Fundraising: Pre-Selling DVDs or Crowdfunding before it was Crowdfunding

Posted on February 20, 2010


I’ve been filming Bots High since last August. So far I’ve been a one man show. I bought a Sony EX1 and have basically been filming everything myself, with some help from Andrew for a second camera at a competition.

Coming up are some big time film challenges. For the robot fighting championship, I want as many cameras as possible, at least 4. I’d also like to pay the crew for their time, but even if they did help out on their own, I’d still need rent cameras, and they’re not as generous. So I’m looking at a couple of thousand dollars, plus more money needed for editing, sound design, color timing, and film festivals.

I’ll be writing a few posts on fundraising (I’m about to create a Kickstarter project), but one idea I’ve had and implemented at some level is pre-selling DVDs. Pretty simple – you have a PayPal link on your site, people buy DVDs so you get enough money to make the film, and then you send them a DVD once you’re done.

You can get a DVD made for about $4, and if you sell them for $25 that’s a pretty good profit.

I did this with You 2.0, however I added it after I shot the documentary, and it was mainly to capitalize on some videos I posted that were getting a lot of traffic to the site.

Interesting thing, though. When I switched from pre-selling the DVD for $10 to selling the DVD for $15, sales went way up for a tangible, guaranteed “I’m getting the DVD,” even though if they ordered in advance they would have saved some money.

So there’s a lot of trust and faith you need to gain in order to pre-sell enough DVDs to have the budget you’re after.

Another issue – If you pre-sell the DVD, does it hurt your chances with a distributor? Or what if you sell the DVD at festivals, right after it screens?

My first reaction is if there’s no money to make the film, then there’s no film to ruin your distribution chances with.

Maybe four or five years ago this would have been an extremely valid caution, but I think everyone’s realizing that the landscape of how films are made and distributed is changing and if your film truly is amazing, distributors will want to work with you.

Also, the people who would buy your film so early or right after a great festival experience are part of your 1000 True Fans. They’re the ones who are going to be spreading the word to their friends all over the world about your film.

I guess the one serious legal consideration on pre-selling to take into account

Does it hurt chances of selling to distributor?

They think it’s a bad idea:

Lots of weird ideas:

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