Talking Head: Crowdfunding for TV series The Marshlands
Creator and writer Katherine Scott-Williams talks to us about her first experience crowdfunding with her new sci-fi TV series The Marshlands, how she did it and the lessons she's learned.
The Marshlands is a new sci-fi TV series currently in pre-production.
It takes place in a dystopian world where the ice caps have melted. Major cities worldwide are submerged and now lie abandoned. Much of the United Kingdom is gone, our lowlands lost to the sea or replaced by uninhabitable expanses of marshland, with people divided by fear and false truths. In an attempt to control and maintain order the government have constructed 'safe camps' which offer refuge to the surviving population.
However, there are those who choose to fend for themselves, who have established their own communities outside the walls of the government compounds. The series follows the how these opposing factions are forced to unite in order to discover the chilling truth about the world in which they live.
We have been incredibly blessed on this project with an amazing production team. The very talented and experienced Darren Bransford, who has worked with many of the major networks from the BBC to Paramount Pictures, will direct our pilot episode. We're also excited to be working with the unbelievably gifted concept artist Laurie Greasley and an exceptional cast.
This is my first crowdfunding experience although I have used the Kickstarter platform before to support other projects. It was a really daunting decision to go for such a big amount on our first campaign (£20K) but we really wanted to make something special with this pilot.
After attending seminars and speaking to friends who have run successful campaigns we knew that in order to reach our target we needed a lot of support prior to the launch, which meant getting our social media pages up and running with as many followers as possible. We also spent time reviewing similar campaigns that had been successful to see what had worked and how we could incorporate that into our own.
We made some upfront investments to help people visualise the world we wanted to create. We did this by casting for our lead roles then getting them to participate in a promo shoot. This not only gave our investors a better idea of the tone of the project but also gave us content to post during the campaign. We were also very fortunate to have an amazing concept artist on-board who created some fantastic posters to work alongside the promo shots.
We also made sure that before we launched we had a rough plan of what we would release during the campaign and who would be responsible for what.
There are so many things I have learned from this experience and will of course take with me into future campaigns.
Make sure you have plenty of content. One of the biggest lessons for me was around the amount of content we had prepared. Even though I thought we had plenty I would definitely make sure we had more next time…you need to be posting stuff all the time to keep in social news feeds.
Be prepared to ask people directly for their support. Sending out posts on social media asking your friends and family to support and pledge was difficult enough for me, but to approach people directly was very scary and the fear of annoying people or rejection was much scarier. However if you truly believe in your idea and you want it to succeed, it is a necessity! Not everyone replied and maybe I did annoy some people but I was genuinely moved and surprised by the support and responses we've had!
Generate hype before going live. Approaching more bloggers and magazines prior to launch and asking if people will write articles about the project and campaign will not only give you publicity for your campaign but increase the number of people you are able to reach.
My best advice for others (and myself in future campaigns) is ‘be prepared before you launch!’ There is so much to do during the campaign that the more you do before launch and the better your plan, the easier it’ll be.
Schedule your content. We spent a long time making sure we had enough content for posting during the campaign. Even though it might feel like you are bombarding people, remember that everyone checks social media at different times, so you need to be posting throughout the day.
Get more people involved. The more people you have involved in your project before crowdfunding, the bigger the support network during the campaign. If it is just you, your sphere of influence will be limited to the people you know and as amazing as your idea might be, without the right audience, it can only go so far. Build up your production team and even try to cast it before you go live. That way you will have a much bigger audience for your campaign and have a better chance of getting successfully funded.
Seek advice from someone you know who has experience with campaigns or marketing. It might sound really obvious but this is absolutely crucial! Even if you have a big support network, if you don’t advertise your project in the best way you can risk putting people off or not engaging them to begin with.
Finally… Be prepared that your campaign might not be successful but that’s not the end!
During the initial weeks, progress was very slow and we were really struggling to reach our goal. Although disheartening, you have to keep going and think of other ways you can get your project made. Whether that’s turning your pilot into a web series with shorter, more affordable episodes, or turning a feature film idea into a short film / trailer to produce a proof of concept you can then use as a way to pitch your idea for a future campaign.
I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone involved in getting 'The Marshlands' this far! From the production team to the backers, I am so incredibly grateful to you all and wouldn't have this opportunity without your support!
To support and keep up to date visit the campaign page. The campaign ends on Friday 25th November and the time of publishing the campaign is 94% funded with 24 hours to go.
Follow Katherine on Twitter: @KatScottWills22