The Self Production Series with Anna Nicholas: #4 Paying for it (Part 2)…

#4. Paying for it  (Part 2) – You’re on Your Own  (Read Part 1 Here)

by Guest Blogger Anna Nicholas

When I lost the theatre company as a potential financial partner, it fell to me to raise the money for my play. And as I faced that daunting prospect, I again turned to people who’d self-produced before me. Some had trust funds or wealthy spouses—I didn’t; some were ex TV writers with big bank accounts—ditto; an actuary friend financed his show by calculating life expectancies—who knew? Most, however, used some combination of their own money, loans and crowdfunding (Kickstarter, etc.).

Eight to ten months from opening, my plan was to sell my house and use some of the profit to pay for the show while also creating a kickass Kickstarter campaign in the hope that all my friends would give me $20-50 and I’d raise $15,000. After all, I reasoned, whenever I get hit up, I give at least that. But as things turned out, by the time I parted ways with the company, it was too late to put together (what I thought would be) a quality campaign, considering all the producing and rewriting I was doing.

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on crowdfunding: You can be successful but it’s no longer a new idea and may have even lost some of its appeal. If you’re going to do it, you need to develop your campaign so it attracts investors you don’t know as well as those you do. Running a crowdfunding campaign is like having another project instead of being an easy means to an end. It takes a lot of time. You need to have compelling pictures, text that “grabs the reader”, video and enticing giveaways for donors. Then you need to publicize the crap out of it, while continually adding updates. You need to get people excited about being part of your project enough to donate and ask them to forward the links so others can, all with the hope of going large with fundraising.

There are now hundreds of crowdfunding sites so start by sifting through them to see if there’s a perfect fit for your project. I won’t list all the possibilities; just Google “great crowdfunding sites” and you’ll get there. Regardless of how many options there are, however, most people end up on Kickstarter, Indie-Go-Go or Hatchfund. There are differences so read the fine print. For example, Hatchfund likes to say the artist keeps the entire donation but what they do is add a fee to the donor. To me this feels like a trick. It’s not cool if your friend intended his total give to be $20 and now he has to do some math in order to keep it there. Kickstarter and Hatchfund need you to make your entire stated amount before they release funds while Indie-Go-Go lets you keep what’s been donated even if you don’t make your nut (though they’ll take a larger fee for your right to do so). Depending on how much money you need, it might be better to go to a few individuals and say, “Hey, I’m trying to raise some money for my show. Would you possibly give me $100 and I’ll give you 4 tickets to opening night?”

In my case I just didn’t have any hours left to flog the crowdfunding endeavor, particularly since I was so late in starting. In retrospect I should not have counted on things working out with the theatre company and developed the campaign. But when that fell through about 9 weeks before opening, I had to scramble and there just wasn’t time. Had I found a volunteer to take over the task, I might have proceeded as well.

So in the end, it was the house sale that came through. Of course I would have preferred to use other peoples’ money. When something is not likely to make its money back, one should always risk somebody else’s money. But I didn’t have that privilege and I’d grown tired of waiting for my mystery benefactor or that angel artistic director to appear. And seriously, at my age (55) and a woman? The chances of that happening were about as likely as being offered the casting couch. There aren’t many “emerging” playwrights my age, unless you want to define “emerging” as people nobody knows finally popping their heads out of the sand. So, like the lioness Theresa Rebeck and many others before me, I needed to be my biggest fan and self-produce my own work. Put your money where your mouth is, right?

Next up: The Budget and Trying Not to Break it

2 Comments

  • By Diane Grant, January 22, 2015 @ 6:03 pm

    Am really loving every one of these posts and can’t wait for the next one. I too figured out that no one was going to become my standard bearer. But I’m not roaring loud enough yet!

  • By Andie, January 30, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

    Great post, Anna. It’s always a struggle getting work of the ground. It’s a brave thing to go “all in.” Thanks for sharing.

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