Zinn made her previous film — “Perfection,” a documentary about eating disorders — when she was in high school at Lake Braddock High School in Fairfax. She used equipment from the Fairfax Academy for Communication & the Arts and worked on almost no budget. This time, she was on her own.
So Zinn turned to crowdfunding, a new method of fundraising increasingly popular among artists, product makers and others. Internet platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter allow artists to gather donations from supporters online for specific projects.
A successful campaign, Zinn learned, requires more than just a good idea. After raising money from her friends and family, the young filmmaker needed to to find an audience likely to be interested in the topic — and likely to donate. She also needed to maintain the campaign, frequently updating the page to keep donors interested.
Her experience illustrates a common pattern in such campaigns today, said Jonathan Sandlund, industry analyst and founder of crowdfunding news site TheCrowdCafe. Generally, the first 30 percent of any campaign comes from the creator’s personal social circle. After that, he said, “it takes a lot of hustling. They’re PR machines — with social [circles], Facebook, LinkedIn — then the interest graph.”
The “interest graph” — people not personally connected with the creator, but who share an interest in the campaign — is larger group of potential donors, but is “much more difficult to activate,” Sandlund said.
Zinn set up a campaign on Indiegogo to raise the $7,000 she needed for camera and audio equipment rental, and travel expenses. Indiegogo requires artists to provide nonfinancial perks to donors in exchange for their contribution — Zinn’s project had six tiers of perks. For instance, Zinn is offering a DVD of “Perfection” for $10 and executive producing rights for $1,000.
A communications major, Zinn’s dream is to be a documentary filmmaker. She is attracted to topics she considers taboo — such as eating disorders and self-harm — and seeks to bring attention to them and their victims, she said.
“Giving them education helps them cope,” Zinn said. “I can approach this from an understanding standpoint. It’s been ignored so much, it’s been judged so much, and that’s really harmful.”
Zinn said she could have applied for a grant, but she wanted to simultaneously raise funds and awareness about the film from the public.
Creating a campaign
After she’d set up the campaign page on Indiegogo, where she included a description of her project and a short trailer, Zinn used social media to promote her campaign. She only had about two months to raise the $7,000, so she targeted Internet users she thought might be interested. On Twitter, she searched and tweeted specific hashtags — hyperlinked words indicating popular topics — she thought self-harmers or their families might use, such as #selfharm and #self-injury.