Indiegogo an indie no-no?

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– written by Nicholas Carella

Please forgive me my Carrie Bradshaw-esque title.

This week I’ve been sending out a number of personal e-mails (along with a few apologetic bulk blasts after discovering that personal e-mails can actually take dozens and DOZENS of hours) to spread the word and ask for contributions for another project I’m working on, when one of my closest friends who will remain unnamed, (but totally hyperlinked here) had a suggestion as to another way I should raise funds: “Why don’t you go out into the street with a fucken hat and beg?”. I laughed and then asked him if he was joking, to which he made it VERY clear, that he was fully not joking.  That he thought that Indiegogo campaigns were desperate and posed a question that really got me thinking “Why should anybody who’s trying to get their own shit off the ground wanna help you (me)?” 

My first instinct was to try and justify the merits of the project and somehow prove why this project, in particular, was special and cutting edge.  Why the world needed my project and how we’ve worked so hard, blah, blah blah- when it occurred to me that my friend hadn’t actually asked about my project at all. I think that he was really onto something there.

I personally LOVE Indiegogo and similar campaigns like Kickstarter (and there are probably others out there just like them- let me know!). Actually, I love fundraisers in general.  And for me, the validity of the project has never actually been the reason why I attend/support/whatever-the-appropriate-term-is.  I kinda feel like, if someone asks me for something, and I can swing it, I’ll do it.  I really get off on people getting what they want.  And if I can help someone make their dream come true, then that’s amazing, isn’t it?  I can be a fairy godmother!  How cool is that? (pretty frickin cool actually)

But all self-serving gratification of being altruistic aside, I think the original question has larger implications.  “Why should anybody who’s trying to get their own shit off the ground wanna help you (me)?”  Well, in my opinion, it’s because that’s the only way that independent projects can get made in an age where the traditional methods of distributing art has become less and less profitable.  We live in a time where films/music/name-the-media are being stolen and then shared without being paid for, which makes it harder to prove that your project can make money for it’s investors.  In the case of films, the model for making small ones has changed.  Or at least, it’s evolving. If you want to make YOUR film, your already small film has to become even smaller and in many cases, you have to self-finance (which I feel is fair.  It is YOUR film afterall). But perhaps, collective financing is the most sustainable way to make the most amount of films. What I mean by this, is that if a group of people are dedicated to pitching in with each other’s projects, it can be done painlessly and often.  For instance, I would personally find it difficult to come up with $50,000 even one time in my life, but I will, most likely, be able to come up with $5, ten thousand different times in my life (if I was able to come up with five bucks on 292 days of 365 for the next 35 years).  So, in theory, with a large enough community of people willing to come up with 5 bucks, it’s not unreasonable to think that, as a group, we could help finance 10,000 films over the next 35 years (but would financing only 100 be any less impressive?  Can you believe I just wrote “only 100″? )

Everyone who has ever tried to get a film made has heard the line “what’s your pitch?” and then been on the sweaty countdown, stumbling through their prepackaged logline, pumping out bullshit stats, hoping the person that they’re pitching to hasn’t already stopped listening. They leave the meeting kicking themselves, feeling like a loser and muttering things like”I should have said this! I should have said THAT!  Oh, how could I forget to mention that tertiary market!” Well…imagine if the stakes weren’t that high?  If instead of the absolute life and death of your project, you were only looking for five bucks?  If someone was pitching to you, would you even care if the idea was good, if all they wanted was five bucks?

Look, I’m well aware that I’m tiptoeing awfully close to being a little too idealistic and perhaps getting close to oversimplifying and cheesifying* what was actually a reasonable point of view.  But my feeling is, that when you contribute to someone’s project, you’re investing in that person, not necessarily in the project they are doing. Most of my friends are brilliant.  MOST of my friends have ideas.  Good?  Not always, but because they are my friends, I wanna see them succeed. By building a network that supports one another, a little bit at a time, EVERYONE’S project can happen.

And to give my friend a little credit, he did also say that he’d “…definitely spread it around, ‘cuz it’s YOU.”   So perhaps, to some degree, we actually see eye to eye.

But, at the end of the day, I think that when the original question was asked, I had to think hard about it, mainly because of the word “should”.  Why “should” people help other people like me?  My feeling, is that the word “should” implies some sort of duty and this is probably the part of the collective funding process that puts some folks on the defensive.  Like they’re being told that they HAVE TO do something, just because they’re being asked.  I do tend to agree with that a little, but only in the way that you’ve been asked by a  friend to help them move.  If you’re just watching TV, or hanging at the beach, you gotta be there, whether or not you want to be.  However, if the timing’s not right, if your back hurts or you have to work- then the person asking you for the favour, has to be willing to give you a full pass.

So I guess my actual answer to the question is:

“I don’t know why you should.  I don’t know IF you should.  But do you wanna? If not, cool.  I’ll ask someone else.”

*the act of making something cheesy

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