Guest post: Crowdfunding Arrives at the Next Level, by Scott Essman

Reinventing Films logo

Reinventing Films might be the name of an emerging company forging ahead in the areas of alternative film financing, but at the weekend long Comikaze fan convention, it also aptly described new methods of creating and pitching their films.

Enter the team at Reinventing Films who, in a detailed seminar, “Crowdfunding Your Vision: How to Achieve the Results You Want,” proposed a new method of obtaining not only film financing, but of creating a polished in-progress project to present to investors with the aim of creating a full feature-length movie.

Panelists were Marc Hofstatter, Lead Film for the top crowdfunding site, Indigogo, Reinventing Films co-founders Jodie Bentley, COO/CFO and Nathan Reid, CEO, Mathew Lorenceau (stunt performer in Iron Man 2 and After Earth and, actor and stunt coordinator Prey: The Light in the Dark and The Program, and moderating the panel was Jason Robinette, Senior director of Marketing for Reinventing Films.

Pioneer of this innovative approach is Nathan Reid, who was initially driven to develop an alternative to the standard method of pitching a film verbally and presenting a screenplay to kick a project into gear. “I partnered with three filmmakers who were going to revolutionize how to do a pitch film,” he said after a period of intensive research which included study of $100,000-$200,000 budgets raised by filmmakers to finance a five-minute sample of what would become a feature film project. “All of the films that they did sold. They are studio films at $35,000,000. I looked at that and I went, ‘repeat the business model’ — doing high-caliber films and get a professional team.”

Speaking in concert with Reid was Jodie Bentley. She reiterated how the first aspect any filmmaker must resolve before crowdfunding is to know your goal. “We knew we wanted to raise X amount of dollars to do a short teaser film,” she said of a recent in-house project, Prey: The Light in the Dark. “The clearer you are on that when you start, your marketing strategy and tone will change depending on your goal.”

Offering additional advice was Mark Hofstatter, the head of film at Indiegogo, who pragmatically laid out the most current methods of fundraising for independent projects. “First, you have to figure out who you are and what you are trying to do,” he advised. “Anyone can crowdfund from anywhere. Because of that, you are able to put up a project almost instantaneously. We recommend you put in some thought to what the project will look like. The more that you have in terms of planning, the better you will be.”

With regards to formulating goals, Hofstatter outlined a plan which starts simply and builds from that point. “Set your goal at something logical and respectable,” he said. “20-30% comes from friends, family and inner circle. Triple it and that’s your goal. Stranger dollars don’t start coming in until 20-30%. A soft launch is where you tell friends and family. Do that, and then, when that is done, tell everybody. 48 hours before you go live, get that 20-30%.”

While most independent filmmakers are inclined to spend a similar budget on a complete low-budget film, Reid advocates spending the money on a high-quality sample, with seven successful likeminded crowdfunding campaigns with which he has been involved where filmmakers reached out to the general public to contribute funds. However, Reid cautions that the hopeful filmmaker must be totally committed to the process. “Every single project, no one is going to care about it more than you,” he said. “If it fails, it is because of you. It is your responsibility to train your team and be a mentor to your team.”

In addition to collaborators who can donate services, crowdfunding operations can additionally attract top filmmaking talent to work on the projects. Case in point, Mathew Lorenceau served as stunt coordinator for Prey: The Light in the Dark and another project, The Program for which Reinventing Films raised $60,000, $50,000 of which was garnered from crowdfunding. Previously, Lorenceau had worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, After Earth, and other big-budget studio films and TV series.

Once Lorenceau witnessed Reinvention Films’ plans, he immediately came aboard. “The ambition of it and their impact online, I saw there was potential and said I wanted to jump on it,” he said. “Working with friends, people you know, and people you trust. And do a great job once you have your money. It’s teamwork.”

Filmmakers new to the process must first carefully analyze methods of crowdfunding, as Reid cautions against expecting total cooperation from friends and family alone. “The percent of support that you would get is three from your family, friends, and support team,” he said. “Coca-Cola bases their advertising on a 3% return. If you are getting $20 from every single friend of yours, how many will you have to get?

With regards to reaching beyond friends and family, Bentley suggested that this approach is attainable at a certain juncture in a crowdfunding operation. “The ‘stranger effect’ will happen once you reach a certain threshold of money,” she said. “You need a team who will work as hard as you will to get it made. How can you make it a win-win [for your team]? Someone can be an associate producer or executive producer. You can raise $2500-$5000 on your own, but you need a team for each person to raise money individually and bring it together.”

Naturally, many crowdfunders begin calling upon friends, but Reid prompted those new to the scene to be proactive at all times, citing one friend who eventually donated to a campaign but balked until he was convinced of the project’s quality. “Your friends will support you, but you have to inspire them,” Reid stated. “When you make a big impression, be willing to put a full-time job into it.”

After a recommended month of pre-production preparatory work on a project, Reid said that filmmakers must set regular goals for raising funds. “Have a daily goal and do not stop until you have it,” he commented looking out at the Comikaze crowd in attendance. “If we all got together and did one project together, there is $80,000 in this room. Get 10 friends together who will die with you – you have $30,000. Whatever your goal is, 25% [of that should be] your goal on day one. I’ll get donations for a project before I even launch.”

Prey: The Light in the Dark, based on a comic book character conceived in 2006 by Reid, became a proprietary crowdfunding project at Reinventing Films. They raised $160,000 and shot five minutes of sample footage for the project starring Tyler Mane (X-Men, Halloween); the teaser recently premiered at the 2013 New York Comic Con.

One phenomenon that the Reinventing Films group highlighted is “the rule of seven,” where it requires seven impressions of a product or service before an individual takes action. “You can’t just expect one email to a group of friends,” Bentley remarked, seconding Reid’s advocacy of following up. “You have to ask seven times.”

Certainly, crowdfunding is open to all potential filmmakers regardless of one’s chosen genre. Reid noted that interested parties should find campaigns that are successful within that genre, be it sci-fi, horror, comedy and others. Then, get prepared for hard work. “Call everyone on your cell phone seven times,” he conveyed. “Find people’s limit and ask up to that limit. Don’t put imaginary figures on people.”

Taking that notion further, Bentley merged the often disparate concepts of artist and businessperson. “You have to know and embrace that we are all sales people,” she said. “A salesperson will also close a deal and ask for money. Find other ways where you can reach out in your community [for who can] donate a service to you. Think outside the box.”

In addition to filmmakers operating their own campaigns, Hofstatter noted an alternate approach. “There’s a growing niche market for campaign managers,” he detailed. “At Indiegogo, we are very hands-on with our campaigners. We’ll work with you to get it in the best shape possible.”

Special thanks to Jason Robinette, who kept the lively and informative panel moving. So much so, that when the panel’s time was up and had to vacate the room, much of the audience moved to the corridor and the questions kept coming and the panelists kept answering. Now, go out and start your crowdfunding campaign and make a movie!

For more information, go to