Farm-to-Table Crowdfunding: Seed&Spark helps fund and distribute independent films
by James Kaelan


seedandsparkbodyOn February 20 of this year, 75 days after launching their beta site, Seed&Spark—one of the most innovative crowdfunding platforms to launch since Kickstarter turned on its servers in 2009—announced that they had successfully raised $170,000 in cash, goods, and services to help green- light seven of the 10 film projects in their inaugural slate.

If you follow crowdfunding developments closely, you might be thinking to yourself, “I know a guy who raised $200,000 in 30 days on IndieGoGo. What’s so impressive about $170,000 in 75 days spread across seven films?”

The answer is that this preliminary fundraising campaign proves the market viability of a new concept in crowd-sourced capital. Unlike its forbears, who offer an interface (a customizable page that accepts transactions through Amazon, for instance) to anyone and everyone with a creative project, Seed&Spark doesn’t play the game of large numbers. Instead of accepting everyone and profiting from the successful, Seed&Spark curates its projects so they can give due attention to every film on their docket.

The seven films that closed the first round of funding with a Green Light received support from over 1,500 active users on the site, 737 of whom contributed directly to one or more of the projects. One of the primary reasons for Seed&Spark’s immediate efficacy has a lot to do with how they re-contextualize giving.

Unlike on Kickstarter, where you give money to the film generally (here’s $200, have fun!) in exchange for a reward (a DVD of the final film, or a producer credit if you’re incomparably generous), on Seed&Spark you contribute to a “WishList.” More or less resembling an online wedding registry, the WishList is the entirety of a film’s proposed budget broken down line by line into quantifiable units.

For “Fog City,” a short film that recently got a Green Light, the WishList is divided into four categories: casting, publicity and advertising, crew, and screenplay development. One of the line items in “casting” was “Case of Beer” (whose item description reads: “After their help, the guys on the ‘Fog’ will drink some beer”).

emilybest-john-keonFor larger expenditures, like the lighting kit on the greenlighted Zompire Vixens from Pluto!, the total cost of a bulk rental is broken down into manageable shares. Rather than asking one person to pay $1,000 for lighting equipment, the Zompire WishList divides the G&E kit into 40 $25 chunks—under the assumption that 20 people are more likely to contribute $50 than one person is to contribute $1,000.

What’s more, by quantifying a supporter’s contribution, the WishList extends to the patron a much more specific sense of participation and ownership. A donor doesn’t actually own a piece of the film, but if someone buys a coat that a character wears in a scene, she owns that wardrobe item. Sitting in a theater (or in front of a computer screen), when she sees a character walk into frame wearing the garment she provided, the donor’s sense of unity with the project she helped fund expands exponentially. “That’s my jacket!” she exclaims.

Besides the psychological value of the WishList and the artistic merit of project curation (choosing good work is good business), perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of Seed&Spark’s model is their complete, farm-to-table approach. Not only do they develop and harness a community to help fund films, they also provide a distribution platform on the back end. If your film gets funded by Seed&Spark, you can sell your film through their website, too. Currently in the Cinema section of their website they have 18 films available to rent, of which 80 percent of the revenue goes directly to filmmakers. They accept cash, of course, but they also accept “Sparks”— reward points that community members can earn by supporting each other’s projects. What’s more, Seed&Spark does its own in-house contribution processing, which means filmmakers don’t pay out the three percent surcharge that Amazon assesses on all Kickstarter donations.

As Emily Best, CEO and Founder of Seed&Spark said, “I believe the future of truly independent filmmaking is community-driven. Filmmakers are empowered by technology to skip the middlemen and reach out directly to their audiences continuously throughout the life cycle of their film: from pitch to premiere. Audiences become players in the film business and can participate in the filmmaking process. This interaction will get better films made that return more to the creators.”

Seed&Spark is always open for submissions. But come prepared. The future of truly independent moviemaking requires network building that starts long before production. Seed&Spark won’t do the work for you, but if you come with a brilliant idea and the drive to engage a community, they may just launch you from their game-changing platform.

Visit Seedandspark.com to learn more.

 

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