Kickstarter has become the primary (and best) place to fund your independent, creative project. The beauty of Kickstarter (and other crowd-funding sites like IndieGoGo), is that it gives both independent artists and entrepreneurs the opportunity to undertake projects that may not otherwise see the light of day and also gives potential audiences, customers, and clients the ability to fund projects that they themselves want to see happen. It's the elimination of middlemen, gatekeepers, and the status-quo. It is the creation of a new freedom for creative projects and products. For backers and the artistically inclined, it's the best place to support the arts and independent artists.
I've been a follower and backer on Kickstarter for a while now, but in my preparation to launch my first ever Kickstarter campaign, I watched and studied dozens of Kickstarter campaign videos to pull best practices and approaches for a successful crowdfunding campaign. But, since this was my first campaign, I decided to pull in crowdfunding expert Nathaniel Hansen to offer tips on how to make a kickass Kickstarter video. Nathaniel is an independent filmmaker from Boston who has been a part of dozens of successful Kickstarter campaigns, has a forthcoming book about crowdfunding on the way, and just launched his own Kickstarter campaign—an interactive documentary on the small Hawaiian town of La'ie. Let's get to it:
Both a blessing and a curse (and the nature of crowdfunding), Kickstarter campaigns are often successful due to the emotional connection potential backers have with the project creators. You could have a great project, but if you come off as incompetent, arrogant, or disingenuous, backers are going to have a difficult time connecting to your project. "Be yourself! That's rule number one," says Hansen. "People are backing you, your story, and your vision. The pitch video may very well be your only chance to have a 'face to face' interaction with them. Remember that tone is important. Think about your target audience, how you want the project to be viewed and represented, and move forward accordingly. A good example of appropriate tone is Tim Shafer's Double Fine Adventure Game pitch and update videos."
Be sure to be true to your project. Are you making a comedy series? Then you better be funny. If you're putting a new product into production? Then you better show it off and convince people it works. Be yourself and show why you're going to be successful.
"I always advocate finding a team to help you with your video and updates, especially those who make media professionally or even as a hobby," says Hansen. "This will remove much of the stress of creating the video from your plate as you delegate to those with skills beyond your own. But if you're a one-person team, and you'll be filming yourself with your webcam or phone, be absolutely certain you have decent lighting (natural or otherwise) and good clean audio. You don't need special effects or a fancy camera, but people have to be able to see you and hear you. Again, I always advocate asking for help in this department, or even paying for help. It's your first and possibly only chance to make a lasting impression and convince people to back your project."
In short, you don't have to create a Hollywood production for your Kickstarter campaign video, but you can't frustrate the viewer with poor video and sound quality.
People are busy, so don't waste their time.
"The surest way to have an awesome Kickstarter video (and therefore engage an audience and raise some dough) is to make it compelling right from the start," says Hansen. "It doesn't need to be an action-thriller, but the video should pull the viewer in so they aren't moving on to the next Internet thing (i.e., Ron Swanson quotes). Show off what you do best, whether it's an awesome product, a never-before-made interactive feature, or an epic shot of Angkor Wat. If the viewer is with you after 10 seconds, then at least they may hear what your awesome project entails or your initial plea for their support. If they don't get to that point, you don't have a chance, so make sure you capture their attention quickly."
So keep it snappy and make it engaging. Don't lose your audience in the first 10 seconds.
"I think one of the most common mistakes in campaign videos is poorly planned or simply not thought through the content or audience," says Hansen. "A second is poor production quality to the point where it's completely distracting. This is especially true of multimedia projects, or projects looking to raise very large sums of money. Your job in the video is to inspire action on the part of the viewer. If you don't inspire confidence because the video is lackluster, disingenuous, or unplanned (notice I didn't say unscripted—that can work, but is usually carefully planned). Again, this is your chance to make an impression—so don't blow it!"
Good luck and give me a shout (or tell us about it in the comments) if you have great examples of Kickstarter projects and practices: firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Kerrin Sheldon is an independent filmmaker and photographer and the cofounder of Humanity.TV, an authentic travel series that is currently crowd-funding to revolutionize travel shows and travel content for tablets. Support independent artists and back Humanity.TV here: Humanity.TV: Inspiring Authentic Travel Through Local Stories.
—Nathaniel Hansen is an award-winning filmmaker and media artist. Since 2010, Nathaniel has helped his colleagues raise over $500,000 on Kickstarter and is frequently sought out as a speaker and consultant for crowdfunding. He is currently expanding his best Kickstarter practices and techniques into an 80-page ebook. Check out his current Kickstarter campaign Kupuna, an interactive documentary that documents the small Hawaiian town of La'ie through the experiences and collective memories of its elderly, indigenous residents.
[Image: Flickr user Dmal]