In Plain View - The Art of Crowdfunding a Web-Series

The inspiration for the story was the brutal execution murder of a Boston Police detective many years ago. The brutality of the murder, he was shot five times in the face in the sign of the cross, compelled me to write the story. As it turned out, telling the true story would prove incredibly difficult and costly, so over the years I decided to write an “inspired by true events” version. I took from many other “real world” events and characters, highly embellished them, then wrote my final script in a full-length feature structure. The digital age is an enigma, it comes fraught with much hype and clutter, and expectations that are often “stretched.” With that said, once you do your homework and research through the hyperbole, you see a world the real world that offers great opportunity to a content maker, especially those on a modest budget. The bottom-line is simple, although the “New World” of digital distribution offers unlimited possibility, like anything it requires a solid plan, from creating the art to marketing what you create. This crowdfunding project is showing me that even with a great a project and great cast, an incredibly focused and well executed campaign is required. It is not an “if you build it they will come” scenario by any stretch. Your advocates must be aggressive in campaigning for you, the email list is crucial, but it is the constant reminding, without being annoying, that makes or breaks a project like this. It’s amazing how many crowdfunding projects people are receiving on any given day. You have to have something that stands out, if not a brand already, then something incredibly exciting and different, whether a film or a gadget. Then you have to a great way to market that excitement to potential donors. It’s not easy if done correctly. With that said, we are doing well, I asked for a lot-$50,000- and I started my campaign on the same day as the bombing tragedy here in Boston. That obviously had an effect, but I’m seeing the crowdfunding power of small donors vs, the heavy hitters. Those smaller donations add up and it’s incredibly exciting when you check your email (like an addict) and see a donation email from RocketHub. The fact that I can call Jed Cohen with questions and for help is an added plus with RocketHub, I don’t believe I could do something like that with any other crowd-funding platform. Key lesson, most potential supporters must be groomed in a very respectful way and your advocates must do that, if you have weaker advocates, you’re in trouble: And be ruthlessly realistic in what a project not already branded can raise. You really need to eventually get very deep into each circle of influence, stretch it to its max, to be successful. And lastly, it is a very fatiguing process, you will be “on” 24/7 thinking about what you’re missing. It’s a time-locked battle, so have a really trustworthy small team. And remember not everyone will jump at the first chance to give you money: isn’t that surprising? Even some of those close to you. They have busy schedules and must be reminded, or even with some, nicely cajoled into donating. Some advocates will do better than others, so DO NOT get mad at anyone who may not be that aggressive, not everyone is a salesperson. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this isn’t life-threatening. - Joe Conforti, Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Producer, Crowdfunding Innovator

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  • May 21, 2013

From Canada with Love - Crowdfunding Strategies from Brian Meece

Our friends at MaRS invited us to lead a crowdfunding workshop and discussion in Toronto, Canada. Here’s the great content that come out of it: MaRS is an incredible organization in Toronto and beyond. “MaRS is where science, technology and social entrepreneurs get the help they need. Where all kinds of people meet to spark new ideas. And where a global reputation for innovation is being earned, one success story at a time.” So if you’re looking for support and a great community, check them out. - The RocketHub Team

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  • May 17, 2013

Astronaut Abby Takes Flight with Crowdfunding

When I got invited to view a Russian Soyuz launch I was ecstatic! The Soyuz is the only spacecraft currently capable of transporting humans to space and as an aspiring astronaut it would be an out of this world experience to see it blast off! For the past few years, I have been blogging and talking about my journey to becoming the first astronaut on Mars. I wanted to use this blog as a platform to inspire kids and adults alike to get excited about space exploration and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). While blogging and social media is an excellent platform to spread the word, for this once-in-a-lifetime experience I felt like I needed more to extend my reach beyond my online community. Hence the #SoyuzAdventure was born. The #SoyuzAdventure started with me brainstorming with supporters about ways to expand my reach to inspire people not only in my core community – but also around the world. I finally decided on crowdsourcing, and, I developed a six-month outreach project, which includes: Speaking to classrooms both in person and through Skype Speaking at conferences and events Writing for several mainstream publications both for kids and adults Hosting a fun email pen pal program. And much, much more! The positive support I received from my community proved to me that this was a worthwhile project to embark on. I honestly didn’t realize I was a pioneer with this project. I’m just a 15-year-old with a huge dream - and an amazing community of supporters. Using crowdfunding as a way to help me increase my outreach efforts and make a positive impact on the world has been an incredible experience. The response from my online and offline community has been phenomenal! From the beginning, I have had support from people around the world both with funding as they join my #SoyuzAdventure crew on RocketHub as well as helping me spread the word. My community motivates me everyday to believe that I will be successful with both my fundraising and outreach efforts now, but also in my ultimate quest to get to Mars. It will take a collaboration of nations and many people around the world to make my Mars dreams a reality and the support from this campaign shows me there is a desire to make it happen. My advice for others looking to crowd fund a similar project would be to start with building a strong community both online and offline. I was online for several years, participating in the space and STEM community, before launching this project. My core community has been so important to helping me spread the word and I could not have done it without them. I believe to run a successful crowdfunding campaign you also need a great project that your community can believe in. It’s important that you are absolutely passionate about your project and that you are able to articulate that in writing as well as through images and video. Crowdfunding can be incredibly time consuming and if you are not passionate about your project it will be hard to keep the momentum going throughout the campaign. Don’t be afraid to talk to people in your community and ask for advice in creating the project. These advisers will become your advocates and ambassadors when you run your campaign. Finally, you have to be determined and realize that there are many ups and downs during a campaign. A successful campaign means you are living and breathing it all day, everyday while it is running. I was surprised at how all encompassing this campaign has been. At some point during your campaigning it may seem l like your goal is not attainable, but you have to keep working toward it and know in your heart you will make it to the finish line. If you believe in yourself other people will believe in you too! - Abigail Harrison a.k.a. Astronaut Abby, Aspiring First Astronaut to Mars, Teen Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • May 15, 2013

Ali Dreams Big and Crowdfunds Independent Music

Nowadays making an EP independently, and doing all the other things that go along with it, can be really expensive. I decided I wanted to try RocketHub to see if I could get some help from my supporters around the world because I’m SO excited to get my original music out there! So far it’s been really great. I’m totally amazed at how quickly my fans responded and wanted to help me in making my debut EP a reality.  I definitely recommend crowdfunding, especially for people who are doing this on their own without any label supporting them. It’s a really great way to reach your goal while still offering some really cool prizes to thank your supporters for being so incredible. - Ali Brustofski, Singer/Songwriter, Rising Music Star, Successful Crowdfunder

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  • May 13, 2013

The Asoka - Empowering Major Music without a Major Label!

I feel that RocketHub is revolutionizing not only crowdfunding but the creative arts as well. So I wanted to be a part of that movement that brings the power into the hands of the people! And I’m so glad I did. It’s been very exciting! The contribution from my supporters has been very touching. I’ll share a story with you. Within the first couple of weeks. I had somebody donate $500 to my cause. They sent me a note along with their contribution. It said, “I believe in you and I’m supporting your project. The only thing I ask for in return is that down the line, when you are established in your career, that you donate $500 to charity in a third world country that helps children, either medically or with education.” And within that instant my RocketHub campaign became so much more than just funding an album. It became something so beautiful and personal. For success, I would say awareness is key. Make sure you communicate personally with your peers and your supporters. I made it a point to talk to everybody about my campaign directly and personally. Then I followed up with everyone via emails. It’s a beautiful feeling when you see people supporting you. I’d definitely encourage anyone thinking about launching a campaign to do it. It’s been an incredible journey thus far and look forward to completing it! - Asoka, International Hip Hop Phenom, Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • May 10, 2013

Facing Life’s Decisions: The Search for Truth in Alternative Medicine

After learning of my mother’s cancer diagnosis in January, I went into panic mode. Pretty normal, right? As an only-child living in a foreign country thousands of miles away, I felt immediately helpless. To top it off, my mother was adamant about pursuing alternative therapy. She didn’t want any chemo or radiation. That was her final decision. Period.  I found myself suddenly facing a big fat moral dilemma: Do I support what my mother wants simply because that’s what she wants or do I convince her to go with what science says is most effective? Moreover, what is the worth of overall happiness when facing possible death? And what is my responsibility as a daughter? Do I even have a say? Another issue, will insurance cover the alternative therapies my mother wants to pursue? And how much will this all cost? Frankly, my head was spinning! Out of this confusion however arose the need to understand how we humans deal with decisions under extreme pressure. More importantly, I became interested in my role as ‘family member’ during this process. I believe that many people can relate to this exact problem, and so I decided to open myself up to the world and to publicly meditate on this universal dilemma through the medium of film. I am hoping for my story to be a source of help for others when dealing with stressful, scary life-threatening situations. Tackling the world of alternative medicine is a very hairy business. There are a lot of theories out there – most of which are based on one individual’s experience. The majority of Americans want facts and figures – scientific proof that something works, a golden seal of approval if you will. Considering this fact, I was quite nervous when I began my campaign. Opening up to my network however has surprisingly given me enormous strength! The support from my friends and colleagues is humbling and powerful. I am thankful that my experience thus far has been so positive. Starting a crowdfunding campaign was possibly the best decision I could have made considering my current position. Within the last few weeks I have talked with hundreds of people and no matter what their stance is on alternative cancer treatment, there has been a general consensus: patients should have the right to choose how they want to be treated, and this decision needs to be supported and respected by our healthcare providers. I believe that because my film’s investigation is about decision-making rather than proving what is ‘better,’ I have been able to remain in a middle-of-the-road position, which has the power to persuade even strict believers of traditional therapy into supporting my project. For success, don’t go out there prophesizing what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Passion is essential don’t get me wrong, but tact is also a major key to gaining support! Find an angle which hasn’t been tackled before, and get your supporters excited enough about your project so that they want to start telling others about it. Fighting for something as taboo as alternative cancer treatment can be alienating to many. I was weary when I first decided to stand by my mother’s decision, but since then I have become a real believer in the power that nutrition and detox have in helping a body heal. I am open about this fact when I am campaigning and my honesty has won me the support of many non-alternative believers. Like I already mentioned, this campaign has given me a lot of strength as well as wisdom. Even my mother has been reaping the benefits of this campaign. She is in high spirits and ready to beat this thing! And I will be there to document her journey. - Sarah Volage Bellin, Director, Filmmaker, International Crowdfunder

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  • May 7, 2013

Successful Return to RocketHub - 2nd Line & Crowdfunding Music History

RocketHub is a fantastic advocate for creative expression. In my experience, they have gone out of their way to support and promote the work I do, and help me find the market of people who would also be interested in supporting it. On top of that, I was really interested in their new association with A&E. The idea that, as you are crowdfunding, your work could get noticed, supported, and promoted by a big network, is invaluable. “2nd Line” comments on the indisputable power of music as told through the context of Charles Neville’s experiences. The way we structured production of “2nd Line” had a profound effect on the way we viewed our goals of the film. In doing Charles’ interview before traveling to New Orleans and experiencing the music scene, we could only begin to imagine its powerful effects. Though after living and breathing New Orleans music, both in clubs and on the streets, we walked away completely mesmerized by its influence; Charles Neville’s stories suddenly clicked. We want to deliver a film that will guide an audience through an emotional transformation similar to the one we made on our trip. I think the biggest mistake we made the first time around (and admittedly still a bit the second time) was not properly identifying our demographic group. Trying to run a crowdfunding campaign that appeals to all kinds of supporters is incredibly difficult. Think about the types of audiences your film will attract, and reach out to them. For us, both friends and family, but also Charles Neville and jazz enthusiasts, were our biggest contributors. Narrow down your market as much as possible; you will never be able to make a film that pleases all! - Charles Frank & Jake Oleson, Co-Directors, Filmmakers, Crowdfunding Pioneers

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  • May 2, 2013

The Many Voices of Rumi - A New Concert Experience

Darren Lougee: The great 13th century Sufi mystic and poet/philosopher, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, is the most natural and obvious “bridge” between Islam and the West. My ensemble, ActorCor (a choir of NYC actors), was created in 2008 with the mission of building bridges between Christians, Muslims and Jews with music. We have performed in over 30 interfaith dialogue events, peace services and marches. Our signature program, SAY YES! is a concert that celebrates the commonality of the three “Abrahamic” faiths by singing music from each tradition. It includes everything from English cathedral anthems to Pakistani Qawwali, Shabbat folk, Brooklyn Gospel and much more. We sing in Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish, Urdu, Persian, Latin and English. A concert dedicated to the writings of Rumi is completely in line with our mission. Two of my favorite Rumi lines, that we sing in Say Yes! and in this upcoming concerts is “Welcome you who love lovers, this is your home.”  and “We rarely hear the inward music, but we’re all dancing anyway!.” Jennifer Griffith: Darren’s been working with interfaith groups as a way of bringing together musicians and audiences for several years with his group ActorCor and their Say Yes! concerts. Rumi embodies the three major faiths in his work (among others) and he speaks to us individually as well. Darren, Zahra and I were all interested in Rumi’s poems and philosophy as an obviously exciting theme for a concert, and we played around with other ideas before deciding this was too important to overlook now.  People get excited about Rumi, they also want to support live performances, but I think they get stalled at the point of actually going to the site and donating. My last experience with crowdfunding for a live performance was quicker in terms of getting donations. This was a few years ago and perhaps the folks who donated then did so because I hadn’t asked before. Some donors went quickly to the site again, but many have not. I’m having to do a lot more in terms of informing people about the importance of the concert, in terms of Rumi’s powerful influence on us today, his social and emotional understanding of different kinds of love, and to my artistic development and the logistics of producing a concert, than I needed to last time. For success, I would say what I’m telling myself right now: Hang in there, keep plugging away, do a task or two everyday toward getting your potential donors excited about the project—so that they in turn might spread the word. Seems like a ‘step-by-step’ attitude can help feed my enthusiasm, rather than looking only at the longterm goal, which can lead to an ‘Oh, no, we’ve got so far to go!’ panic. Having a specific concert and a subject that I’m excited about really helps keep me looking for ways to inform and enthuse people. - Jennifer Griffith and Darren Lougee

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  • April 29, 2013

A&E Project Startup First Week - Big Vision Empty Wallet Joins the Movement

The first week of RocketHub’s partnership with A&E has been an incredible success. PROJECT STARTUP is bringing the power of crowdfunding into millions of homes. The world is taking notice and press coverage from CNN, Forbes, and many other publications has helped to propel the movement. Most importantly, we are helping to bring new awareness to awesome RocketHub projects and partners. Today, we’re excited to announce that our partner, Big Vision Empty Wallet, has joined the PROJECT STARTUP movement. Much more to come in the coming weeks and months. - The RocketHub Team

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  • April 26, 2013

Saving the Legacy of Important Art

We launched our 2013 RocketHub campaign to raise funds for our second documentary film, capturing this year’s ART CART: Saving the Legacy process. Getting this on film will help us to raise the profile of the ART CART project, the efforts of our artists and student fellows, and this incredible interdisciplinary, intergenerational experience. Our first documentary (2011) was a great success and RocketHub provided the platform. Since the pilot in NYC, ART CART has expanded to Washington, DC, taking on a national voice. As a DC Fellow and now the RocketHub Project Leader for ART CART, I have developed my understanding of the artistic process and realized the importance of documenting our nation’s creative legacy. We have returned to RocketHub to raise the funds needed for our second documentary, helping us to continue the expansion of the program to six locations by 2015. This is my first time leading a fundraising project. It has been an exciting experience for me to see the variety of people and levels of support emerging in response to the ART CART: Saving the Legacy 2013 RocketHub campaign. Funders range from friends, family, and colleagues, to arts administrators, researchers, professors, graduate students and alumni, as well as ART CART artists, their working partners, fellows, and faculty. Supporters are located on both coasts, from California, to New York, Washington DC, and North Carolina. I look forward to welcoming others into the ART CART network over the next few weeks as we carry out our project, as well as learning more about their interests in the arts. When I was first approached to lead this crowdfunding project, I found RocketHub’s Success School materials to be very helpful in developing my understanding of RocketHub’s crowdfunding process and maintaining a strategic mindset. Joan Jeffri, the Director of the Research Center for Arts and Culture and Founder of ART CART, also made sure to introduce me to the 2011 project leader in order to learn about our first documentary campaign. My advice to others who are considering their own crowdfunding campaign would be to: Create a well-thought-out plan for the content and implementation of your project (if your project has a Director/Founder like ART CART, make sure s/he is an integral part of the process and aware of the project’s development throughout). Have someone who cares about the project proofread your project description and appeals. Maintain a dynamic project page with frequent status updates, a variety of media, and news related to your project. Don’t forget to share your excitement with your social media connections, too! This may be a personal standard of mine, but I believe in prompt “thank-you’s.” No matter the size of the gift, show your gratitude for each funder’s support. I send an individualized thank-you to every person who gives to our campaign and helps bring awareness to our project. Have a passion for what you’re doing. If you don’t believe in the project, why should others? Be creative! Engaging in this project has been rewarding for me in many ways. I have learned a lot about the crowdfunding process and even more about the ART CART artists participating in the project. Through our project on RocketHub, I have witnessed the power of ART CART to bring people of all ages together in support of a common goal – one that will impact future generations. - Catherine Starek, ART Cart Project Leader, Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • April 23, 2013