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Kickstarter Campaign Recap

Posted on February 09, 2016

PIC-funded filmmaker Nathan Fitch shares his insights on his Kickstarter campaign, which was launched in late 2015.  Nathan reflects on his initial uncertainty, the deciding factors and the added benefit of launching his crowd funding campaign. 

By Director Nathan Fitch

For a long time I had resisted the idea of doing a crowd funding campaign for ISLAND SOLDIER, despite the emptiness of my bank account, and the urging of producer Fivel Rothberg.  But, there comes a limit to how far you can push a project without enough resources, and with all the travel that has been involved in the production of ISLAND SOLDIER, we had long since exhausted all our funds.

For me, the real tipping point in committing to do a crowd funding campaign came during a phone call with Vidalino Staley Raatior, an educator/consultant based in Hilo, originally from the island of Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia. Possessed with a palpable passion for all things related to the Pacific, and his island nation, Vid (as he likes to be called) is a force to be reckoned with, and I felt that I needed his input.

One major reservation I had about launching a crowd funding campaign related to how Micronesians would feel about it.  Would they feel that we were trying to capitalize on a narrative that has taken the lives of their young people?  Would they feel a pressure to support our campaign, when many Micronesians do not have a disposable income to expend (The average per capita income in the Federated States of Micronesia is about $2,000 a year).  Would they resent us, as foreigners, for taking on the responsibility of telling a story of such complexity?

After a few pleasantries, I began explaining my reservations about doing a crowd funding campaign to Vid, who listened patiently.   After I had talked myself out, Vid responded in a tone of complete confidence.  “Nathan, you have to do a Kickstarter to give us Micronesians an opportunity to take ownership of our own story.”

Right!  That made a lot of sense, and coming from a community leader/educator from the people we are a representing in our documentary, it was a great relief to hear.  Vid also pledged to support our campaign within the Micronesian community, a promise that he more then delivered upon.   And thus began the terrifying work of preparing for the campaign with producers Bryan Chang and Fivel Rothberg.  Spreadsheets were made and populated, graphic design was resolved, and a video was produced. Since everyone involved was balancing a range of responsibilities, this was carried out over a period of months. 

Another important part of our planning was to consult with people in our filmmaking community who have done successful Kickstarter campaigns, as well as other industry professionals and consultants.  Budgeting a significant amount of time to prepare for your campaign is a critical part of being successful.  After some late nights of last minute tweaking, we were at last ready to launch.  As a long time skateboarder, the act of sharing our campaign with the world reminded me of the feeling of jumping down a large set of stairs: Commit, and hope for the best. 

Ultimately, we surpassed our goal, raising $40,000.  Equally exciting, we received very positive feedback about the narrative that ISLAND SOLDIER is telling, and when we arrived in Micronesia for our last major production shoot last November, it was incredible to see the excitement that had been generated by our campaign, on a grass roots level.

In an initial phone call that I had with Dan Schoenbrun at Kickstarter, he had suggested looking at our campaign as a “coming out party”.  In truth, I think that in addition to the critical help of providing us with the resources to move forward on ISLAND SOLDIER, and be able to secure some matching funds, a major benefit of our Kickstarter campaign was to expand the community of people excited in the project.  In a time of uncertainly about the framework and business model of independent filmmaking, it is a comforting idea to think about the role of community, in the struggle to tell untold stories, that an ever more interconnected world needs to know. 

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