Rising film backer Kickstarter readies for its close-up

Kickstarter, the powerhouse crowdsourced fund-raising engine for an increasing number of creative projects, is poised to have a breakout winter as a film funder, with three of its projects on documentary short lists for the Academy Awards and more than a dozen films headed to the Sundance Film Festival. The recognition has been building, but this year marks a big moment for Kickstarter, which is not only helping filmmakers bring their films and documentaries to life but also providing help to some very high-quality projects.
Two films, Battle for Brooklyn and The Loving Storywere named to the short list for the feature documentary category for the Oscars, which are awarded in February. Another film, Incident in New Baghdadhas been short-listed for the Academy Award’s short documentary prize. Last year, another Kickstarter short documentary project, Sun Come Up, was nominated for an Academy Award but didn’t win.
For the Sundance Film Festival later this month, there are at least 14 Kickstarter projects that will be featured, up from 5 last year. The growing number of Kickstarter projects in Sundance comes after the fund-raising platform announced a collaboration last year with Sundance to help provide branding, educational and promotional support to Sundance Institute alumni.
I talked with Perry Chen, the co-founder of Kickstarter, about its success as a film fund-raiser. Film is the biggest category of projects for Kickstarter, which has more than 4,000 projects dedicated to documentaries, movies and videos. More than $45 million has been raised for film projects out of more than $125 million for all projects. Chen said he was excited about Kickstarter’s being able to help so many artists with a fundamental problem.
“When you look up and down at artists, from those starting out to career artists, fundraising is incredibly hard to get. Just because someone has a track record, it doesn’t mean fundraising is easy for them,” Chen said.

Battle for Brooklyn makers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky

Suki Hawley, the co-director of Battle for Brooklyn, told me she turned to Kickstarter twice, first to help finish the film when her grant money fell short and then again to hire publicists after her film was short-listed for the Oscars.
“We couldn’t have finished the film without Kickstarter and it’s an example of bringing the community together and not relying on the 1 percent,” Hawley said. “Going to the community that is interested has been a revelation and a paradigm shift.”
Kickstarter has only been around since 2009, but it is showing that it has a lot of potential as a fund-raising tool. The fact that it is helping push really big projects over the top is just a sign that its model has appeal to all kinds of artists. Will we see a feature film Academy Award winner get Kickstarter funding in the near future? Perhaps not. But Chen said many of the Kickstarter films at Sundance are also feature films as well, so we may one day.