Crowdfunding for Films & Shorts

Daniel Hurst
9 min readFeb 3, 2022

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Quick thinking project

Introduction

Content makes our lives fun and opens our eyes and mind to amazing stories, with rich visuals and sound immersing us in the experience. Although these are usually only possible for large production houses with loads of budget and people involved.

“Storytelling” is a self-initiated concept that would allow creators to pull together to make amazing content, think Patreon, or Kickstarter for movie creators, where you can find a director of photography, put out a request for an extra, or even the lead protagonist, where users can help fund, along with voting for key cast or even story pointers.

The product should be a way to make the organisation of pulling together such a project easy allowing the user to do what they do best and create. All this requires a well-crafted user experience with key simple algorithms to be built in from the core.

This project was a light touch, but I would have loved to take it further, validating any decisions early with target market research, within each customer segmentation. Along with testing and iterating through usability testing and gathering core data to move the product forward.

Due to this being a small project I’m using a short cutdown version of the double diamond process that will allow me to get to a MVP solution quickly along a couple of feature paths.

Process

  1. Problem
  2. Approach
  3. Solution
  4. Learning

Problem

The overall problem statement is ‘helping users connect and collaborate to build amazing stories’ the more focused problem statement can vary depending on the use case but this single point of reference helps us navigate the project and diverge into different areas of key exploration. I will be focusing on the creators for the project and with the customer segmentation, I will focus more on the indie creators, not the professionals (A-List).

“I would like an easier way to find key people for a film project, be able to get funding, and feedback from industry professionals. Ultimately helping us create amazing stories.”

Approach

Key research area

To design an experience that can help build a community, I first did some research to learn about Patreon, Kickstarter, Facebook groups. Some of them have a history of helping jumpstart ideas by funding them through a community-driven interest.

Kickstarter allows users to add their project to the platform and begin to get it funded by other users around the world. To get users on board they tend to offer early bird bonuses to backers and depending on how much you back the project can alter your benefit, so it can be anywhere from a 1st edition product to added extras and even your name as a backer. The platform is really easy to use and even find additional projects and information from the project marketing page, funding anything from a smartwatch to a game.

Patreon works in a slightly different way, allowing you to support a person or group by giving them a certain amount of money per month and depending on how much depends on what you get in return, it can be a podcast subscription, a tutorial set from a creator or even a newsletter etc…

There are many other platforms that work in a similar way, such as ADP list for mentors, or Indiegogo, but it’s all about giving the creators options and getting users back what they have to offer.

This was just a quick look and more time would give us time to document all flows features and the data, even down to what users think of these products. This would help guide our discovery phase of our project.

Our Project Key Assumptions

  • I want to find experienced people from outside my network
  • Having feedback and input into what we are making would be really helpful
  • See various content being funded and maybe help fund
  • Finding a (EP, Cinematographer, Photographer, Designer, Art-director, 3D artist, Editor, Cast..etc) should be easy
  • We want to foster the creativity of building something together through the creator community.

I would have loved to run a survey/moderated research to get feedback into what we are thinking of doing, so we could validate anything we were thinking but this was just a small side project, so time and budget were key factors.

I created two separate (mini journey) personas which are based on assumptions, but they allow us to drive the thinking forwards and make sure we’re designing for the people who will potentially use the product ultimately creating value for them. It’s nice to know who and why we are designing and this is the first step in getting to that goal

For most users it needs to be about making their task simple, they are busy managing a lot of moving parts and they don’t want to be managing things across multiple apps, messages, and email. It needs to be in one app, easy to navigate no matter the scenario. They may need to chat with the DP of project x just open the app and ask. Budgets and spending wont be kept on the app in the first phase but it’s something we could link out to and consider for later.

To help narrow down the scope of the project I created multiple scenarios that would apply to a person using the product in different ways, helping us work into a core area of the problem space to ideate and explore.

Scenario 1
As a user I want to find talent and raise funds for a new short film project

Scenario 2
As a user I would like to find a project that I could apply for, using my skills in editing.

Sketching

How might we…
1. Make funding fun

The 8…

  • Gamification — the more you fund or interact with project the more you become known within the community
  • Level based funding packaged — giving the user choice from just buying a coffee to an investor
  • Use playful interaction — creating a friendly environment that feels fun
  • Small donations pot — like a tip jar
  • Chat with the creator — a widget that allows a funder to chat with the creator
  • Forum — have your say in what happens in the story
  • All the information — timelines show the user which steps they plan to go through and where they are in the plan, being open and honest around hold ups.
  • Subscribe — Something of interest? Subscribe for updates!

How might we…
2. Find the right people (Cast to Editors)

The 8…

  • Vote for person — User with most community votes get part
  • Apply for part in project — See all parts available for project and apply
  • Share — Send a to social media to get more views and further shares (TikTok, Insta, Facebook, LinkedIn) templates
  • Basic algorithm finding — Find the perfect part in your area and area of expertise
  • Daily Mix — Recommendations suggested daily or weekly based on your profile
  • Apply — voice notes or a quick video
  • Profile portfolio — show your work or link out to your work
  • Headhunt — Allow the project owner to find potential talent by headhunting them and asking them to apply or to chat

Moving into quick sketches in the form of crazy 8’s gave me a lot of ideas really quickly, which i could then move into further exploration if they had room to grow, allowing for quick prototyping and testing to make sure we were allowing the product to achieve the objective of making an easier way to find key people & funding for a film making project…

User Journeys
To help understand the context the user will experience the product I started mapping simple user journeys through the key scenarios, to help find out how the product will work across multiple journeys.

To get a base idea of how the app would work began to pull together key low fidelity designs which would ultimately help define the app architecture along with the screen & flow content structures. Aiming to make the process as simple and as clear as possible for the user.

Solution

Adding the core flows into a draft architecture enabled us to find commonalities within the structure and links between the flows within the application

Finding and applying to a role
The solution I arrived at for applying for a role is very simple, first the home feed can be filtered so it’s easy to find a role or a project. When a user taps into a role they can then see a quick overview of the details, and specifics along with quickly applying through a simple flow, which allows the user to focus only on the necessary inputs at the given moment.

Once the user has applied they can then see the progress of their application in their profile and see if people are voting for them. This adds a sense of a community driven funding and collaboration in the funding process, the funders get to have input on who gets the role based on an application which is public to the funders.

Funding
When a user taps on a project they are given a marketing page for the project where they can see details, funding progress, video/images, along with access to the roles available to try and get a wider variety of skills.

Once a project is funded the content given to the user would switch to a feedback focused hierarchy, giving the backer or if it’s open to the public everyone the chance to give input on the latest cut of ideas.

Learnings

I would love to take this further, going beyond assumptions to test and see if the idea is valid within the industry and the user base, this would be done through key research and surveys within each customer segmentation. Ultimately there is no better way than just talking with industry professionals. Reading and compiling desk research definitely helped but validation of an idea is key and would need much more data to decide if the idea would have any traction to go forward.

An algorithm would be key here depending on how large the user base got, we would want to show the correct projects to people based on their preferences and habits on the application, we would also need a way to validate users projects before they go live and certain criteria needs to be met.

I would also love to iterate and conduct usability testing within the experience. Along with looking at how interactions and micro interactions would work to enhance the experience and give key feedback to the user at any given moment.

Success metrics

  • Amount of users (Active user base)
  • Funding target met
  • Launched movies/shows/projects
  • Roles found
  • Customer retention

Longer term ideas

  • Collaborative quick cuts builds a story together online
  • Reviewing session
  • Messaging (project team)
  • Money & Budget

Thank you!

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