Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!: Tiny Dancer, The Video Game?

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 .

Recently I had the privilege to sit on a panel on crowdfunding at NYC’s Beneath the Earth Film Festival, run by Antonia Opiah. (Check them out; the fest is all online, so no travel fees!) This is the second, maybe even third, panel I’ve been asked to sit on since I started blogging for MovieMaker. (Wait, I think I’m coming up on my first anniversary of writing about our Tiny Dancer trials and tribs… *sound of me blowing out single candle on cupcake.*) It kind of amazes me that somehow I’ve become an “expert” on crowdfunding. I find myself slipping into the same “We got Kevin Smith to tweet about Tiny Dancer” storytelling vibe (people laugh, I feel good)… until I sit back and realize: Wait! We haven’t finished Tiny Dancer. And maybe I’m far from an expert…

I shared the panel with two talented filmmakers who did finish their films, and I’d like to recap a little of their magic and mojo (since mine is barely glimmering in the heat of the summer). Laura Naylor, co-director/producer/writer of the documentary Duck Beach to Eternity (about a “spring break for Mormons” event in North Carolina where four singles try to find an eternal mate), benefitted from the support of a mysterious Mormon. The identity of the biggest donor to her films’s Kickstarter campaign remains unknown; whoever he is, he contributed thousands of dollars to help get Duck Beach to Eternity made because he responded to the Mormon theme of the film. He couldn’t even be found when Laura tried to track him down to send him his perks!

Laura attributes her “outside-friends-and-family” donor spike to information on the film being passed around on Mormon blogs, as well as a few news pieces that were done about it. She didn’t seek it out; it just happened. It’s my view that the key to generating that kind of PR is picking a topic for your project that will transcend, that people will want to talk about, that has a built-in community waiting to support the film (and, of course, go see it). In the case of Tiny Dancer, that community is dancers in transition.

For another panelist, Dave Murphy, whose documentary Street Soccer New York is about 12 homeless men who changed their lives through pick-up soccer, it was the international soccer community. Before he knew it, Dave was receiving contributions from as far away as Brazil, and his crowdfunding campaign had generated a band of international soccer fans eagerly awaiting the chance to see his moving documentary about a group of men overcoming homelessness through soccer.

So, in my un-expert opinion, a successful campaign is about tapping into a community. How does one do this? It takes a little bit of luck and a little bit of Barnum & Bailey-type huckster tactics, drumming up PR under the big circus tent of your movie. Sometimes when I see campaigns like the one for OUYA: A New Kind of Video Game Console (that our in-house graphic designer Kristine Arth worked on), which raised $2,676,548 in one day (?!) by offering donors video consoles for a yet-undeveloped game system, I wonder if Tiff and I should turn Tiny Dancer into a video game. What do you think? I see our lead actress Katherine Crockett animated as she dodges a crawling baby while trying to dance. Hmmmm. Maybe not. We forget that crowdfunding isn’t just about movies… it’s about things like getting in on the next Atari or, in the moving case of the Let’s Give Karen -The bus monitor- H Klein A Vacation!, defending a sweet older woman from the bullying insults of middle school punks. (To date, the campaign has raised over $680,000, with a week and a half still to go.)

So as we constantly fret over how to raise money for our films, we have to bear in mind that crowdfunding is a mercurial system. It sometimes feels a bit like going to Vegas or scratching off a lottery card. You never know when success will hit or what will be the cause of it. But if you’re out there displaying your passion, the odds will be in your favor.

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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