Soul Searcher: The Return

As previously mentioned, more money needs to be raised ahead of Stop/Eject‘s shoot – which we hope will be in April or May. I can now reveal one of the ways in which we plan to close this funding gap.

Ray Bullock Jnr. as Joe in Soul Searcher
Ray Bullock Jnr. as Joe in Soul Searcher

In 2005 I completed Soul Searcher, described by The Guardian as “a fantasy action movie in the grand style”. With six weeks of night shooting, martial arts fights, 280 FX shots and a climactic chase between a 1973 Ford Mustang and an express train to Hell, Soul Searcher was a tough project to say the least, and I learnt loads from it. It was also my first film to be properly distributed, getting an international DVD release.

So over the next couple of months I’ll be delivering an in-depth lecture about how I financed, shot, post-produced and sold Soul Searcher in various venues around England. There will be lots of clips and behind-the-scenes footage and a Q&A session at the end. These lectures will be FREE to attend, but we will encourage satisfied attendees to contribute a little cash to Stop/Eject at the end.

So far we have the following venues confirmed:

  • Hereford, February 21st, 7pm at The Rural Media Company, Sullivan House, 72-80 Widemarsh Street, HR4 9HG
  • Derby, March 27th, as part of the Five Lamps Film Night at The Quad – details TBC

Details of further venues to follow as they are arranged.

The other big news for Soul Searcher is that, since its distribution contract expires this week, I’ll soon be releasing the film on YouTube. That’s right – it will be FREE to view in full. And there is more news to come regarding the extensive behind-the-scenes material, but I’ll save that for another day.

I’ll leave you with something I came across yesterday while looking through my old hard drive in preparation for this online release: a cheesy music video that was intended to be a DVD extra, but which never made it onto the disc due to lack of space. Enjoy…

Soul Searcher: The Return

The British Film Industry

The RKD crew
The RKD crew

Yesterday I was interviewed by RKD Films for their feature documentary, working title: “The British Film Industry”. They had found me through the Midlands Today report and initially wanted to talk to me about crowd-funding, but after visiting my websites decided to focus more on my career history and the support I’ve received from public funding bodies…. or not.

RKD have already shot 30 interviews with a variety of people from indie filmmakers to Ben Kingsley, and they have plenty more planned. Their aim is to build up a picture of filmmaking in Britain today, with particular emphasis on what the government is and isn’t doing to support the industry. It should prove very interesting viewing.

Rambling on about filmmaking
Rambling on about filmmaking

The British Film Industry

Crowd-Funding Evaluation Part 4: Platform and Rewards

New crowd-funding websites are still popping up, so I’m not going to attempt a comprehensive list of them, but here are the main ones:

Name All or nothing? Currency Fee
Indiegogo No $ 4% if you reach your target, 9% if not. Extra fees apply if you’re not in the US.
Kickstarter Yes $ 5% Note: you need to be a US resident.
We Fund Yes £ 5%? Their website isn’t very clear about this.
We Did This Yes £ 5%
Sponsume No £ 4%
Crowdfunder Yes £ 5%

Note that most if not all of these sites charge sponsors a Paypal/Amazon fee on top of their donations.

Crowdfunding sites fall into two categories: “all or nothing” and “keep it all”. “All or nothing” sites return the money to the sponsors if you don’t reach your target by the deadline.

So why did Sophie and I choose this kind of site? A good question, and one several sponsors asked me during the campaign. Two reasons:

  1. It would have been impossible to make the film for less than £2,000. Even as it is we have to raise further money.
  2. A ticking clock motivates sponsors, particularly towards the end of a campaign. Undoubtedly many of the people who donated at the eleventh hour did so because they didn’t want to see us fail and get none of the money. If we would have got the money regardless, I’m sure some of those people wouldn’t have bothered contributing.
DVD copies of Soul Searcher were amongst the rewards.
DVD copies of Soul Searcher were amongst the rewards.

And why did we choose Crowdfunder over the other “all or nothing” sites? Mainly because Sophie’s successful Jar of Angels campaign had run on there. Also we were keen to use a site that works in sterling, because we knew most of our sponsors would be British and we thought some of them might be put off by a foreign currency.

It was only when the campaign was running that I realised Crowdfunder could be a little more streamlined. Two or three people contacted me to say they wanted to donate but couldn’t figure out how to do it. There’s no “fund now” button unless you’ve set up an account and logged in – and having to set up an account in itself puts some people off, although Crowdfunder has one of the quickest account set-up procedures I’ve ever seen on a website.

I’ve sent this feedback to Crowdfunder and hopefully they will be able to act on it in the future.

A signed print of this artwork by Sophie Black was one of the rewards.
A signed print of this artwork by Sophie Black was one of the rewards.

Finally a word about the rewards. We wanted to be able to send out the rewards pretty quickly after the campaign finished, so we didn’t offer anything tied to Stop/Eject itself except a thank you in the credits and a print of Sophie’s living room artwork. Instead we offered downloads and DVDs of my previous films, signed posters, and even 35mm frames from The Dark Side of the Earth‘s pilot.

Coming up with original and enticing rewards is very difficult. I’m not sure the ones we came up with were anything special, but fortunately people don’t tend to donate for the rewards. Most people just want to be part of something and help out, in which case rewards that involve them in the film – visit the set, be an extra, DVD copy, premiere invite, etc. – are probably the best way to go. I think that’s what I’ll offer next time.

I hope you’ve found these evaluation blogs interesting. Let me know how you get on with your own campaigns. Meanwhile, I’ll be back soon with news of the other fund-raising efforts which will soon kick in for Stop/Eject.

Crowd-Funding Evaluation Part 4: Platform and Rewards

Crowd-Funding Evaluation Part 3: Spreading the Word

Like I said in part one, when you’re running a crowd-funding campaign you wake up every morning wracking your brains for some new way of encouraging donations today. In this post I’m going to look at all the things we did to promote the campaign.

Here are the top three things that led to donations, as far as I can tell:

  1. Emails to everyone in my address book
  2. An average of at least one Facebook post a day
  3. Appearance on Midlands Today
And here’s everything else we did. I can’t positively say that many of these things led directly to donations, but if nothing else I’m sure they contributed to general awareness which is also important for any campaign.

I found some websites and Facebook groups for audio cassette enthusiasts and some others for fans of time travel fiction, but my attempts to infiltrate them weren’t successful.

Places we asked to mention the campaign or spread the word, but we couldn’t get them to answer our messages:

  • Several popular indie filmmakers’ websites
  • Certain regional screen agencies who shall remain nameless
  • Local radio

I was particularly disappointed that none of the filmmakers were able to give even a brief mention to the project, especially as I sent them free invites to “How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie…” – the idea being that they would watch it, see what a unique and valuable resource it is for indie filmmakers and encourage their readers to donate in order to see it too. I’m sure these people get far more requests to promote crowd-funding campaigns than they could ever grant, but I felt sure that “How to Make…” would give us the edge.

To end this post on a more positive note, I must mention the brilliant Mike Rhodes who seemed to work like a demon promoting the campaign on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else he could. Cheers, Mike!

In the final part of this evaluation I’ll be looking at the rewards we offered and the crowd-funding platform we chose. That should probably have been the first part. Whoops.

Crowd-Funding Evaluation Part 3: Spreading the Word

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 2: Who and Why?

Shortly after Stop/Eject‘s crowd-funding campaign launched, I listened to a podcast in which one of the founders of Indiegogo was interviewed. She said many filmmakers target other filmmakers for donations, which is stupid because most filmmakers are broke and will spend any spare cash they do have on their own projects. She reckoned people should target the ordinary man in the street who has never heard of crowd-funding and is excited by the idea of being involved with a film.

That makes a lot of sense but it’s not quite how things worked out on Stop/Eject. So let’s have a look at what type of people did donate.

Breaking down the type of people who sponsored Stop/Eject
Breaking down the type of people who sponsored Stop/Eject

(Sorry about all the graphs, by the way. I know this site’s starting to look like a maths textbook.)

These charts tell me a few things:

  1. Filmmakers are keen to help other filmmakers, but are too broke to contribute more than small amounts.
  2. Doing corporate work has many benefits for filmmakers.
  3. I don’t have enough social media “friends”.
  4. Pie charts are fun.

Okay, I knew all those things already. I think the most interesting point to take away here is that three quarters of the money came from people who already knew me to some degree.

Conclusion: crowd-funding is not so different from any other type of financing.

The Dark Side of the Earth has been repeatedly turned down for financing because it’s not based on an existing book, graphic novel, game, theme park ride, Broadway musical, freak alignment of belly button fluff, etc. Producers didn’t want to take the risk on something without a pre-existing audience.

Similarly, people are generally not inclined to contribute to a crowd-funding campaign unless they have an existing interest in some aspect of the film – i.e. they know the filmmaker, or there is an actor they’ve heard of in it, or it’s shooting in their town, or whatever. You need elements!

I sponsored this Movember tash in return for a Stop/Eject contribution.
I sponsored this Movember tash in return for a Stop/Eject contribution.

So, does how much you can raise from crowd-funding really just come down to how many people you know? No, it can transcend this. The Underwater Realm recently raised more than $100,000 from over a thousand sponsors. They managed this because their project is incredibly inspiring and ambitious. Nothing like it has been done before. Presumably they also tweeted about it until their fingers bled.

Stop/Eject is a much more modest project which was never intended to be crowd-funded. If I were writing a script from scratch to be financed this way, I would make it much…. well, “flashier” is the best word I can come up with.

Finally it’s worth mentioning that some people will have their own unique reasons for sponsoring your project. Several people offered me sponsorship in return for something: donating to a charity, promoting their business, promoting their own crowd-funding campaign. I was happy to do these things where I could.

Next time I’ll discuss the things we did to publicise the campaign and encourage people to contribute.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 2: Who and Why?

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 1: When and How Much?

In this first blog evaluating the recent crowd-funding campaign for my short film Stop/Eject, I’m going to look at how the total developed over time.

Sophie Black
Sophie Black

It was Sophie Black, Stop/Eject’s production designer, who first suggested I look to crowd-funding to finance the film after the original funding arrangement with a production company fell through. My initial response was sceptical. It seemed to me that crowd-funding campaigns only succeeded when the filmmaker or (in the case of documentaries) the film’s subject had a very large online following already. Although I have been blogging and running websites since 2001 I’ve rarely made any effort to promote these sites, and this fact, combined with my indifference to social media, would inevitably lead to crowd-funding failure – so I thought.

However, with Creative England showing no signs of establishing a short film funding scheme, I could think of no other method of raising the money for Stop/Eject. So I asked Sophie to come on board as producer and bring to bear her experience of successfully crowd-funding Crash Taylor’s short film Jar of Angels. Luckily for me she said yes, and we launched the campaign in November.

Sophie chose to set the target at £2,000. Although we knew that the film would cost more than that to make, she felt that people were more likely to contribute if the target was smaller and thus seemed more attainable. Indeed many websites that give advice about crowd-funding suggest £2,000 as an ideal target for that very reason.

Graph showing how the total rose over time
Graph showing how the total rose over time

Crowd-funding is quite stressful because you wake up every morning thinking, “What can I do today to make people contribute?” It’s an emotional roller coaster too. When the total sticks for a few days – as you can see it did between Christmas and New Year – it’s incredibly depressing, but when it leaps up like it did on December 20th you feel happy and motivated again.

The two biggest things that steepened the curve were the Midlands Today coverage and the impending deadline. The Midlands Today report went out January 11th but was filmed – and intended to be broadcast – a few days earlier. As a result there were a few days in a row of Facebook activity surrounding it and this transformed the campaign from what looked like a lost cause destined to come in at least 25% under target, to something with a fighting chance.

As the deadline drew close, I was touched by how many people took up the cause and shared the link wherever they could. A lot of people really wanted to see it succeed, and they helped us accelerate towards the target.

In my next post I’ll look at who donated and why I think they donated.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 1: When and How Much?

The Next Step

Stop/Eject poster
Stop/Eject poster

It’s been a roller coaster two months and a very educational experience, but Stop/Eject‘s official crowd-funding campaign is now over. Thanks once again to everyone who enabled us to hit our target and get this project back off the ground.

But if you still want to donate, don’t worry; you still can. Just click on the Paypal donate button on the right of this page to make your contribution. Although the exclusive signed DVDs and artwork offered during the official campaign are no longer available, you’ll still get your name in the credits, an invitation to the premiere and access to my indie movie-making budget expose How to Make a Fantasy Action Movie for £28,000. If you want to know more about Stop/Eject you can check out the Stop/Eject page on this site or watch the pitch video.

Although I’m delighted that our campaign succeeded (I convinced myself at many times that it wouldn’t) the curse of filmmaking is that whenever you achieve one difficult task instead of feeling relief you just start stressing about the next difficult task. I don’t know if that’s how other filmmakers find it but it’s always been the way for me.

The next difficult task in this case is raising the rest of the money. Sophie and I have a number of ideas about how to do this and these will be revealed in due course on this site.

The Dark Side of the Earth: Making the Pilot - Special Features DVD menu
The Dark Side of the Earth: Making the Pilot - Special Features DVD menu

The other thing you can look forward to in the next few days and weeks on neiloseman.com is an evaluation of the crowd-funding campaign. I was completely new to this method of raising finance and I’ve learnt a lot from it which I want to share with you all.

For now my most pressing task is the production of the rewards that Stop/Eject’s sponsors have so justly earned. Currently I’m working on the DVD authoring for The Dark Side of the Earth: Making the Pilot and then I’ll need to design the DVD cover and label too. I’ll leave you with a glimpse of this DVD’s Special Features menu.

Oh, and check out the Hereford Journal tonight if you’re local for a photo and article about me and Stop/Eject.

The Next Step

Success!

WOOHOO! 107%! We did it!!! Huge, huge thanks to everyone who contributed. You are all gods and goddesses who bestride this earth and soar amongst the heavens with angels’ wings. And stuff.

Crowdfunder success
Crowdfunder success

Success!

Last Chance to Get Your Rewards

There are just two days now before the Stop/Eject campaign ends. In triumph or defeat? Well that’s up to you. The exclusive DVDs and signed memorabilia will not be available to anyone again after Wednesday, so if you want to get your hands on them you’d better make your contribution now.

Here’s a message from some of us in Stop/Eject land to those of you who haven’t got involved yet….

Last Chance to Get Your Rewards