Sundance: THR, YouTube Panel Explores the Risks and Rewards of Crowdfunding

THR Talks 1 - H 2015
Todd Williamson/Invision/AP

John Sloss, co-directors Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel, Indiegogo's Marc Hofstatter and Rooster Teeth Productions co-founder Burnie Burns appeared at the event.

The Hollywood Reporter and YouTube kicked off their Sundance panel series with a lively discussion on Thursday morning at Park City Live.

The panel, "Financing Through the Power of Fans," featured producer and film executive John Sloss, co-directors Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel (whose film Finders Keeper is in the U.S. Documentary competition at the festival), Rooster Teeth Productions co-founder Burnie Burns and Indiegogo's head of film Marc Hofstatter.

Moderated by The Hollywood Reporter writer Sharon Swart, the panel explored the benefits and opportunities of crowdfunding for films.

The co-directors of Finders Keepers funded their story about a custody battle for a mummified leg through Kickstarter, raising more than $80,000.

“We found we had a pretty good logline,” they said with a laugh when asked about how they got the attention of financiers.

Burns said that there's an added challenge with crowdfunding: "Determining what the rewards can be in a campaign can be as important as anything else."

“I’m a gigantic proponent of crowdsourcing,” said Sloss, who added that crowdfunding can be used as a way to build not just monetary support but also a fan base for a movie.

Sloss worked with director Steve James on his Roger Ebert film, Life Itself, which premiered at Sundance after a crowdsourcing campaign.

“Rather then just saying, 'Hey, please help us,' what we did was we focused on preselling the film,” said Sloss.

People who contributed to the campaign were able to screen the film at home at the same time it screened at Sundance for the first time.

He added: “Crowdfunding as a way to market directly to your constituency and make them your partner is such an amazing tool.”

Sloss even said he's putting together a think tank of industry experts to "try to figure out how to supercharge crowdfunding."

Hofstatter was asked by the audience if it is possible to go back to the same group to fund a second or third campaign.

"The answer is definitely yes," he said, using the example of Freddie Wong. He ran his third campaign with Indiegogo and raised $100,000 more than his first two.

"It all comes down to the messaging," he said. "As long as you’re able to convey that message that you’re doing something new and unique or bringing back something you love, you can definitely do that."