How to crowdfund an Edinburgh show

With fringe costs rising, many companies are crowdfunding to cover them – three groups reveal what works (and doesn’t)

I Could’ve Been Better by Idiot Child – on target

“The economics of the Edinburgh fringe are terrifying and our initial joy at being asked to perform our show, I Could’ve Been Better, was soon tempered by the realisation that we might have to sell a lung each to get there. We’re an emerging company with a very small bank balance and there are very few grants for productions at the fringe. None of us are wealthy and mum still hasn’t won the lottery. Having helped fund a few theatre projects in the past via crowdfunding, we decided that we should try it.

“There are many crowdfunding sites out there and their rules vary. We avoided the sites that don’t allow you to keep your funds if you don’t hit your target, and of the others we liked the style and ethos of Sponsume best. We looked at lots of projects on the site to see which were doing well. It was evident we needed a good film to engage potential backers, and the Sponsume team advised us that rewardingbackers were also key to success.

“The film was the hardest thing to get right. We wanted it to reflect us as a company and promote the show so that even if people didn’t donate they might be encouraged to see it in Edinburgh. We’ve had terrific feedback – Sponsume picked our campaign as one of its favourites. Many of our backers know us, but the film reaches out to people who don’t. Result.

“Once our campaign was running the next challenge was to get people to look at it. Social networking has been vital and our campaign has generated a load of new followers. However, it’s easy to let momentum drop after the initial flurry of funding and this is where you need stamina and nerve. We’ve still got a little way to go to hit target. All donations welcome.”

The stats: 70 backers, £2,780 raised, 62% of £4,500 goal (as of 5 August)

Susie Riddell is an actor and producer with Idiot Child – follow the company on Twitter @IdiotChildCo

Outside On The Street by Invertigo – over target

“Invertigo decided to crowdfund via Kickstarter as a direct way to reach a wide and diverse audience prepared to share in our newest adventure.Outside on the Street is our Edinburgh fringe debut and there are numerous costs associated with making this happen. By creating a target we’ve been able to focus our energy on ensuring that some of these costs are covered in an effective and achievable way.

“We watched successful campaign videos for inspiration, picking apart why we thought they worked and how we could emulate this success. This led us to ask ourselves: why would Joe Bloggs give to this project? By identifying what our potential investors could gain we created an exciting pitch and some fantastic rewards, ranging from a thank you on Twitter and Facebook for £5 donors, to afternoon tea at the Balmoral, four free tickets to the show, a programme mention and copy of the text and poster signed by all members of the cast and creative team for £200. The backer who pledged £1000 is now our show’s executive producer.

“We strongly believe Outside on the Street is a story that deserves to be heard – and heard now. What better place to do this than the world’s largest arts festival? We want to share our journey with investors every step of the way, as we know there will be challenges ahead. The support we have received so far has been overwhelming and we are so grateful to every single person no matter how little or large their donation – everything counts.

“We will certainly use crowdfunding with our future projects, making sure we tailor our campaign’s rewards to the project. Next time, we might try involving our investors from the get go with exclusive opportunities to watch dress rehearsals and give feedback during the creative process.”

The stats: 49 backers, £2,498 raised, 167% of £1,500 goal (as of 5 August).

Mirain Jones is producer for Invertigo Theatre – follow the company@InvertigoCo

Vinegar Tom by Warwick University Drama Society – under target

“It’s the first time this particular society has taken something to Edinburgh so something of a stab in the dark. We’re a company of 19, largely the same team I took to the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) earlier this year with Simon Stephens’ Pornography, which did really well for us. We’re doing Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom this time – it felt like the right time to resurrect it.

“There was a pot of funding available from the society, but it was always part of the pitching process that we raise the rest of the working budget. We applied for a few grants and got them; the crowdfunding was contingency so that we didn’t have to rely on ticket sales to cover our costs. We chose Kickstarter because we thought it had the biggest profile of the crowdfunding platfoms. It also enables you to go over your target if you meet it. Whole Hog Theatre, for example, an ex-Warwick group who adapated the anime film, Princess Mononoke, smashed their total because the show has a cult following.

“We put together a video featuring our original music for the show, rehearsal footage and interviews with the cast and crew about why we were doing it and what we needed the money for. It looked really good – the guy who put it together won the audio-visual award at the NSDF. We had a successful blog for Pornography and tried to use that again, not just going on about what a lovely time we were having, but talking about our ideas for the play. Hopefully, people would think: ‘I’ll lend them a hand’.

“What didn’t work for us was not having things to give in return – as a university society, it’s not like we can offer meets with the actors; no one is that interested. The biggest things we had to offer were CDs. It’s also difficult to reach people beyond your close circle of friends. If you don’t make your target you don’t get any of the money – and we didn’t.

“It was a bit of a psychological blow just before we came to Edinburgh to think that people weren’t interested. But since we’ve arrived, flyering is going well on the Mile, we’ve had four really great reviews and we’ve started getting good crowds – last night we even had a full house. If we were going to use Kickstarter again, I’d set our deadlines later so that people who came and enjoyed the show could donate afterwards.”

The stats: 13 backers, £182 raised, 36% of £500 goal (closed 21 July)

George Want is director with Warwick University Drama Society – follow him on Twitter @GeorgeEWant

SOURCE: The Guardian

Photo: Richard Lakos