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Curate and Sparkle: Seed&Spark Workshop Recap

Attended the Seed&Spark Crowdfunding workshop at Durham’s NCGLFF this past weekend to help get my head around how people approach that platform and to scope out some best practices when crowdfunding for indie films. The event was lead by filmmaker Christina Raia from Seed&Spark, who has used the platform to make several projects, and overall it provided a nice overview of both Seed&Spark, and concepts for crowdfunding in general, that seem a bit obvious in retrospect, but weren’t immediate conclusions for me as I’ve been tooling around with their backend for a bit. Plus it was a really nice way to spend a Sunday morning, just chilling in Durham and hanging with a group of people (some familiar faces, some new faces) and discussing the challenges of indie filmmaking.

Christina did a good job laying out how focused Seed&Spark is on educating filmmakers on how to use crowdfunding as a career-building tool and how she’s been able to grow with each of her campaigns. Some other things I made particular note of:

– Because Seed&Spark is a distribution platform in addition to the crowdfunding, there’s a caveat that S&S-funded projects cannot ultimately be streamed for free. So if you’re looking to output onto Youtube or Vimeo eventually, you would need to charge for views. Not sure if there’s a timeframe linked with this, the campaign itself, or if it’s more ‘into perpetuity.’

– With the many Seed&Spark partnerships in place to help filmmakers, there’s some added-value benefits and incentives for running a successful campaign. They seem to essentially incentivize growing your audience and preparing in-depth for engaging with them on each project.

– Finding your audience, and putting some strategy into growing that audience. The whole workshop, in fact, got me thinking a lot about serious niche targeting an audience. As a writer, I think about the audience a lot, but in more broad, universal ways. A lot of the discussion at the workshop was on slicing through demographics and using analytics on the campaigns to further signal boost. Which is a strategy I’m familiar with from my daily marketing grind, but I’d not considered applying such detailed audience segmentation to crowdfunding or filmmaking. Definitely food for thought there.

– When launching a campaign, a good benchmark of whether it has legs is if you’re able to reach 30% of funding in the first week. Seed&Spark has that 80% goal cut-off threshold based on the idea that a good filmmaker should be able to work around that 20% shortfall and still get the picture made, (and perhaps a bit of leeway for padded budgets or not-so-good-at-math artistes?)

– Rethinking what the “sustainable filmmaking career” looks like.

There were lots of other good tidbits and discussion on the length of campaigns, the types of updates that can help keep your audience engaged and all that. But my big takeaways going forward with crowdfunding are to try and be extra thoughtful about my reach and curating my audience. I’m still in the process of figuring out what poor saps my work resonates with, but the obvious action for that is to make more films and put them out there, which I’m chipping away at slowly but steadily.

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