With the sheer breadth of campaigns on Indiegogo today, there are probably fewer and fewer people who remember Indiegogo’s initial focus on film when it launched in 2008. Also, given crowdfunding’s nascence at the time, there are even fewer people still who were among those running or contributing to campaigns. To think that one such campaign would eventually win an Academy Award was certainly the dream — but most likely not the expectation.
In 2011, well before crowdfunding skyrocketed from the shadows, the Fuzzy Logic Pictures team (Shawn Christensen, Damon Russell, Mara Kassin, Daniel Katz, and Andrew Napier) was on Indiegogo, raising finishing funds for their short, Curfew (trailer above). They were unfamiliar with how it all worked, but they made the most of our Flexible Funding option on two separate campaigns — raising over $1,700 total — and they finished their film.
Flash forward two years, and this happened:
Rewind six months before “Curfew” won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short though, and one of its original filmmakers, Andrew Napier, was back on Indiegogo, raising funds for his documentary, “Mad As Hell: Rise of the Young Turks.”
The film follows, Cenk Uygur, the host of the hugely popular online and progressive talk show, The Young Turks. Andrew built off of his original Indiegogo experiences to nail his goal of $60,000 and then some — ultimately collecting $69,423 from over 1,000 contributors.
Because he’s been involved in crowdfunding during both its “pre” and “post” mainstream awareness — and won an Oscar in the meantime — we wanted to talk to Andrew about his Indiegogo experiences and outlook on the future of film and crowdfunding. Given that this interview was recorded on March 12th, he proved to be a bit of a prophet:
What was your Oscar night like?
Surreal. Three years ago, not long after moving to LA, I went to the Academy Awards with Cenk and Ana (as an intern for The Young Turks) to film them interviewing guests on the red carpet. (Here is the video I made back then: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdXDp7mCp28). Fast forward in time, now to once again be going to the Oscars, to again walk down the red carpet but this time part of a nominated film, it was a very nice moment in my life. Watching the show in the audience with all the other nominees, I tried to enjoy every second of it, but I must admit I became quite nervous as our category approached. Then to win… relief.
How did your “Mad As Hell” project start coming together?
Not long after interning for The Young Turks I was hired as a director and producer for the show. I worked for them for almost four years, and during that time I was nearly always filming behind the scenes. Cenk is a great character, and I thought his life up to that point was very interesting, and would make a fun doc, little did I know, the story that I would capture behind the scenes as Cenk became a host on MSNBC developed into something much bigger.
At what point did you decide to use Indiegogo and why?
The Young Turks have a large and very devoted fan base, so I knew there was a lot of potential, but it was really my first time running an online crowdfunding campaign, so I had no idea what to expect. In order to finish the film we needed funds no matter how much or how little we raised, I choose to go with Indiegogo for the flexible fundraising style.
What was your crowdfunding experience like?
I really don’t like asking people for money, it makes me very uncomfortable. However, making perks such as the DVD, Blu-ray, digital download, etc. it felt more like running an online business and selling products, which made it slightly more comfortable for me. But the reality is those products don’t exist when you are running the campaign, and you are asking people to take a leap of faith and contribute their hard earned dollars to your project. It was especially difficult to ask for money for something like a film when part way through the campaign a massive hurricane hits the east coast. There were people that needed help much more urgently than we did, of course.
What have been some non-monetary benefits of your campaign?
Thanks to the success of the campaign our film has gotten a nice amount of online attention. I’ve had festival programmers approach and invite me to submit ‘Mad As Hell’ to their festivals.
What’s your best piece of advice to filmmakers who want to crowdfund?
Even when the subject of your film has a large cult following, it’s still a lot of work every single day of the campaign to try and reach people. For anyone who is planning a crowdfunding campaign, if you do it right, it’s a full time job. Keep that in mind when choosing how long you want the campaign to last. Looking back, I now see even more things I could have done, and certainly mistakes were made, but in the end it was a great learning experience and we were able to successfully fund the film. I have to thank the “TYT Army” (the Young Turk fan base) for that. What I would like to see is a big name artist use crowdfunding to cut out the studios. Just think what could happen if say Johnny Depp or Quentin Tarantino or someone like that launched a campaign, I think they could fund a large studio-sized film based on perks such as pre-selling digital downloads or Blu-rays. They wouldn’t need the studio and they would have complete artistic control over their films. Now I know most people at that level are so ingrained in the studio system it may be awhile before they try it, but when they do, I think it will really change everything. I’m sure the studios will hate it. But, Werner Herzog, come on man, what are you doing, a crowdfunding campaign would be perfect for you. Shit, I’d back a Herzog film on Indiegogo.
I’m excited to have the big cast and crew screening for the Indiegogo contributors, it will be a lot of fun to watch the film with both the subjects, The Young Turks, and the generous fans who made the film possible. But first, I must finish the film, then plan the screening. After ‘Mad As Hell’ is completed we’ll be submitting to festivals and seeking distribution.
The filmmaking team that made ‘Curfew’ also recently completed another short film called ‘Grandma’s Not A Toaster’ that will have it’s world premiere at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. It’s written by Shawn Christensen and directed by myself. Lastly, Shawn and the ‘Curfew’ team will soon be making our first feature film… Stay tuned.