How We Crowdfunded $18K With No Experience Or Fanbase, Phase 3: Craft A Story That Will Make Your Audience Cry

TThis is a reflection on my successes & failures to make money doing what I actually love. I want to share it with you cuz… I bet you’re on this journey too. Please first read the introduction and Phase 1, and Phase 2.

1.Write your story

Before you go sign up for Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo or whatever platform you will use, write your story. This is the story that will be the core substance of your campaign page and will be the basis of your video, the most important element of the campaign page. What I’ve read is that people are lazy (and my life experience tells me this is correct) so they will watch the video first and if interested, scroll quickly through the photos and bolded text of your page. So it’s important that your story matters to you and your community.

How to write the story: Start at an unconventional or tension-filled point of your vulnerable, concrete story. Then, go back and explain some context for your audience. Reveal an uncomfortable truth about yourself that you currently or previously found it difficult to acknowledge. Discuss how that truth affects/affected you emotionally and otherwise (family/friends, physically, etc.). Describe or ask the audience to imagine what the future would look like (for you, for others, for society) if you and your audience did nothing about that area and why change is urgent. Propose a new way of looking at this area: what haven’t you, others been doing that could make a difference? Implore people to imagine what things could be like if this new perspective/shift/solution were brought to life.

Only once you’ve gone through all of those steps, do you discuss your project! The truth is your project is awesome but not because of its logistics. It’s awesome because of the impact it is going to make – so you have to set that up for your project description to matter. Describe the main activities and results of your project. No need to provide a lot of detail, but it must be enough for the audience to imagine your vision and for them to imagine how your project will make the impact you just set up in your story. Ensure you describe any partners or collaborators here. Click here to get the first story and second story we used for Black Man in America, along with all of my other crowdfunding materials!

2.Choose photos and create visuals that will tell your story without your audience having to read

Yeah, it sucks that nobody reads but what are we gonna do? Assume that no one will read your extremely vulnerable, sacred text you just poured your heart into. First bold and enlargen (sounds dirty) the text that your audience must must must read (for example, the uncomfortable truth, what will happen if no action is taken, and the key question that will cause the audience to imagine what is possible with a new perspective). Second, insert photos throughout your story that help tell your story. You can even write over the photos with a sentence, ensuring your audience sees it. Photos that might be useful to include: Mock ups of what the art, product, or program will look like; photos of the group/community you are working with, photos of yourself as the artist/creator, behind the scenes photos if the project is in progress, photos of the team, cast/characters, or creators.

3.Make your video

We made two different videos, one in the beginning of our campaign and a new one near the end when we had previews of our film. In both videos, we followed similar principles. Here are the important things I thought while making the videos.

First, your video must be vulnerable
Your story is a visual representation of the emotional story you’ve already shared with your teammate/team. That means your story must make you & your team cry. Your story must come from a vulnerable, authentic place – whether its funny, sad, enraging, etc. Um, so basically you tell the truth about something that has happened to you personally, and uncomfortable truths are the most desirable. If you are uncomfortable sharing the story, it means that others will watch the story and finally see someone expressing what they experience.

Second, your story must be concrete
That means we’re gonna go back to 3rd grade when we learned: who, what, when, where, why. Basically, instead of saying “When I was younger, I used to have breakfast with my mom and it was always unsettling,” you would say “I was 8. Still half asleep, I could feel in my gut something was wrong. I walked into the kitchen, where my mother was standing over the griddle flipping my favorite – chocolate chip pancakes. She was still wearing the dress she had on when she buried my father.” That last detail is so dramatic, right? Welcome to my life. Anywho, you don’t need a grieving mother in your story. It just needs to be so concrete that you are enabling your audience to visually imagine a movie playing in their head. That is your job!

Third, to start your video, begin in the middle of your concrete, vulnerable story
Start your story at an unconventional point so that people have to engage their brains to enter the story. For example, “There I was standing at the edge of the cliff, with 5 seconds to decide whether or not I would jump.” Do you see how a sentence like that would have your audience thinking, maybe I should see what happens next and how she got here? I hope so! You don’t literally have to start at a cliffhanger (I’m killin em with these jokes!) but start at an unconventional or tension-filled point.

Fourth, decide on the story for your video and order it effectively
The best thing about this is that we already know a great order! Follow the same format for writing your story text (above). You can tell the same story or you can switch it up. Of course, it’s easier to use the same material but if you’d like to get creative, why not? I decided to focus on myself for the Kickstarter text and then in our final video focus on the cast of Black Men in America since they are the true “subjects” of the project. Whatever you do, make sure you have all of the elements in the sequence (and that they make you cry!).

Fifth, choose visuals that are effective at conveying the emotions you want your audience to feel
Though we definitely did not do this, open the video with a captivating, beautiful, awe-inspiring, unexpected, unsettling, or confusing image. I was being a bad psychologist (bad psychologist! bad psychologist!) when I left that element out. For the most part, according to psychology, things grab our attention when they induce pleasure, surprise, or fear. People have the attention spans of wild beasts these days (not even sure what that means) so the first 2-3 seconds of your video need to be ridiculously interesting. Then, based on what you are saying throughout your video, you may not want to have your face on camera the entire time. If you want the focus on you literally pouring your heart out the entire time, you don’t need many extra images. You can also alternate between your face and visual representations of what you are saying; .

Slide2-5-1080x756 Once you get to describe what your project is and what you are creating, having images or video of what you will be creating is very helpful. Remember, people need to be able to imagine what you are creating and its impact in order to want to give. So having a draft of what you will create, a drawing – or if that isn’t possible, an example at least of prior work is critical. Give the audience enough to imagine your vision as you see it.

Slide3-1080x756To help my audience imagine Black Man in America, I had a illustrator from Fiverr draw up five storyboard images of key shots from Black Man in America. It cost $20 for a few revisions with the guy I used and it took 1-2 days of back and forth.On Fiverr you can find tons of illustrators to draw mockups, storyboards, drafts of cover art, etc. so that you can help your audience visualize what you’re creating. Get an illustrator through Fiverr here (full disclosure: if you use my link, I get some pennies from referring you! yay, pennies!).

Sixth, your video must be short
If you’re a rebel like I know you are, perhaps you’ll be like “Well, there arrrrrre 5-minute videos.” Well, sure there are. But you have to be a G to make a 5-minute video that people will watch all the way through. We know! Our video was played 1,617 on Kickstarter and finished only 23% of the time; it was 3 minutes long. Better to make a 1.5- 2-minute video that people will watch than waste time on a 5-minute video that only 25% of your audience will watch all the way through (and those are all your cousins). If you are not skilled at video production and editing, ask a friend to shoot and edit, use a quality iphone or android and edit using iMovie (it’s free, but only for macs), or *gasp do a one-take unedited video.

Extra Note on Videos: Below, watch our second crowdfunding video and how we used these principles with no budget. It was a DIY video made with iMovie (it’s free, but only for macs) using behind the scenes footage and interviews. I think you can be DIY and still make a video that is emotionally compelling!

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Originally published at Justina Kamiel Grayman, phd is a NYC-based dancer, dance filmmaker, and failed amateur comedian who creates revolutionary messages and spaces to live. As she pursues her childish & reckless dreams and makes money from them, she invites you to follow the lessons she learns about making money as a full time artist / eternal creator. She hopes to make lots of money now and then burn the planet’s money supply in the future. Read her money journal weekly + be her friend (she needs some).