Fundraising in the Current Indie Documentary Landscape

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We’re delighted to announce that one of our own directors, Drew Xanthopoulos, recently received the Austin Film Society Grant! So we’re making today’s blog post about fundraising in the indie film landscape. It’s another in a series of first-person accounts from the Revelator staff, and today Drew covers his personal journey of indie film fundraising for his new documentary, THE SENSITIVES. Drew has spent the last 3+ years, driving and flying tens of thousand of miles to meet families whose lives have been reshaped by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Below, Drew details exactly how he conducted fundraising for such a specific and personal documentary.

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Revelator Director Drew Xanthopoulos

Let me start by saying that I will never truly know what motivated 606 people to collectively pledge over $54K to help fund the post production of my feature documentary, THE SENSITIVES. But that’s the point of this post. My documentary is about families struggling to reclaim their lives from the isolation of chronic illness and the debilitating and mysterious illness often called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). It’s important to note that it naturally appeals to the disability community in addition to those with this and other unknown illnesses and they played an enormous role in the campaign’s success.

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Sam and Nathan in THE SENSITIVES

We were picked as a Project of the Day and Staff Pick by the folks at Kickstarter days within our launch, had a fantastic Q&A featured in Medium and picked up by Vantage, were supported by the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, Austin Film Society, National Council on Independent Living, and even had the iconic artist Chuck Close endorse the project on Youtube. We had the brilliant local crowdsourcing guru, Annie Bush of Production for Use, consulting throughout the campaign, making sure all of the opportunities and resources we had were never wasted. All that said, it was an uphill battle throughout the campaign.

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Joe and Lanie in THE SENSITIVES

And despite Kickstarter providing pretty detailed metrics about where pledges are coming from around the web, it’s impossible to know, even in retrospect, what pushed and pulled the undercurrents of the web away from and toward our campaign. Or what compelled so many to give at the very end.

Within the first week we raised about 30% of our goal of $50K and were pretty thrilled. A quarter of the way through and over a quarter raised…time to take a break! But we hit the common mid-campaign slump and for the next 2 weeks, we only inched up a couple more percentage points. It was during this period that many people messaged me asking why I hadn’t chosen Indiegogo or Paypal raise funds, where they let you keep whatever is raised, regardless of meeting your goal in time. I even had people email me asking me where to send money because it was “obvious” that we weren’t going to meet our goal but they wanted to make sure their checks made it to the film, the goal be damned.

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Susie in THE SENSITIVES

In the final 8 days of the campaign, we raised over 60% of our intended goal, or almost $37K of the intended $50K. That, I can now say, is why Kickstarter was a better choice for this project than other platforms. That all-or-nothing mantra allows you to create a tremendous amount of momentum in the final days of the campaign that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. It’s important to stay visible throughout the whole campaign; tell everyone more about your project through various platforms and field questions. But know that most give at the end and do your best to build awareness and support for your project leading up to that.

-Drew Xanthopoulos
Director/DP, Revelator

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ABOUT REVELATOR: Revelator is a full service film & video production company in Austin, Texas. We like to write, produce, & edit projects for t.v. and the web. We specialize in brand films, corporate identity work, as well digital advertising and t.v. broadcast advertising. If you need help with your script, production, or just an idea, give us a call.

REVELATOR SERVICES: Video Production, TV Commercials, Brand Films, Virtual Reality, VR Experiences, Script Writing, Music Videos, Lifestyle Videos, Technology Videos, B2B Videos, Product Videos, Feature Films, Motion Graphic Videos, Turnkey Solutions, and Live Event Video Production.