Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Kickstarter?

For months I struggled with how to get Anacostia Unplugged up and running. I talked with filmmakers, documentarians, my mentors from the George Washington University, and environmentalists. We first started looking at grant applications. And then I realized that there are slim pickings for someone who is no longer a student, not already a famous filmmaker, or not a non-profit. I also had a difficult time finding grants for projects inside the United States, and the grants I did find were extremely specific to other topics that had nothing to do with Anacostia Unplugged. So that took me out of the running for 99.9% of the grants I came across. I was also pressed for time: my budget was dwindling and I couldn’t afford to keep putting all my money and time into Anacostia Unplugged. So I needed another solution. And soon.

During my first few months of living at home in Arlington, MA upon graduating from the George Washington University, I spent my time babysitting and dog walking until I could figure out a way to get back to DC. One of the families I babysat for put me in contact with our neighbor, documentarian Eric Stange. He invited me to coffee, took a look at one of the first drafts of my trailer, and gave me the motivation to keep moving forward. Eric recommended I try Kickstarter. I was stubbornly reluctant, but eventually I started doing my research. I soon realized that if done right, Kickstarter works. It’s become the new fundraising phenomena for independent filmmakers and other artists and innovators. And yes, those who also want to throw giant sandwich parties. I was ultimately won over by Kickstarter’s all or nothing mentality, opposed to funding sites like Indiegogo, which let you keep whatever you raise. I did not want to put myself in a situation where I raised some money, but not enough to keep moving forward. I didn’t think it would be fair to my donors or myself. I can also understand where an all or nothing mentality will make your project a dud or a success, and rarely in between, which is what the statistics tell us.   

Finally, I found a way to return to DC: I got a job to become the Jelleff Fellow at the Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy to help build and implement their environmental education program. While balancing multiple jobs and reconnecting with the non-profits and individuals involved with the series, I started preparing our Kickstarter Campaign. I gradually started to realize the amount of time, energy, and creativity that goes into launching a Crowd Sourcing Campaign. For example, you are going to need to brand yourself, develop social media, a website, etc. Just coming up with the title Anacostia Unplugged was a tedious task. I am sincerely grateful to my friends and family for dealing with me as I sent them endless texts a day with different names.  And then there was the budget. I’ve dedicated another blog entry to the budget because there is so much to say there.

Ultimately, Kickstarter was the best solution for an independent young filmmaker like myself. Especially because by backing Anacostia Unplugged, you are supporting its mission to show viewers how going outside is saving lives, preserving the environment, and empowering communities along the Anacostia River. I know that there is an audience for Anacostia Unplugged, and a desire to share these stories. We can give the individuals and non-profits I have been listening to a voice to reach more people faster, and I will stand by that no matter what happens.