Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!: To Start or To Go, That is the Question


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 .

I finally watched the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, about the meltdown of the American banking industry, and it seems to me that everything has to be involved with a bank nowadays, even penniless moviemakers scrounging for funds. You could just have people send you money, which you would then hide under your mattress–that’s actually a really good idea–but then where would all your fundraising links be? Your hilarious video featuring animated puppies? Your mission statement? How will people see it all?

This brings me to something that Tiffany and I are struggling with right now: Which crowdfunding site should we use, Kickstarter or IndieGogo? Which one takes the biggest cut of your funds? Which one gives you more time to reach your goal? Which one will nurture your project and feature it on their homepage? We also have to consider the fact that, since Tiny Dancer is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), some of our hard-earned-by-crowdfunding dollars will already be going every which way except to the camera rental house.

What the heck is “fiscally sponsored?,” you might be thinking. Let me rewind. When you begin the whole nightmare/blessing of crowdfunding your film, you have to know who will hold the money once it’s earned and whether you’re going to seek out not-for-profit status for your movie, which would enable you to offer your donors a tax deduction for their contribution. Many documentaries utilize fiscal sponsorship as a way to appeal to donors whose charitable side lines up with your film’s mission statement. Not to get into the legality of it all, but when you’re asking people for large amounts of money, it’s best to make yourself look legit by partnering with an organization, like the NYFA, Fractured Atlas or the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), that will “fiscally sponsor” your project. Basically, they lend you their not-for-profit status in return for a percentage of the funds you raise.

NYFA will take 8% of what we raise for Tiny Dancer, but in return they pay our vendors, issue 1099s, provide accounting advice and offer us a gateway to numerous grants. They also have a track record of launching wonderful artistic projects, which gives Tiny Dancer some prestige.

In general, it’s pretty easy to become fiscally sponsored. Some organizations are more picky as to which projects they accept, but most of them will be happy to sign you up.

Of course, once you’re fiscally sponsored–or even if you’re not–you could do all your fundraising on your own Website. Many people do this, but we’ve come to realize that there’s something magical about the crowdfunding superstores Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Just like everyone else, donors love a brand. But which one would we choose? Let’s look at a brief rundown.

Kickstarter is the all-or-nothing, guns blazing, brash poster child for the crowdfunding movement. According to their Website, Kstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. With Kstarter, you must meet your fundraising goal in order to get your cash, so once you start your campaign, the pressure is on, and you have between one and 60 days to make the magic happen. The reason the site gives for their all-or-nothing ‘tude is that it ensures that projects that meet their campaign goals actually have enough money to get made. The site takes 5% of funds raised and uses Amazon, which takes between 3 and 5% themselves, to process payment.

Stats: Slightly less than half of Kickstarter projects reach their goals, which means that over 10,000 have been funded so far. The average pledge is $71 and the most common is $25. Kstarter will work with fiscally sponsored projects to make pledges tax-deductible, but all of the associated fees could prove counter-productive. Films funded by Kstarter included Matthew Porterfield’s Putty Hill, which used the site to raise post-production funds.

IndieGoGo is the I-was-here-first middle child that got stepped on by Kickstarter but still prevails with a level head and a friendlier, happier, “Oh, you can keep the money anyway” ‘tude. IGoGo is open to all projects, whether they’re creative, cause-based or entrepreneurial in nature… they just want it to happen, by gum! The biggest difference between Kstarter and IGoGo is that, on IGoGo, you get to keep your cash if you don’t meet your goal, which you have between one and 120 days to reach. They take 4% of funds if you make your goal or 9% if you don’t. Moviemakers can receive payment via credit card, check or PayPal. Third-party processors (like PayPal) charge a fee of roughly 3%.

Stats: Over 35,000 projects from 200 countries have raised funds on IndieGoGo, which loves fiscally sponsored projects and works closely with Fractured Atlas. Films funded through IGoGo include Shoplifting from American Apparel. The film started out on Kstarter but switched–the moviemakers felt they couldn’t make their Kstarter goal of $37,000 in the time they had left, but they knew they could make their film for less. After moving their project to IGoGo, they raised $13,000 of their $10,000 goal and made their movie. Sweet!

So… will we Start or will we Go? Stay tuned to find out.

Jayce Bartok is an actor and moviemaker who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. Currently, you can see him on USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature film Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo. Follow The Independent Collective at twitter.com/ticnyc to stay updated on the Tiny Dancer crowdfunding campaign.

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