10 January 2011

Mission: Improbable

Saturday, I really didn't do anything. I ran some errands and went to a high school basketball game, but other than that, I was pretty much off-line. Friday, as you may have heard, was pretty insane.

Really, the best way to describe the madness of A Year Without Rent Kickstarter campaign is with good, old-fashioned math.

+ The last activity on Thursday bumped our total raised to $4,359.00, which means that we raised $7,819.10 in the final 24 hours. And, yes, someone pledged ten cents. Or, as they tweeted, "in for a dime, in for a dollar."

+ Thursday into Friday, we held our second consecutive sleep strike, with the goal of hitting 130 backers. Backer 130 took a long time. Enough time that I was able to finish reading Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS. We finally hit it at 4:34am ET on Friday.

+ That means that we gained 113 backers in under 20 hours. That's 113 NEW people who got behind the campaign in less than a day.

+ In the final hour, the total went up 49 times, either by people bumping their initial pledge or becoming a new backer.

+ Kickstarter sends an email every time there's activity on your campaign. The email for backer 243 came after the email saying we'd met our goal. Meaning, someone truly got in under the wire.

But the best visualization is this graph:

I could go over that last couple of hours in detail, but I think Scott Macaulay did it best at Filmmaker Magazine:
A look at McNelly’s Twitter stream — which was interrupted when he reached his Twitter limit for the day (I didn’t even know there was a Twitter limit) — reveals what those of us following online witnessed as a crowdsourcing battle of inches: last minute bonuses, including a Clerks 2 script signed by Kevin Smith; personal thanks tweeted to all contributors, which served to spread word of the campaign even further; all manner of superhero and movie references (“in serious need of the cavalry,” was one tweet; another was “We’re putting up a big Bat signal”); last-minute features in Film Threat and Film Courage; a team of invested friends and colleagues; and, mostly, a campaign that organically developed an unstoppable momentum mirroring the goals of the project itself. Indeed, an unfailing optimism was what seemed to push this campaign over the top.
I'll tell you a little secret. I'm not an optimistic person. In fact, I'm the opposite. But I knew that the minute I said we weren't going to make it, then we weren't going to make it. Us McNelly's are nothing if not stubborn. And really you have to be stubborn to survive in indie film. Any project worth doing is going to fall apart two or three times before completion. The difference between the ones that fail and the ones that succeed is very often a sheer force of will.

Did I actually think we were going to pull it off? Honestly, I don't know. I think I kind of convinced myself somewhere along the line that it had to happen. There was such a huge difference between the $$ that was coming in and the level of support we had, that it felt like the dam could break at any minute. I was just worried it would break too late. (And it almost did).

If you really do want the "secret" to this sort of thing, here it is (thanks to Jessica Fenlon for grabbing this):

Anyone who tells you anything else is trying to sell you something.

The most important thing to take from this is that a good idea, properly executed, can still grab everyone's attention--assuming you're willing to put in the hours. But more importantly, this is a community that can be rallied. All I really did was lay the groundwork. But the community got behind this and collectively showed that we can push something toward a goal. It shows that despite all of our flaws, we can unite around some common goals. If you ask me, that's the biggest thing we can learn from this. A rising tide helps us all. The indie film is not, nor will it ever be, a zero-sum game.

With that in mind, let me thank a few people. First and foremost, David & Karen at Film Courage were warriors. Their Twitter got shut off too. Words cannot express how fantastic they were. Kevin Fox came to the party late, but once he arrived, he was like a force of nature. Mark at Film Threat called this one early on. As did Spoxx, Phil Holbrook, Nathan Cole, Jeanne Bowerman, Zahra, Sheri Candler, Michele Simmons, and Jake Stetler. We got a ton of twitter/facebook help from Sherry Cummings, Jessica Fenlon, Jon Reiss, Peter Ong Lim, Jamie Calder, Ben Lim, Kevin Deen, Kim Garland, Lance Weiler, Edward Burns, Lloyd Kaufman, Victoria Westcot, Fans of Film, Metronome Pics, Leslie Poston, Patty Fantasia, Marcella (a.k.a. movieangel), Dianne Van, Amanda Lin Costa, Nina Gibbs, Tom Vaughan, First Glance Film, David Spies, Marty Lang, Gary King, King is a Fink, Corine Roberts, Rufus de Rham, Miles Maker, Sasha Stone, and many, many more. Of course, Ted Hope, Scott at Filmmaker Magazine, and Robert Mitchell ran articles. Really, there's hundreds and hundreds of people to thank.

And, of course, Echo the Dog, who says any backer who wants can come rub her belly. Also, they can play fetch with her. She'll be taking a nap on the couch.