I offered to do an article for Directors UK about my crowdfunding campaign experience, revealing as much as we could about what we did and how we went about it. Short on time, why would I do this?
The short answer is publicity for the campaign, for this idea which Krent Able and myself, co-creators of Deep Clean, really love – enough to try and raise £25K, and do it (or not) publicly.
The longer (and more convoluted but possibly more honest) answer however, is to do with my deeply held belief that filmmaking is hard enough and lonely enough anyway, without us all keeping strategies, secrets and hacks we have discovered to ourselves. If we as individuals have a vested interest in the wider health of the art form and business of film, then we are duty bound to help each other. Lofty stuff possibly, but as an example, I run a small director’s community called No Direction Home that has put on 18 free events over the last 3 years, featuring guests, screenings and meet-ups that tries to demystify the filmmaking process and bring creators together.
So, sharing experiences, honestly, makes us all feel less alone. That’s why I am doing this article…that and the publicity.
Part One – Planning, prep and launch
7th May - LOCO talk
Have realised that we are plainly not ready to launch the campaign on the original date of…tomorrow. I resolve to push the VICE online premiere of Ink, Cock & Rock’n’Roll — mine and Steve’s last film — back to June 20th if we can.
Ink, Cocks plays this evening at LOCO, The London Comedy Film festival run by the excellent double act of Denise Hicks and Jonathan Wakeham, and so I offered to do a crowdfunding talk to their Kickstart Your Comedy career attendees, interviewing the producers of The Truthful Phone, Biopunk and Postcards From The 48% to create a presentation PDF that we will give away containing all these insights.
15th May - NDH Crowdfunding special
This has, somewhat surprisingly, been the most subscribed event we have run. It’s great to talk about art but this is about how to get money. Ah. The panellists were James Heath of Biopunk (£20k via Kickstarter), David Nicholas Wilkinson of Postcards from the 48% (£24k via Crowdfunder), and Paul Murphy of Gypsy’s Kiss (£5k via IndieGogo)
And we are especially excited to have the data crunching guru Stephen Follows – 47,000 Kickstarter campaigns analysed from 2009-15. Some really specific insights were revealed by the data — for example: launch your campaign on a Tuesday at two pm, make the video three minutes and twenty seconds long, have twenty rewards, and make the thing last eighteen days to create a sense of urgency (something all the panellists talk about.)
A great evening, joyous, fun, inspiring and full of enthusiasm…
24th May – The video shoot
Ink, Cocks plays in Ireland today – at the idyllic Fastnet Film Festival in Schull – really wish I could go but we have got to get this campaign video done.
We plan it fairly quickly, write a script Monday, do a scratch edit Tuesday so I know what words I have to learn and which will be covered by images, mostly Krent’s amazing concept art, but also clips of our collaborators. Stephen Follows also suggests that the best ones are funny, so some gags are required.
Inspired by South Park’s Fireside Chat intros (hilarious, on Youtube), we decide to create a ‘Matt & Krent museum’. Krent decides he wants to ‘look cool’ and not do any talking, instead his performance will consist of changing his shirts. It is fun, learning the words and delivering them is hard, but I get through it and we think we have some gags that work — the shoot is ably directed and shot by my good friend Kyle Stevenson.
26th May – Video edit
We get it done, and cut in two days ready for a Friday evening pub meeting with a production company we are talking with about the project. They love the video, we may have got it not far off.
29th May – New York
Ink, Cocks plays the Philip K Dick film festival in New York. Had planned to go, but no time or money. Balls.
30th May – Avengers assemble
The team is starting to come together. Roxy Holman (Joker’s Pack) agrees to produce with me, and we start cracking through a £25k budget. Laura Kirby, friend, musician and previously top PA, knows organising. The trick to outreach, as we learned from my last feature American: The Bill Hicks Story is to create a win/win with the organisation you want to tap into. You offer something attractive (prizes, rewards) in return for access to their audience, readership or mailing list. For the price of two tickets to the premiere and a couple of t-shirts and posters (plus an embed of the previous film and a quick interview) their community gets a great package and they are now all aware of your campaign.
1st June – Video feedback
“Matt – that’s awesome! Great stuff. Really clear, welcoming, creative and inviting. Great stuff.” Stephen Follows
“Video looks wicked - love Krent’s ever-changing outfits. Think the tone is spot on with the film you are trying to make, comes across really well.” James Heath
James Heath also agrees to meet with me to go over our rewards – they (Dresden Pictures) have done this fives times – twice for feature projects, and are the most experienced guys at this we know.
People are also really responding to our strong collaborators in the video – we are thrilled to be working with Ben Wheatley collaborator Dan Martin at 13FingerFX (Sightseers, High Rise, Free Fire) on the SFX, and Territory Studio, the team behind Ghost in the Shell, Ex Machina & Blade Runner 2049 on the VFX.
2nd June – Vimeo’s ‘call to action’
Had to get out two new trailers for the VICE.com launch of Ink, Cocks & Rock’n’Roll, on June 20th and for the Quietus interview Krent did with Kitebase which comes out Monday, and realise we are officially making the campaign public for the first time…better get ready then.
It takes almost four hours to re-cut them and then work out the all-important ‘call-to-action’ feature at the end of the videos – what should they see? The not-yet-live video? An image for Deep Clean with a link to a mailing list? A new, shorter, Kickstarter teaser?
3rd June – Mailing list pain – 2 days to announce
Saturday – big list of stuff to get done, as I realise we do in fact go public Monday 5th when the Krent/Quietus interview comes out.
Spend two hours transcribing all the mailing list forms we have been pushing in people’s faces at screenings the last month into Mailchimp…then another two creating new headers for all the social media channels (Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Halflife website). Finish the press release, ‘offer’ emails template, then get on with postcards to design and print for Sheffield Doc/Fest next weekend, get Google Analytics working, create a press download section for my website...the whole offering must be connected and considered. The list of jobs is endless.
4th June – Sundance London
Take a break at 4.30pm to go see A Ghost Story at Sundance London. Amazing, and made by the director David Lowery on very little money. Luckily, he’s mates with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara…but really an amazing film, completely transporting, stunning time shifts and ellisions. As low-fi as you can get, but with real heart and soul, and a certain horror to it as well. Highly recommended.
5th June – Avengers assemble (again)!
The Krent/Kite Base article goes live on The Quietus, run by the indomitable John Doran, who’s autobiography of rock’n’roll madness Jolly Lad Steve had illustrated. They’ve also offered to do a separate story for the trailer we cut for them for their June 22nd Ink, Cocks embed – very nice of them.
And so to Picturehouse Central, my new office away from home, for the first meeting of the Deep Clean Social Media Outreach team. We brainstorm for two hours, going through spreadsheets, documents, strategy, approaches, people we know, how to get in front of students, comedy audiences, radio hosts, the lot.
It’s a great meeting – everyone has lots of ideas, we work out how it going to work, and feel very lucky that we have such a great bunch of people on board.
7th June – Hectic
Horrible day running about between conference calls, meetings and edits, then working with Laura on the master campaign spreadsheet. This is the most important document we have created, and essentially contains EVERY contact I have, when we are contacting them, what we are asking or offering them, if they say yes, status, etc. We were going to share this online but decide that it’s too sensitive to have flying about in The Cloud and revise our thinking. Laura is a genius at this – it is a thing of beauty.
Back home at seven, for seven more hours of working on the Kickstarter page and rewards, but first, I discover the wonder that is Crowdfire.
Amazing. Why I have only just found this? Scheduled posts, linked to all my accounts from one dashboard, automated follow and message to followers with links etc, identifies ‘fans’ (people who follow you that you haven’t yet followed) – this is totally what we need – I sign up (nb. I don’t work for them.)
13th June — Seven days to go: Sheffield Doc/Fest
An amazing four days at Sheffield Doc/Fest, meetings, drinking, panel sessions, only time for two films (City of Ghosts & Trophy — both simultaneously great and hard to watch), then more drinking. This festival breaks you, but there were incredible people and some very good steers on what we are doing with Deep Clean, how to set it up and take it forward into the feature version.
Spent Monday literally sat in the Showroom café, catching up with emails and social stuff, planning the team moving forward, everything is now focused towards the launch which is now just seven days away…!
And then at 6pm to the BFI reception, the Dogwoof Dina party with the awesome director of Dina, Dan Sickles, who told me “This is the booziest festival I have EVER been to.” Doc filmmakers – 1. Rest of world – 0.
A small side note: I get to meet one of my heroes, Walter Murch, erstwhile editor of The Godfather Part 2, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation and many more. I ask a question at the Q&A and get a ‘Walter Murch fortune cookie’ that he makes himself with directors’ quotes on, mine is from Erik Satie: “It is not enough to refuse the Legion d’Honneur…the important thing is not to have deserved it in the first place.” What a thrill, a proud day indeed!
14th June – Six days to go: Admin on a massive scale
Huge amounts of emails to ‘influencers’ (horrible term), people we know with large followings, and then three hours on curated pages with festivals…it’s 6.30pm, and I still have to do the following:
- recut the video – lose 30 secs, add in music collaborators
- NDH mail outs
- finish press release
- create downloadable press image cache
15th June – Five days to go: Emails and inside info
James Heath of Dresden’s words of wisdom for campaigns are to start strong on Mondays with a ‘big’ news story, and he tells us of “Big Wednesday” – which is typically the biggest day of the week. Pledging tends to build to, and then fall off from, that day.
Friday to Sunday are usually dead, so it’s a four-day funding week. On the basis of that, we change from a 21 to a 23 day campaign, so that we start on a Tuesday, end on a Thursday, but still get 4 Big Wednesdays (incidentally one of my favourite films)
He loves the campaign and concept, and talks about searching for super backers via Instagram and Twitter. Extremely useful insights – I owe him one.
16th June – Four days to go
Great news - Kickstarter have just awarded Deep Clean the Projects We Love status!
It’s getting hard to find time to do the actual campaign creation, the rewards need re-doing, and the story section (the longest part of the campaign page which essentially contains everything in the video, plus artwork and other references) probably needs another pass.
We go to do the Vice interview with editor Jamie Clifton for the launch of Ink, Cocks & Rock’n’Roll on Vice.com, timed for the launch date next Tuesday. It takes exactly thirteen minutes. We try to be focused filmmakers but end up taking the piss out of each other as usual —hopefully it will read professionally (ha).
18th June – Two days to go
We are cramming tonnes into the days but still feel massively behind, making lists of influencers, preparing artwork, and tweaking the video. One thing I am finding difficult is managing my own time — each person on the team has their own separate jobs (PR, artwork, outreach overseeing,) but that all has to go through me. I’m working 16-18 hour days now.
20th June – LAUNCH DAY HEATWAVE
The team assembles in my Newman Street office around eleven, and we flutter nervously about getting ready to launch the presentationof four months work. It is the peak of the heatwave and with all the windows open, we are still sweating like pigs (or maybe just me). There are things we need to do in the 15 minutes leading up to ‘going live’ – including switching the web redirect as soon as the Kickstarter page changes.
On tenterhooks, we wait to hear from VICE if the article is up, and wait…the important thing is not to be giving out links to a campaign that is not live. They come back and are going to be another 25 mins. Okay – stay of execution. Do we need to change anything?
We have to wait till 12.01 to launch. The team in a row, all link hands and we push the button together…and it’s ALIVE!
We are doing this. In public. In 23 days, we will know if we raised £25,000 to make a supernatural horror movie.
We’d love it if you would check out the campaign page and maybe even pledge – let’s help each other and keep making films!
Matt will be back with weekly updates and then a ‘Did we or Didn’t We – What Happened?’ Wrap up article after July 13th. You can follow him at on Twitter at @mattharlock, on Instagram at @halflifefilms and on Facebook.
If you’re a member with an idea for a feature you want to run on the Directors UK website, get in touch at [email protected], and make yourself heard.