14 Oct 5 Things We Learned from the Rebel Citizen Crowdfunding Campaign
On October 7th, we concluded our second crowdfunding campaign at Skylight. Creative Director Pamela Yates met master cinematographer Haskell Wexler in Nicaragua in 1984 on the set of Wexler’s film Latino, and from that time on, Haskell became Pamela’s mentor and life-long friend. When Haskell asked Pamela to represent him this year at the Cinéma du Réel festival in Paris, which held a week-long retrospective of his largely unknown political documentaries, she filmed a conversation with him over several days as she prepared to go to Paris. The result unexpectedly became Rebel Citizen, a revelatory tour of Haskell’s political documentary work, in which the veteran artist and social justice activist shares his vision of what it truly means to be an engaged citizen. Though we intended Rebel Citizen to stand alone as a master class for the Cinéma du Réel festival, much to our delight the film was selected to have a world premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 6th. With only 30 days to finish the film and raise the $25,000 to do so, we launched a crowdfunding campaign. Quite amazingly, with the support of over 270 supporters we raised $26,815 in those 30 days, finished the film!
What did we learn from this whirlwind experience?
1. A story is worth a thousand “asks”! We wove many stories — stories about Haskell’s life, stories from “behind the scenes” on set, stories about Pamela and Haskell’s friendship — into our campaign. These stories, we believe, moved many more people to join our campaign than any direct ask for money could have!
2. Kickstarter isn’t the ONLY route. We used a new platform, CommitChange.org, which doesn’t take a very big cut of the donations you receive. Check it out! It could be the next “big thing.”
3. Beautiful still photographs still captivate people! We had a wealth of incredible images from the course of Haskell’s professional career. These images made every Facebook post, email blast, Tweet, and promotional material really stand out. Our photo of Haskell for Rebel Citizen was chosen for the New York Film Festival centerfold for “Spotlight on Documentary”!
4. Crowdfunding campaigns are a great way to find out things you didn’t know! In the course of the #RebelCitizen campaign, we heard so many incredible stories about Haskell — stories that we wouldn’t have known if we HADN’T been running the campaign! We heard from Chaz Ebert (Producer), Stephen Talbot (Producer, Writer, Reporter), and Pamela Burton (Puget Sound Solar) — each of whom had a unique thing to say about Haskell. Chaz Ebert (Producer): Haskell Wexler is one of my favorite people on this planet! Roger and I were in Toronto when we were celebrating Haskell‘s 90th birthday and Haskell was showing me one of his new cameras and got down on his knees to show me! Some of my best memories are of having both Haskell and Studs Terkel at our house talking politics with me and Roger”
5. Never doubt your tried + true methods of communication — EMAIL and PHONE! We may live in a hyper connected age, where Tweets, Facebook posts, Snapchats, Instagrams, and Vines rule the airwaves but when it comes to crowdfunding, we found that the “oldie but goodie” methods of PERSONAL EMAILS and PHONE CALLS still works best! Nothing quite like a human connection when it comes for asking for support.
All in all, it was a wild ride to completion but we’re SO glad we ran our #RebelCitizen campaign! Check out this video of the premiere, in which our NYC based supporters received the applause they deserve. IN SOLIDARITY, the Skylight Team