After working for the biggest studios in Hollywood, Marc Hofstatter decided to be a part of Indiegogo, the first and market-leading crowdfunding platform to help spread the word about the hottest financing model of the current film biz. We talk about exceptional projects, Indiegogo’s international presence and about how short films benefit their filmmakers.
How does someone get to be the Head of Film department at Indiegogo?
I’ve been at Indiegogo for the last 8 months. Initially I started to work in independent film at Bingham Ray’s October Films based in New York. Then I moved out to Los Angeles and started working at William Morris Agency (now WME) and then I was an executive at Universal Pictures and as well as at 20th Century Fox. For a couple of years after I left the studio system I worked as an independent producer and all my friends in the Hollywood industry were saying that they are looking for an alternative in financing, as the traditional model is not working anymore. Then came an opportunity to work for Indiegogo and it’s an amazing experience that I can be a part of their team.
What is your take on well-established filmmakers turning to Indiegogo?
We are welcoming them. One thing you get with Indiegogo which other crowdfunding platforms don’t have is that we are completely open. Anyone can crowdfund, from anywhere. It’s not for us to decide, it’s up to the fans. When stars like James Franco or Katherine Heigl turned to Indiegogo to crowdfund their projects, the crowd appreciated the talent, the cause it involves or even the perks they’re getting in return. People might never have the chance to attend a special premiere or to visit a film set. Now that you can be a part of that as a member of a community is actually a very big thing, because making a film isn’t easy.
What makes Indiegogo stand out from other crowdfunding platforms for film?
I would say our international presence. I myself will be travelling to Cannes with colleagues, where we will be announcing some initiatives. Indiegogo is also the oldest crowdfunding platform and we are global, having successfully funded projects from over 200 countries in the world. I also believe that we will be leading the industry in the future, because our policy is that we don’t curate projects, there is no application process and that sense of freedom gets to filmmakers, that they won’t be judged whatever their project is, only their fans will have to decide.
Do you follow the path of some projects that were funded through Indiegogo?
Yes, most certainly. We think of ourselves as sort of like a happy family and we are extremely excited to meet those filmmakers at festivals that we have or had some connections with through Indiegogo. It’s great to see them win awards with their completed films and we’re constantly encouraging them to come back. For example at Sundance this year the U. S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent went to Justin Simien for Dear White People which raised more than $40,000 through Indiegogo and we are very happy for him, especially that Lionsgate picked up the film for a release this fall. And it was his first film as a feature director!
Even though you’ve released a free “how-to” handbook online for filmmakers, in a nutshell, what really drives a successful campaign?
One thing I would recommend to everyone is definitely preparation. Most of the successful campaigns are not just up and running by chance. The creators behind it usually take lots of time and great effort to create a strategy for the campaign. Usually the funding period is more than 30 days, so you have to lay out how that time frame will work and what will happen to your campaign during that time. If you don’t, there will be lots of work on the fly and that usually doesn’t turn out well .
What is the best feature of crowdfunding that other funding options cannot provide?
First of all it’s the access to your crowd, your fans and your audience. You’ll get to know them before you even start and will know how to best cater to them. Filmmakers ultimately have a vision for their film, be it a short or a feature or a doc. But they also want to have an audience through which they can find out that this may not be the right project or there is something along the way that could make it even better. So crowdfunding is a great way to get preliminary feedback from your audience. And then you have this whole pool of backers who say to themselves “I have invested time and money into this project, so it’s in my interest to tell people about it”. I always tell the story when I was a PA on Ali with Will Smith and I literally told all my friends to go see this movie, my name is on the credits. So I got 10 people to go see it. It’s the same idea with crowdfunding. Even if your name is not on the credits and you just got a t-shirt for your contribution, you’re still able to tell people: “This film happened because of me, go see it.” So that empowers the crowd and not just the filmmakers and that is the most important element of crowdfunding.
What is your take on short films in regards of Indiegogo?
Actually a huge chunk of film campaigns are for shorts. Young talents, independent filmmakers and especially students turn to us more and more. We have AFI as a new partner and they have a Women’s Directing Workshop that will be funded exclusively through Indiegogo. I think shorts directors are turning to us because in a short you can be so different, so creative. When you go make a feature, there are certain limitations of how crazy you can get, because the budgets are higher. When you go make a $5000 short you can go somewhere really crazy artistically. While when you’re making a 5 million dollar or let alone a half million dollar film, you have to be a little more cautious. Creators of shorts now are able to take chances like they never could before and reach fans that they could never reach before.
How does the Film department work at Indiegogo?
We have a small, but strong team. We’re generally travelling to film festivals to meet filmmakers, to attend panels and we’re building partnerships with strong organizations that reach out to independent filmmakers. For example the IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) in New York is a new partner of ours. Not just in the U.S., but internationally, filmmakers are using crowdfunding more and more and it is our job to educate them on how to do so, so they can be able to fund what matters to them.
You can find the interview in the Cannes 2014 issue of World of Shorts, here: