Making the Movie Was Easy, Crowdfunding Is Hard

Screen-Shot-2013-05-22-at-7.48.44-AM-200x136Making the movie was easy, crowdfunding is hard.

Ok, that’s a ridiculous oversimplification, but not completely untrue. I’m currently in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to raise post-production funds for my first feature film, Sidewalk Traffic (a comedy/drama about a struggling filmmaker and new father in post-Great Recession NYC), which I wrote, co-produced and directed this past winter.

Realizing the lifelong ambition of directing my first feature film meant making a substantial financial investment (though well short of what an MFA at an elite film school costs), informing my wife and two young daughters that I would be for all intents and purposes gone for the better part of a month, taking a leave of absence from my job as a documentary journalist with Reason TVfor two months, and working 20-hour days during our 15-day shoot.

It was a nerve-wracking endeavor, and you can be sure that my body started to fail me near the end of the production, but I never felt out of place. I belonged doing what I was doing, collaborating with actors I admired like Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks), Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse), legendary MTV News anchor Kurt Loder, Tom Shillue (Mystery Team), Dave Hill (This American Life) and our outstanding lead performers Johnny Hopkins (Mercy) and Erin Darke (Kill Your Darlings). Working with our dedicated production team led by our miraculously talented and resourceful producer Robyn K. Bennett, we got the 100-page script in the can on a microbudget, but were left with almost nothing in the bank.

Which meant we had to crowdfund to finish the film.

I always knew this moment would come. It was by design. But I would not phone this effort in. Like our film, and the outside-the-box methods we used to execute it, our crowdfunding campaign had to stand out.

I had seen so many fantastically produced pitch videos featuring a great concept and the promise of prominent cast attachments, ultimately fail to reach their crowdfunding goal. Having put so much on the line for this film, and with my adult responsibilities growing exponentially by the day, I came to see this as my “one big shot.” I couldn’t fail so close to the finish line. But how do you separate yourself from the crowdfunding crowd?

It was simple: shoot the movie. Get it done before the world knows you need money. Only once principal photography was wrapped would we start a crowdfunding campaign to complete the film.

And that’s what we did. It was an amazing shoot, and the film looks great. Now it was time to let the world know what we had.

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