Crowd-Funding Animated Shorts

The Pig Farmer

The crowd-funding path for short filmmakers is finally gaining traction, and established animation filmmakers have begun experimenting with the concept. Throughout the years, various filmmakers have toyed with the idea of funding their films in this fashion, mostly by soliciting Paypal donations, but the gamechanger has been new websites that are dedicated solely to facilitating crowd-funded projects. The two most prominent sites being used by animators right now are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. There is a difference between the sites: IndieGoGo’s fundraising period continues indefinitely, whereas Kickstarter has a 90-day fundraising period and if the artist doesn’t meet their monetary goal, all the money is returned to the donors.

Last month on Cartoon Brew, I linked for the first time to a crowd-funded project, The Future. Expect to see us doing a lot more of this; crowd-funding is a major development in how animated shorts will be made in the years to come. Right now, I anticipate the concept will work most successfully for filmmakers with a proven track record, like Nick Cross, who set up a page on IndieGoGo last week to fund his next short The Pig Farmer. That’s because Nick has already made numerous animated shorts over the past few years (The Waif of Persephone and Yellow Cake among them) and all of them without any outside funding. Backers of his project will feel confident that they are investing in a name brand who can get the job done.

There’s also the stop-motion short Line by Justin and Shel Wagner Rasch. They’re asking for $2500 and are already halfway there. The Raschs have two things working in their favor. First, they’ve already posted an animated clip from the film that gives funders a clear sense of the type of work they’re helping them produce:

Additionally, they’re offering unique perks for funders at different levels, including actual puppets used in the film and a chance to attend the music recording sessions. As crowd-funding takes off, it’ll be fun to see the creative goodies that different filmmakers will offer their fans.

Sites like IndieGogo and Kickstarter are already filled with amateur looking projects whose creators are asking for tens of thousands of dollars. Most of those projects understandably have raised only a few bucks at most. On the other hand, I think it bears pointing out that the Raschs and Cross are obviously spending more money on their films than they’re asking for. At this nascent stage, modesty isn’t a bad plan. Crowd-funding is in its infancy, a natural by-product of the growing intimacy between artists and their audience. The most successful filmmakers of the future will be those who grasp the increasingly intertwined relationship between creator and consumer, and recognize how best to take advantage of this new connectedness.

Addendum: After I wrote this piece yesterday, I caught up with my blog reader and noticed that Aaron Simpson at Cold Hard Flash has also written a piece about crowd-funding. It appears that we were both spurred to action by the news of Nick Cross’s project, and we mention a few of the same projects. Aaron doesn’t appear to view this with quite the same perspective as I do though. He writes that, “This method seems like no more than a sophisticated version of the ol’ Paypal ‘donate’ button.” While it’s certainly true that filmmakers have tried soliciting funding like this before, the idea has never taken off in a widespread way because of the lack of a standardized process. Sites like IndieGoGo and KickStarters aim to do for film funding what YouTube did for online video: standardize the process, and this will eventually lead to the normalization of viewers directly sponsoring the content they want to see. That’s a great thing for both creators and consumers.


  • http://joelbrinkerhoff.blogspot.com/ Joel Brinkerhoff

    This is a pretty exciting concept. Justin’s film “Gerald’s Last Day” was a great mix of pathos and humor and won many deserved awards. This new film I believe is stereoscopic. I wish them well.

  • SpitAndSpite

    It’ll be interesting to see what sort of incentives filmmakers decide to go with to get someone to shell out some cash. I’m assuming shirts and such for the digital artists no? Maybe original concept sketches…

    I also agree that having some sort of a site where it’s not just one guy hitting you up for cash based on his blog posts add a whole new level of legitimacy to the process of independent funding.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  • http://www.ryanmcculloch.com Ryan McCulloch

    Yeah, Justin & Shel’s ‘Line’ is going to kick **s in 3D! I agree that the perks they’re offering are a great incentive.

  • http://www.canadiananimationresources.ca Mike Valiquette

    Hey Amid. I posted yesterday about this too on http://www.canadiananimationresources.ca . I’m currently making my first short and signed up on IndieGogo a month or two ago, but did a funding push in the last day or so and was blown away by the response. I’m not asking for a lot of money, certainly not enough to actually pay the whole cost of my film, but more of a supplement to my income so I can dedicate more time to working on it, and, like Nick, maybe not take on other jobs that will get in the way of the film work. In the last twenty four hours I’ve had an amazing show of support from friends and family and have almost reached my funding goal. I think you’re right as far as not asking for two much cash. These sites will work for smaller projects. When you get into bigger films, woth bigger budgets, I don’t know if it makes financial sense. When you pay them 9% of your funding, it doesn’t hurt too much at 2 or 5 grand, but any higher and you’ll feel the pinch. I’m lucky to have such supportive friends. Nick has the advantage of a proven track record and a small fan base. Someone like Bill Plympton could conceivable do well on something like this as well, but that 9% might reduce its value to him. If they were to scale their cut on higher budget projects that might make it more effective a tool.

  • http://www.stick-t-notes.blogspot.com/ Tanya

    This is such an awesome idea. Animated shorts need this sort of platform especially, but it’s also a great thing for artists in general. I’m excited to see this continue to take off.

  • http://paperproj.blogspot.com/ Kyri

    Hi Amid, this is great, thanks for letting everyone know! I had no idea these portals existed. Crowd funding sounds like it could be brilliant for charity-orientated projects too.

  • Joe

    These are great new tools for the independant filmmaker and can be successfull within reasonable expectation. Animator M Dot Strange was able to fund a music studio for his film through Kickstarter.

  • squirrel

    This is……. actually a good idea! I am thinking of doing a new short myself (haven’t done something more than a minute in 4 years), but I’m only just thinking it over in my head at the moment.

  • http://www.toonhole.com Chris Allison

    That “Line” film looks AMAZING. Great job gang!

    And also always look forward to Nick Cross productions. You rule, Nick!

  • http://www.justinrasch.blogspot.com justin rasch

    Wow!

    we got coverage on the Brew!! Ha!

    Indiegogo has definitely been a cool platform for raising funds…..

    Its a great way to organize and keep all your friends and contributors in the loop on the films progress…plus the concept of offering up STUFF….for peoples donations is awesome.

    also….we have alot of shots up from the film in the…Gallery section and we cover the films progress on our blog…

    http://www.justinrasch.blogspot.com

    check em out.

    justin – jriggity

  • http://www.daxnorman.com Dax Norman

    Thanks for posting this, Amid. What an interesting prospect.

  • http://dltad.blogspot.com A.M.Bush

    I’m looking forward to both “Line” and the “Pig farmer” both look like they’re going to be great animated films. That being said, I went over to Indiegogo to take a look at some other animation projects, and found a real comedy goldmine.

  • http://www.thekindyoudonttakehometomother.com Ryan Estrada

    The animated feature, The Kind You Don’t Take Home to Mother, is doing a similar thing, but in a new way… folks can pay to have themselves drawn into the movie, and help raise the budget to get it made! http://www.thekindyoudonttakehometomother.com/beastar.html

  • http://metcalflovesyou.com Arthur

    It’s an interesting idea but when I ask myself would I ever pay an animator to make a film the answer is no. If the piece deserves money, it’ll get it when fans buy DVD’s, it gets distribution (it happens, just not in the states) or an online outlet pays for it (once again, it actually does happen). It’s a nice bonus and I wouldn’t grudge anyone the attempt, but unless you’re giving something beyond the film back to the funders like production artwork, it seems kind of shady and at that point, why not just sell the production artwork and bypass these middlemen?

  • ZN

    So, Arthur, you want them to produce an egg first before they can acquire a chicken?

    And what online outlet pays for animation anymore? This is the Youtube era, not the Icebox era. If there was a reliable business model for animation delivered online, this news post wouldn’t exist. This could possibly BECOME the reliable business model.

    There’s not much hoodwinking that goes on with Kickstarter. People see through the flakes. The people who promise free hugs with donations don’t get funded, if any donations at all. All of the successful KS projects practically give away everything involved with the production so as to pretty much eliminate any shadow of doubt.

  • http://metcalflovesyou.com Arthur

    Most do produce the egg and feed the chicken afterward. Youtube pays for films both directly and through revenue sharing. My objection to the donation model is basically that if the piece is worth the money you toss to the filmmaker to fund the project, that filmmaker is likely to make money selling it. There’s no requirement that the piece be Creative Commons released is there?

  • sporridge

    Rock bands are taking “crowd funding” out for a spin, too. After reading this turn o’ the business plan, I scooted over to the e-mail and found this link from The Damnwells:

    http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/90

  • tobor68

    hi,

    if people are looking to learn more about the next wave of indie film making they should goto powertothepixel.com. subscribe to their podcast which is clips of filmmakers talking about their experiences crowdsourcing their films. (nina paley talks about funding her film).

    it’s a great resource and the founders of IndieGoGo talk about their business model. very inspirational.

    it’s lit the fire under my ass to get a film together. expect to hear more from me this year!!

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/20933.html Niffiwan

    For another example, see the link that my username goes to.

    The wonderful director Aleksandr Bubnov has been trying to raise $70,000 to finish the second Sherlock Holmes cartoon. He’s using a far more primitive method than those two websites, but still got over 300 people to promise $100 each and 61 to actually pay so far. This is without any advertising in the English-speaking world (he doesn’t speak English himself, so it’s difficult to make the jump. I translated the official website of the project into English a few months ago, but it hasn’t been put up yet – I guess he doesn’t hold much hope that the English-speaking audience will be interested).

    Unfortunately, the most recent post on his LiveJournal blog is rather pessimistic. His money’s running out – he had to close the studio and let his team go, and only has money for the animatic and renting his apartment. He’s working alone now, and his health is failing because of spending half the day working in front of the computer. And it would be a real shame if he were unable to finish it, because this guy is absolutely brilliant.

  • http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/29124.html Niffiwan

    Ok, I’ve made a new post about the film (click on my username to go to it), including a translation of the first part of the screenplay.

  • Cripplestsack

    It’s funny how that dog needs to look at a screen to figure out his spacecraft is damaged.

  • Nick A

    I just heard that someone from the Pirate Bay has had a similar idea and named it Flattr

    http://flattr.com/beta/

    Their take on it is that you split a nominated amount of money to people you wish to donate to each month.

  • http://rauchbrothers.com Mike Rauch

    This is without a doubt going to be a growing trend, and is a totally legit way for indie filmmakers to get their projects off the ground.

    One benefit these new sites have over Paypal donations is that they offer access to a group of people interested in funding projects (much the way Etsy does for its sellers). There are several other things that make Kickstarter and the like game-changers to take notice of, but I don’t have the time to go into them here You’re really missing the boat if you think these are “no more than a sophisticated version of the ol’ Paypal ‘donate’ button.”

    There are plenty of very amateur-looking projects on Kickstarter, but there also several professional artists, filmmakers, etc who are funding projects there. It’s a mistake to write this off.

  • http://ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com Elizabeth Barrette

    I’m delighted to hear that the animation field is picking up on crowdfunding. I am keenly interested in this emerging business model, and I would love to see more posts on how crowdfunding works for animation. I’ve seen it work for the movie “Sita Sings the Blues” (my partner and I donated to that one) and I’m looking forward to watching what happens next.

    Animators and other folks interested in crowdfunding are welcome to drop by the LiveJournal community Crowdfunding:
    http://community.livejournal.com/crowdfunding/
    This is a place for writers, artists, other creative folks, and patrons of the arts to discuss favorite projects and how crowdfunding works. Voting is currently open for the Rose and Bay Awards, which honor excellence in crowdfunding projects and patrons:
    http://community.livejournal.com/crowdfunding/154110.html
    I don’t think we got any animation nominees this year, but maybe some of you folks will drop by next January and give us some.

  • mrscriblam

    i absolutely love this idea

    when i start making my own short films this is how i want to fund them

  • http://yetanotherstrugglingwriter.blogspot.com Luci Temple

    There’s quite a few crowdfunding options available, whether you use a platform such as IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, Rockethub, or FeedTheMuse, or set up your own payment system – and not just on small projects.

    Arthur : most crowdfunding is an exchange of goods – whether it’s film presales, merchandising, or membership with special benefits. Check out The Cosmonaut, My Million Dollar Movie, Biracy, Fandom, Putty Hill, and The Age of Stupid as examples (all profiled on my blog as examples).

    The point is, some great content would never get made if it were left up to a few conservative gatekeepers, but the fans can greenlight something by becoming involved early on. You don’t have to be one of these people, but there are many people out there who do want to be part of this new movement. Me for one!