How The Millennials Do It

How The Millennials Do It

Crowdfunding Pt. 1

By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 15, 2014

In today’s conversation with Jeff Simon, Jeff explains how he and his partners put together their new web series, Camp Abercorn; where the series will run; what it’ll cost; and how the team is trying to raise the money. Jeff and I talk about Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Jeff explains how crowdfunding works and opens my eyes to a world that was unthinkable “back in the day.”

(This video is the third of eight, which run in this space on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The transcript for today’s video is below.)

Steve: In my day, if you were starting out and you wanted to be a writer, you would never think of mounting your own production. You would think, “well I’m going to have to write a screenplay that I’ll sell to Warner Brothers,” or something like that. But did you think of that as an option or did you immediately go to, “I’m going to write something that I’m going to shoot and produce myself?”

Jeff: Immediately I went to producing it myself.

S: Why? Why didn’t you think about the other route?

J: There are so many screenplays in Los Angeles that never get made. I honestly figured if I wrote something, it would never happen if I tried to sell it off or something. Cameras are so much cheaper than they used to be and lighting equipment. Plus, we can distribute it online for basically free.

S: So this is a whole different world from my era, and really you’re sort of embodying Seth Godin’s concept of don’t wait for somebody to pick you, pick yourself.

J: You talk about writing spec scripts. Don’t wait for some proposal to go through and get money before you start writing. For us this is like an extreme version of that. We’re making a spec show.

S: Let’s get into this world of Vimeo and web series and stuff because I don’t even know what a web series is.

J: The word ‘web series’ sort of has a bad connotation. People think of Funny or Die videos or cat videos, things that you see on YouTube, and I knew that I didn’t want the show to be anything like that. I wanted it to be authentic stories of working at camp. I knew it was going to be a drama which immediately is weird for a camp show I think, or different, and what we were trying to do is really bring a professional level of content to the independent television/internet sphere. If we can create something that’s really great, and publish it online, it doesn’t matter that it didn’t come from a studio and it doesn’t matter that it’s on YouTube or Vimeo…people will watch it.

S: So that’s how it works? You just post it on YouTube?

J: Yeah.

S: And tell me, where is Camp Abercorn now in terms of the process of going forward? Where do you stand?

J: At the moment, we have written the show, and we’re working up a campaign to fundraise.

S: When you say, “written the show,” you have all seven episodes down?

J: Well, more or less. I mean, they certainly all have work to do, but we’ve been writing for a year already, and now what we’re doing is we’re putting together an Indiegogo campaign.

S: Now what is Indiegogo? I have no clue. It’s sort of like Kickstarter?

J: Exactly. Indiegogo is a platform where you can pitch an idea to the crowd, “crowdfunding,” and other people can donate small increments with a goal in mind.

S: What’s your goal? How much money do you need?

J: $500,000.

S: $500,000!

J: Which is crazy if you think about it by itself, but if you think about how much a normal television show costs, it’s just a fraction.

S: Let’s see if I can understand this right: you’ll cast, you have a cast?, you’ll pay them, you’ll shoot real episodes that are just like TV quality or close…

J: As close as we can get.

S: …and then put it up there on the web. Is the hope that it will get picked up by a cable network?

J: There are a number of shows that have started as web series that have transferred to cable, but it doesn’t have to be cable in the traditional sense. I think networks don’t matter as much any more. You can watch things on Netflix and on Hulu. I mean you can even watch YouTube on your television. The distribution beyond YouTube or Vimeo would be great and it would sort of legitimize the project in a way. Separate us from the cat videos!

S: Obviously a series that’s on cable or something else appears at a certain time. Now that doesn’t apply at all to a web series, right?

J: But if you think of House of Cards which you could consider a web series because it’s on Netflix, it doesn’t appear at a certain time, you can’t watch it on your television. You would have to log into your Netflix account and there they are.

S: I see. Are you going to put all seven episodes up at once when you have them or how will that work?

J: That’s under contention. We’re debating it. I think we’ll probably release them a little bit at a time. We don’t have Kevin Spacey to give us the momentum, so for us spacing it out is, for marketing, probably better.

S: Are you having fun doing this?

J: Yeah! You get to see all the sides of it.

S: I mean, in a way, these are the good old days for you whether you realize it or not. You’ll become a big success, you’ll look back and say, “remember when we use to do this stuff?!”

NEXT TIME…

S: How do you let people know that it’s out there?

J: Indiegogo is interesting. Not only is it a fundraising platform, it’s also a marketing platform. You build your audience. All those people are invested in a little way.

S: Makes sense.

J: They love the project before we’ve actually filmed it.

Posted in How The Millennials Do It

7 Responses to “Crowdfunding Pt. 1”

  1. Mary Doyle
    July 15, 2014 at 4:51 am

    Really enjoying this series! My son and his musical-duo partner have followed a similar path – they write their own material, book their own gigs, have self-produced four digital albums and market themselves through social media. Good luck Jeff!

  2. July 15, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Jeff/Steve,
    So I’m beginning to totally dig on this new thread to your site.

    1. Jeff, I spent 4 summers at a Summer Camp–Camp Jack Hazard…where everybody Rocks out! (Kids answer) ROCKS OUT! In fact Kelly and I were trying to figure out what to do when we grew up (we were 24 at the time living in Germany, I was a Soldier and Kelly wasn’t working but had finished her undergrad.)

    We each made separate lists: 10 items (mostly material and achievement) at 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 (when we would officially be old) years in the future.

    Mostly mundane stuff like: new TV, finish undergrad, another car…until we got to year 10 & 15. I think that is when we were willing to dream and be honest. We had both written ‘work for myself’ or ‘own my own business’.

    We brought the lists together, and started making plans. When we saw that we both wanted to work for ourselves, but recognized we didn’t make any widgets, nor had any definitive skill–I said, “when have you lost time Kelly?” For me it was at Summer Camp (Kitchen Crew, assistant counselor, counselor, program manager) . There were literally days that I didn’t know the day of the week. For Kelly it was/is finding and nurturing little furry creatures. We had little feeding stations in the trees for squirrels (because they obviously would starve without our daily allotment of peanuts, some shelled, others in shells–Kelly said some of them enjoy the work…) and had already adopted one cat and dog.

    We dreamed up an “Animal Camp” where kids would be issued a dog/cat to care for while at camp. It focused the next 10 years (finish undergrad, get MBA, leave Army, learn to sell, learn to make money, Kelly-get MA, maybe PhD, get a practice…)

    Sorry for long intro–but it does have a point. Camp was an absolutely defining period in my life, and I frequently say my leadership style (how I see people I’m responsible for) as “I’m the big brother” or “I’m the Camp Counselor”. We need to love & nurture our subordinates like a Camp Counselor takes care of a 10 year old kid w/ ADHD (you gotta make a quip about the counselors eating the kids Ritalin for a speed trip…) that has never left home.

    In 2005 we founded Kindred Souls Foundation, our animal rescue. The idea of a Camp changed–but so had we.

    I’ll be on Indigogo tomorrow to pitch in. I’m already hooked.

    2. Steve–I’ve had my own “Millennial Experience”. A friend of mine, a young Captain in my former unit, texted me (of course) to ask if he could film my race.
    I was indifferent–until he showed me this:

    https://vimeo.com/100706378

    He uses a ‘drone’ and a GoPro! ONLY a Millennial would have seen that connection.

    Oh, how does this all fit? Our race “Unleashed at Stadium Bowl” is our main fundraiser for our animal rescue–which ties directly to my years at Camp.

    Dig is too weak a word–I love this shit. I have so many ideas about Camp now–I need to find some Ritalin to settle down!
    bsn

  3. July 15, 2014 at 7:04 am

    Jeff,
    It wasn’t a lot, but you have a new subscriber. I can’t wait. Will pass the word.

    Another thought–I think it would be an interesting documentary to see a ‘year book’ of people that spent significant time at Camps. When I first wanted to start my race, a board member of our foundation said, “You should talk w/ a dear friend of mine from Camp (she’s in her 60’s). He started a little race called “Bloomsday”…they regularly get 60,000 people to run 12km in Spokane, Washington every years. 2nd largest race in the country…

    I think Camp has a profound imprint on people. I cannot wait to see your art, and revel in my own nostalgia during and after each episode.
    bsn

    • July 15, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Some of the most amazing people I know are from camp. They still work there. I like to say it’s a little, mini practice world, where the big milestones are less important than what’s for dinner tonight. Shelled peanuts, perhaps.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying this series, and thanks for coming on board the Camp Abercorn team. You’ll be hearing from us.

  4. clayton luz
    July 15, 2014 at 7:39 am

    It was my understanding that crowdfunding only works if you have an established audience, which makes sense. For a writer like me who is close to finishing his crime novel, I don’t have followers, not yet anyway. That said, what would be the efficacy of attempting Kickstarter? Would it still work if I were to market via social media and guerilla marketing tactics? I am about a month or two away from finishing and having it professionally proofread and edited. But that costs money, as does scaling back on my day-job hours. Plus, I am developing an author platform featuring a blog and a FB Author Page. I am a published writer with a single but notable award from a prestigious literary pub three years ago (Best New Author). Any advice would be greatly welcomed!

  5. Clayton Luz
    July 15, 2014 at 7:48 am

    As a follow-up or “backgrounder” to my previous post, I queried because I’ve sacrificed my professional career for the book. I’m close to foreclosure on my home and have been unable to find full-time professional work. I used to earn $60k/year and now I earn $9/hour working only 13 hours a week. I’ve run through my savings and 401(k). But that’s okay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Steven and Sean is DO YOUR DREAM. I am. I intend to write crime novels. But the financial cost is a little scary. I’m almost there, but the bank won’t wait for me. So, will Kickstarter help?

    • July 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Clayton, I think you’re right. Kickstarter and Indiegogo aren’t get of jail free cards. They take an extreme amount of work. I was warned. I’ve many friends who have successfully pulled off campaigns. But it’s even more work than I thought.

      We’re one week into a month long campaign and feeling optimistic!

      I’ll tell you this. I would never be able to do a campaign alone.