Most people do not understand the difference between crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing and often get the two arenas confused, but Richard (RB) Botto, the writer/producer and teacher who is also CEO of the creative networking group Stage 32 does and explains it all in his new book – Crowdsourcing For Filmmakers from Focal Press. Sourcing involves more networking and being part of a community whereas funding is just that – getting the money. But it’s far easier to get the money when you have people already enthused about your idea.
When asked who the audience is for your story or film, creators often say “everyone.” This is seldom true and unrealistic. There are always specific people or groups who will be interested in reading or viewing your material but only a very few things are of interest to all four quadrants. It’s crucial to build an audience first. Not everyone will appreciate or understand your creative vision. You want to engage and move your audience so that they want to participate and feel like your project speaks directly to them and their needs. It is this reason why many crowdfunding and kickstarters fail – because there is no relationship with your audience.
With so much new material out there, it can be frustrating and overwhelming. So how do you rise above the noise?
Crowdsourcing includes everything – not just the writing of the story, but the locations, the obtaining of film equipment, actors, the creating of your message and the brand of you, the writer, as well as building relationships by identifying those with similar likes and interests.
RB suggests that the first question you ask is “Who is your audience?” Be honest with yourself. Look at your material, look at the subject matter and the point of view that your story espouses. So “What are you trying to say in your story? Why might it appeal to these readers or viewers?” What niche communities are most likely to be attracted to this material? Then you have to consider how you can broaden the niche.
A friend of RB’s wrote a story about autism. In her crowdsourcing she reached out to groups of parents and those affected by the disease. She engaged them and gave them a sense of ownership by asking them to read the script and receiving their input. Was anything missing in her story? How could she make it more relatable? What did they feel about what she said? She ran a contest, created empathy and compassion for her story, and gave one character the name of a child in the group. In short, she made the group feel like they were part of and had an intimate stake in the success of this project. Then she asked them to spread the world – which they gladly did. She kept them involved on the progress of the story and the film and they went to the wall for her promoting far beyond any marketing firm could do.
Another person wrote a baseball movie. But as we writers know the involvement of the audience comes from the relationship they have with the characters and so since he was really making the story about a father-son relationship, he asked people to give him their stories of when they went with their fathers to see baseball games and of how it FELT. He also asked how and what they hoped to pass onto their kids in regards to the game and what it meant to them. The writer kept his audience in the loop while writing the script so that he built a legion of followers and he touched on something in their lives. Then he asked the small town if he could use their location for his filming and it became a sense of pride for them. He reached out to people both on line and off line. It came not only from the wanting to see his film succeed but from a sense of selflessness. People became involved in his process and when asked to promote his film, they did so in droves.
When you psych up their sense of ownership, they want you to succeed. It’s then that you carry them from project to project.
One of my own first published books was This Bitter Ecstasy, a historical romance about the French-Indian war and a young woman captured and brought to 1700’s Montreal. I was able to get Air Canada to offer it on their flights and obtained a larger audience than I might have done so.
All this takes an investment of time and work. It’s a long game and one has to roll with the punches. Things will not always turn out as you hope. If this is happens you must regroup and ask if you have gone too broad with your scope. Have you really identified your audience? Are you asking too much too early? Or have you overestimated the audience for this story? Often people do not want to put in the time needed.
The building of trust is the crucial part. You start when you have the idea. Get people to understand what you are trying to accomplish. “This is my story. How would you change it? I’d love color it in more with your ideas.” Ideas, however, mean nothing. It is the performance and execution that counts. You do not start when you are in production, or even when you are submitting things around. You start three to six months before.
You are not a trusted source at the beginning but once you execute and deliver on your promise, your audience will support you and will build for you.
Understand the business. Brand yourself as a writer that people want to identify with. Don’t write in a vacuum. Be out there doing things and build a base for continual support.
The asking cannot be a telling or a form of demand. You can’t be blowing your own horn and blast people – confronting them with your needs. The approach is everything. Don’t go to strangers without having any data or information about what might interest someone.
As a writer, I frequent several sites where I see people expounding on their great stories, but I often ignore and/or delete these. These writers are talking at me not involving me. They have no social currency or good will with me and make the cardinal sin of broadcasting but not communicating. They make me feel that I am just a peon who might buy their book or go to their films, but they never involve me or give me the impression that I will gain something from their project. They’re asking for value but give nothing in return.
There are no legal demands in crowdsourcing as there are with crowdfunding. You do not have to offer any prizes or even file with the SCC. The major sin is not being reliable and not delivering on promises and of setting people up for disappointment. If you do this people will not come back to support you.
The power of the crowd is enormous. Nobody is more capable of expanding your audience than your audience. One person’s word of mouth is not only gold but can up your sales from 10 to 100 to 100,000 in a matter of months.
In the book, RB teaches you how to build a lasting bond with your backers so that they can share your values and your mission. Again, who is your story for and why are you making it? You’ll be surprised at how many share your vision and want you to achieve your goals. By establishing relationships with your core audience you are building your future, as well. Be human, be relatable, be humble and be real.
R.B., a former pharmacy student – having done what he thought his family wanted until he realized what his real mission in life was, started his online community of Stage32.com to help others and make the industry a win-win for others.
This is the first book on crowdsourcing as well as going over the pros and cons of various funding platforms – Indiegogo, Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Seed & Spark. This book can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as well as many local bookstores.
To paraphrase John Lennon, “A dream you dream alone, is a dream. When you dream with others, it becomes a reality. The book is easy to read and gives simple instructions.”