The introduction of crowdfunding has started an explosion of new, creative ideas and projects hitting the mainstream market. Instead of shelving that dream project due to lack of funds or support, you can now pitch your idea to the masses and get the backing you need to make it happen. That’s exactly what brother and sister team, Anthony and Claire Bueno, did when personal funding for their documentary project ran dry.
We caught up with the Bueno Productions duo to talk Kickstarter, advertising, donations and whether crowdfunding really is worth the time.
What is it Ghostbusters that has inspired you so much?
From a young age it was a film that captured the imagination. As a child you’re wowed by the effects, the ghosts and the humour. As an adult you appreciated the quality of the filmmaking from a solid story, superbly executed by the actors and director and has visual effects that not only have lasted the test of time but actually compliment the story and not take over the story. Every single scene moves the exposition of the story forward which altogether has cemented this film as a classic.
How did you get into documentary filmmaking and involved in this project in particular?
We were both at the beginning of our filmmaking careers having moved from the West Country. Anthony was still at film school and Claire was still a fledgling presenter when we were approached by Claire’s presenting mentor, Mark Baxter, who was expanding his business into documentary filmmaking. We were involved with a couple of pilot projects; he was an inspiration and we learned so much from him—he made it fun an interesting and we have to thank him for giving us our first taste in the professional environment.
We became heavily involved in making a documentary called Beware the Moon: Remembering an American Werewolf in London. An American Werewolf in London was directed by John Landis, who had also worked extensively with Dan Aykroyd. Ghostbusters has always been Anthony’s favourite film, so he asked John if Dan would participate in a documentary about Ghostbusters, he said yes and decision was made. CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters would be our next project!
What made you choose crowdfunding as a means of completing your documentary?
When we embarked on CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters, crowdfunding didn’t exist. Being based in the UK and having self-funded the project for eight years, it was a massive drain on our personal finances which ‘represented the last of the petty cash’. However within those eight years crowdfunding came into existence and became a viable and respected alternative to raising funds for artistic projects. In our eight years of production there had only been two people producing it and we literally needed the ‘tools and the talent’ to deliver a polished documentary which needed to be paid for.
You chose to launch your project on Kickstarter. Why did you feel that this particular site was a good fit for you and what should others be asking themselves when choosing a crowdfunding site?
Out of all the crowdfunding bodies, Kickstarter is the most famous and has the biggest following. Although we did look into other crowdfunding alternatives, Kickstarter was the best fit for our needs. We liked the idea of the all or nothing policy; our documentary is about Ghostbusters, so if we couldn’t raise money for film about a much loved, global brand then when could we? The commission rate would also favour us as opposed to the other crowdfunding sites.
Ultimately, embarking on Kickstarter was a big risk, but we felt that we owed it to our film to place it on the biggest platform possible and give it the best chance. We also found that the Kickstarter help guides were the most comprehensive which makes a big difference when you’re starting out.
You offer potential donors a great variety of donation options with appropriate incentives. How do you strike a balance between what’s fair, while still making sure you can reach your target?
In the beginning we didn’t know where to start, so we researched other successful documentary crowdfunding campaigns across the spectrum.
We were advised to strike a balance to provide incentives that were affordable and not create ones that would eat into the funds that were needed to make the film. The problem we had was being based in the UK, where everything is expensive, and pitching our incentives at a price range that was affordable here but also affordable for the US contributors. The exchange rate played a big part in how we priced our incentives and ultimately we had to budget on production at UK prices.
In your experience, would you say that it’s a good idea to remain transparent with regard to what donations are spent on, or is this an unnecessary overshare that could deter potential donors?
People have been kind enough to part with their hard earned cash, therefore it is imperative to be transparent and keep donators informed of progress. There also has to be a trust on their part that you are capable of fulfilling your obligations professionally. To keep anticipation we have made a conscious decision not to share everything because we have lots of wonderful surprises that we want people to enjoy when they go on a journey of watching the film.
For a project that is a retrospective ‘making of’, Ghostbusters audiences already have a definite idea of whether they want to be involved or not, so we were never concerned with potentially deterring donors.
There’s a brilliant promotional video on your page, how important do you think it is to show progress in a crowdfunded project, in terms of getting new investors and inspiring trust in existing investors?
Promotional videos are crucial. The trailer had to deliver. After eight years of making the film people needed to be assured that we could deliver a fresh, new, punchy documentary that holds a strong production value.
It was essential to record personal greeting to give us an opportunity to talk about CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters and what we intended to do if we raised the funds, so that people could see who we are, get a feel for our sincerity, hopefully gain a trust with us.
How did you go about raising awareness for your project? Was the popularity of the franchise enough or were other methods of advertising needed too?
We already had a presence online because of duration of time CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters has been in development. However, we also knew that we couldn’t just rely on that. Because we already work in the industry with our child company Premiere Scene, we know a lot of PR people who were generous enough to give us a hand by sending out press releases. Off the back of those we were approached by magazines, podcasters and TV to conduct interviews.
We were constantly thinking of new and inventive ways to reach audiences across social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which in turn brought Leigh Francis (aka Keith Lemon) and Paul Feig (director of Ghostbusters, 2016) to jump on board and support the documentary.
The crew here at printed.com are giving you a hand with all your print for the project, would you recommend partnerships for crowdfunded projects and how do you choose just the right one?
We are very excited to be working with all of you at printed.com and have been thrilled by the service to date! Having a successful crowdfunding campaign really has legitimised the project. We’ve gone from making a passion project to being enterprising filmmakers. Even though we had respect within the film industry (hence the interviews we’ve already secured), what’s really been encouraging is that it has enabled corporate organisations like yourselves to take notice of us and take us and our film seriously.
We really do recommend partnerships, but choosing the right one comes down to research. You have to weigh up what your needs are as filmmakers and how an association with both parties are relevant to each other and mutually beneficial.
Have you tested the crowdfunding waters? Share your wisdom in the comments box below! The CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters crew will be back next month, so stay tuned.