PAYING FOR IT – PART II
When I lost the theatre company as a potential co-producing partner, it fell to me to raise the money for my play. And as I faced that daunting prospect, I again turned to people who’d self-produced before me. Some had trust funds or wealthy spouses—I didn’t; some were ex-TV writers with big bank accounts—ditto; an actuary friend financed his show by calculating life expectancies—who knew? Most, however, used some combination of their own money, loans and crowdfunding.
Eight to ten months from opening, my plan was to sell my house (Don't worry, Suzi Orman, I wanted to downsize anyway) and use some of the profit to pay for the show while also creating a Kickstarter campaign in the hope that my friends would give me $20-50 each to raise $15,000. I reasoned that whenever I get hit up, I give at least that. But as things turned out, by the time I parted ways with the company, it was too late to put together (what I thought would be) a quality campaign, considering all the producing and rewriting I was doing.
For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on crowdfunding: You can be successful but it’s no longer a new idea and may have lost much of its appeal to donors. If you’re going to do it, you need to develop your campaign so it attracts investors you don’t know as well as those you do. Running a crowdfunding campaign is like having another project instead of being an easy means to an end. It takes a lot of time. You need compelling photos, text that “grabs the reader”, video and enticing giveaways for donors to participate. Then you need to publicize the crap out of it, while continually adding updates. You need to get people excited about being part of your project enough to give you money and forward the links to their contacts--all with the hope of going large with your fundraising.
There are now hundreds of crowdfunding sites so start by sifting through them to see if there’s a perfect fit for your project. I won’t list all the possibilities; just Google “great crowdfunding sites” and you’ll find them. Regardless of how many options there are, however, most people end up on Kickstarter, Indie-Go-Go or Hatchfund. There are differences so read the fine print and do the cost-benefit analysis. For example, Hatchfund likes to say the artist keeps the entire donation but they add a fee to what the donor wants to give, which they don’t see until they “check out”. To me this feels like a trick. It’s not cool if your friend intended his total give to be $20 and now he has to do some math in order to keep it there. Kickstarter and Hatchfund require you to make your entire stated amount before they release funds while Indie-Go-Go lets you keep what’s been donated even if you don’t make your nut (even though they’ll take a larger fee for your right to do so).
Depending on how much money you need, it might be better to go to a few well-heeled individuals you know and say, “Hey, I’m trying to raise money for my show. Could you possibly give me $500 and I’ll give you 4 tickets and passes to the opening night party?”
In my case I should probably have anticipated that things might not work out with the theatre company and developed the campaign ahead of time. I also should have found a hungry, young aspiring theatre producer early on who might have been able to take over some of the production duties, freeing up some time for the crowdfunding campaign. In the end, it was the house sale that came through. When something is not likely to make its money back, one should always risk other peoples’ money but I didn’t have that privilege and I’d grown tired of waiting for my mystery benefactor to appear. And seriously, at my age (55) and a woman--? The chances of that happening were about as likely as being offered the casting couch. There aren’t many “emerging” playwrights my age, unless you want to define “emerging” as people nobody knows finally getting a production. So, like the lioness Theresa Rebeck and many others before me, I needed to be my biggest fan and self-produce my own work. Put your money where your mouth is.
Next up: Your Budget and Trying Not to Break it