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Is Patreon the way forward for independent filmmmakers?

Yesterday I set up a crowdfunding page on Patreon. For those not familiar with Patreon, it is a unique crow funding platform that attempts to directly connect creatives with their audience, in the case of filmmakers cutting out the need for middle men like distributors, sales agents & film markets. Secondly, they encourage building long term relationships with their audience by asking for small monthly contributions rewarded by regular content and direct connection to the creative so that suggestions can be directed straight to the them. The site has presently mostly musicians using it at the moment, though a completely mixed bag of creatives are presently finding regular funding there whilst at the same time also developing and building their own independent brands. Patreon take only a very small fee for their part leaving by far the lions share of money raised to go directly to the creatives. Nearer to ninety five per cent than the traditional twenty five per cent eared by filmmakers though the traditional sales model. Also importantly, funding can come in right from the start of a creative project, as oppose to traditional film sales income, which can be three years or more down the line before revenue streams even begin. So the question is, what do all you shooters think about this, pro's and con's and any other similar or even better platform suggestions, your thoughts please?

For reference, please find below the text of my actual Patreon page with a direct link:

Having remained fiercely independent I've found it increasingly more difficult over the last two decades to make a living from my passion filmmaking, so I am personally very excited to discover and join Patreon. I intend to reach a new generation of creatives and artisans with the integrity to step away from the greedy parasitic established platforms that stifle artistic growth and starve creative artists by denying them a fair proportion of earnings or even a subsistence income. Over the years I have made many feature films with diverse content and genre and recognise Patreon as the next evolutionary step in filmmaking to reach new audiences. Join me as I begin to grow this embryonic virtual studio and I promise I will share with you first our highly original films that I hope will both entertain and inform.

Myself and my collaborators are presently in production on two psychological short horror films and one feature length horror film, also in post production on two other short horror films all to be completed by the end of 2017, then to premiere in Feb 2018.

We are also producing an ongoing internet based series of one minute bite sized films called "Articulate" for teens in which they have one minute to have their say, shot against a blue screen, entertaining footage and music are then added in post to complement their dialogue, we will soon be setting up a separate studio home page for this project.

What will your money be used for:
Delivery costs like, producing a DCP, certification, both in the UK and USA if required (we won't need it for any festival screenings as they are exempt) but it's likely to be required for DVD/BluRay/TV certs) in the UK and USA, sound mixing and grading costs to enable the whole visual and sound mix to be of consistent levels, festival submissions costs, if accepted by a major festival initially, then the rest would probably free on recommendations, as was the case for my horror feature film Boy Meets Girl. Possibly, some small legal fees, but to be kept to the very minimum I assure you. Providing training to young people attempting to make their way into the film business, for reference please check out the cast for "It's in the Trees" posted on the, paying attention to the performers previous acting credits, as for most of them this was their first film.

We promise that there will be no irritating lower-third pop-up ads and we're also not putting our movies anywhere where sponsor ads will be played before them. So just enjoy our films with no advertising anywhere whatsoever guaranteed.

We hope you enjoyed "Afraid of the Dark", we believe action speaks louder than words, if you love horror films then it is the films that you want to see and hear, not the filmmakers themselves. Hopefully this will be accepted as proof that we are capable of delivering, call it a free taster and a thank you from us for just showing interest in what we are doing.

Ray Brady

  • Hi Ray, I've seen just about every YouTube channel begging through Patreon so just assumed it was a platform-specific thing. It's interesting to think of it as a subscription model for feature (or even short film) lifecycle finance. I'll be interested to hear how it works out for you.

    When producing a film, the cash is important, but so is the timing of the cash. Some activities are fairly continuous (production office expenses, PAYE employees, etc) whilst others are definitely cash up front kind of costs. I can see this would be great for a baseline knowing there was trickle cash for the year or so it takes to make a movie.

    1 year ago
  • Hey Ray, have you tried Seed&Spark? I hear great things about their platform...

    1 year ago
  • Hi Paddy,
    Will keep you informed but off to an initial slow start, always the hardest money to get for a crowd funding is the first trickle, money and confidence seems to follow money, the more raised the easier it becomes. Very disappointed though to realize that Patreon do not in any way push or promote their newly listed projects on their site. They always seem to just show three projects when you select the category "film", I did manage to find a top twenty list for each category, but you need at least 2K patrons to get into the section, after those there are no other film projects listed. To surmise, there is therefore no way at all people visiting their website could find and then maybe become patron's of any films listed on their website other than the one's mentioned above, which is great, no superb news, for those projects but absolutely terrible news for anyone coming in with a new project. You would have to be directed to their site with a direct link (i.e. like mine below) to find a specific project, an extremely disappointing discovery. On the plus side though their phone app is extremely easy to use and superbly designed, well at least on android phones though I haven't had the chance yet to try it on a Apple OS phone. In fairness I am going to send them a copy of this message to give them a chance to respond to my criticisms. I will post any more news and findings anon.
    Raygards bRAdY

    1 year ago
  • I contribute to one patreon and do think its an interesting model, almost like small-scale philanthropy / or the sort of patron-supporters of the arts they seem to have in America (making tax-free gifts it seems).

    I do wonder how hard it must be for the creators to get supporters to agree to signing up (even when its just a small amount) for a monthly direct debit. It's a lot different offering '£5 or £50' or whatever amount in a one-off gesture to support an independent film to agreeing to pay £x each month... forever or until you cancel the debit.


    1 year ago
  • Hi Matt,
    Thanks for contributing, yes the model is really interesting. Signing up for a dollar or two a month isn't really a scary prospect or big financial commitment if you really like someones work and want to support them it could really make all the difference. After further research I've come up with some more pro's and con's re Patreon. far as I can tell in relation to film alone Patreon only works as a crowdfunding platform if you have already established a large following on other websites like YouTube, Facebook or people on your own extensive mailing list and then only if you have kept true to a particular genre i.e. comedy and you then lead them to your newly created Patreon page. You cannot develop ones on there as, a real negative downside to their website is the lack of capability to explore or search for and finding any film projects on there by browsing, they just simply do not promote their website or encourage or even have the capacity for people to simply stumble across projects, to become a patron of projects accidentally, you need to follow a link to find a specific project that the creator forwards to you, either by email or Twitter etc,. with the exception of the top twenty video projects you cannot find or search for any other projects, which is really a huge negative. Direct communication with Patreon is really difficult, you are directed to their FAQ's which offer only very limited answers and after several days of trying to communicate with someone capable of offering support I received a confused and completely useless response which was very disappointing, this is another major fault of Patreon, customer support is extremely poor indeed. Since they rely solely on creatives to bring their projects along with their own fanbase to Patreon they seem to provide nothing that you couldn't just simply set up on your own website if you had developed a large fanbase. Both Indiegogo & Kickstarter both allow site visitors to explore and choose "show more" to find all film projects to sponsor, Partreon doesn't, it leaves it all to you. my personal experience and to answer my own question posted...for crowd funding I wouldn't recommend it already had a large following to bring in with you when you set up on Patreon, otherwise Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfunder or nearly all other crowdfunding websites would give you a better chance of building on the fanbase of supporters that you already had.

    1 year ago
  • Ooops I've already contributed to this via the bulletin. You'd think I should know how the damn thing works by now. Can't be bothered to say it all again but I've written some good stuff that needs making. Well I reckon so anyway.

    1 year ago
  • Hi Ray,

    Yeah, I agree it's definitely a platform for artists with an existing following/fanbase. It's more a mechanic for supporting someone whose work you are already familiar with and have an interest in.

    Other platforms, Kickstarter etc. do more towards discovery for sure. You can browse on there and find things to support, stumble across them that way. I still get the sense that the majority of support wherever you canvas from it comes from an existing network, or a group with an understanding of what you are going for.


    1 year ago
  • With only a handful of exceptions Matt is correct. I'm repeating incessantly on these lists; because the same wishfulness is repeated incessantly, that a purely entertainment feature without any socio-moral or socio-political aspiration and without any prospect of it being significantly distributed, is unlikely to attract significant funding from complete strangers. Crowd funding low budget shorts, especially if being made by kids or the recognisably disadvantaged, can and does succeed for other reasons. Always though, an 'inner' or 'starter' crowd makes all the difference.

    Future crowd funding for solely entertainment features with viable distribution models is on the near horizon. It's a business model that will bare little comparison to those of the current cartels.

    Meanwhile, significant budgets can be raised for factual features already. It's not however as easy as falling off a log.

    Not without some pertinance, I was listening to BBC Radio 4 yesterday talking about how Hollywood has taken a bashing with it's boring franchise films this summer and how the old 'we must have big stars in a film' to succeed model is failing. Audience's are becoming more discerning about content and stories. They are increasingly unhappy to have a turd polished by little more than a big name. Audience's seem even happier to discover new actors playing new characterisations in intellectually stimulating stories. This summers biggest success was mooted to be Dunkirk, with hardly a star in it, by Hollywood standards.

    As I've suggested before; the old dinosaurs may still be lumbering on with the inertia of their gargantuanism but the future belongs to the quick and the nimble. It ought to be something that British film makers are well placed to be.

    1 year ago
  • Many, many thanks John, I agree with you entirely on every point (I usually do). Personally I really do see this as a new exciting future way forward for film makers, though personally I need to get my act into gear, the model is right and a golden opportunity for those smart enough to grasp it with both hands. You can now for the very first time independently build your own brand on the internet without the need for sales agents, distributors, studios and cinema chains all taking the lions share of any income made. To find your own audience you just have to deliver work that is of a consistent quality, stick to a genre, well at least to your brand is strong enough for your fans to allow and except divergence, but most importantly ask for and truly listen to their feedback, as the only way the model works is if you are really in it together, you earn and gain their trust, it is as simple as that.

    1 year ago
  • Interesting thread. I'm currently looking for funding for a short film - my first effort, and what a pain in the proverbial. I checked out Patreon and could see its merit for musicians and artists, but then checked out Seed&Spark (thanks to Katy Cole) and that immediately resonated with me. It's all about film as far as I can make out. I haven't gone into it in any detail but will discuss with my team at our next meeting and will probably sign up our project and see where we go. Would be interested to know if others have experienced Seed&Spark and what they thought.

    1 year ago
  • Hi Richard,
    Many thanks for your thoughts. I've just decided to up the anti on Patreon. My new blurb text reads as follows:

    "By giving a dollar you are supporting us and not only helping us complete this feature film but enabling us develop future films both long and short, for that we are truly thankful and sincerely appreciative.
    All our Patrons will be sent each day a short bite-size one minute film excerpt/segment from Articulate."

    1 year ago
  • Thanks Ray - i guess Patreon is more about following the talent rather than the project. Ok for people with a track record and a bit of a following. I like the patron categories and I guess building the following is critical.

    1 year ago