Crowdfunding Your Vision: How to Achieve the Results You Want Panel 

The topic of crowdfunding and ways to navigate the process took centerstage Thursday evening as part of New York Comic Con’s opening day at Javits Center during an energetic and packed panel, Crowdfunding Your Vision: How to Achieve the Results You Want. The panel opened with a 2-scene teaser First Look of Prey: The Light in The Dark.

Panelists were speaking from experience. They’re a team involved in a new production company, Reinventing Films (RF), appearing at Comic Con (Booth 1771). It’s using crowdfunding and a singular investor to raise funds to produce high-quality short “live action treatments” they can present to studios to attract feature-film financing/distribution.

Those appearing from RF were: Nathan Reid (co-founder and CEO);  Jodie Bentley (co-founder and COO/CFO) and Jason Robinette (senior director of marketing). Joining them were Tyler Mane (HalloweenTroyX-Men); who stars in RF (and Reid-created) comic-book-inspired Prey: The Light in the Dark and Prey executive producer Michael Hemmerich, the project’s sole (traditional) investor. Vivian Mayer (associate producer, Stan Lee’s Blood Red Dragon and veteran studio entertainment marketer/publicist), moderated.

Some of the takeaways for those looking to – pardon the pun – kickstart their own campaign:

•      Be clear on the purpose of your campaign and what you’re goals are – not just monetarily, but why you’re undertaking the project.

•      Build a strong team when raising funds and try to avoid the “go-it-alone” approach. It’s simple math – more people working the cause means more avenues to attract dollars.

•      It’s a business. Have someone who knows that aspect on your team. Have a compelling exit strategy for an investor.

•      Have consistent, lively, thoughtful, visible messaging in all social media channels while being in constant in-person networking mode during the campaign’s run.

•      Be very clear on your campaign’s goal for the project.

“Our goal was to do teaser films,” Bentley noted. “To do short films as teasers to get them to a (feature) film vs. saying, “We’re doing a web series for our reels.” (Bentley and Reid are also actors). “Know your purpose or goal of the campaign – not just monetarily. Is it to feed your artistic goal or to make something and get it out there?”

•      It’s all about team, making it a win-win for those involved, and accountability.

Noted Reid: “It’s about building a team. How you pitch your project – practice pitching it to your friends.”

Bentley added: “It doesn’t have to be a go-it-alone process. “Sometimes we think it is. What we urge you to do is build a team. We had 17 members on our first project crowdfunding for us. Build a team that shares in your vision for your project. You train them how to pitch for you. … Give people a compelling reason to fund it. Not a command. No one wants to be commanded to do something.”

For Prey, they had team members literally on a commission structure with signed contracts holding them accountable for their funding goals, giving them different responsibilities in the film’s production (crew; producer titles; roles) depending on the dollar amounts they were going to raise.€

•      Social media? Of course. Social media.

Reid underscored the importance of deploying a thoughtful social strategy and ways to deploy it so it’s easier for the team.

“You have to look at your project as your product. You have to put it out in different ways,” he said. “Give them Facebook and Twitter posts that they can use to put up multiple times a day. … Use humor. One time, I threatened people with lap dances to cross a dollar figure. We crossed it in three minutes.”

“We’re all salespeople,” he pointed out. “You’re selling people on your vision, your comic, your film. Train yourself for sales and how to do it from an authentic place. If you can talk about your passion and train others to do that – that is key.”

Look at other campaigns, participate in them, and see what they did for tips in crafting your campaign.

“Your best thing is to participate in it,” said Robinette. “If you have never participated, say, in someone else’s Kickstarter, you should. Or if you’re in one that fails, you can see why that happened. It’s good karma to help someone else with their dream and they can turn around and help you.”

•      It’s a business.

“If you have a crowdfunding campaign, have a decent business person who can talk about those elements,” said Hemmerich, whose experience includes being a real estate executive; federal securities lawyer; and a dean at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

“I’m kind of a left-brain guy, so I’m a bit, ‘Show me the money.’ So if you have a solid business plan, that’s one of the things I look for. And what are some of the comparable stories similar to your film. What can you do for an even better return.”

Also critical: “Have a compelling vision and compelling personnel. And then, in terms of a large investment, it’s essential to have a compelling exit strategy for an investor. It’s more than just a poster. I’d like to get a good return on my money.”

•      Enthusiasm is currency of a different kind. Be prepared with your pitch. Be ready to do the hard work.

Mane and Hemmerich noted a large part of their choice to be involved in Prey had to do with Reid and Bentley’s enthusiasm and they’re preparation as they pitched the project.

“I get approached by various people on a daily basis to be in things,” said Mane,

“I don’t want to put my name on a project that’s going to go down the shitter. There’s a lot of companies that will throw crap against the wall. … If you’re looking to approach an actor or play your music, whatever – you better be excited by it and follow through.”

Added Hemmerich: “I had a phone conversation with Jodie and Nathan. Their enthusiasm was great and I thought, ‘God, I hope they’re strapped in.’ They didn’t do all the talking. They let me ask questions. You want to make sure the investor asks as few questions as possible. The more they ask, the less likely they probably would invest. … They had great chemistry. They weren’t reading from a script, but they were polished and very professional.”

~John Burman