Crowdfunding and A Life’s Work: Advice from a Consultant

Back in the summer of 2010, when the A Life’s Work blog was just a mere baby blog, a reader took advantage of the Ask the Filmmaker feature to ask about crowdfunding:

Dear Filmmaker,

Have you considered using Kickstarter for A Life’s Work?


I get asked this about once a month, and the answer I gave then and the answer I’ll give now, even after working as a “crowdfunding consultant” on two films, Out on a Limb and Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists (happening now!  campaign ends 11:59pm, Sept 15, 2012!) are pretty much the same.

Yes, but…

I still believe people are more willing to help out when the film is closer to completion. Or perhaps even completed and marketing and distribution funds are needed. That stuff costs a bundle and filmmakers are notorious for not budgeting for them. And the amount I need to get the film near completion is well above what I can raise via crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding Lessons Learned
David Licata, crowdfunding consultant
David Licata (right), crowdfunding consultant.

When I tell friends about my crowdfunding consultant hat (I’m available, email me), they often comment that I must be learning a lot that will come in handy when  I’m ready to fire up A Life’s Work’s campaign. And they’re right, I have. Here’s the short list.

  1. Start early. Like, yesterday. The one good thing about the pace of A Life’s Work is that it has allowed me to build an audience. (You, dear reader!) It’s also given me time to collect materials and jot down ideas that I might use during the campaign.
  2. Don’t even think of doing it alone. Enlist three, four, or more people to help, and those people should have skills that fill certain needs. Get a person who’s good on the phones to make calls to foundations and corporations. They sometimes have discretionary funds and if your project fits nicely with their mission, you might get lucky. Get a social media wizard, or two. These people know how to spread the word. Get a writer who can produce updates and eblasts (this is usually my role). All of these people  should be social media savvy and have large networks they can appeal to. And please pay these people. Well.
  3. Give away good perks. Every filmmaker gives away DVDs and posters. Try to think beyond that. A sci-fi graphic novel I recently gave to offered to name characters after donors of a certain level. A friend of mine who crowdfunded an upcoming artist residency to the Arctic Circle offered to send postcards from exotic stops on her way to the top of the world.
  4. Use a lot of images. On your fundraising page and in your pitches on Facebook, etc. A captivating image is more likely to be shared on FB than any text. The writer part of me dislikes this. The filmmaker part of me thinks this is just fine.
  5.  Make a great pitch video. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. Don’t go over five minutes. Do tell the viewer why your project is different and awesome and what the world needs now!

This is my starter list. More to come in a future post.

And Remember

Even though A Life’s Work is not crowfunding at the moment, you can still support the film monetarily. You can contribute as little as $5 and as much as $15,000 online, and since A Life’s Work is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, whatever amount you contribute is tax-deductible. To donate, click here. It’s super easy. Any amount is greatly appreciated and helps in many ways. And I’ll send you something nifty in return.





Art Films and Documentaries

1. Art Films

Many years ago I gave a screenplay to a producer, a friend of a friend who had then just partnered with another producer known for making some pretty fantastic, critically acclaimed, NYC-based independent feature films. His response to the script was, “It’s good, but it’s an art film. I don’t want to make an art film.”

Art film wannabe?
Art film wannabe?

What he meant was he wanted to make a film that would make a lot of money, like Titanic-money.

This was disheartening for two reasons.

A: I never thought Wigs by Coco could make Titanic-money — nothing I do will make Titanic-money. But this script is entertaining and, I believe, could be made cheaply, could find an audience, and could turn a profit. The problem is the Titanic-profit some producer types want to make.

B: Art Film. Like “art” was some kind of dirty word. And like  “art film” and profit were mutually exclusive. Again, the disconnect between me and the producer who rolls his eyes and tsks at the mention of “art film” is based on our perceptions of monetary success.

2. Documentaries

I recently took a gig as a crowdfunding consultant for a wonderful documentary called Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists. I’m getting paid for my time and effort, but I’m not going to get rich. It’s a film whose message I believe in — the curative powers of art, the hidden lives of marginalized people, the ubiquity of art — and I’m honored that the filmmakers believe in my abilities.

No sane person thinks a documentary is going to make them rich. Some manage to make a paycheck from their work, others, like me, most of the time, don’t. Generally, people get involved with documentaries because they believe the stories are important and because they believe film is the way to tell these stories.

And this is probably why I no longer write screenplays.


Humble Beauty is a documentary about how art can help homeless and mentally ill people recover and renew their lives. It’s the powerful true story about how painting transformed the lives of talented, mentally ill homeless men and women in the worst area of LA, the homeless capital of America. Humble Beauty is an inspiring, empowering, and illuminating film that has aired on KCET, public TV in LA, and has been offered national distribution on PBS stations. The film is going the crowdfunding route to raise money for re-editing for time requirements, broadcast insurance, music rights, promotional materials, and other  necessary expenses.    

Click to visit the Indiegogo page.