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
Barry Walsh is editor-in-chief and content director for Realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to Realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.