The Value of an Idea

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I swore I would never do another Kickstarter campaign.  Back in 2009, and then in 2011, we asked our viewers to contribute to our campaigns to make The Perennial Plate possible…and you did. It was motivating and wonderful.  Since then, we felt like we had “graduated”.  We would find other ways to fund our filmmaking aspirations…and we did.  We’ve produced over 170 films from the help of Travel Companies, generous donors, grocery associations, small and big businesses, and tourism boards. We’ve managed to put out all these films with complete creative control and ZERO advertising. For that I am very proud.  And somehow over the years, we’ve managed to patch together a living making films, and have even hired a dear friend (Hunter) to work with us. We thought our days of Kickstarter were long gone.

Yet we are back again. When Trump became president and our team began to brainstorm about how we could positively impact our country, we went through the options, and they all involved pitching projects to organizations and companies and then… waiting.  And we didn’t want to wait. We wanted to act — before we had been bludgeoned to the point of no reaction by the obscenity of this administration. Here is what Kickstarter does: it makes this happen FAST.

So, seven days before we headed to Mexico City for 6 weeks, we made a Kickstarter video out of an idea we’d been ruminating over for months. A lot of thoughts had come to surface, but they all ended up in the same place: doing something of meaning and preaching it to the choir. Any film we made that was for “the resistance” would inevitably be seen by a bunch of people who were already passionate about the same issues. This is something that activist filmmakers constantly face, and that we have confronted over the years with The Perennial Plate: how do you reach the people who aren’t already convinced or already thinking about the issues you care about?  

Finally something popped up. About a year ago, I was introduced to Facebook advertising. I had never used it before (and was frankly opposed to the idea), but wanted to experiment with some additional funding we had received. So I started to put small “boosts” behind certain videos – $20 here and there.  Whether you like this or not, the results were astounding.  Through small targeted ignitions of money, we were able to reach a new, and much larger, audience.  Our Facebook Page likes doubled in a matter of weeks, and we began to get 100s of thousands of video views on films that we thought had passed their prime.

Fast forward 12 months to our brainstorming session. What it if we applied those same Facebook ad methods to a totally different audience? An idea and a Kickstarter campaign for real change was born.

But the reason I’m writing all this is to get back to Kickstarter and the beauty and frustration of these types of campaigns of asking for money. This campaign is going against almost all of the concepts I’ve learned over the years from my own campaigns (and advising on those of other’s). People want something in return.  A project that offers a book, or a watch, or a jar of jam is easier to support because you feel like you are getting something for your money.  Our campaign doesn’t give any rewards. In fact, we won’t even be able to prove to you that what we’re doing is effective.  We are promoting an idea. The idea that personal storytelling has the ability to influence people; the idea that conservatives and liberals have equal empathy; the idea that we can help balance the scales of information in this country; the idea that we all share a common humanity; and of course the idea that we can make change.

Support the idea: