Tips for Funding Your Wild Ideas
By Christine Stoddard
So, you want someone to fund your creative project? Welcome to the club, take a number, and sit your behind down in the comfiest seat in the waiting room because this line is long enough to give you blood clots. There's no such thing as free money or free lunch. Please. Even those bitty frisbees they hand out at “free” expos aren't free. If you want something, you've gotta hustle.
Didn't your mama ever tell you to work hard to achieve your dreams? That same advice applies to launching a successful Kickstarter campaign. It's time to find your prime street corner and make bucks through crowdfunding. Here's how, my tired, my poor, and my huddled:
1. Make it.
2. Promote it.
3. Deliver it.
Seems easy enough. Yet if that's the case, why do nearly 60% of all Kickstarter campaigns fail?
Rather than spit out a to-do list, I'm going to dissect Quail Bell's most recent successful Kickstarter campaign for you, piece by piece. The campaign raised money for a documentary film called, Richmond's Dead and Buried.
Here it goes:
1. The video
The video is simple, classic, and light on text. It's essentially a glorified slideshow, but the photographs are strong enough to convince potential donors that this is going to be a pretty picture. From an informal survey I gathered, most people only watched the video. They didn't even bother reading the project description. That means that you have to be able to sell your project using the video alone.
2. The description
Despite what I just said about many folks forgoing the description altogether, you should still include a detailed and persuasive proposal for anyone who bothers to read it. It should be informative, but also concise. You'll see that in the campaign for Richmond's Dead and Buried, we hit upon the points people care about: what the project is, why the project matters, who's doing it, why those people are qualified to carry out the project, how long the project will take, and what the project will cost. Personalize your campaign. Prove that your project's important. Don't waste people's time. It's the Internet. They'll only read so much.
The first-ever documentary about the myths, legends, and realities of Richmond, Virginia's many cemeteries
A documentary film directed by Christine Stoddard about the myths, legends, and realities of Richmond, Virginia's many cemeteries. Coming 2014—but only with your help! Put Richmond's dead and buried on the map.
Some of Richmond's most compelling stories are written in bones and tombstones.
Richmond, Virginia is one of America's oldest European-settled cities. People have been living—and dying—here for centuries now. This is a place where American Indians, African slaves, Founding Fathers, and Civil War soldiers alike are buried. From Hollywood to Shockoe Hill to Evergreen, Richmond's cemeteries tell the tales of not just the Confederacy. They tell the tales of the English colonies, the Revolutionary War, Jim Crow, World War II, and more.
Richmond's Dead and Buried seeks to unveil these stories in a feature length documentary that tours some of the city's most prominent and most obscure graves. Interviews with historians and other scholars, as well as cemetery workers and volunteers, and ancestors of the deceased will round out this look into the past, present, and future of Richmond's cemeteries.
Why this film matters
So far, no other documentary about Richmond's cemeteries exists. How are Richmonders supposed to preserve local history if they're not fully aware of it? While much as been written about Hollywood and Shockoe Hill cemeteries in particular, there's comparatively little scholarship about Richmond's other cemeteries.
There's especially very little known about the American Indian and African slave cemeteries in Richmond. Dr. Shawn Utsey's documentary, Meet Me in the Bottom: The Struggle to Reclaim Richmond's African Burial Ground is the only long-form creative or journalistic work about Richmond's slave cemeteries at this time. The documentary focuses on a slave cemetery that was actually paved over—a mistake that Richmond's Dead and Buried aims to prevent from happening in the future.
We also hope that this documentary will inspire other cities, especially Southern ones, to always consider their past in envisioning their future.
About the director
Christine Stoddard is a native Virginian currently splitting her time between Alexandria and Richmond and other cities along the East Coast. Passionate about storytelling and local history, she writes creatively and journalistically for print, film/TV, websites, and her popular blog, Quail Bell Magazine. She also pursues her narrative interests through directing, producing, cartooning, curating, and acting. Christine owns Quail Bell Press & Productions, LLC.
Christine's first documentary, The Persistence of Poe, received support from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Edgar Allan Poe Museum of Richmond. It premiered in February 2013 and has screenings scheduled through June; the film will also be aired on WCVE. Richmond's Dead and Buried will be Christine's first feature project. Christine has also produced programming for WETA, the PBS station of Greater Washington, and videos for multiple clients.
About the crew
Richmond's Dead and Buried will rely on much of the same talent behind The Persistence of Poe. (Christine Stoddard will write and direct the documentary; David Fuchs will produce motion graphics; Kristen Rebelo will create illustrations; D.J. Granger will help with photography, etc.) The crew behind The Persistence of Poe is young – mostly recent college grads of VCUarts – and based in Virginia. They are eager for new opportunities in documentary film, community art, and local history. Producing this film would help them achieve a dream while also giving back to Greater Richmond.
Freelancers, volunteers, and interns of Quail Bell Press & Productions, LLC. will assist with additional production needs.
Here is the schedule we plan to follow:
• Summer 2013 – Historical research; archival photography and film footage acquisitions
• Fall 2013 – Record interviews with cemetery scholars, workers, volunteers, etc.
• Winter 2014 – Editing and narration recording; final cut delivery
• Spring 2014 – Promotion and premiere screening
• Fall 2014 – Television premiere, preferably on a Virginia-based PBS affiliate, such as WCVE (Richmond)
The bare-bones budget
Here is what we absolutely need to make the film possible:
• Rights to historical photos and footage: $300
• Non-union voice-over talent for narration: $200
• Hiring freelance photographer for Hollywood Cemetery time lapse: $200
• Commissioning an illustrator for the official film poster: $200
• Printing promotional posters and flyers: $100
Total: $1,000. Zero profit!
Now for a few footnotes to this budget:
First off, we are hoping that a Virginia-based PBS affiliate will match these funds and that at least one grant will also support the project so that crew members can be paid for their time and talent.
You might also wonder why we have to pay for rights to some historical photos and film clips, but not others. Most of the images we want belong to the Creative Commons, but not everything does. Several of them belong to the collections of the Valentine History Center, the Library of Virginia, the Museum of the Confederacy, and other cultural institutions that charge for film rights.
Keeping in mind that all screening venues for Quail Bell's first documentary, The Persistence of Poe, were donated, we are confident that we can rely on community support for the premiere of Richmond's Dead and Buried. For a full listing of places where The Persistence of Poe has screened or will screen, please visit: http://www.poerichmond.com/screenings.html
In the fall of 2012, Christine Stoddard landed a book deal with Arcadia Publishing (Charleston, South Carolina). She will be authoring a book on the cemeteries of Richmond, Virginia for Arcadia's popular “Images of America” series. The book is due out in early 2014, not long before the premiere of Richmond's Dead and Buried. Keep up with news of the book on Facebook.
Other Quail Bell Projects
Curious about what else Quail Bell Press & Productions, LLC. has done? Here are a few links for starters:
• The Persistence of Poe • Quail Bell Magazine • The Nest: An Anthology • Forget Fairytales • Mixteco/RVA • Guadalajara in 35mm • Comicality Magazine • La Princesse Luna Lark
Please scour the interwebs for more information!
Thank you for your time, consideration, and generosity. Please keep up with Richmond's Dead and Buried at www.rvadeadburied.com. Follow us on Facebook!
Sincerely, The production team, Richmond's Dead and Buried Quail Bell Press & Productions, LLC
P.S. Please feel free to contact us with questions!
Risks and challenges
Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The biggest challenge will come in obtaining rights to a wide range of historical images. However, even at this preliminary stage, we have already acquired dozens of high-quality scans that would be suitable to include in the film. We know that with continued research and community support, we will have a sufficient number of images from which to choose and tell the incredible story of Richmond's cemeteries. We are also convinced that our modern day photographs and video footage will augment whatever historical images we obtain. Since this is a documentary that Richmond wants to see completed, we know that we will find the kind of non-monetary support--permissions, interviews--that we need to round out our narrative.
3. The incentives
It doesn't take a lot of money to make your donors feel special. Most of them simply want to be associated with a cool project. So make them feel cool. Give them credit. Shout-outs, after all, are free. You'll see that most of the incentives for Richmond's Dead and Buried cost nothing (or next to nothing.) Try to allot a low percentage of your funds toward incentives. You want to save as much as possible for the actual project.
4. The promotion
Let's be real: This is the most crucial part. You could have a kick-ass project and still fail because you don't promote it properly. (Of course, promotion alone won't save you. You have to start with a solid idea and the right creative talent to realize it.) Go crazy with Facebook. We posted updates on all related Facebook pages: Quail Bell Magazine, Quail Bell Press & Productions, LLC., and Images of America: Richmond Cemeteries. We also made a Facebook page specifically for the project. Then we posted a link to the Kickstarter page on other group's Facebook pages, basically anything we could find related to cemeteries, historic preservation, the paranormal, etc. We emailed relevant groups, too, distributing this PDF:
More than anything, it helped to do our research and brainstorm potential allies who would spread the word about our project. If you take nothing else away from this article, take that! Find your friends. They just might open their wallets.