This is how you make a theatre crowdfunding campaign work

Posted on 28 April, 2017 by Team Wishberry

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Crowdfunding has gathered considerable steam in India. There are multiple instances where creators have successfully crowdfunded their projects. However, theatre and crowdfunding as a concept is still in its nascent stages. There are, of course, examples, where plays and musicals were successfully crowdfunded. However, a lot more needs to be done.

In this post we concentrate on the things you should do to ensure your theatre crowdfunding campaign is successful.

Learn from someone else’s mistakes

Let’s start at the beginning. You need to know how the others did it! Trust us, there is method to this madness. At Wishberry, for example, crowdfunding campaigns such as Mr. & Mr., Thespo 17, Hyacinth and Brishti, finally… were successful in their pursuit. And, if want to look at how theatre groups in the West did it, then we have the answer for that as well! Whether, you are a big theatre company getting into the crowdfunding scene or a small group of passionate theatre artists, the idea here is to have a firm understanding regarding what you are getting into. Theatre, as a medium of expression, requires special preparation! For example, Ushers: The Front House Musical was unable to successfully raise funds on Kickstarter the first time (they were only able to raise $1,000). They came back to Kickstarter and this time, reduced their goal (they changed it to $1,000) and voila! they succeeded. Today, Ushers is also known as and ‘Off West End’ musical hit. Therefore, learn from your colleagues and then hit that ‘Go’ button!

Remember, people cannot see your play right now

Now that you have decided to go ahead and crowdfund your play, make sure that you take the right steps. The pitch video is crucial — it will help you get the message out. Take Thespo’s pitch video on Wishberry, for example. Thespo employed the core of their festival into the video — engaging the youth and being brought to life by those under 25 years of age. It was an intimate portrait showcasing the vast potential that exists in the form of theatre that young people can learn from and imbibe into their lives. The video only featured young thespians raring to go. They added a touch of humour to it and it connected! Watch it and witness it for yourself! As a theatre crowdfunding campaign, your pitch video will have to bridge the gap between theatre and ‘film’. Keep that in mind.

You have to be available

It is a general perception that ‘theatrewallahs’, like many other artists such as novelists, like to stay in their own world. You have to fight this perception and be available for dialogue. Many prospective funders might want to get in touch with you. Regularly check your various inboxes. Respond quickly.

Be available for your fans, funders, and anyone else who would want to know more about your campaign. This just doesn’t apply to your fellow theatre colleagues and family and friends. Moreover, be in regular touch with your campaign consultant. Those guys work for your campaign to be successful and they need your help to better do their job.

Talk as well as connect

Along with always being available, you will also have to talk a lot to your prospective funders via social media, emailers and other media. There is already a rising trend regarding this — theatre groups such as Delhi-based Pandies Theatre and solo performers such as Mallika Taneja are good examples of how theatre artists can use social media to their advantage. On the crowdfunding front, Mr. & Mr. offered sneak peeks of their script-reading sessions to audiences during the campaign. But just talking about your play won’t cut it. Find that factor about the play that will really connect with the audience, and use it in your communication. Try and connect with the audience on a personal level; human-to-human connection which will appeal to the funder.

Focus on personal branding

Think of yourself as a brand and your project, a product of it. Market it accordingly, albeit with a personal touch. Again, look at how Brishti, finally... did it. In their pitch video they went ahead and discussed how despite not being from the field of arts, they passionately followed it. Moreover, the media picked up the play’s crowdfunding campaign and projected it as an attempt by theatre to reach out to more and more people. Most people will invest time reading about your project only because you are involved with it. The trust factor is going to come in because of your name and not only because of the ‘interesting’ project.

Work on marketing and communicating it as YOUR play, rather than just an interesting play.

Focus on USP

But, just trusting you and your project won’t cut it. The specialty of your project is equally important — Thespo 17 marketed itself as a festival that will introduce theatre to the youth along with engaging them in a proactive manner. Hyacinth was a project in collaboration with Humsafar Trust and it talked of love transcending the boundaries of gender — Every creative product has a Unique Selling Point (USP). Find out what the USP of your play is. It can be anything — the story, the method of presentation, the cast. Use it to the maximum because this is what will attract people and push them to fund your project.

Crowdfunding for theatre is a powerful tool to make this medium of art available to all and sundry. Along with film, theatre, as a visual medium, has a lot to say and to add to the fabric of our social structure. Therefore, make use of the democratic crowdfunding models available to you, right now, to make an impact.

All the best!

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