Be Free Where You Are: Crowdfunding Indie Films

Guest Blogger Emily Best is CEO and founder of Seed&Spark, a film-centric crowdfunding platform that uses a fair trade model to produce the best films with the most receptive audiences. Originally published at Seed&Spark.

Be Free Where You Are - Pyragraph

We’ve always been about eating our own dog food. We started Seed&Spark—a crowdfunding and streaming distribution platform for film—as filmmakers who wanted a better future in which to make moving pictures. (In a future post, I’ll tell you about how making Like the Water, a feature film with all female leads both in front and behind the camera, set all this in motion.)

Six months after launching, we raised money on our own platform to improve the streaming cinema experience, improve the UI, and unbeknownst to us at the time, to start Bright Ideas Magazine. From our own experiences crowdfunding indie films and everything we’ve learned from our incredible filmmakers so far, we put together best practices and started teaching them.

Then one day, we were sitting with our friends from Tugg—a platform for crowdsourcing your theatrical release—and we discovered that they teach filmmakers who are looking to use their tools for theatrical distribution almost an identical set of skills. We realized that together, we could help filmmakers utilize the tools we’ve built to maintain maximum control over both the creative AND the distribution.

It doesn’t only have to be New York and Los Angeles that loom large in our cinematic vocabulary.

After we announced last month that we had combined forces to educate filmmakers on tools for building independence, the incredible women at Picture Motion chipped in on the best practices for filmmakers to build relationships with big organizations and nonprofits. Combined, it’s a pretty killer handbook on Crowdfunding to Build Independence—which we also now teach as a workshop.

In these classes, we encourage filmmakers to seek out opportunities to go and meet their audiences in person, to pursue regional film festivals with the same fervor as Sundance. How else will you find out how audiences in Birmingham, Phoenix, Minneapolis, New Haven, Seattle, Ft. Worth or Albuquerque feel about your film or connect with you as an artist? How will you know what people like and what they don’t?

There are so many examples (here’s one) of how when artists have decided to collaborate with their audiences, they make films that better serve those audiences. (And their audiences better serve them as evangelists!)

And then we realized: as a company, we need to go and hear from OUR audience—our filmmakers. Ideally, we can build tools powerful enough to help filmmakers build sustainable careers right in their hometowns. For us, success is the ability for a filmmaker in Albuquerque to make a film, connect with her audience, leverage the Seed&Spark community to spread the word across the country and make money for herself, her family, and her creative community, right where she prefers to live.

Stay Indie Tour - Pyragraph

The truth is, right now, you may not be able to make enough money just on indie films to live in NYC or LA. But why should you have to?

When we as a company got together to say, “Okay, what are we doing this for?” we came to this: We’ll consider Seed&Spark successful when we can say we were part of the movement to grow the creative middle class—when artists connect meaningfully with their audiences and can make meaningful returns from their work. It’s not about getting rich and famous. It’s about getting paid a fair wage for doing what you love—which also happens to be an important cultural service.

Empowering filmmakers right where they are will bring more and different stories to the screen. It doesn’t only have to be New York and Los Angeles that loom large in our cinematic vocabulary. And that means more than just the coastal perspective, more than just the city perspective comes to the screen and has the potential to reach a wider audience.

Or so we think. So we’re hitting the road. 30 cities in 60 days, mostly by car. (Yes, there will be lots of Hyperlapse from the road.)

We’ll teach filmmakers how to use the tools available to them to build independent, powerful relationships with their audiences. Hopefully, you’ll teach us about how YOU would like to be able to make work where you are. Or, if your dream is to make it to NY or LA, maybe we can help with that, too. We know what that feels like. In fact, we’ll be interviewing the heads of film organizations, filmmakers and film lovers in each city to find out just exactly what “independence” means to each of you. We hope to understand how to build better tools to serve you to be free where you are.

Pyragraph is co-hosting Seed&Spark’s Crowdfunding to Build Independence workshop in Albuquerque, NM on October 22. The event is free but you need to register; register here.

Images courtesy of Emily Best.

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