Crowdfunding is here to stay in the Indie world. So as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them join them! As a multi-hyphenate looking to make the series I created come to life, it seemed that my only options were to either find someone rich to fund it or do a crowdfunding campaign. Since most of my friends are Indie artists themselves, it became increasingly obvious that crowdfunding would be the only way to get my series off the ground. After doing extensive research on each platform it became a no-brainer that my team would use Seed&Spark to crowdfund for the series. From the filmmaker tools given, to the level of talented artists, and the high success rate I felt like I not only found a crowdfunding platform, but a community of like minded artists that are all looking to create great content.
I had the amazing opportunity to speak to Emily Best, the CEO and Founder of Seed&Spark about her experiences and the reason why every filmmaker should know about this amazing crowdfunding platform.
Emily, the idea for Seed&Spark came about because of difficulties you were having yourself as a filmmaker. Can you talk about those difficulties and what made you actually decide to start Seed&Spark?
I have a really, really long answer for this here. More than anything, what I learned making my first film was that the tools any filmmaker needs to really be successful with a truly independent career were not available. I did not have access to the data I would need to build an actionable and sustainable business plan.
Crowdfunding was an opportunity to deliver so much more than funds for filmmakers, we could build meaningful traction and gather powerful data that could help us make efficient and informed distribution and marketing decisions. That direct audience connection and the resulting data could also give us a more powerful seat at the table when negotiating our projects. And of course, as a woman interested in creating better representations of women, I found that the “establishment” would tell me I was making films for a niche audience. (I hope the box office numbers in 2017 have put that myth to rest…) We wanted to build a platform where “niche” audiences and filmmakers are the mainstream.
I love the community of filmmakers you have created through Seed&Spark. It really feel likes everyone is rooting for one another. Was that a goal in the beginning or more of a happy accident?
This was always the goal. Part of the reason I started Seed&Spark is because the environment, especially for women and POC (people of color), but actually for ALL filmmakers is a culture of scarcity: money, audience, jobs for you means less for me. It made filmmakers reticent to work together, to share ideas, and tools, and best practices, and also reticent to share contacts and audiences. We wanted to foster a true culture of plenty. Opportunity is not like pie, it’s not finite. We want to give filmmakers the best tools we can to create powerful opportunities to make their work, gather their audience, and make a living at their craft.
In my experience, Seed&Spark truly cares that each filmmaker reaches their goals. How involved do you get with each filmmaker’s campaign? Do you give them advice, tips, etc?
We do! This happens even before filmmakers start a campaign with us: our free Crowdfunding to Build Education class is taught at festivals and partner organizations around the country and is also available for filmmakers looking to crowdfund to take online wherever they are.
Additionally, every campaign that submits to Seed&Spark gets personalized feedback, from a real live human who is not only a crowdfunding expert but also a filmmaker! This feedback is 100% geared to helping their campaign be as successful as possible…and the filmmakers who implement it, have 4X the success rate of those who don’t.
What are three things every filmmaker should know when it comes to crowdfunding?
1. It’s not about raising money, it’s about building an audience. When you do that, the funds will come AND you’ll have built a foundation for a sustainable career. But in order to get the MOST out of your funding, you want to get data from your audience that also helps you understand how best to market and distribute your project when it’s finished. (Seed&Spark happens to be purposely built for gathering this data as you fund.)
2. In crowdfunding, the crowd has to come before the funding! Start your audience building early (way before you launch your campaign).
3. Crowdfunding, like filmmaking, takes hard work, organization and teamwork…and the better you plan, the better you’ll do! Also, more than 95% of filmmakers who have taken our crowdfunding class which guides you through these steps have successful campaigns.
What have you learned as a filmmaker by creating this company?
That there’s a lot that still needs to be done to change the unhealthy ecosystem that exists for filmmakers. Seeing the business structures — from funding through distribution and audience retention — as an entertainment startup CEO means that, as a filmmaker, I have a clearer picture of what the potential wins (and possible pitfalls) might be. And that each choice I make in my filmmaking, from hiring to distribution, can be conscious steps to making those changes. I’ve learned that if Hollywood won’t change, it’s up to us — the independent creators and audiences — to make it.
“I’ve learned that if Hollywood won’t change, it’s up to us — the independent creators and audiences — to make it.”
– Emily Best, CEO and Founder of Seed&Spark
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*Photo’s courtesy of Seed&Spark and Emily Best