Looking at the statistics for this site over the last year or so it appears that there is a lot of interest in the subject of crowdsourced funding, and in particular crowdsourced funding of film. The most popular post on this blog is by some margin [The crowdsourcing post link]. I can only agree with the figures given that it is the subject that caused me to write the most. Obviously it holds interest for me. Due to this popularity and following a number of conversations I have been having on the subject I think that it is time to weigh back in.
I feel obliged to state from the outset that these are opinions based on zero practical experience of raising finance for a film. Some might think that should invalidate what follows. I say that if there is anything to add to a debate then let’s hear it irrespective of the source. I can choose to disregard it after the fact. There may, however be something worth hearing. I hope so here.
I would also add that the basis for my lack of experience in financing a film in this manner is, in part, that until something new is added to the formula, the process simply does not work well enough to be a viable course of action. This statement is meant as no disrespect to those people who have worked or are attempting to work in this manner. On the contrary, I would wish to see them held up as the pioneers of whatever comes out of the flux that independent film finance is currently (but seems always to be) in. It would nonetheless be foolish of me to wait in a queue behind them to pick at the same fruitless tree. Instead I have the luxury of watching how their experiments play out and learning fro their successes ad failures. What exists as fact at the moment is that the crowdfunding model for film finance does not work. It is not refined enough, it is not efficient enough and it is not effective enough. If it was, everyone would be doing it. The truth is that the act of building and maintaining a community is itself a challenging enough prospect (particularly in the company of scammers and social media ‘consultants’ and ‘experts’). The labour of doing such a thing is Herculean and does not suit being placed alongside the similarly epic task of developing a film. When both tasks are undertaken by the same person it is no surprise that the process takes so long or loses its momentum before it has really begun.
That is not to say that you cannot make a film that has been crowd funded. I could not claim that. But the question needs to be asked (as it should be always) “Is there a better way?”. Rather that an old world attitude of “If it ‘aint broke dont fix it” those looking to make films should be asking “If it never worked to begin with why not accept that it is probably broken?”.
Crowdfunding is, in the most part, a means to an end. The end is a film of whatever description you care for. I would doubt that there are many, of any, filmmakers who attempted to crowdfund a film purely to see if it could be done. Instead, they are looking for a workable way to meet the costs of producing a script. To these people it doesn’t matter how the money is raised, just that it is raised. I would add that these people are, intentionally or otherwise, looking to operate outside of the standard systems of film finance and that any alternative to the crowdfunding model needs to meet this accessibility criteria. The rise in crowdsourcing generally is a byproduct of (as good as) free access to an audience and it is this or other benefits of the information age from which we are likely to find what we are looking for.