Crowd funding explodes Down Under
The crowd funding of creative projects in Australia is growing rapidly although the average per-person contribution is relatively small.
The Australian crowd funding platform Pozible is facilitating investment of $1.2 million per month into creative projects, according to co-founder Alan Crabbe.
“We’re seeing phenomenal growth,” Crabbe told the panel Show Me the Money- The Art of Film Financing, at the Australian Directors Guild conference. He said film is the No. 1 category and he estimated the platform has triggered $3 million for features since it launched in 2010. The average sum invested is $6,000.
Asked why Pozible insists that funding targets are reached for each project before the money flows to the producers, Crabbe said, “Supporters don’t tend to like the flexible model. The all-or-nothing model is much more credible and successful.”
Director Aaron Wilson raised $24,000 via Pozible to finish his first feature Canopy, a WW2 drama set in Singapore, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Wilson told the seminar the balance of the $600,000 cash budget (plus $500,000 in kind, mostly for the sound post production) came from private investors. It took seven years in development and shooting, raising money piecemeal.
Ben Lewin, who wrote and directed The Sessions, raised the budget of just under $US1 million from 29 investors. The biggest chipped in $350,000 but most were in the $5,000 range.
He offered investors their money back plus 20%, which wasn’t a rash gesture considering Fox Searchlight bought the film for $US6 million. In addition investors would receive 50% of the total profit pool in proportion to their investment.
Amplifying the remarks he made at a Thursday session, the Los Angeles-based filmmaker described his dealings with Screen Australia on that film as “bewildering.” The agency rejected his pitch for funds as the project lacked significant Australian content, wholly shot in the US with a cast led by Helen Hunt and John Hawkes.
He said he doubted anyone at Screen Australia had bothered to read his script, observing, “The first step in the process was describing the obstacle course before anyone would read the script.”
Lewin queried the agency’s dependence on internal processes, opining that “no amount of guidelines or contractual terms or safety net” will protect investment if audiences don’t respond to films.
He suggested that Film Fund Luxembourg, which apparently makes funding decisions based on what appeals to officials, could be a more effective model than the bureaucratic Screen Australia.
In an obvious over-simplification he said, "You could have one person sitting in a room with a couple of secretaries, writing cheques every year."
Lewin stressed he harbours no ill will to Screen Australia and he made a point of lauding the generous amount of development funding from government bodies in Australia, contrasting that with the limited funds in the US.