Follow the crowdfunding

Ben Saffer is the founder of Saffer Productions. Having done a lot of commercial work, events based films, music videos and festival coverage, both in the UK and abroad, he used crowdfunding to finance the company’s current “passion project”, which will be shown it at a number of film festivals across the uk and beyond.

What did you use crowdfunding for?

We used it to raise around 40% of the funding for a short film which we shot in March. The film is now very nearly reaching completion and it premiers next week. After that, it will be submitted to film festivals, possibly using another round of crowdfunding to raise the money for festival submissions.

Why did you choose crowdfunding?

Necessity really. With the time and resources available to us we didn’t really have any other way to raise the amount of money required. Also, it was an interesting first dip of the toes into crowdfunding, something which I’ve been interested in for a while.

How did you choose the platform?

We chose to use Sponsume because a few other filmmakers I know had used it in the same timeframe with some success. Also, it was preferable to other platforms such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter because we knew most people would be UK based and being able to set the prices in £s was a big thing. Having a small UK based company to work with made things easier in terms of support and help.

How much were you looking to raise?

We were looking for £500, we raised just over £650 in the end. The other option was to look for local companies to sponsor the film. This was the first option we looked into, but crowdfunding required less time and effort to raise the money, allowed us to retain full independence and also allowed us to cultivate a community around the film and raise its profile on social media. Raising money from corporate sponsors can be good, however given the current climate this is becoming very difficult and generally requires a strong existing link with a company to be successful. The historical source of funding for these sorts of projects, UK Film Council and RDAs has all but disappeared and crowdfunding is going some way to plug this gap.

Were you pleased with the result?

We were very pleased with how the funding went. To be honest, we expected around 80% of the money to come from people who we were “pretty sure” would support us before we started, but the crowdfunding site gave an easy, fast conduit to get these funds from people over a wide geographical spread. I think crowdfunding is good if you have a decent network of family, friends and clients who you will support you, or at a higher level a large fanbase who will support your projects (see Vincent Moon‘s Colombian music documentary last year). I would recommend it to anyone who understands how it works: the mistake a lot of people make is thinking that there is a magical “pool” of people out there who will suddenly discover your film on a crowdfunding site and give you a bunch of cash – that’s not how it works; if you don’t know who these people are in the “real world” then they don’t know who you are online.

For example, another film in Leeds put a crowdfunding page up asking for £1600 in about 3 weeks. They had a small crew (much smaller than ours) and most of these already had other projects on crowdfunding sites so could only reasonably leverage their family and/or friends once in the timeframe. The crowdfunding page only raised around £160 which had the knock on effect of making the filmmakers look like they didn’t know what they were doing and made it more difficult for them to get crew, locations, equipment on a beg, borrow or steal. Conversely, we spent time before setting up a crowdfunding page on working out who would likely support us and to what level, setting our target accordingly. Through meetings and exceeding our target we showed that we knew what we were doing, created a positive feeling around the project and in the days after the crowdfunding page finished, were able to secure some great deals on crew and equipment off the back of this positivity.

What would you advise people thinking about using crowdfunding for their projects?

- Know your audience and/or potential funders
- Estimate how much you can raise
- Be realistic with your target and set it accordingly. Anything over and above this is a bonus
- Don’t fall into the trap of raising funding again and again: your “core” network of supporters will only give what they can and this will happen on the first round
- Create a community around your backers – this will help in many ways in the future
- Ensure you create positivity around your project off the back of a successful round of crowd funding (shout it from the rooftops when you reach your target!)