The Advantages of Regional Filmmaking

guardianSeveral years ago The Guardian wrote a lovely big article about me under the headline “The Spielberg of Hereford”. I had just completed Soul Searcher, a feature-length fantasy-action movie shot in this sleepy backwater of the rural West Midlands. The project had not been without its challenges – from a malfunctioning camera to a striking stunt team – but shooting in the provinces wasn’t one of them.

Yes, on the face of it, basing yourself away from the vast majority of actors, crew and facilities is inconvenient. I have long since accepted that my casting calls mentioning a shoot far outside the M25 will get a limited response, and that I will have to travel to London to hold auditions.

Crewing can seem similarly problematic, but in fact there are many excellent TV and film technicians hidden away in rural areas, constantly driving to London to work, but keen to be involved in anything more local if they get half a chance. It’s a novelty, and that’s an advantage.

Some of the cast of The Beacon atop the titular Worcestershire hill during filming in 2001
Some of the cast of The Beacon atop the titular Worcestershire hill during filming in 2001

Londoners can often be cynical about filming; it’s a business like any other. Most locations in the capital will whip out a rate card at the first whiff of a scouting crew. But out in the sticks, many property owners will let you shoot on their premises free of charge for the rare glamour of a brush with the film business. On Soul Searcher I only had to pay for a single location. At least two others told me they would charge me, but never did. Their accounts departments presumably had no procedure or precedent for raising an invoice for location fees, and so overlooked it.

The savings a regional producer makes on locations are often countered by an increased travel and accommodation budget. But there are benefits to this accommodation that, to my mind, outweigh the financial burden. A cast and crew staying away from home together will bond far more than one that scatters to the four corners of the tube map every night. This means improved morale and more realistic on-screen relationships between actors.

Stop/Eject on BBC East Midlands Today
Stop/Eject on BBC East Midlands Today

Regional filmmaking has more potential now than it’s ever had. Established networks like Talent Circle may remain London-centric, but social media enables us to connect quickly with others in our area – Shooting People’s regional “Shooters in the Pub” Facebook pages, for example, or Herefordshire Media Network, through which I found the editor for my last short film, Stop/Eject. And in an age when everyone’s looking for a hook for their crowdfunding campaign, the declaration “shooting in YOUR home town” can help you connect to potential sponsors.

Finally, regional press will often jump on local film projects, providing great free advertising for your crowdfunding campaign, cast/crew call or screening. I’ve appeared on BBC Midlands Today on three separate occasions, but I can’t imagine BBC London News covering yet another struggling filmmaker. And would “The Spielberg of Hackney” have been so newsworthy to The Guardian? I suspect not.

If you’re interested in the potential of regional film and TV production, the Herefordshire Media Network will be hosting a panel discussion on this subject at the Borderlines Film Festival next month.

The Advantages of Regional Filmmaking

Crowd-funding Stop/Eject

This featurette relates the ups and downs of the two crowd-funding campaigns run for my short fantasy-drama Stop/Eject. Producer Sophie Black and I discuss the various methods we used to solicit donations, from the mundane (Facebook posts) to the surreal (threatening the lives of innocent pets). We also talk about the kinds of people who contributed, the rewards we offered, and the emotional rollercoaster of an all-or-nothing campaign.

If you want to know more, read my blog entries evaluating the first and second campaigns.

Crowd-funding Stop/Eject

Kickstarter: The Facts

Crowdfunder success
Crowdfunder success

Crowd-funding has had an almost revolutionary effect on micro-budget filmmaking. No longer are we reliant on public funding bodies or a friend of a friend who wants to write off some income against tax to get our projects financed; we can go to the crowd and build up legions of fans whilst accruing our budget.

As many of us know, however, it’s not that easy. With so many people using Kickstarter, Indiegogo et al it’s increasingly difficult to stand out from the (irony of ironies) crowd, and many campaigns fail as a result.

This morning I read a very interesting blog by writer and producer Stephen Follows. He’s compiled some data about Kickstarter campaigns, the success rates, optimal targets, the best duration, the benefits of having a pitch video and so on.

Some of it confirms my own anecdotal findings (see here for my top ten crowd-funding tips) – e.g. longer campaigns are less likely to succeed than shorter ones – but some of it I had never even considered – like the fact that living in a city with a high population of creative people increases your chances of success.

Read Stephen Follows’ article here.

If you’re planning a crowd-funding campaign I suggest you take a long, hard look at the statistics first. A lot of people are still launching campaigns “to raise a bit of extra cash for my short” without making any real effort to promote them, or to make potential donors feel their contribution is important. Crowd-funding is not a license to print money. You must be prepared to work incredibly hard, harder even perhaps than you work to actually make the film.

I believe that the most successful campaigns are the ones that are short, intense, focused, have elements like minor celebrities attached, have broadcast quality pitch videos and crucially the public is made to understand that this film will not get made without MY contribution.

Kickstarter: The Facts

Ren Launch Event

Kate Madison’s live launch event for her web series Ren is happening right now. (See my previous post for more info.)

Update: if you missed the live version you can watch a recording of it by clicking the play button above. I was meant to make a guest appearance in it but they ran out of time.

Visit the website and support the project at

P.S. My puppet film The One That Got Away is released online on Monday – watch this space.

Ren Launch Event

An Evening of Entertainment from the Makers of Born of Hope

Back in 2008 I helped out briefly on a feature-length Lord of the Rings fan film called Born of Hope. Directing this epic production, producing it, financing most of it, and even acting in it, was the extremely tenacious Kate Madison. “It’s incredible to see what craftsmanship, sensitivity and attention to detail is being brought to bear on this ambitious project,” said Weta Workshop chief Richard Taylor. Check the film out below – it’s an impressive achievement. And it’s had a staggering 23 million views.

Kate is now embarking on a new project, a fantasy web series called Ren, and to mark the launch of its crowdfunding campaign she’s hosting a special webcast this Saturday night. The evening of entertainment will start at 8pm with a Born of Hope screening with live commentary from cast members. There will also be a live Q&A where they’ll answer your questions about BoH or Ren or whatever you’d like to ask. There will also be fun giveaways, live link-ups, special guests (including Yours Truly), and much more.

Ren encounters the Masked Man, the leader of the Kah'Nath - Concept art by Max von Vier
Ren encounters the Masked Man, the leader of the Kah’Nath – Concept art by Max von Vier

“I’ve been keen to get another project on the go and have been contemplating various formats,” Kate says. “Web series have become a popular medium for independent filmmakers and I find that the potential for shaping an ongoing storyline for, and with, the fans is very appealing”.

The series is named after its lead character, who lives a quiet life in a small village until dramatic events, involving an ancient powerful spirit and the ruling warrior order of the Ka’Nath, force Ren to leave her safe existence and find the truth behind the web of lies she’s believed in all her life.

“The inspiration for the show is very much rooted in great fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings, but epic books and TV series like Game of Thrones and the more lighthearted Legend of the Seeker have also influenced me in the creation of Ren,” says Kate. She adds that one of the most important features of Born of Hope was the fan base that helped finance, design and even act in the film and that she is keen to involve the fans even more in this project. “The series is in the very early stages, with only the first season written, so we will look to the online fan community to influence what happens… and yes, even be in it!”

To watch the live event and to support Ren visit
An Evening of Entertainment from the Makers of Born of Hope

Ben Lewis Interview

Ben Lewis shoots an interview for Who Do You Love
Ben Lewis shoots an interview for Who Do You Love

I recently attended a talk by filmmaker and motion graphics designer Ben Lewis about the making of his music documentary Who Do You Love: The King Adora Story. With candid interviews and access to the band’s own camcorder footage, Who Do You Love tells the story of not just King Adora but a whole industry in transition. Ben kindly agreed to answer some questions about the making of the film, how it was financed and how it was distributed.

Why did you feel that the story of King Adora was one that needed to be told?

In all honesty my initial reasoning behind the project was to document a chapter in my friend’s life. I had been working at Apple as a creative trainer and I wanted to get back into making films; as opposed to teaching others to do so. I’ve known Martyn, the lead guitarist from the band, since secondary school and I was aware he had this experience so I really wanted to delve deeper. It was initially simply a gift to him to document that time in his life. Once I had begun producing the film I came to the realisation that I could produce a piece of work that not only appealed to King Adora fans but a wider audience.

Checking the shot
Checking the shot

What advantages did knowing band members personally give you? Were there any disadvantages?

I knew all the band but Martyn was a close friend. All of the band were at a different stage in their lives and I explained to them from the outset although I had an attachment to the them, I would not let that affect me in the filmmaking process. I wanted to tell a truthful story of their journey. I did feel protective of the band but I just had to put that aside and remember that original credo. So in a sense it was a double-edged sword in that they knew me so that allowed for a more relaxed interview environment but they also knew I wasn’t going to pull any punches. I had a free reign to ask what I wanted and use that in the story I wanted to tell.

How was the film financed?

It was self-funded. During my last few months at Apple I was spending my wages on hiring the Red One and lenses. It’s certainly not the best way to get a project made but I felt I didn’t want to wait and seeing as it was such a personal project I felt why shouldn’t I pay to get it made? I was using the currency of friends too; so, I calculated that it would cost about £6K in total for kit hire and travel etc. However, had I been paying them a day rate it would have been a lot more.

Take 1
Take 1

What are the biggest things you learnt along the way about crowd-funding?

I was totally new to crowd-funding. I loved the idea of it and it fit in with the other aspects of the democratisation of the creative industries that excited me. I love the idea you can circumvent the traditional funding platforms and have a direct link to your audience. The film was in the can and ready to go so I was purely looking for distribution costs for the DVD. That clearly helped as prospective backers knew the product was ready. That said, like the entire project, I was working on the promotion of the crowd-funding whilst working full time. I learnt that to raise the funding target is a full time job in itself. I had help from a friend but I feel that the most successful campaigns require constant updates and communication with your potential backers. I raised enough for the distribution of the DVD but not my full target amount.

How long did it take to shoot and how many crew were you working with?

It made over the course of a couple of years as we were all making it around our day jobs. In terms of days it’s hard to calculate. It took us a while to get in touch with certain members of the band. Robbie (bass player) was living in New York and we had to wait for him to get back to the UK for the interview; though I had considered going over to interview him. There was also a lot of archive footage that needed logging and various other production logistics such as clearance and filming the live gigs.

The crew was very small: myself, Laura the DOP and Ash who edited the project. On certain interviews we called in help from others too but really it was the three of us who got the project made.


What cameras did you use and did you encounter any technical problems?

I knew from the outset that I wanted the interviews to have a very intimate look with a shallow depth of field and to look nicely lit to contrast the grainy archive footage. I’d recently been on a Red One training course with my DOP, Laura. I thought that the image these cameras gave would be ideal for the look and feel I was trying to achieve. We shot the first three interviews with the Red but it became too cost prohibitive and we moved to the Canon 5D MKII. Laura did a great job lighting the interview but unfortunately she wasn’t available to shoot Dan’s interview so I shot that interview after getting advice from her.

Once we got to the edit stage we had mastered all the Red content to 1920×1080 Prores files as I wasn’t sure my machine could handle the R3Ds. When it came to the grade we relinked to the original Red files. Shooting with the 5D was great but the Prores conversions took some time. I’ve recently moved to Premiere CS6 and love how you can use H.264 natively. This saves a lot of time… and space!

What problems did you have with licensing the music?

Well this was a whole new world to me. I had lots of issues with the clearance of the music. I initially had to clear a couple of tracks and clips from one of the band’s videos for use in the first trailer I released. I had contacted Universal for international sync rights for online distribution which would allow me to use the songs and footage for six months but the initial cost was too steep. I managed to negotiate a lower rate as I was an independent but when it came to the rights for the entire film I just couldn’t afford the figure the record company were asking so I had to look into other options.

The music was intrinsic to the story and I had to think of another way to use the tracks. I contacted Dan (drummer) and asked if he had access to live tracks that had been recorded that didn’t have copyright. It turned out that he had lots of tracks available from various gigs over the years so we ended up using those. Having the audience noise actually added something. The extra ambiance gave it an additional energy which worked really well.

In the cutting room
In the cutting room

Do you feel Who Do You Love has helped your career, and what will your next project be?

Yeah, the film’s helped me many ways. It has given me a lot more confidence as a producer/director and it is a calling card that I’m incredibly proud of.

It’s a film that a lot of people have thought had a large crew and a budget that was far more than it actually cost to produce. It was really the three of us that made the film in our spare time, around our day jobs and on an ultra-low budget. After completing the film I honestly didn’t want to go near a long-form project again. I was looking to do a music promo and was in preproduction to do a video for a local band which unfortunately didn’t work out. I had been looking for examples of Brutalist architecture and was on a tour of Birmingham City Library when it dawned on me how many great stories that place holds. The gentleman who was escorting us around spoke with such passion about the place that I was re-energised to make another documentary. It’s still at an embryonic stage but the ball’s rolling and I’m looking forward to it.

Good luck with that, Ben. And finally, where can people buy or view the film?

The film is available to buy at The DVD contains the feature, full interviews with Steve Lamacq and John Cornfield and a vox pops feature.

I’ll be doing a digital release at some point too either via Vimeo Pay per View or Distrify.

Ben Lewis Interview

Brendan O’Neill on his 48hr Film Challenge Entry, “Fled”

I recently served as DP and postproduction supervisor on Fled, writer-director-producer Brendan O’Neill’s 2013 entry to the SciFi London 48hr Film Challenge. I asked him to share what he’s learnt from this and other film challenges he’s entered.

Brendan, this is not your first 48 hour film challenge. How many have you done before and what are the biggest things you learnt from them that you applied to this latest one?

Gillian Twaite in The Black Widow
Gillian Twaite in The Black Widow

I’ve done several now, 3 straight 48’s and 2 London Sci-Fi Society 48’s plus a time limited music video competition. My first ever film Black Widow was made for a local Birmingham competition called Film Dash in 2008. My second film What Goes Up Must Come Down was shot over a weekend for a non time limited competition run by Filmaka in the USA. I did a lot of ringing around and pre-production for this one as I wanted to really push the number of locations I could fit in. I found that by getting through to the right people, explaining who you are and what you want help with in a structured way can be very successful.

I made another 48 hour film Seconds Out for the same Film Dash competition in 2009 which placed 3rd out of 24 entries. I achieved some good production value by piggy backing a real event – a boxing contest held in a Birmingham hotel – with the help of the promoter who is also a local filmmaker.


The first really big production I put together was for Internalised – our first attempt at the London Sci-Fi Society’s 48 hour filmmaking competition in 2011. I spent 6 weeks pre-producing, location scouting, auditioning etc. and assembled a cast and crew of 50 to help us make the film. I also fed them all via an in-kind deal with local vegetarian catering company ChangeKitchen.

I suppose the first lesson I learnt on that was to not try to do it all on your own. The second being to be very careful who you take on board to help you and define clear roles and responsibilities for those involved. It can be difficult when you are working with volunteers but if you can convey the ambition and vision of what you are trying to do and have some previous track record then you can build feature size crews to help.

The shoot went very well but we were let down in post-production by not getting all the VFX/CGI we wanted into the competition version. You need to have your VFX/CGI team in the same place as your editors as it’s asking too much to render and then transmit the large files involved from remote locations when time is at a premium.

Around Again
Around Again

Our second attempt at the London Sci-Fi society 48 hour competition in 2012 was a World War II themed film called Around Again. We were looking for unusual locations with built-in production value and had identified a Midlands WWII era tunnel complex as a good location. We then found out that the person who controlled access to the tunnels also owned an extensive WWII costume wardrobe that had been used on Atonement and Band of Brothers so we dropped the tunnels location idea and went for battle/bunker scenes. The production value that all the great uniforms and replica / decommissioned firearms gave us was superb.

We were also very fortunate that our friend with the costume wardrobe Craig Leonard and his pyrotechnics colleague Matt Harley of Trinity VFX knew lots of German army / SS re-enactors who were more than happy to appear in the film. It shows the value of networking and being pro-active as that one contact expanded in all sorts of interesting ways to help us make a great looking film. I’m still reaping the benefits as Matt supplied the SWAT team outfits and arms for Fled as well as the GCHQ-esque second main location.

We were very surprised that the film didn’t shortlist but I think as producer if we’d had more clearly defined sci-fi elements in it then that would have helped.

Moving on to Fled, how much work had you put into writing and producing it before the challenge began on 10am on Saturday?

I spent about 6 weeks in pre-production. I hadn’t directed for a while so the first thing I did was do a smaller 48 hour competition which was running as part of the Stoke Your Fires festival.

[The next thing] I did was launch a crowd funding campaign via Indiegogo. I raised about £850 after fees so it helped a lot but it was a very labour intensive way of doing it with limited results. I didn’t have any donors who weren’t already linked to me in some way – mostly through Facebook.

Fortunately an established writer who I’d met twice at the Screenwriters Festival helped me a lot with an early and substantial individual donation. I think he likes my DIY attitude to getting films made. The previous year I also received a substantial donation via a Twitter relationship I had developed so it demonstrates that both traditional and social media based networking can’t be ignored.

Once the Indiegogo campaign was out of the way I worked on getting everything together. I had hoped for some substantial co-producer support but this didn’t really happen and the fact that I had to produce it nearly all myself definitely affected the amount of time I was able to spend on developing the script with my pal Dominic Carver as script editor. That said certain people such as Ella Carman, Matt Harley and stand in make-up artist Kerris Charles helped restore my battered faith in people.

The cast and crew of Fled
The cast and crew of Fled

I was surprised at how large the crew was (around 20). Do many hands make light work on a time-pressured project like this? Was there a degree of over-crewing in case some people didn’t turn up?

I’ve been on shoots where I haven’t had enough production assistants and runner/drivers so I tend to have some over-capacity just in case. The nature of the competition also means that it’s better to have more people to help in case the criteria you are given by the organisers are particularly difficult to handle. You are given a title, a line of dialogue and a prop/action by the organizers on the morning of the competition.

Although I did have some crew drop out prior to the competition I was able to replace them. My regular sound person dropped out with a foot injury so it was fortunate that Nicola Dale who was going to be post sound runner assisting Matt Katz and Joe Harper on the Sunday was able to step up to the mark and deliver great production sound with the help of Chantal Feliu Gurri on boom. Fortunately I’d met Nicola at a networking event a few weeks earlier and offered her the chance to come and work with some more experienced talent.

I do wish I had had some actor back-up however as someone dropped out on the Sunday morning pleading illness. It’s difficult to ask actors to turn up unpaid for what might only be extra type roles in a 5 minute film but it’s also VERY damaging when those who say they’ll do it drop out at short notice. It was especially galling as I’d written a role especially for this young man.

The consequence was that I had to bump someone who was only meant to be an extra into a role with lines which in my opinion definitely affected the quality of the film. For me Quality is King – with so many people having access to great technology you really have to try to ensure production values are as high as possible across the board in order to make your film stand out.

How did you approach integrating the challenge criteria (line of dialogue, prop and optional theme) into the film?

I try to build mechanisms into the script to deal with those things i.e. the wireless in the bunker scene in Around Again. That was there to help us field any difficult lines of dialogue we were given. Unfortunately last year we were given a very modern day line about the SEIS investment scheme so it was a bit clunky which is ironic given that it is a scheme that can help filmmakers raise finance!

We were lucky in that the criteria [this year] were very easy to integrate into the script.

Title: Fled

Prop: A key. A single key is put on a key ring with three near identical keys.

Roger the Controller
Roger the Controller

The initial idea was that [the entity] was an alien civilization that had had to flee some dying star millennia ago and had lain dormant on Mars until the first manned landings. This fitted the FLED title well. The key scene in the church echoes this when you can just make out the ethereal voices saying, “We can’t go back, we can’t go back.”

I was able to fit in the compulsory dialogue line as part of the NASA controllers trying to contact the Mars Explorer. The key on to keyring action/prop was easy and was the same one we got last year!

What was the schedule for the 48 hours in terms of when you started and finished filming, when the edit was locked, etc.?

At 10.00am DoP Neil Oseman and his gaffer Colin Smith went to the church location to pre-light and set up ready for filming whilst I awaited the criteria from the organisers. That way we could hit the ground running once we had a script finalized. The criteria arrived by text at about 11.15.

Filming at "GCHQ"
Filming at “GCHQ”

Fortunately the criteria given were very easy to integrate into my script so I arrived on set around 12.30 – 13.00 having picked up the VFX team at their hotel on the way. We needed to shoot the scenes they needed first in order to give them as much time as possible to work their magic.

I had planned to try and finish by 8pm so that the crew would be reasonably fresh for an early start the next day. I think we finished at around 21.15 and had a quick drink together before heading home. The next day we were all on set for 8.00am and set up for the first scenes quickly. I intended for us to finish around 2pm but there was a bit of creep to 3pm even though we trimmed and dropped some non essential scenes on the way. At both locations Neil and his regular gaffer Colin Smith, who was well assisted by Jay Somerville, did a brilliant job with the lighting.

Brendan directing
Brendan directing

Any plans to take part in future 48 hour challenges?

No. I don’t think so. I think I’ve done enough of them now. I want to either do some really high quality, well planned and developed festival oriented shorts or hopefully a first feature. I think 48 hour contests are a good discipline for young or emerging filmmakers as it gives you a focus and stress tests some of the relationships you might be developing. All a bit frantic but I’ve learnt a lot from them and come out a stronger and hopefully better filmmaker.

I think for this year’s contest just doing one high production value location per day and insisting that the VFX team were at the same post-production site as the edit team really made a difference. I was really fortunate to have really strong post-production edit and sound team and a great composer in Hans Hess who was at the ready to do the score. Hopefully people can see the difference those elements made in the quality of the competition version of the film.

Lastly I couldn’t have done it without Neil Oseman and a great international team of volunteer cast and crew. I hope that I’ll be able to work with them all again at some point. I’d particularly like to thank “King of the Indies” actor Michael Parle who came all the way from Ireland.

Thanks Brendan. You can visit Brendan’s blog at Scroll back to the top to see the film or click here to watch it on Vimeo.

Fled photography by Ian Jones – – and Oliver Charles Woolley –

Brendan O’Neill on his 48hr Film Challenge Entry, “Fled”

Top Ten Crowd-funding Tips

This little piggy went to Kickstarter…

To finish my look back at the decisions, successes and failures of the Stop/Eject crowd-funding campaigns, here are my ten top tips based on the sum of our experiences on this project:

  1. You need “elements” – aspects of the project which have an existing audience base, such as a name actor or a director with a strong social media following. Sometimes people will donate because the film is being shot in their home town, or maybe it’s about a subject they have an interest in. Whatever it is, figure out where that existing audience base is and what they want, and create your rewards and promotions accordingly.
  2. Work out in advance how much your rewards will cost to produce, and reject any that aren’t cost or time efficient. I suggest they should consume no more than ten percent of your budget.
  3. Make your pitch video professional – tightly edited, well lit, well shot and with broadcast quality sound. No-one will sponsor a filmmaker who can only be bothered posting a five minute ramble shot on a webcam. Your “elements” should appear in the video.
  4. Whether building your own crowd-funding platform or using an existing one, make sure it’s extremely quick and easy to donate, with a minimal number of clicks.
  5. A longer campaign doesn’t necessarily mean more money raised, but it does mean more work for you promoting it.
  6. If you take a day off from promoting your campaign, people will take a day off from donating. You cannot sit back and expect the money to roll in. It doesn’t work that way.
  7. Keep reminding people about your campaign, but do it indirectly by publishing new content like blogs, behind-the-scenes videos or storyboards. Most sponsors will have to see your campaign several times before deciding to donate.
  8. The internet isn’t the only way to promote your campaign. Go to events in the real world and plug it. Take a donations bucket or hand out cards or flyers with the campaign address on.
  9. Make people feel involved in your project, both during and after crowd-funding. Run competitions, invite feedback on things like poster designs, issue updates and answer questions.
  10. The endorsement of a well-recognised person or entity can give your campaign a massive boost. BBC Midlands Today putting a Stop/Eject report on their Facebook page worked for us, but the holy grail is getting a celebrity to retweet your campaign link.

If you’re still hungry to learn more about crowd-funding, check out James J. Heath’s Top 5 Crowd-funding Mistakes and Indiegogo’s Field Guide.

(Links to previous parts of the evaluation: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.)

Top Ten Crowd-funding Tips

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 7: Promotion and Engagement

(Links to previous parts of the evaluation: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.)

Hereford Times article
Hereford Times, 19/7/12

The single biggest tool we had to promote our second fundraising campaign for Stop/Eject was the trailer. This was followed by a crowd-funding pitch in the same video file, so as soon as people had been wowed by the trailer, they found out how to get involved and support it, wherever that trailer was screened or embedded. There are lots of tips on editing trailers in a blog post I wrote last year.

You can’t just post on Facebook every day of your crowd-funding campaign (particularly if it runs for eight months as ours did) asking for money. You have to find other ways to remind people of the project’s existence without directly holding out your begging cap.

One way to do this is through uploading content like blogs and behind-the-scenes videos. As previously discussed, our system of public rewards hampered this to some extent, but we still blogged regularly about the project’s progress, also updating people via the Facebook page, Twitter and emails to the sponsors. Any time we did any interesting work on the film we took photos or video and shared them with the community we were building.

Speaking of community, you have to nurture it by allowing them to engage with the project. For example, we ran a poster design competition and later invited the public to submit interview questions to be posed to the cast.

Whenever we needed additional crew, those shout-outs served not only as a form of crowd-sourcing but also as promotion of the crowd-funding.

You shoudn’t neglect “real world” promotional opportunities. I gave a couple of talks about Stop/Eject during the campaign, each time encouraging audiences to donate. It’s best to provide a bucket for cash by the exit, because if you tell people to go home and donate online, the vast majority of them will forget.

Georgie helped a lot, making her fanbase aware of the campaign, and we tried to seek out Worst Witch sites and communities to post on too. In fact all of the cast and crew helped to spread the word.

We discovered it was the 50th anniversary of the invention of cassette tapes halfway through our campaign, but too late to do much about it except get interviewed on BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester. Sophie and I also managed to get some local newspaper coverage, but our biggest coup was Sophie’s appearance on BBC East Midlands Today. That didn’t lead directly to any donations, but a Stop/Eject article on a website about Matlock, one of the towns we shot in, did lead to a few.

Stop/Eject on BBC East Midlands Today
Stop/Eject on BBC East Midlands Today

The final part of my evaluation will take the form of ten top tips for crowd-funding, based on our experiences with Stop/Eject. Watch this space.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 7: Promotion and Engagement

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 6: Elements and Sponsors

(Links to previous parts of the evaluation: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.)

One of the key lessons learnt from Stop/Eject‘s first crowd-funding campaign is that people don’t tend to donate unless they have a pre-existing connection to some element of the project, e.g. they know the filmmaker, it’s being shot in their home town, it has an actor in it they like, or it’s about a subject they’re interested in. That first campaign was very much dependent on people knowing me and wanting to support me, as we had no other “elements” at that stage.

Kate's mid shot
Georgina Sherrington as Kate in Stop/Eject

When, a week prior to shooting Stop/Eject, we cast Georgina Sherrington in the lead role, the last thing on our minds was crowd-funding. But her cult status as the former child star of ITV’s The Worst Witch provided a new “element” when we came to launch our second campaign.

Popularity of the individual rewards
Popularity of the individual rewards

We found that sponsors of the second campaign generally fell into two camps: Georgina Sherrington fans, and sponsors putting in larger amounts who were either doing so purely philanthropically or who wanted custom rewards to help them with their own filmmaking endeavours. Other than these custom requests, the rewards aimed at filmmakers were unsuccessful (most of them got zero sales, so aren’t included on the above graphs), proving beyond a doubt that I was not the major “element” in this second campaign.

The “Memoirs of the Worst Witch” reward was added after our campaign had already been running for a few months and the total had been stuck for a while around the halfway point. It was a download of a 20 minute interview with Georgina about her time on The Worst Witch, and it turned out to be one of the most popular rewards in terms of units sold.

One of the more outlandish Stop/Eject-themed gifts offered in the Collections
A headband by Sophie Black, one of the more unusual Stop/Eject-themed gifts offered in the Collections

In an effort to combat the disadvantages of a campaign without a deadline (see part 5), we introduced “Collections” – groups of four new rewards that were only available in limited numbers and for a limited time. These helped keep awareness of the campaign up, but didn’t bring much money in.

In general, several of the rewards required a ridiculous amount of time (and in some cases money) to produce in relation to the amount of sponsorship they brought in, most notably the glossy photo books. If I had to run this campaign all over again, I’d offer a smaller number of rewards, and most of them at the lower price breaks (£10-£50), with just a couple of suggestions for custom rewards at maybe £100 and £200.

Next time I’ll talk about how we promoted the campaign and engaged with the audience, before summing up my overall thoughts and feelings on crowd-funding Stop/Eject in the eighth and final part.

Crowd-funding Evaluation Part 6: Elements and Sponsors