The social web has opened the floodgates of communication, allowing users from all over the world to share knowledge, meet new people and connect with a multitude of content from breaking news to causes to movies and everything in between. Nonprofits, in particular, have met with much success harnessing the power of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks to generate awareness — and donations — for their causes, and digital entertainment, such as web series, are beginning to tap into this movement, giving fans the ability to help fund their shows. But thanks to Slava Rubin, and his service, IndieGoGo, independent filmmakers have an established turnkey solution for getting their films and documentaries increased exposure, funding and promotion.
IndieGoGo is a socially-driven platform built on the concept of crowdfunding, creating a central location where independent filmmakers can showcase their work, and fans can show their support through microdonations right on the site. And thanks to a new partnership with Snag Films, filmmakers also have a vehicle to connect viewers directly with the causes they support, giving them the ability to make their films — and a difference. In addition, IndieGoGo’s integration with social networks allows the impact of those contributions to be captured and spread virally within viewers’ various communities to spark increased awareness and donations, helping the documentaries and issues gain greater market traction to build fan bases and cause champions. Not to mention the added benefit of delivering important social and environmental topics in an emotionally resonant and compelling way through entertainment experiences that forge deep, lasting connections well after the film ends.
Tell us a little more about how IndieGoGo works, and some of the services you offer for linking independent filmmakers with fundraising and distribution opportunities.
IndieGoGo provides tools for fundraising, promotion, and discovery to the film and media industry. The platform enables people to showcase their work, mobilize their fans, and DIWO (Do-It-With-Others!). We are in over 90 countries and have helped projects raise nearly $150K in funds. Specific functionality includes VIP perk-based fundraising, social media promotion (widgets, social networking, real time Internet, online hub), media galleries and a two-way communications platform for fans to participate.
What inspired you to facilitate a DIWO (Do It With Others) collaborative filmmaking model for IndieGoGo?
IndieGoGo launched in 2008 to address the fundraising challenges and market inefficiencies affecting independent filmmaking today. While Obama was raising a million dollars per day in sub-$1000 contributions, film director Robert Greenwald was validating crowdfunding for film. When Iraq for Sale raised $267K in small donations via an email campaign, it became clear the entire film industry could benefit from online tools that streamlined the audience-building and fundraising efforts.
What notable films and documentaries have utilized IndieGoGo?
We have nearly 1800 projects using IndieGoGo for audience-building and/or fundraising. A few notable projects include:
- Tapestries of Hope: a documentary about a rape crisis occurring in Zimbabwe due to the misunderstanding that sex with virgins cures HIV and AIDS ($22,500 raised to-date)
- Changing the World on Vacation: a British documentary that explores the controversial trend “Volun-tourism” – the merger of adventure travel and aid work – by following a Cambodian NGO ($10,000 to-date)
- Shelter in Place: a British documentary about civil rights, environmental pollution and corporate greed in America ($7,500 raised to-date)
- Co-Ed: a documentary about co-ed soccer in New York City ($4,112 raised to-date)
- Pressure Cooker: a culinary documentary showcasing the potential of students when teachers believe in them and bust their chops; a Participant Productions film (Promotion only)
- Pelotero: a Dominican documentary on major league baseball’s overseas farm system ($2,000 raised to-date)
- FLOW: a documentary on the global water crisis; a Sundance 2007 film with distribution from Oscilloscope (Promoting only)
You recently cemented a partnership with Snag Films to create cause-based partnerships for filmmakers. Please share more details about this relationship and why you decided to link your business to causes.
We partnered with SnagFilms because of our shared belief in Filmanthropy – connecting cause-based films with philanthropic individuals, large and small. Having reduced the barriers to support a film to just a click and a few dollars, connecting in-progress IndieGoGo docs to SnagFilms’ documentary enthusiasts was a natural step. IndieGoGo’s films find new fans as Snagfilms viewers get a new way to action on their beliefs.
What types of causes will you be supporting as part of this partnership?
The beauty of the IndieGoGo platform is that it is open to all filmmakers. We therefore support all the causes our films address. Documentary is one of our most popular genres, and causes are wide-ranging. Topics include environmental pollution, sexual identity, property rights, suicide, Wall Street history, spirituality, cancer, game shows, the death penalty, biographies, politics, the Internet, education, and baseball… to name a few.
Tell us more about the concept of ‘Filmanthropy’ and why you think documentary filmmakers and viewers will benefit from it.
Documentaries are often used as vehicles to drive awareness for an issue, as story is a powerful educational tool. For example, one of our films is being made for $250K; the filmmaker plans to use the film as a marketing vehicle to raise $10MM for the rape issue it’s illuminating. Adding film to the philanthropy effort helps to expand the reach and increase the resulting impact.
How will consumers be empowered to take action? Do you plan to communicate the impact of those efforts back to viewers? How?
Through the partnership, IndieGoGo’s “Take Action” functionality is ported onto the SnagFilms platform. Within one or two clicks, SnagFilms viewers have made a contribution, signed up for updates, provided feedback or shared the project with friends across Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. With transparency as one of our core values, all filmmaker and fan activity is published on IndieGoGo, thus encouraging further action. We launched the SnagFilms partnership one month ago, and IndieGoGo’s films have already garnered a half a million impressions via SnagFilms and its partner platforms.
What trends have you been observing in the independent filmmaking space? Have you seen any spikes in indie filmmakers? Do you think that’s a result of new media and web-enabled resources like IndieGoGo?
As production and distribution costs fall, demand for niche content increases, social media becomes increasingly mainstream, distribution platforms proliferate, and online revenue streams for digital content mature; the opportunity to make a living making film by going directly to one’s target audiences will increase. Tools are replacing middlemen, thereby reducing the friction involved in identifying, engaging and monetizing one’s fans.
Yesterday, filmmakers had one way to monetize their film: get picked up by a distributor. With 8,000 filmmakers applying to Sundance 2008, 150 getting in and just a handful getting distribution deals, the distributor option has never been a likely one for most. As more filmmakers leverage web-based tools like IndieGoGo, fan-funding will become an increasingly common monetization method during production, while self-distribution will become an increasingly viable and attractive monetization method post-release.
Do you think indie films and documentaries will ever reach critical mass in reaching a mainstream audience, or will they always be more niche entertainment?
In aggregate, niche content is already reaching critical mass. A majority of Netflix titles rented each month are not “New Release” titles. Many people refer to this as the Long Tail of film distribution. The tail will only continue to fatten as distribution platforms integrate better with social media and technology to become more efficient in delivering desired content to people – where they want it, when they want it.
What are your future plans for IndieGoGo and where do you hope to take the concept?
IndieGoGo’s mission has always been, and continues to be, the democratization of film. IndieGoGo currently enables “filmocracy” by providing filmmakers an open platform to showcase their projects to the world, and giving the fans a vehicle to experience and influence the once inaccessible world of filmmaking. In the future, we plan to expand our toolkit beyond fundraising and promotion to distribution, thereby helping filmmakers through the continuum of their films – and their careers.