Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!: Learning from Agent X


Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, where indie moviemaker Jayce Bartok talks about the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding from the trenches of his own crowdfunding campaign. Have a question for Jayce about his movie, Tiny Dancer, or just crowdfunding in general? Ask away at .

Tiffany and I took a week off and went to Mexico with our son, where the only thing we were crowdfunding was pesos from each other. Mexico is such a beautiful country, with people warmer than the green/blue water, especially in Cancún and the Mayan Riveria, where we love to go. We did, however, learn the ultimate lesson on selling—one that has stuck with us—at the airport. If you’ve ever traveled in Mexico (or many other places, for that matter), you know that when you arrive in a foreign airport there will be throngs of people dressed as employees of some “company” who want to help you with maps and guides, sell you a time share, etc.. There is the promise of cash, rebates and discounts if you will just tour this hotel or that property… make a day of it! Get a free lunch! It will be wonderful!

We have been to Mexico several times now and know to avoid these “employees,” but we weren’t prepared for a particular young woman whom we’ll call Agent X. Nor did we expect to fall prey to her at the Hertz office. Long story short, she made like she was working there, and the next thing you know Tiffany gave her $20 and promised to meet her in a few days to tour a hotel an hour and a half away and get $150 in credit and discounts to zoos. Somehow, even as my face was saying “What are you doing?!,” I got caught up in Agent X’s charisma as well—she was a mix of Salma Hayek and sympathetic grifter.

As we began our vacation, still with every intention of meeting Agent X at a gas station across from our hotel (?!), we analyzed how effective her sales pitch was. Here is a breakdown:

  1. She mentioned we looked like Europeans, not Americans. (We liked that!)
  2. She said we had great taste, based on the Marriott we were staying at.
  3. She talked a lot about her own kid. (Even though she kept “selling” as our son was dying to get in the car.)
  4. When I said “No” right away, she made a pouty face as if she was deeply hurt.
  5. She kept saying, “Tell me honestly, is this something you want to do?” When I would say “No,” she would up the ante. She constantly improved the offer.

All in all, it was an amazing technique. Of course, I’m not suggesting we filmmakers set up shop at a Hertz booth and start trying to sell our films through hardcore hustling. But there is a lesson here. Why in God’s name would we want to drive far away to see another hotel when we were already staying in a great one? For the $150? No. Agent X had gotten to us on a personal level. She had the X factor: The ability to get people caught up.

You are probably wondering, “Did we go?” The night before this proposed gas station meet-up, we asked a trusted “friend” who works at Fred’s Seafood, a place we’re always sure to visit, for his opinion. He laid out an elaborate system of scheming and explained the misery that awaited us if we followed Agent X: Not a free lunch and tour, but a relentless day filled with 12 hours of sales pitches! They already knew everything about us, he explained, up to the credit limits on our AmExs, and we wouldn’t be able to leave until we purchased something. Our friend grew red-faced and angry, embarrassed for Mexico about what had befallen us, and explained that he had worked for a “company” like this only to quit after five days, ashamed. He outlined the whole team of players in this world: The bait (Agent X), the on-site pitcher who shows you one amazing thing after another at the hotel and the closer. (We can all imagine the closer).

Needless to say, we came to our senses. Then, at 9 a.m. on Monday, our hotel phone rings! It’s Agent X, wondering where we are. She says she is on her way, but it sounds remarkably quiet. I go into husband-in-a-foreign-country mode and lie: “Our son is sick… um… we appreciate your time… um… no, we don’t want to reschedule. Um….” I hang up. Wow. No, I’m not advocating these techniques, but there is something to be said for getting to your audience emotionally. Throughout the rest of the trip, we still felt a slight tinge about how we never went with Agent X… until we realized that she ran off with our $20.

Jayce Bartok is an actor/producer/writer/director who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. He wrote, co-produced and starred in The Cake Eaters and can currently be seen in USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature films Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo, and Price Check, both of which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. To stay updated on his Tiny Dancer progress, follow @JayceBartok and @TICNYC on Twitter.

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