Nonprofit Filmmakers Turn to Crowdfunding for Donations and Awareness

by Dan Verhaeghe

In the entertainment industry there used to be just a few options for  independent or nonprofit filmmakers wanting to showcase their work to the general public.

YouTube began to change all of that in a few short years. But the missing element to really drive nonprofit independent film making online was crowdfunding.

That’s according to Victoria-based "Return to the Forest" producer and director Patricia Sims. The 30 minute documentary, narrated by William Shatner, is part of a broader initiative called World Elephant Day, which is supported by Thailand’s Elephant Reintroduction Foundation.

A report released this past August called Crowdfunding in a Canadian Context explored the potential of crowdfunding in the creative content industries. Crowdfunding is an emerging alternative funding vehicle outside of traditional production studios and angel investors that has experienced a recent boom in North America.

Commissioned by the Canadian Media Fund in conjunction with Nordicity, the report outlined that the nonprofit sector was the first to successfully employ crowdfunding in its present online form: “Two notable and often-cited early examples of successful crowdfunding efforts include the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief fundraising campaign and the President Barrack Obama’s first-term election campaign back in 2008."

For Patricia, an independent documentary filmmaker, the Internet is empowering her as a creative content developer with a means of concept validation and beta testing to improve on previous efforts.

While Sims did not utilize crowdfunding this year, she plans on doing so for next year’s World Elephant Day marketing campaign for a non-fiction feature film production. Sims added that there really is a serious amount of time needed to be devoted toward social media marketing that should be started more than two months in advance.

Patricia Sims’ release of “Return to the Forest” garnered over 6,000 video views online when it was released on World Elephant Day. The video received worldwide attention and nearly 3,000 likes on Facebook, while netting an additional 2,600 Twitter followers.

Sims earned quality over quantity in terms of support. She got messages from all around the world from people and organizations that wanted to continue to support her in protecting the endangered Asian elephants in Thailand.

The Internet has been able to cross geographical boundaries like never before. And that’s been the most important thing for Patricia Sims and the inaugural World Elephant Day.

It is somewhat previously unrecognized causes like hers that people might have turned a blind eye to in the past. That’s because they just could not get the proper media attention.

Patricia Sims did say, though, that it is still difficult to get global consciousness. Timing is always a hard thing to determine.

On the bright side, the playing field has been leveled for independent filmmakers somewhat—particularly those who are focusing on cause-based documentary productions. That’s because crowdfunding has the unique dual function of providing both private financing and generating publicity and attention for a project.

“Elephants are among the most fascinating creatures,” said William Shatner. “What limits there are to their intelligence, we don’t know. What we do know is that they can communicate between each other over thousands of miles, which would then also mean that every elephant is linked to every other elephant in the world. What wonderful creatures.”

"Return to the Forest" was awarded the Best Short for Animal Advocacy at the Artivist Film Festival in Hollywood, and received an Award of Excellence at the Best Shorts Competition in California.

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Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe focuses on marketing, mobile, major technology players, entertainment, and new media. Dan has a dozen years of online experience that dates back to the turn of the millennium where he dominated a now non-existent online RPG game for a couple of years at the age of 15. He would eventually become a Toronto Blue Jays blogger who earned his way into Toronto's CP24 studios six years... more

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