Making Meme Part 1: Crowdfunding

Meme is Now Available to Watch on AppleTV, Amazon, and from 4MileCircus

“Making Meme” is a series of blog posts about the long process of taking a project from an idea to a completed feature film. I made a lot of mistakes on the way and learned a lot of lessons, but I also had a lot of fun and got to work with a lot of wonderful people throughout the process. These posts are presented in the hopes of helping others in their struggles to make a film. – Sean Mannion, Writer/Director, Meme

Read this series in order from the beginning

Meme began in spring 2013 as a desire to take the next step as a filmmaker. I’d made many short films and videos for the web. I had a lot of ideas for features. I had some complete screenplays. I had even more half-written screenplays and detailed outlines. The problem with so many of those ideas at the time was they would just be a bit too expensive for me to get off the ground. I needed something within reach.  

I saw Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and I saw a path to making my first feature. The form of the film with its non-linear narrative moving back and forth through the story inspired me to take one of those detailed outlines, an idea for a Videodrome sequel, and turn it into something I could shoot. Meme was born out of rewrites of that script. I met with and immediately cast Sarah Schoofs to play the role of Jennifer. Fellow filmmaker Katie Carman-Lehach came on board as producer and helped me refine the script further. Casting continued and Shivantha Wijesinha, Kitty Ostapowicz, Tara Cioletti, Alex Bone, and Lauren A. Kennedy joined the project. Director of Photography Peter Westervelt joined the project at that time as well.

Things came together and in September of 2013 we launched the Kickstarter campaign. We focused on the VHS themes of the film and had a bit of fun with a trailer, some silly clips of actors reading the descriptions from VHS porn boxes, and some GIFs based on a Look Book I’d made. We got some support. Great support from people who had supported my “Abel and Cain” campaign. Support from old friends and new friends. Support from some VHS enthusiasts. We got a lot of support, but ultimately it wasn’t enough for the campaign to succeed.

I’m not sure at this time that I could recount exactly the events of that campaign. I’ve blocked a bit of it out. It was a stressful month as any crowdfunding campaign tends to be. Crowdfunding is a full-time job. You’ve got to be on it and working every connection you can to try and drum up support all day every day. More than that you have to know your project well enough to pitch it to varied groups and you can’t be half-baked. Halfway through I understood we weren’t going to make the goal and I was considering what would need to happen. Publicly, I put on an optimistic face and pushed forward. Privately, I considered what needed to be done. 

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why the Meme Kickstarter didn’t work out. In the end it came down to a few factors. First, the project wasn’t ready. Second, I assumed there would be more interest than there was. Third, I didn’t put in the time to really make it work. I had just gotten a new job and was away two full weeks during the campaign on that job. I jumped the gun and wasn’t ready to launch the project. I’d assumed because I’d successfully raised funds for “Abel and Cain” that people would be automatically interested and want to be a part of this project. Ultimately, it was a good thing that the campaign ended unsuccessfully. The project needed more time to develop. 

So, I took a break from Meme. I set it aside and turned to other projects. I needed to dig into some other stories and I had several great new people to work with on those projects.

In the next part, I will cover how the project evolved in the 13 months between the end of the campaign and the first day of shooting.

2 thoughts on “Making Meme Part 1: Crowdfunding

    1. Hi! Thanks for checking out the post. This is a tough question. I’ve found the most helpful advice has come from the educational materials provided by Seed&Spark. They actually have taken their “Crowdfunding to Build Independence” Workshop and turned it into a video series you can watch on their site. They’ve also got a great blog post: “The Introvert’s Guide to Crowdfunding,” which has some helpful tips.

      I think in the end one of the best things you can do for yourself is weigh how much you think you need to make your film vs. how much you pessimistically think you can raise. Set your goal a little higher than your pessimistic expectations and a little lower than what you think you need. Also, don’t do what I did and split your attention too much. Find a way to make your campaign the main focus of your time for your month of crowdfunding.

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