How I plan to have a SUCCESSFUL crowd-funder (HOPEFULLY!!!!)

Last week, I revealed that I’m going to need to raise $18,800 (possibly more if I end up getting production insurance) in order to make my fan film INTERLUDE, which takes place in what I’ve decided to call the “Axanar Universe.” Now, $18.8K is pretty ambitious in the post-guidelines fan film world. So how am I going to get there?

Over the years that I’ve published the Fan Film Factor blog, I’ve seen a LOT of crowd-funding campaigns—some more successful than others—and I’ve noticed some things that work and some that don’t. I’ve shared this “acquired wisdom” with many folks along the way, but now it’s time to see if I can practice what I’ve been preaching!

They say that a magician should never reveal how they do their tricks, but today I am going to do just that. I’m gonna tell you all exactly what I’m planning to try to make this a successful crowd-funding campaign. And hey, if you’ve got any additional ideas that I haven’t thought of (and don’t require me to “break bad”), please feel free to share them in the comments.

Okay, let’s pull back the magician’s curtain…

#1 – NEVER HAVE A “STEALTH” CAMPAIGN LAUNCH

All too often, the first that fans hear about a Kickstarter, Indiegogo,or GoFundMe campaign is the day it launches…or even after it launches! Oh, the Ferengi would be howling!!! There must be a Rule of Acquisition that says: “Advertise early and often.”

That’s why I’ve been writing weekly blogs about Interlude for the past four weeks. When my campaign launches on June 11, people will know it’s coming, and I won’t have to waste precious time ramping up awareness. In addition, I’ve also been lining up a number of interviews that week on various podcasts and blogs…and believe it or not, even a board game tie-in (more on that in an upcoming blog).

#2 – PUT SOME EFFORT INTO YOUR “ASK” VIDEO

If I’m not excited about my project, why should you be? I’ve seen all too many crowd-funding campaigns that just kinda figure, “If I build it, they will donate.” The text of their crowd-funding pages is basic and blah, and their ask videos seem to be made in one take sitting in front of a camera phone.

Granted, it’s kinda hard not to simply look straight into a camera and say “Hey, please gimme your money…” for two or three or seven minutes. And yeah, I’ll be doing a fair bit of that myself. But as you’ll discover in a couple of weeks when I finally post it, I’ve decided to give my “ask” video a bit of a creative twist. Some folks are sure to find it corny, but I’m a corny guy! And I’m certain the detractors will say it’s stupid and obnoxious, but I don’t really care what they think. Mostly, it’s just me having fun in a Jonathan Lane sorta way.

The main point is that my “ask” video goes beyond simply pushing the red “record” button, staring into the camera, and just droning on and on. Some definite effort is going into this presentation…even though I don’t have much actual “fan film” to show people at the moment.

And speaking of which…

#3 – HOW DO YOU SHOW SCENES FROM A FAN FILM THAT DOESN’T EXIST YET?

This one is a challenge for most fan filmmakers. It always helps to show what you’ve already done, but what if you haven’t done anything yet and can’t afford to film scenes until after you’ve successfully crowd-funded?

Fortunately, I’ve got two directors who have already created a couple of finished fan films, so I can show snippets of their Avalon Universe productions in my ask video in order to say, “Hey, look, this isn’t our first rodeo.”

But I’m going to go one step further. I asked my CGI artist to render me the opening scene of Interlude. (An early silent preview was shown this past week on the Axanar Confidential livecast.) We worked closely to get it perfect, and if I do say so myself, he knocked it out of the park. Then I went to my composer to give the sequence a musical score, and I went to my sound-mixer to add the “pew-pew-BOOM!”

The result is the first glimpse people will have of Interlude. It’s not much (only 19 seconds), but it’s hopefully enough to show the quality level I’m going for and get people excited enough to donate. The VFX segment will be part of my “ask” video, but I will also debut it a week or so earlier as part of an Internet “commercial” for my upcoming crowd-funder.

#4 – COMIC RELIEF

You shouldn’t launch a crowd-funder and just leave it on auto-pilot. You have to keep reminding people—over and over and over again—that your campaign is still active and taking donations. And most of all, you need to keep fans and potential backers EXCITED!

Thankfully, I have a blog and a Facebook group devoted to fan films. So yeah, I’m going to be doing a lot of promotion of Interlude here and there. But it can’t just be reminders “Hey, gimme more money!”—that gets old real fast. So obviously, I’ll include interviews and spotlights on the people involved in my project. But I’ve also got another compelling thing I can share…and it’s good for SEVEN straight weeks of exciting blog posts!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Interlude was actually first created as a 7-page (plus cover) stand-alone Axanar comic. I was originally going to release all of the pages at once as a one-shot. But now that I’ll have the crowd-funder up, I’m planning to release one page a week for seven weeks. That gives me seven opportunities to remind folks that the campaign is still going on…and provide the direct hyperlink from the each blog entry featuring a new page of the comic.

Now, I realize it’s risky to show the plot of the entire fan film in a comic book before I release the fan film, but there are some notable differences between the two scripts. And let’s face it, just because people know what’s gonna happen in the fan film doesn’t mean they won’t want to see Captain Garth in the command chair on the USS Ares bridge and experience some awesome VFX. Call it a calculated Vulcan risk on my part, folks, but I think it’ll be a good way to bring in more donations.

#5 IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK

I ain’t too proud to beg. And so that’s what I plan to do…early, often, and perhaps incessantly (although if at all possible, endearingly and with a friendly smile on my face). But the point is, if you want people to give you money to make a fan film, then ASK THEM! It’s fine to post links and updates and release comic book pages one at a time…but nothing beats a PLEASE and a THANK YOU.

And hopefully, it won’t just be me doing the asking. I’m planning to reach out to some of the fan filmmakers whose crowd-funders I’ve helped to promote over the years and ask if they can do a shout-out link to my campaign via their donor mailing list. The worst they can say is “no.” And I’m not naive; some folks are gonna defer simply because I’m making an Axanar fan film with Alec Peters in it, and not everyone loves the guy like I do. I get that. But he’s playing Garth. Period. So no harm, no foul if I get a few “sorry, can’t help ya”s along the way. But my fingers are crossed that not everyone will decline, and hey, every little bit helps.

And speaking of crossing my fingers, come back for my next blog when I discuss my biggest gamble of all (no, not the production insurance)!

27 thoughts on “How I plan to have a SUCCESSFUL crowd-funder (HOPEFULLY!!!!)”

  1. So, would “TAKE MY MONEY!!!” be a good reply at this point? Go for it, Jonathan! Perhaps a hint of some of the perks? (There will be perks, right?) 😉

  2. Part of donation is faith. Having been in your FB group and having chatted once or twice I feel comfortable in donating money. Not sure how much yet, only the budget will tell but I’m behind you . It’s the same reason I’m a patreon donor for Ares studios

    1. Every little bit helps, Brian. As Scotty and Kirk proved in “The Doomsday Machine,” even recharging just one phaser bank can make a big difference. 🙂

  3. I dunno when the next Axicon will take place but a pannel for people that donate might be cool, or just a pannel alone for face to face interaction. Nothing says here take my money then a genuine face to face, even if it’s an interactive vlog.

    1. Maybe I’ll see if I can have Alec help me set up one of those donor-only Livechats that he’s been doing for the Patreon donors. Great idea, Adam!

  4. Might I suggest a jingle? Something like: “Donate to Interlude, Interlude is fun, donate right now, don’t walk run!”

  5. Hopefully will also get the comic “to print” – would make a great ‘extended goal reward or some such thing… 🙂

      1. I would stay clear of offering a print version of the comic.

        Maybe a self print pdf ready for LULU or some such that donors can get printed themselves.

  6. I seldom give money to fan projects. When I do it’s because a number of factors come together: I believe in the project. I have some evidence/hope that the project will be finished. And I have a bit of spare change at the time.

    Note I did not say “perks” although back in the day I was a bit tempted by a couple of the very high end Axanar perks but did not bite.

    The perk I cared about was getting to see the result which, for example, motivated me to give to the DS9 project.I think of it as deciding to see a movie. I see movies not because of a perk but because I find the subject/plot/characters interesting.

    So far, to be clear, I’m vaguely interested and will pay attention to what I learn next. Color me “willing to be convinced but still a wee bit skeptical”.

  7. Jonathan, Jerry has a good point, I believe along the same lines, especially when I have lost track of the various perks and have no idea if I ever got them or not. The timeline stretches out from donation, to final product, and you begine to lose track. The biggest thing is the drop off that seems tohappen, it even happened to Axanar, there are some FB pages that were set up, some secret, some not, and most are dead with either no posts or a couple admins contributing everything. I just found out there is a Patreon for Axanar so I signed up as I really believe in the quality that Alec puts into it, and gets out of it. Maybe there is a better way to build a bigger base, and Patreon Axanar as a umbrella and then have submissions of script ideas and Patreons can vote on it. Stick their money where they see it best used. Maybe that won’t work with the way people only want their thing and get pissy if they don’t get it. Axanar seems to have been able to bring out the nastiest people (even just a small group, they made life hard for the whole Axanar thing). But, I would contribute where I will get a quality show, and I think you have enough help from Alex and Co., so I think you will make a good show. I await your opening of your fundraiser, and will support it. Just make it good. Axanar good.

  8. I would suggest having a campaign strategy to deal with Axanar negativity. Be prepared for folks to donate at the one dollar point simply to vent frustrations at another Axanar fund raiser.

    There may well be an audience that cannot or will not be able to separate the Axanar projects and will let you know.

    But if you want this to be successful, you need to be prepared with your communication strategy on how this is different, no connection to the main Axanar project production, etc etc. Because the question will ve asked, and they will be asked on the fund raising page.

    Good luck.

    1. Look, I can’t stop the detractors from detracting, but they probably weren’t going to donate much anyway. On the other hand, their attempts to denigrate and deride do tend to “rally the base,” so maybe the detractors will inadvertently help me bring in even more donations. We’ll see what happens.

  9. Jonathan

    you will have my support and a little bit of my money 🙂
    to make the film (and hope more than one film)

    richard

  10. Good luck with your Campaign and your movie.

    Have you considered a YouTube channel?

    Not just for your campaign but I would watch that for sure.

      1. Yes of course however you are obviously an knowledgeable and intelligent bloke and I would guess your interests extend beyond Star Trek. Due to the many and varied issues surrounding well, mainly Sci Fi Franchises many Youtubers have seen their channels take off as fans look to other sources for unbiased and accurate information. It doesn’t have to be all unboxing or reaction videos.

        Interlude would allow you to tip your toes in the water and who knows you could end up in a position where you are getting paid to talk about Sci Fi. Of course It’s a long road getting, getting from there to here and I know you are a shy and reticent guy with very little to say on things but I am sure you can overcome this and you might even enjoy it.

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