I started a Crowdfunding campaign in Japan on June 25, 2015. It is still going on. The campaign ends on Sept. 26, 2015. These are notes on my thoughts on what’s going on with this. I hope, if you are thinking about Crowdfunding, you can read this and, perhaps, learn a few things and it will benefit your efforts.
In my case, we are making a Japanese Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost Story movie. The trailer is at the bottom of this page or you can view it at the top of the Crowdfunding page here (the trailer has English subtitles): https://www.makuake.com/project/rock
When I started this project, I decided to try to get funding from some big companies. It’s impossible to make a professional quality movie without a lot of money so, over a span of about 2 1/2 months from March 2015 to Late May 2015, I went to several big music companies. The reaction from the presidents of companies I met was very warm and positive. Everyone knows that, since the Tokyo Olympics are coming to Japan in 2020, there is a golden opportunity to show the world the spirit of real Japanese Rock and Roll and not the J-Pop girls and boy bands that all the major labels try in vain to promote overseas. Three of the major companies offered me a lot of money. But there was a catch; the artists I started this project with – my team – would be replaced by pop artists.
I can’t do that. For one, the Neatbeats, the Privates and the 50 Kaitenz are my favorite Japanese rock bands. For two, they are my friends and my team (and one does not betray their friends and team!), and; third, this is a rock and roll movie. I think that the spirit, the music and the love of rock and roll that these bands encompass, can be extremely popular overseas.
I really do believe that. I believe in these bands.
Finally, the last reason, I am an old punk rocker at heart and I have come to the conclusion that, in my life, I will never achieve major, mainstream success. This was a sad realization for me, but it is true. When my old and dear friend, Taro Furukawa said this to me, it was like an arrow through my heart, but I also knew that, deep down in my heart, he is right and it is true.
So, I decided to not accept money from big companies and do this movie as an indie movie. Is it impossible? Sometimes I think so, but I must continue and push forward no matter what. But, during this time, Nobuhara san from the Privates said something to me that was really wonderful. He said, “We don’t need lots of money. We just need a punk spirit!” That was like a light going off in my head!
So I decided to go get a Crowdfunding partner. I went to Cyber Agent and met the president of Crowdfunding for that company. I presented the idea for the movie to him and he and his staff loved it. So we started the campaign on June 25, 2015. I wanted to do a 4 or 6 week campaign; it was at the advice of the Crowdfunding company to make the campaign three months (which is way too long!)
Also, as a producer, it is my duty to make the best movie we can possibly make; I went out and got other professional people to help me. Everyone is doing this project as a volunteer and I am most grateful to everyone. Yet, it is my duty to make this the biggest happening and most successful movie that I can possibly make.
That also means I have a duty to try to get as much money as possible and to pay all my people and team.
About the money and the volunteers; thanks so much. I am trying to make this a hit movie (as much as possible) and to make it into a profitable movie. That means, that even if you volunteered to help us, if we make money, then I must make every effort to at least pay you for your time or, at least, train fare!
So, please understand why I am so “pushy” on Facebook, email and Twitter. I don’t want to push so hard, but it is my duty to all the bands and volunteers and everyone who is helping us. A successful movie, like any project, is made by preparation. This effort (and Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is a part of that effort. Like I said, I don’t want to bother everyone constantly, but it is my duty and everyone deserves my best effort.
I’m sorry if you think, “Mike is so persistent!” But I also hope you understand why and know that I don’t want to be so… It is a part of the job and my duty, to our bands, friends and volunteer, as a movie producer.
Anyway, about Crowdfunding, here are things I learned:
- You can’t really depend on the Crowdfunding companies to do any promotion for you. You have to do it yourself.
- The Crowdfunding companies all take about a 20% margin. Make sure that the company you choose includes credit card charges in that 20% margin.
- Our project is an “International Project.” I recruited a famous producer to help me. He has won at Cannes Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival. He has also been nominated for an Academy Award. I brought him in to give us reputation overseas. Big Problem: The Crowdfunding company does not accept LOTS of foreign credit cards. Our campaign lost over ¥500,000 because of this problem. I think it will take a long time for Japanese Crowdfunding companies to arrange foreign credit cards.
- The staff at the company I choose seem to be overworked. I can write them an email and sometimes do not get an answer from them for two or three days. That is not acceptable. This is the internet age; I expect an answer with a day. If it is an internet company (which the Crowdfunding company is) then I expect an answer within 2 hours.
- Crowdfunding in Japan, as of today, is still a relatively new thing. Lots of people don’t understand it.
- There is a Catch 22 in the Crowdfunding. I calculated that I needed ¥5 million yen to make this movie. I expect to get at least 1/2 that money (after paying the Crowdfunding company)… Where will I get the other money? I have to go back and talk to some big companies again…
- When our campaign started, I spent at least 6 ~ 8 hours a day, everyday, seven days a week for over three weeks sending out direct Facebook messages, Twitter and direct emails to all my friends and connections (No BCC!). I think that’s why we hit our initial money target within the first 15 days. If you do Crowdfunding, then you had better be prepared to do this same effort. Everyone will get sick of hearing from you, but you have a duty to the other people who are helping you.
In early August, I saw a message on Twitter from girl that said, “On Facebook and Twitter, everything is ‘Mike.'” She wasn’t mad, but I took that as a message that people were getting sick of hearing about it. So I toned it down and basically did zero promotion during that month. Now that we are in our last few weeks, I have to start promoting again.
Even if it kills me, we’re going to make this movie and it is going to be one the great memories of our lives for 2015 ~2016.
Please forgive me for being so persistent. It is the bed I made, so now I must lay down it it. Thanks so much for your time and most kind consideration.
In life I think you have to have punk spirit and you have to be persistent as hell!
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