Two months ago we made a post here on the blog about how to make a good Kickstarter video, as a key to successfully funding a project. So we were delighted to get an email a few weeks back from Brendan Sullivan, telling us how that post helped him make his video and successfully fund his project, Zoetrope Art & Design: “Shirts for people who like shirts”.

He agreed to write a guest post telling all of us about his experience in making it, and that’s what follows:

Hi, my name is Brendan and I make shirts and other printed things under the Zoetrope brand.

I’m in the final days of running a Kickstarter campaign that’s seen my goal funded more than 150%, and I’m going to yammer a little bit about my experience and the benefits of making a video you’re proud of.

If you want to have a good chance at a successful project, you gotta tell your story. One way to do that is with a quality video. It’s like film in general: your audience is far more likely to relate and offer their support when you wrap it all up nicely in a good video, especially when they’re being asked to put down money. Make them want to donate by being entertaining, or making them laugh, or anything, as long as they feel something. Wooshii has published several great posts on this subject, which I would totally read if I were you.

So anyway, here’s my story.

I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to do a straight forward, me-talking-to-you video pitch. After talking it over with some friends, we determined that a 1950s-era instructional short film was the way to go. A lot of inspiration came from early Walt Disney television shows like “Disneyland” and “Wonderful World of Color” and those great old black and white films that explained how to brush your teeth properly and why you should tuck your shirt in your pants (spoiler: adults will think you’re swell!). However, since I had to show the product with at least some color, I aimed for that early-TV era, somewhat blurry, half-desaturated look and got to work.

So tip #1: Get creative with your theme. Look for inspiration, then make something cool. You can do it however you want as long as it gets the job done, and making something different will help you stand out more to the viewer.

I sat down and hacked out a script, went through a few drafts, then had friends review it to see where it sucked. I definitely wanted to approach it with some humor, so we punched it up everywhere we could. My buddy Dan can do a really funny angry robot character and we’d been looking for a reason to film it, so I made a little robot out of lots of little pieces and built him a tiny office set for the shoot. That was probably one of the stranger things we ended up filming. Also, the robot likes donuts. (That factors in largely.)

Tip #2: Write! Write until your grubby little fingers fall off and then grow some new fingers and keep writing until you have something you’re happy with. And let your friends see it and help out, because you never know what they’ll come up with to augment what you’re saying.

My biggest asset by far was having help pulling it all together. The video was shot on two Canon 7D cameras (*cough* shamelessplugnumberone: www.rachel-sullivan-photography.com *cough*) in my friend’s bar after hours. We set up three lights and used a boom microphone to get the audio. We even cobbled together a chalkboard out of a table and that spray-on green chalkboard stuff. Afterwards we spent several hours editing it, making it look a lot crappier with Final Cut, and mastering the audio to match the old-timey video quality. (*cough* shamelessplugnumbertwo: www.linkedin.com/pub/dan-manata/1b/584/102 *cough*) All of this I wouldn’t have been able to do alone, and it made the final product way better than anything I could’ve put together on my own.

Tip #3: Recruit your friends! Or, make some friends, then recruit them. They’ll like helping you out and they’ll probably make it a lot more fun, especially when they periodically hit you with the boom and slap you to keep you on your toes.

Naturally, the shoot went flawlessly and we finished it all in one take because I’m the finest actor to have ever graced the screen in the history of forever. I’m amazing.

Nah, the shoot lasted for several hours because I didn’t actually memorize my lines and ended up saying the F-word a whole lot, (“Fudge!”) but even that was a positive, because we ended up cutting together a pretty funny blooper reel that I put out as a Kickstarter blog update, and people seem to enjoy it.

Tip #4: Embrace your outtakes, folks. If America’s Funniest Videos and Tosh.0 have taught us nothing else, it’s that people enjoy watching you mess up and knock things over.

After finishing the edit and starting the project, I shared the link on my social networks. (One of the great things about involving friends with the production was that they wanted to share the project, too!) I contacted various blogs that I followed and reached out to some people in my city that I thought might dig it, and ran a little promotion where anyone who shared the link would get some extra goodies. I just tried to do my best to promote the thing without crossing that fine line into annoying spam, which is a surprisingly daunting thing to do.

Tip #5: Promotion is great. But if you’re like me, you probably find talking up other people’s stuff a lot easier and less awkward than doing it for yourself. Ain’t that a stinker? Nobody wants to feel like they’re self-aggrandizing, but you have to take those steps to get the word out. Ultimately, if you don’t, nobody else will.

Finally, I had a fortunate break when my project was featured on the Kickstarter ‘Staff Picks’ page a day or so after the kickoff. It definitely helped drive more people to check out the project, and I don’t think that would’ve happened if we didn’t make the video the way we did. I ended up hitting my goal a week and a half in and the response has been fantastic. I went into this thing not being sure if it would be successful at all and my expectations were totally blown away, and I credit a lot of that to the age-old adage of film-making: make something I would want to watch. It’s so easy that it’s hard, right?

Tip #6: Uhh, yeah. I’ll say it again because it’s important. Make something you’d want to spend your time watching. You might luck out and other people will spend their time watching it, too.

So that’s about it. Seriously, check out those links to the other articles, because there’s so much good information, it’s ridiculous. Even if you’re not looking to make a crowdfunding project for yourself, throw your feelers out and see if you can find other people looking for ideas and help. As they say, it’s the bees knees!

More Shameless Plugs to find Zoetrope if you want to:
kickstarter.com/projects/zoetropeart/zoetropeproject
ZoetreopeArt.com
Facebook.com/ZoetropeArt
Twitter.com/ZoetropeArt

That’s it… and what an awesome post that was! Thank you to Brendan for taking the time to share this with us and good luck with the project!