Silverdocs: Talking transmedia and crowdfunding

If you weren't able to make it to Silver Spring to take part in today's Transmedia Lab, fear not, as it'll be streaming live from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST at
June 24, 2011

While the Silverdocs Documentary Festival and Conference in Silver Spring spent the past week showcasing the best of international documentary from the past year, panel sessions at the end of the week are aiming to point the way forward in doc production and distribution.

Thursday’s “Crowdfunding Success Strategies” session, conducted by filmmaker and DocuMentors co-founder Jilann Spitzmiller, broke down the mystery behind creating a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Spitzmiller drew from her own experience raising funds for her upcoming project Still Dreaming through IndieGoGo, as well as that of other filmmakers who’ve turned to crowdfunding to finance their projects (such as Jennifer Fox, who recently raised more than US$150,000 for her doc My Reincarnation via Kickstarter).

While some filmmakers may view crowdfunding as a respite from shrinking commissions and tedious grant applications, Spitzmiller told the packed room that it is not an easy path.

The stats back her up: according to Kickstarter – which employs an “all or nothing” methodology whereby if a project doesn’t receive all of its funding goal by its deadline, “no money changes hands” – only 44% of its projects get funded.

Spitzmiller advised filmmakers to familiarize themselves with the various crowdfunding platforms available and the differences between each. But beyond the platforms and the assorted social media tools available to doc-makers to spread the word about their projects, producers and directors also need to know what to communicate.

“It’s all in identifying the mission in what you’re doing, and communicating that,” she said, adding that in her experience, she’s found that “people give money to [other] people and [their] stories, not causes and issues,” and that conveying a carefully crafted sense of urgency through your video and written pitches can go a long way towards meeting your goals. “Communicate when you need the money and why,” she advised.

In addition to crowdfunding, Silverdocs is today exploring another media buzz term with its Transmedia Lab, co-hosted by the Tribeca Film Institute. The Lab will be streamed live from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST via Those wishing to join the Twitter conversation surrounding the Lab should use the hashtags #TransmediaLab and #Silverdocs.

During the lab, six filmmakers will present their latest projects to a panel of mentors and receive real-time feedback, as well as a chance to win a US$5,000 grant. Those viewing the Lab online can send along their feedback which, combined with the input of the mentors, will help decide who wins the grant. For more information about the projects and the mentors, click here.

Silverdocs continues until June 26.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.