The Wisdom of the Crowd #2: Falling for Fitzgerald

In the second of two articles on the phenomenon, looking at the stories of two very different Scottish shorts both seeking funding via the collaborative route of crowd-funding, Scottish-based filmmaker Amy Hawes tells us about Falling for Fitzgerald.

Falling for Fitzgerald

The wisdom of the crowd refers to the process of taking into account the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than a single expert to answer a question. James Surowiecki

Ever got the bus into town with your best friend Alice when you were thirteen years old, with your swimming stuff packed excitedly into your Spice Girls rucksack (you'd even remembered to bring shampoo for afterwards), and when you got there you realised that you'd both forgotten your purses and had just spent the fiver you had in your pocket on hotdogs and glittery clip-on hair braids from Claire's Accessories, and you were suddenly £3.25 short of being able to go swimming?

Your frantic solution is to run off and pester the poor citizens of Scunthorpe that are unlucky enough to be ambling down the High Street right at that moment, and between you and about seven people you manage to rustle up the holy £3.25 and you are finally home and dry (or rather, at Scunthorpe Swimming Baths and flying down the flume rides).

You haven't? Well I have, and whilst I didn't realise it at the time, what I was doing was crowd-funding. In order to raise a total amount, you ask for very small amounts, sometimes tiny amounts, from lots and lots of individuals.

The idea goes that whilst a funder may not be willing to give you the whole amount (indeed, maybe we could go that step further and suggest it's wrong to ask for the whole amount from one person?), she may be happy to give you a small amount and if you get enough takers with the same idea then you're sitting pretty.

This is the way I'm trying to make money right now for my project. Next year I'm planning on producing a short film script I wrote this year and funding the entire thing myself.

Falling for Fitzgerald is a bleak comedy due to be filmed in Glasgow, focused around a dismal young lady called Melanie who's gotten herself into such a rut in life that her only solace comes from dogmatically pursuing her completely unobtainable best friend. He's gay, his family won't give him his inheritance unless he pretends to be straight and they spend a week holed up in his parents mansion in (insert wealthy and attractive rural location). Humorous high jinks ensue.

The type of crowd-funding favoured by American platforms such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo adds a further dimension to crowd-funding. In return for your funds, you receive a return, or a perk for your money. I'm using IndieGoGo, and they advise that ¦a perk is a way of giving back to the audience that's giving to you. They're incentives to giving. They're ways of saying thank you.

"Tangibly, they are things you're offering to give back to your funders when they give at a certain level. (You know, like public radio tote bags.) They are also ways to get your work into other people's hands. You know you have a great product, now it's time for everyone else to see it for themselves.

The best way forward seems to be offering a perk that's really, REALLY unique. So something handmade, from the heart and nothing mass produced. It also needs to be something that people will actually want, so your chalk-drawing of Bottle of Milk on a Step in Autumn that you made when you were nine might not be the way to go. I mean, your mum might bid for it¦

On my crowd-funding page, I'm offering extra parts, Executive Producer Credits and invitations to the film screening party. I've also managed to wrangle myself some quite special perks, so as well as the more standard DVDs and photographs on offer for your donations, there's the option of getting a professional violin lesson, advertising space at the end of the film and a custom-made three minute website video.

Like mine and Alice's determination ten years ago, if you ask enough people and you make your pitch better than We don't have enough money to go swimming (it only works if you look about ten), then crowd-funding really seems to be a viable way to raise money for a project.

The problem these days is standing out in the market place. IndieGoGo currently has more than 1000 projects on its website and that number is growing rapidly as more and more people are introduced to the idea of raising money by crowd-funding. It will be interesting to see if Britain sets up its own version of a crowd-funding platform - both IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are American - over the coming year.

For now, it seems like the word is out over there¦but not so much over here. Take my advice, and get in on it before everybody else does.

To find out more about Amy's film and to donate, visit the Falling for Fitzgerald page on IndieGoGo