Fair Trade Filmmaking: Seed&Spark
Above: Still from Like the Water
Editor’s Note: It seems that every week brings new developments in the evolving world of crowdfunding and distribution. In keeping with our ongoing effort to inform the Future of Film community about new platforms, Seed&Spark caught our eye with its commitment to filmmakers and community-building during all stages of production. Founder Emily Best fills us in.
On December 1, we will launch Seed&Spark to correct a fundamental misconception of the film business: raising money is not the hardest part of making a film. The hardest part is getting anyone to see it when it’s finished.
As filmmakers, we’re usually so preoccupied with getting a film made we forget to think about getting it watched, which is why it’s crucial to use the fundraising process as a powerful audience-building tool. Taking that further, we believe you should also be able to deliver that content directly to your community and keep the lion’s share of the revenue. Seed&Spark will give hardworking filmmakers and engaged audiences a chance to connect via truly independent, Fair Trade Filmmaking.
Building a Community of Support
During production on my first feature as a producer last year, Like the Water, we found ourselves $20,000 short of our budget, just two months before the shoot. We put our heads together: how could we creatively pitch potential investors? Crowdfunding was just starting to take off, but we needed to find a more accessible way to appeal to friends and family outside the industry.
We made a list of everything we needed, and used it to build a “Wishlist” wedding-type registry on our film’s webpage. Listing everything from the camera rental to the bug spray, we added a payment link and sent it to everyone we knew. By opening up our process and exposing all the production details, we let our audience members decide exactly how they wanted to help. For some it was money—we raised $23,000 in 30 days—and for others it was goods, locations, services, or social networking.
Since then, those supporters have become dedicated followers who are invested in our film. Because they each know how they personally contributed to the project, the finished film is not just our movie; it’s theirs, too. Thanks to them spreading the word, our community has grown rapidly from the start.
This experience sparked an idea: building an audience doesn’t have to be an afterthought. In fact, it should be part of the process, from pitch to premiere. As a platform, Seed&Spark offers the most comprehensive offering for indie film to date: an audience-building tool for independent filmmakers and a place for film enthusiasts to develop and watch movies.
How does it work?
1. Filmmakers get a robust project page designed to support the film and build audiences through the entire life cycle of the film.
2. On this page, they can raise money using the Wishlist; recruit for necessary cast and crew; blog to keep the community updated; and gather all the supporters and followers together on one Community page.
3. When a film is ready to launch, filmmakers can stream it on Seed&Spark directly to the community of funders and followers they have been building, and keep 80% of the revenue.
4. Shorts will stream for $0.99 and features for $2.99. Fundraising supporters will earn “Sparks” for funding, following, and sharing projects; these rewards points can be redeemed to watch movies on the streaming platform.
Given our mission to encourage the telling of more, different kinds of stories, the projects launching with Seed&Spark represent the breadth of what’s possible. On the fundraising side, there are already a number of films launching with us on December 1. In addition, the distribution platform has already attracted award-winning shorts and wonderful, truly indie features; these are finished films ready to connect with audiences.
Shorts launching December 1 include:
BOMB, directed by Ian Olds and starring Oscar winner Melissa Leo (Sundance, 2007)
The Black Balloon (Sundance award winner, 2011)
Cafe Regular Cairo (Tribeca award winner, 2012)
Tick Tock Time Emporium (Sarasota award winner, 2012)
The features for whom Seed&Spark will be the first release platform include:
The Sound of Small Things by Peter McLarnan, which premiered at Slamdance 2012. This film was made for $20,000 and shows everything that’s possible on a low budget.
Percival’s Big Night, which premiered at Raindance, was made by 4 NYU students who took an idea from a play and made a feature film—essentially filmed in one shot.
We expect Seed&Spark’s Fair Trade Filmmaking approach to spark more story ideas from both sides—the filmmakers and the audience—and thereby seed a broader range of films that people are eager to support and watch. Audiences are smart, and given the chance, they will support the quirky, the risky and most of all, the passionate.