As a consequence, I read EVERYTHING I could about crowdfunding. I mean everything.
During that time, I bought a course on crowdfunding.
I’m gonna be real with you – it sucked.
The course billed itself as a series of webinars, but really it was six interviews with people about their crowdfunding projects. Skype interviews.
There was no editing on the videos. At the front of one interview, the subject was fumbling with their headphones as the creator said “I’m getting some ECHO,” and they tried to figure out their connection.
The course was $200.
I was willing to pay that because I was desperate for information. I had been working on my documentary for six years. It was a labor of love.
Until then, I’d survived by bouncing between freelance work and my own dream project. I’d even moved back into my parents place in my hometown just to focus on it.
The project would not be finished without funding, but my film was a controversial documentary about circumcision – not exactly the most commercial material.
In my quest to fund my film, I started reading everything I could about internet marketing.
The advice being given to filmmakers at the time was “you should have a Facebook and twitter account to promote your film!”
The advice internet marketers were giving was “you should build an email list by giving away free content, post relevant content on the platforms that matter 3-6 times a day, and by the way – here is a step by step guide on how to do that.”
Totally different worlds.
But the filmmakers were making better content!
Filmmakers would put years into their passion projects, only to sell them for $4.99 on iTunes, while internet marketers were making poorly recorded videos made with the built-in iSight macbook camera, yet making more money.
Plus, there was a bait and switch going on in many of the products I saw.
One course promised to teach you how to build your freelance video production business. By now, I was wise enough to be able to spot the bad offers, but signed up for the free video anyway just to find out what they were selling.
It was way worse than I expected.
The course creator said his secret to success was to package video production with online advertising and bill your production house as an advertising agency!
He showed a video he made for a local yoga studio (it wasn’t good) and then talked about how much he made running google ads on it for them.
Yeah – the secret to a profitable video production business is to make something other than a video production business! Thanks internet marketing guy.
Then I got aggressively re-targeted with ads for their course, because I clicked on it. I had to block their page.
I remember thinking – I don’t want a course that teaches me how to do something other than how to make my art. I don’t even really want to do freelance work. I want to make MY projects on MY terms. Is there a course that will teach that?
That was the seed that lead to my course Dreams To Reality: How To Crowdfund Your Dream Project.
I made this course because most internet courses suck.
That might be bad to say, but it’s true.
Many are made by people who haven’t done what they claim to teach, people don’t know how to create a quality video, and people who value money over art.
At first I was pissed. Why should these scammers get rich, while the brilliant artists I knew struggled?
Not just them – in making my documentary I’d interviewed tons of hard-working activists across the country. Every single one struggled with funding. Why weren’t they making more money?
I became fascinated by this question, and began to study internet marketing.
I began to look not just at what internet marketers were saying or selling, but what they were DOING.
I thought – what if instead of hating on people that were more successful from me, I learned from them?
If these tactics could to sell skype “webinars,” couldn’t they also work to sell a real movie?
Could I use their methods to fund my own project?
I decided to learn everything I could about marketing and audience building.
It changed my entire path.
I learned how to sell my art.
I did a deep dive into marketing.
Some of the stuff I learned from was great. Some was not.
One of the things I discovered is that marketing tactics are values neutral.
That means they work regardless of where you apply them.
You could be selling a vegan documentary. You could be selling a carnivore documentary. You could be selling a documentary against both of those things. The same tactics apply.
Most marketers start with the audience and work back from there.
What do people want? Make a product that solves that problem.
Artists work a bit differently. We start with our heart.
What is on our heart? What do we genuinely want to say as an artist?
I began to wonder – what if I made something from the heart, and then applied the tactics of marketers to selling it?
Yes, it might not make as much money as a product promising to help you “get rich” or “get six pack abs” – but I wasn’t in it for the money. I wanted to create something from the heart.
No marketer in their right mind would make the art I love most. No marketer would ever create a David Lynch, Akira Kurosawa, or Stanley Kubrick film. Yet, all those filmmakers have found success and an audience.
Older artists had the backing of studios, and could afford to let the marketing division figure out how to sell their products. Sometimes this worked out for them. Sometimes it didn’t. However, we don’t have that luxury. I knew no one was going to sell my film but me.
People had told me no one would ever want to see my film. It explored a taboo issue that had been marginalized by the mainstream for years.
I didn’t care. This was what was on my heart.
I decided to apply the tactics I’d learned to my dream project.
I raised over $90,000 in crowdfunding, and another $20,000 just for the tour.
I broke through what anyone thought was possible for a film on my subject.
We eventually did a multi-city tour, sold to a distributor, and got on Netflix.
A Presidential candidate in the 2020 election even mentioned our film by name.
After the campaign, I had activists and artists call me and ask – how did you raise all that money?
I’d try to explain to them the marketing I’d learned – crafting a two-sentence pitch, a/b testing it, identifying and building your audience, creating content for the relevant platforms – but:
- I was trying to fit three hours of information into one breath. (Not doable)
- They didn’t understand or think it would work for them.
The artists and activists I knew still believed that the “business” side of things was different from the art.
They only saw marketing working for art and ideas they didn’t like, so they assumed it couldn’t work for them.
The idea that artists can’t sell is convenient for marketers.
In reality, the opposite is true.
Artists have unique skills that marketers do not.
Their creations come from the heart. The heart cannot be bought or taught.
If artists learn the skill of marketing, they can become unstoppable.
Artists can learn how to fund their art.
After I made my dream project, I watched others try to crowdfund their dream projects and fail.
It wasn’t because their art was bad, or they weren’t trying hard. It was because there was a process to crowdfunding they didn’t know and weren’t following.
Given a few tweaks and a willingness to learn, I knew they could reach their goals.
The truth was – the marketers who’d sold me scammy products were not 100% wrong.
They had correctly identified my need to learn how to crowdfund and build a film business – they just couldn’t deliver on the promise of fulfilling that need.
Most artists do not understand how to market their work. There is a real need to learn.
As I found myself complaining both about the resources available to artists, I thought – what if instead of complaining I actually did something? What if I made the course that I wish my younger self had?
Dreams To Reality
When I was crowdfunding my dream project, I wasn’t sure what to do.
Dreams To Reality: How To Crowdfund Your Dream Project is the course I would have wanted before funding my first dream project.
It is perfect for an artist, activist, or creator who knows they want to change the world, but doesn’t know how to raise the money for their dreams.
The goal of this course it to teach you how to create the projects you really want to create.
It’s made by someone who is an artist first and foremost, and speaks to other artists about what it really takes to create uncompromising art.
I’m not going to tell you to make something “more commercial” or “do freelance work.” I’m not going to tell you create something that doesn’t come from your heart. I’m going to help you make YOUR project.
The first video is free if you sign-up for the email list.