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Monday, January 14, 2008

IndieGoGo: A Social Network for Filmmakers Raising Money (and Their Backers)

Almost a year ago, I wrote about IndieGoGo in Variety, as part of a new wave of efforts to use the Internet for film financing. (Back then, the site was still mostly a concept, and it was called Project Keiyaku.)

Now, the site has officially launched.

I do want to see someone succeed, and create a networking hub where filmmakers can raise money. But I think filmmakers and financiers are right to be skeptical... you can see some of the debate about the model on this earlier post about IndieMaverick, a UK-based financing site. (One thing that would make me more comfortable with IndieGoGo would be an actual address, and names listed on the site of who is behind it. I know the principals, and that they're based in Berkeley, Calif., but I'm not a filmmaker or financier coming to the site for the first time...) What will it take for someone to succeed? A well-known filmmaker successfully using one of the sites to raise money for a project.

From IndieGoGo's official press release:

    “DIY has been long the mantra of independent filmmaking and financing. At IndieGoGo, we push that to the next level with DIWO, “Do It With Others” which more accurately reflects the active communal process required to launch film projects”, said Slava Rubin, IndieGoGo Founder and Chief of Strategy and Marketing. “Using the tools IndieGoGo offers, we aim to empower artists to realize their goals and bring more relevant films to the people. Online fundraising is accelerating, the cost of production is falling, social networking is approaching mainstream, and user-controlled media is the future. As these trends accelerate, IndieGoGo offers a new marketplace to turn ideas into film, and fans into insiders.”

    ...In its pre-launch phase, IndieGoGo sought developmental feedback from a wide range of filmmakers and industry leaders. FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER, directed by Irena Salina and produced by Steven Starr, was selected by IndieGoGo to be its first Showcase project and was subsequently selected to World Premiere in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Other noted filmmakers planning to include projects on the site include Christopher Roberts (THE BELIEVER), Lance Weiler (THE LAST BROADCAST, HEAD TRAUMA), Michael Roiff (WAITRESS, AMERICAN SON), M dot Strange (WE ARE THE STRANGE), Michealene Cristini Risley (TAPESTRIES OF HOPE), Brett Gaylor (BASEMENT TAPES), Beth Murphy (BEYOND BELIEF), and Yung Chang (UP THE YANGTZE) which is also featured in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

    ...Slava Rubin will represent IndieGoGo on the GOING IT ALONE: DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION FOR INDIE FILMMAKERS panel at the Sundance Film Festival on Wednesday, January 23, 12:30 pm at the New Frontier on Main Microcinema.

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  • The biggest investment is $155 on both sites. Good idea, but it needs something a distributor.

    By Blogger GB, at 12:59 PM  

  • i like the indiemaverick idea of pledging, but man what a cheap looking site. it looks like crap.

    once an elegant, user-friendly system is designed to join potential investors and filmmakers, this process will get started. and then it will take a breakout hit for the process to really take off.

    i don't know that it needs to be a well-known filmmaker. that would help if the film was a hit, but could backfire if it flops.

    but if another blair witch emerges from a site like that and thousands of people get 200% on their dollar? then let the investing begin.

    what would be another nice development would be to see packaging - how 'bout investing in a slate of films? get some investment funds going. one of these sites needs to get with the expertise of hsx.

    of course then we'd have to have our irrational exuberance phase, our bubble-burst event horizon, the subsequent depression of the film stocks... :)

    By Blogger deepstructure, at 2:01 PM  

  • I totally agree with the slate of films idea and a slicker more user friendly site would be good. HSX won't post our film till we have a distributor. Maybe we need a HSX for indies first?

    By Blogger GB, at 9:02 PM  

  • There are other issues here other than the user interface and the distribution. There are issues of compliance with the each person who puts their money down, and what that invest translates into. i think if you look at all other companies trying to do this ie: you will find that there are serious issues regarding once the money is it is managed, and what happens if the filmmaker decides to go on a vacation in Cuba with your money. Another issue is ranking the projects in development for the users. Most people have no idea about a film asking for 500k that has a 30 day shooting schedule. This of course is likely to be a garbage film, but the investor does not know this.

    These are just a couple of ideas that need to be rectified before this type of system is launched and works.

    I know this because we keep pulling back on our own project once a new one comes out and we are able to see the flaws in the system.

    BTW which was developed by Max Keiser of is not an active market...merely a prediction market and database for studios to monitor based on the game you play online.

    Hey...I'm looking for a good developer in LAMP to help me now with my project so heads up there if you know people.


    By Blogger David Geertz, at 11:06 PM  

  • Maybe I'm missing something from the IndieGoGo site, but what is the incentive for average people to get involved? I've read through all that I could find in their FAQ and "how it works" sections but see nothing that makes me believe that someone's dollars put into a movie are anything more than a donation.

    Also, 45 days to fund a film?! Are you kidding me? If people had their ducks in a row enough to find investors/fans in 45 days, they wouldn't need a website to help them.

    I see lots of "rate this" or "endorse this" kind of invitations for people to get involved, but I question whether the average moviegoer really wants to be that involved in an unknown project. Something like worked because it was a social site with an interaction component that had value for individuals posting/committing their time on it. How does this translate on IndieGoGo?

    My impression of IndieGoGo is that it's trying to be something of a "myspace" for the niche of independent film. Without a huge amount of marketing behind it to get known, how will they find enough users to even make it interesting?


    By Blogger Steve, at 2:29 AM  

  • The patented business method (U.S. Patent # 6,792,411) uses a NASDAQ Small cap combined with Direct Registration (used for Employee Stock plans) for an IPO on the Internet (also called a DPO). The CinemaShares NASDAQ Small Cap IPO essentially replaces the typical LLC formed for most movie companies and gives a liquidity to all equity investors in a movie not found in an LLC. While our business model does have a class of stock for movie fans ($20 preferred shares that offer a DVD dividend), there is also the $4 common stock for large equity participants such as studios, foreign distributors, etc. While the fan component DOES build a large community of online movie fans, it is not necessary to sell all of the shares to fans. Furthermore, the traditional market makers do not want the preferred shares but want common stock to trade (and short themselves!)
    The CinemaShares Business Method, having been approved in principle by the SEC through years of work with top securities attorneys in the U.S., is designed for films with a budget of at least $10 million, but films with budgets of $20 to $30 million would work better, due to the need to assemble a package exciting enough to attract purchasers of the shares. An especially workable model would be one where the overall budget raised is from $25 to $50 million with at least $15 million allocated to Prints and Advertising expenses. There is also the cost of the offering to consider, which would be at least $200 to $300k, but we do eliminate the traditional loan and the interest payments!
    The concept also works best with a particular affinity group and's first film is on the Life of Dr. David Livingstone the famous African missionary. It is a film designed to appeal to Christian moviegoers. Our business method is designed for LICENSING to filmmakers, with a $500k fee to raise the needed funds, refundable if the offering is not fully subscribed.

    More information can be obtained on the Web site under "Corporate Info"
    All the best to all filmmakers out there!
    Gene Massey, Los Angeles, Ca.

    By Blogger geneoski, at 2:18 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Film Academy, at 6:30 AM  

  • Thanks CinemaTech for this post and also to all the commments. Very interesting to read. We have been a member of IndieGoGo for several months and only time will tell if it will take off. Currently we are developing a Social Network for Filmmakers at

    Film Academy

    By Blogger Film Academy, at 6:58 AM  

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