How Do I Fund My Big Dream?

Question: I’m thinking about raising $50,000 for a movie. It’s a huge life dream for me, and I never thought it was even possible. Maybe it really isn’t, but with crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, maybe it is. I want this dream to come true. But if it doesn’t, I really don’t want it to end badly. I’ve never asked people for money before. How do I prepare myself practically and spiritually to launch my campaign and see it through?

Paul Sutherland: GO FOR IT!

Did I just say that? No! Gosh, don’t do it. It’s too big a risk. Why go for a “huge” life dream? What if you fail? You might feel bad.

Sorry, but there are much worse things than feeling bad— like feeling remorse for not going for it. For me, life is about manifesting: going after dreams. It is not about being safe from an ego point of view. A successful life is about taking risks. What can go wrong with your $50,000 dream? Failure! What is failure? Seems to me that failure is what failures worry about.

I have a confession to make: When I was in high school, my mother occasionally had friends over who were going through divorce or widowhood, and I would hide behind the couch and listen. The one thing that stuck with me from those conversations was a simple line my mother used over and over again with her traumatized friends: “What is the worst that can happen?” she would ask. Then she would shut up and let her friend spill.

What I found remarkable was that as these women revealed their biggest fears, they seemed to become lighter, more at ease, and happier. They usually realized they could handle it, whatever it was, just like they had handled other challenging life events. After “kissing the ugly” of what could happen, they would leave, inspired to move forward.

So, back to your huge dream: Go for it! But I do have some advice to help make it less traumatic if your film does flop, and to allow it to be more wonderful if it succeeds.

From my experience, when risky investments fail, people tend to shrug and say, “Well, I knew it was a risky movie (oil deal, alternative energy scheme, etc.), so I lost my investment.” They walk away. But when a risky investment hits it big, people start wondering if they are getting what’s due to them for their intelligence, foresight, and guts. This matters especially with movies.

Years ago, I worked for a company that put together a low-budget movie deal that included Dirty Dancing. The other films flopped, but Dirty Dancing was huge. Nevertheless, there was not much left to distribute to investors after the long line of producers, distributors, and participants has been paid. I remember chatting with the investment syndicator about this, his first “movie deal.” He said “Paul, Dirty Dancing was very successful for everyone except the investors. I learned investing in movies is for fun and because it feels good, but not to make money.”

So plan on your movie being successful, at least for you, your movie team, and maybe critically, but don’t promise too much to your investors. As director Michael Moore said in a recent speech to those wishing to do documentaries: “Don’t!”

Your pitch to the investors should answer these three basic questions:

  1. Why should your movie be made? A potential supporter/investor should feel that your film needs to be produced.
  2. Why is making your movie such a huge dream for you? You should be able to articulate your passion for your project so well that people feel compelled to invest in YOU and your film. They are actually not investing in your film—they are investing in you.
  3. What should the investor expect? Come up with things like a listing in the credits, a free copy of the DVD, an invitation to the first screening, or dinner with the cast.

Whether they invest $10 or $10,000 through your campaign, investors will feel successful because they helped make a huge dream a reality. In fact, just thinking about your dream makes me wonder about your movie. I wonder about you story: Is it a documentary or fiction? Heck, I don’t even know you, and I’m interested to learn about investing in it.