terrifying thriller, and I really want you to join me on this journey. And you're like, What? Who are you? Why should I expect that you're going to make a terrifying thriller, and prove it, and then I'll go, um, you know, making movies is really hard, which is why I put together a really killer team, and I can't wait for you to hear from them. And then another person you've never heard of whose opinion you don't know how to trust in His work, you don't recognize like the cinematographer will come on screen and another badly lit interview situation. And they'll be like, yeah, so like, I'm really excited to work on this movie, because like, I've been really inspired by like Eli rock films for a while. And I worked a lot on a lot of those kind of films, like in my thesis in college, and, um, I just like, really, I just think it's gonna be really fun and like, really dark. So I had no script, and they go on forever. Right? Now, I still don't know what the movie is about. I know two people who are involved with it, who've given me zero confidence in their capacity to execute. And then maybe they're going to send me to talk to an actress or an actor who's like, really excited and engaging and probably like nice looking, and they're going to tell you how excited they are to work on the project. But you're like, what is the project? What are we even talking about? Most people except for the parents of the aforementioned like filmmakers, and actors and cinematographer. I shut the video off by this point, because those people are trying to talk to audiences for horror films. And let me tell you what audiences for horror films want horror films, interview pieces, right? So you actually have to start to build up your credibility by demonstrating to people what you can do. So you know now that tangerine has thankfully proven you can make brilliant films on your iPhone. I don't like I don't have to bat down the excuses anymore from filmmakers will look but it costs money to make a good pitch video. No, it does not. No, it does absolutely does not. Because you're a filmmaker, and indie filmmakers are the most creative, ingenious people I've ever met. That's why I like decided to go headfirst for the rest of my life into this business. You can take your iPhone, and shoot something really creepy in a dark alley in the middle of the night with all the same people that we're talking to. And demonsaw make us feel something about your capacity to execute on the thing that you're proposing. And then once you've done that, once you've scared me a little bit, then you can pop your face up on the screen, so that I have a relationship to Ooh, you made me feel something now I see your face. No, I'm interested in you. Right right to give the audience for your film, a reason to trust that you're a person to deliver them what they want. That's super super important and the pitch video
Alex Ferrari 34:33
and it seems after you've explained it it seems quite elementary but most I would imagine most people don't
Emily Best 34:41
Yeah, I don't know what happens I so here's the thing. I wonder if it's not you know, sort of partially our fault and an out by our I mean sort of all the crowdfunding platforms who are like, you know, you have to make a personal appeal. And so they're like, okay, I'll start with the personal appeal and beg Yeah. film, it's a little bit different, right? Because the messaging is not necessarily just to pre sell the film, but to get involved in this experience with me that I'm going to take you on not just for this film, but for a lifetime if you like it enough, right? And so the messaging can't be, we want to make this thing but we're broke, please help,
Alex Ferrari 35:21
which is 95% of
Emily Best 35:25
the pitch video has to be, we are about to basically take a spaceship to the moon, do you want to be the fuel,
Alex Ferrari 35:33
that's a great way of looking at it,
Emily Best 35:35
I offer something that is so exciting that I want to get involved in the journey. Right, where the delivery of the finished product of the film is almost ancillary to what I'm excited about at this point, like, I just want to be so stoked to be involved with you. Now, there's also a whole set of subset of people who will fund things because they're excited about the finished product, you have to keep in mind that, you know, unlike a tech widget, I can just go watch another film next week. So if you're offering for me to get involved in a film that's not coming out for eight or 12 months, you better give me stuff along the way to remind me that I care about this thing. Hmm. So the other thing is like the pitch video is only really the beginning of the deeper relationship, right? So you go from the first date. No, no, no, the Twitter follow is the first date. Okay, gotcha, that the email address is like the fourth date of crowdfunding should be like the engagement. Really, you know, that's when like you, you're really deepening your relationship. And that means you're gonna have you're committing to having a relationship with those people forever.
Alex Ferrari 36:49
Artists, artists and consumer of art, correct? That's, that's a great analogy as well. And I as what would you consider is realist? Oh, can you talk a little bit about realistic crowdfunding goals? Because I know, sometimes I've seen, you know, $1 million dollars. I'm like, really, and they've they've never shot anything in their life. So can you talk a little bit about realistic crowdfunding goals?
Emily Best 37:12
Sure. The first and most important thing is, your crowdfunding goal has to be directly related to what you're promising in your pitch. So if you're promising, we're going to shoot, edit and distribute this entire this movie based on the money that we're gathering right now, you have to have budgeted for all of that, and know that the amount of money minus the fees you're gonna pay is enough to do everything that you're promising. If you if you if you get there, and you're like, holy shit, that's $150,000. That's a lot. Think about breaking it up into stages, and setting goals for yourself that are related to the size audience you've grown. First of all, you shouldn't launch a campaign unless you know for sure where the first 30% of your funds are coming from. Why? Because strangers, people who've never heard of you before your crowdfunding campaign whose first encounter with you is in the crowdfunding campaign, tend not to be interested in getting involved until you've hit about 30%. And that's because momentum shows inevitability of success, and people like to pick winners. So part of the reason you want to spend so much time cultivating the crowd in advance, so that it's easy for you to determine where that first 30% is coming from. And then those people act as your evangelists for the next 30%. And those people act as evangelists for the following 30%.
Alex Ferrari 38:31
Interesting, interesting, so and then when you say the first 30% you're saying like, where it? Can you explain that a little bit? Like, how would How would I know where the first 30% of my funds would come from?
Emily Best 38:42
Is you've been out there talking to people about your campaign products, writing to the people who are most enthusiastic saying, Can I count on you on day one? What kinds of incentives would make you the most excited? How much would you be willing to contribute? If I could promise you, you know, tickets to the premiere? Um,
Alex Ferrari 39:01
well, let me ask you what is some of the most ingenious incentives you've seen in your day?
Emily Best 39:06
Well, I really like incentives that inspire evangelism during the campaign. So my most favorite example is filmmaker named Sean Mannion did a time travel short, called time signature. And I contributed $25 to his campaign, and I'm not kidding, like 20 minutes later, I got a an email that said, Emily, thank you from his campaign page. Emily, thank you so much for your contribution. It means a lot to us. If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go? And I was in. I don't know what I was doing that day that made me so boring, but I shot back to go to the signing of the Magna Carta. Okay, thinking that that was also like, I didn't know what he wanted it for, but I was like, this is a hard one. Like it was kind of a dick move on my part. Right? Like Half an hour later, I get a tweet that says, we found at Emily best at the signing of the Magna Carta, where will we find you. And it was a some sort of 13th century scroll image of these friars sitting around signing the Magna Carta. And he had found a picture of mine off of Facebook, and photoshopped it in so expertly, it took me a second to find myself because I just looked like I was there, Wow, really excited to be there. And it was, it was so brilliant, because it made me love him instantly, it filled the incentive that he owed me outside of the delivery of his film. And I shared it everywhere. And I know that I am personally responsible for no fewer than seven other contributions to that
Alex Ferrari 40:57
campaign. Right? That's brilliant.
Emily Best 41:01
$25 into $200.
Alex Ferrari 41:04
That's no way but that but also that takes a little bit of sweat equity, elbow grease, which a lot of filmmakers, you know, they have to ask themselves that that deep question, am I willing to do the work? Absolutely. You know, and that's why I think all this the whole crowd for crowdfunding and building up your audience and everything it has to do about the work and, you know, it's sometimes I've dealing with so many filmmakers in my in my life that a lot of them just want to make a movie one, you know, be famous. And you know what I mean? It's not as much about
Emily Best 41:35
movies, no work at all, I'm sorry. Because making no making a movie, that's no work at all.
Alex Ferrari 41:40
Exactly. Like you've killed yourself, you know, for two years, three years, sometimes I'm making a movie and you're not gonna take it to the finish line, you know, you're so close. You know, I always look at marketing and, and, you know, building this audience and stuff like that, as part of the creative process have always said that, it's like, you have you put your creative energy that you would into your art, but make the marketing on art like that guy. That's a perfect example with the scroll. That's brilliant. Yeah, a really brilliant idea. So what is one of the main reasons somebody would invest in a movie in a crowdfunding platform? Like what's what's, what's the main reason they would?
Emily Best 42:24
Ah, you mean into a crowdfunding campaign?
Alex Ferrari 42:26
Yeah. Like, like, I'm Joe Schmo. I just came on to seed and spark, why would someone like throw down 25 bucks to somebody I don't even know, like, what's the main reason?
Emily Best 42:37
Usually, because, um, there's like a really well articulated Why, why do we need to make this thing that speaks to the person's heart? It's emotional. Of course, why does this need to get made. And it could be, because the pitch video made me laugh my ass off. And it could be because the filmmakers are working on a social justice issue that really matters. Or it could be both in the case of a film called quality problems. It could be that I just really liked the filmmakers approach, it could be that I've been following the filmmaker for a very long time. And I'm really excited to finally get a chance to interact with them in this way. So I it's, I think it's above all, that there is a y. Right? That I that I understand and believe in
Alex Ferrari 43:35
now, can I want you to see if you can set a little light on something that a lot of people don't get in regards to, you know, getting the distribution deal, like, you know, if your film is on iTunes, or Netflix or VOD, those platforms, keep all the customer information and doesn't allow you to connect with that audience. Can you said shed a little light on why self distribution and audience building in many ways is even a better situation? In sometimes for filmmakers in the long term for building a sustainable living as an artist?
Emily Best 44:06
Um, say that one more time?
Alex Ferrari 44:10
Can you shed a little light on why self distribution and audience building is a little bit in many ways is better of a situation than getting that big, that big, you know, golden ticket thing, because you are building for the long term because you're building that audience up and have connection with that audience as opposed to, if someone gives you a million dollars at if you're lucky enough to get that deal? You know, that doesn't mean out of out of out of all those out of all those people that do get that golden ticket, like you're saying that point point one of point 1% how many of those actually have a career in the next 10 years? Is and that's the other thing as opposed if they're
Emily Best 44:46
women. Yeah. Right. If there are people of color, very few, um, and I think that's, I think first Well look, the important message here is How hard Do you want to try to be the point? Oh, 1% of the point Oh, 1%. Right? Why try to participate in a system that clearly doesn't want you? You know, what, what piece of validation is so important that you wouldn't just want to do things? You're way sooner? Right? I think I think for me, it's about what can I do that I control?
Alex Ferrari 45:28
Right, exactly. And building your audience and, and your following and things like that, and distributing it yourself. And keeping the majority of the bounty is something you can control. Look,
Emily Best 45:41
I wanted to make a film about with my friends about female friendships that I recognized. And I knew there was an audience for this movie, because I am a woman of a certain age, who was really tired of all of the women my age being portrayed as, like, you know, sort of batshit jealous, need a man to solve our problems. And not the version of the least, like really successful, creative, amazing, interesting women who I was friends with all the time, I needed that narrative. I didn't see it anywhere. And when we took like, the water to the festivals, this was the reaction we were getting were women in their 60s saying, I've been waiting my whole life for a movie like this. Oh, cool, you know, like incredible things. When I took this to American film market, I had more than one sales agent say, Well, you know, if you could sort of bump up like a lesbian erotica element that would really
Alex Ferrari 46:44
surprise me the least,
Emily Best 46:45
this is the point at which I thought I do not want to be picked by these people anyway, because we fundamentally disagree about what is needed in the marketplace.
Alex Ferrari 46:55
It's like, it's like Groucho Marx said I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member,
Emily Best 47:00
I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that they're members of. Yeah, exactly. Like, it's just, it is just that this is, again, it's it goes back to sure, you could try to knock on doors that are built not to open for you. That's great, you can see the creative control to people whose opinions you might not agree with. Or you could in the hopes that you will get the golden ticket and become the duplass brothers. Right? Right. Um, or you could build it yourself, one audience member at a time, and make what really matters to you in economically sustainable ways. I don't know.
Alex Ferrari 47:47
That's perfect. That's, that's actually a perfect, that's a perfect statement. It's a perfect statement. I think it's, I hope this conversation from our listeners understand that it's, it's about breaking the dogma that we've been sold this, this Wizard of Oz kind of, you know, don't look behind the curtain kind of dogma of go to, you know, spend 120 grand to go to film school, and in like, you know, you're not going to get a job and then go make your movie and then you're in debt for the rest of your life and, and then the movie you make is you got to go down this road and gotta go down to the festival route, and then maybe get, you know, put some a little lesbian erotica in just to be able to sell it in Germany, and you have to kind of kowtow constantly, but it's just as dogma that invoices like you. And I hopefully voices like mine, from what we're doing an indie film hustle is to try to break that, like, Guys wake up, like, get out of the matrix, you know, it's in, and that's what I'm hoping. That's why I want to do on the show so bad, I really wanted to shine a light on what you're doing, and the concept that you're trying to preach out there. So where do you see seed and spark in 10 years?
Emily Best 48:59
Um, wow. In spark in 10 years.
Alex Ferrari 49:05
Cuz everything's like dog years here. Because like, every year is like seven. Like, everything's changing so rapidly. So
Emily Best 49:11
yeah, I would hope in 10 years, there are 10,000 filmmakers on the platform reaching 10 to 20,000 audiences each, who are, you know, paying between 60 and $100 a year to spend on those filmmakers and the stuff that they love.
Alex Ferrari 49:36
Right, that would be a wonderful, wonderful world. Yeah,
Emily Best 49:40
it would be a really, it would be a really, really cool world. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 49:46
Now on CD and spark, you actually can distribute your film as well. Correct? Correct. Can you explain a little bit about that? Because that's one part I found really interesting about what Seton spark is doing. Yeah.
Emily Best 49:57
So um, If you crowdfund with us, and reach 500 followers, those are not necessarily people who contribute monetarily. But essentially just high five your campaign. They've joined your email list is what it is. you qualify to take advantage of all of our platform partnerships. So streaming on seed and spark, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play all the cable, VOD providers, and we can even connect you to theatrical partners.
Alex Ferrari 50:36
So wait a minute, you actually have a partnership with all the those iTunes and Netflix and Hulu and all that stuff as well? Yeah. Oh, I didn't know that. Now. what's the what's the what's the split? If you want me asking?
Emily Best 50:48
Well, so the splits on all the platforms are different, I got it for 20 minutes for me to list them. Sure. Of course, we only take 10% on the pass through. Okay. So that's, that's about half of what most other platforms will take on the pastor. But what we can provide is placement, right, you get if you go there by yourself,
Alex Ferrari 51:07
you're basically you have a door opening, you open doors for filmmakers, I would have had to go through an aggregator or sign some sort of distribution deal.
Emily Best 51:15
And over the next couple of weeks, the crowdfunding tool will get better and better at gathering the data that will help you understand where your audience is watching stuff. So that you can see that I don't know 60% of your identified audience watches everything on iTunes, right? So you can preference the iTunes distribution and you don't have to spend the money trying to market it also on a bunch of other platforms, or, you know, or you find out that it's on, you know, most of your audience is concentrated in these areas. And these are the cable companies that service those areas, you just put it out on those cable VOD platforms, right? Because it's easy right now to just pay money and put stuff on all the platforms, getting anybody to know that it's there way harder. And that's still rides on the backs of filmmakers.
Alex Ferrari 52:06
Which is something that they don't teach you in film school.
Emily Best 52:09
Don't that's, that's our next undertaking. How do we get this information? There are some really really smart people working on the problem of how to how to sort of bring this into film school as well.
Alex Ferrari 52:23
Because it's it's so I mean, that stuff that they're that kids that I see coming out are just like, they're still in a in a haze. They're still you know, they all think they're gonna be Robert Rodriguez or Steven Soderbergh. Or, you know, Spike Lee and the you know, it's not the 90s anymore, unfortunately. A lot of ways. So, um, I have that this is the toughest question of the interview. So prepare yourself. Okay. What are your top three favorite films of all time?
Emily Best 52:52
West Side Story, okay. Some Like It Hot,
Alex Ferrari 52:56
Emily Best 53:00
And the third one is a tie, which is a really weird, like shitty way to shirk the top three, that's fine. Um, there's an Iranian film that came out in 1997. That changed my life called gubbay. It was the first arthouse film I had ever seen, by which I mean, it was the first time I went to an art house, and a much cooler friend of mine was like, let's go see this film. Like, whatever. I'll do it because it sounds cool. And I couldn't leave my seat. I saw it. I just didn't know that film. Could be like that. Um, and then actually, there's a film by filmmaker named Mike odd called Pear Blossom highway that we released through seasons bark. That was a film that I saw at a festival that reminded me why we have to have lots of different kinds of festivals. Because it was it a difficult film, a narrative doc hybrid. That was seamless, that had utterly stunning performances and really disturbing, weird, interesting situations. And I thought about it for weeks afterwards.
Alex Ferrari 54:19
Which is what good art does,
Emily Best 54:21
which is what good art does? Yeah. And Mike art and Nathan silver have just made a new film together, which I cannot wait to.
Alex Ferrari 54:31
It's awesome. And finally, can you give some steps that you can suggestions, some tips, final tips to filmmakers who want to have a successful crowdfunding campaign?
Emily Best 54:44
Oh, sure. Start by going to seed and spark.com and downloading our crowdfunding to build independence handbook. This is very, very important. And you know what? is embarrassing on the brand new site if you go to four films, makers and how it works. It'll walk you through and it'll give you the handbook right there. Read this Handbook, because it will give you the step by step of how to start engaging your audience, how to think about building your incentives, how to make sure that your crowdfunding video is awesome. All of these things will be built in there. But you have to start by doing your research and forming a game plan. crowdfunding follows this sort of the same steps as production, you need pre production, which is planning and scheduling and team building, you need production, which has its own set of planning and scheduling, and team building, building and kind of daily maintenance. And then you have post production, which is all the communication that you're doing all the incentive, fulfillment, all of that, right. So really making sure that you think through all of that strategically, and how it will help your distribution in the end.
Alex Ferrari 55:57
That's awesome. And obviously, people can find you at seedandspark.com,
Emily Best 56:01
seedandspark.com. I'm Emily Best on Twitter or @seedandspark.
Alex Ferrari 56:06
Emily, thank you so much for doing this. I know you're very, very busy, lady. So I really, really appreciate you taking the time talking to thanks for the tribe.
Emily Best 56:14
Thanks for the great question.
Alex Ferrari 56:15
Okay, thank you. I appreciate that. Well, if you didn't know how to crowdfund before, you definitely know how to crowdfund out, I was I've honestly never really crowdfunded a film of mine. So I really wanted to do this interview, because I just want to learn as much as I can about crowdfunding, my next my next project, which will hopefully be coming out next year. And you guys will all hear about it as I do it, trust me. But um, Emily laid out some amazing advice, some real amazing gold nuggets of information there. I think you guys are armed now and ready to do a crowdfunding campaign for your next project. It does take a lot of work. And that's something that a lot of people don't really understand that this is as as intense as actually making your movie is getting it funded and marketed and so on, which is something I constantly preach about on the show, and on indie film, hustle. So I hope this was entertaining for you guys. I hope it was very informative for you. It was for me, so don't forget to head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips calm, where you can download my free ebook on my secrets on getting into film festivals for cheap or free. So keep that hustle going. Don't let go of that dream. Make it happen. I'll talk to you guys soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook
- Rev.com – $1.25 Closed Captions for Indie Filmmakers – Rev ($10 Off Your First Order)