Some thoughts on crowd-funding

Adventures in Failure
Adventures in Failure

I am currently working on a show called Adventures in Failure. It’s a devised physical piece with three wonderful performers and a talented and enthusiastic team behind it. I’m enjoying working with great people, who are all working incredibly hard to make this piece of theatre. As producer, one of my jobs is to make sure we are able to pay for the production. Everyone is working for free (or “profit-share” as it is also known), but we still need to cover the cost of the venue, rehearsal space, set, costumes and publicity. We all want to make a great show and we want it to find an audience.

So I find myself running my first ever Fund:it campaign. And I am finding it an interesting challenge. I read lots of articles about crowd-funding before we launched our campaign. This one from PBS is my favourite. It contains the warning “Crowdfunding is not a walk in the park. Unless that park is covered with broken glass. And a lion ate your shoes at the entrance gate. And he is now chasing you.” I did not go into the campaign expecting it to be easy. It’s hard convincing people to part with their hard-earned cash – we all have less of it these days. I’m aware that we’re not trying to cure cancer or buy equipment for a children’s hospital. We’re trying to raise money to make art, and art that will only exist inside the theatre for a few hundred people. We won’t have a CD or DVD to give you at the end of it. So that’s a challenge.

Crowd-funding is exciting because suddenly the list of potential funders is much longer than just your friends and family. However when you’re trying to convince people to give you money, that personal connection is a big part of why people fund you. The projects I’ve contributed to belonged to people I know, even if I only know them through their work. When Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars for her album on Kickstarter, a friend in the music industry made the observation that generally the artists who raise a lot of money via crowd-funding have already had success with the old model. Having a dedicated fanbase in place definitely helps any crowd-funding campaign.

One of my worries is eroding the audience’s goodwill. I don’t want to badger people to the point where they’re already fed up of the show before it even opens. The advice for avoiding this is to offering your audience something – provide them with entertainment or information, don’t just always be asking for money. But can you carry this too far, to the point where they don’t even realise that you are asking them for money? Online, where so much is available for free, how will people know that I’m looking for money if I don’t ask them?

Despite my concerns, despite all my research prior to launching the campaign, I was still surprised and delighted by people’s generosity. It’s lovely to feel that people believe in you and the work you’re trying to create. Every donation feels like a wonderful, encouraging gift!

Right now, with 8 days left of the campaign and over €1500 still left to raise, we still have a long way to go. But I have faith that we will cross the finish-line.

And if you are in a position to give us a hand, here’s our Fund:it page.

Journey to the End of the Night

On the 26th April, Journey to the End of the Night will take place in Dublin. This is a free street game played at night, and run entirely by volunteers.

Journey to the End of the Night -Dublin
Journey to the End of the Night -Dublin

It’s basically a giant game of tag, but with extra rules thrown in to make it possible to win and lose. All the players start from the same place, then they have to visit six check-points spread out over the city. But while they’re doing that, they are also being hunted down by the chasers. If a player is caught, they switch sides and become a chaser. The winners are those who make it to all the check-points without being caught.

Journey to the End of the Night was created in 2006 and since then it has been played in over 30 cities all around Europe and North America. Thousands of people have taken part, so there must be something in it!

It will be fun and exciting and unlike anything you’ve done before. The creators have described the experience as cinematic – like being the star of your own action movie. I suspect it’s very good for stress – a wonderful opportunity to ditch all your real life worries for a night and throw yourself into the game. Though maybe game isn’t the right word – one of the survival tips is “Bring a friend or two. Preferably ones you can outrun.”

The Dublin event is run by Make and Do who set up the prosocialrulebreakingclub a couple of years ago, run theatre games at Electric Picnic and are currently Artists in Residence at Project Arts Centre.

They are currently looking for volunteers to help make it all happen. The Volunteer sign-up form is here.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about the Dublin game, or find out more about Journey to the End of the Night in general or follow Make and Do on Twitter.

Related post: Interview with Hilary O’Shaughnessy