Digital

Crowdfunding 101: “The Ghost Army”

Concluding realscreen's series of crowdfunding case studies, we look at Rick Beyer's doc The Ghost Army (pictured), which Kickstarted its way to a PBS premiere.
June 4, 2013

Concluding realscreen‘s series of crowdfunding case studies, we look at Rick Beyer’s doc The Ghost Army (pictured), which Kickstarted its way to a PBS premiere.

The project: The Ghost Army
The funding goal: $18,000
Amount raised: $21,303
Kickstarter backers: 153
Key takeaway: Embrace the idea of “never-ending” outreach

In 1944, the U.S. Army handpicked a group of artists to create a traveling roadshow of deception on the battlefields of France using inflatable tanks, sound effects and all manner of trickery.

Intrigued by the story and with the files now declassified, Lexington, Massachusetts-based director Rick Beyer began researching, amassing artwork and interviewing the surviving veterans. He cut together a teaser and pitched the idea to networks.

They passed. Undeterred, he decided to go it alone. “I had never made an independent fi lm before so it was a question of how do I raise money?” says Beyer, who’d previously worked on commissioned films for nets such as History, A&E and National Geographic Channel. “The best way for me was to do it though individual donations. Eight years later, I have more than 650 people who have donated to the film.”

Beyer began throwing fundraising parties, inviting 20 to 50 people to listen to his pitch and then built on word-of-mouth momentum.

Although the campaign was successful, by 2011 he was running on fumes. In order to turn the fine cut of The Ghost Army – which premiered on PBS on May 21 – into a final cut, he turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise $18,000 to pay for hi-res archive footage and ultimately create a higher-quality looking cut to shop around.

The campaign succeeded because he had already spent the previous six years fostering a community of donors through email, social media and PR outreach.

“The key to crowdfunding is embracing the idea of never-ending networking and outreach,” says Beyer. “This effort should start long before your Kickstarter campaign kicks off. And it will pay dividends long after your Kickstarter campaign is done.”

“People’s attention spans are short,” he adds. “I would post the name of every donor on Facebook the day they donate. We did this on an online fundraising campaign conducted at the end of last year, and it was very effective. People like the idea that you are celebrating their generosity, and other people see the names of friends and realize they need to get with it.”

 

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.

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