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The Plimpton! Kickstarter Crowd-funding Case Study. Part 2: The Campaign

The Plimpton! Kickstarter Case Study is based on several conversations and email exchanges with co-producers Tom Bean and Luke Poling.


Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself is a feature-length documentary about the life and times of Paris Review co-founder, ‘participatory journalist’, literary impresario, and friend of too many to count.

  • The film is a biography of Plimpton
  • It’s also an adaptation to film of his terrific and very funny literary style
  • And it celebrates a life that was lived fully, richly, and, that was often hard-to-believe

Huge Character

  • “George was an agent of joy; a man who embodied the optimism of the ‘American Century.’
  • “He was a magazine editor who launched the careers of countless important writers, a writer who reveled in the fine line between performance and failure, and an artist whose greatest work of art was himself.”

The film chronicles George’s life and work, focusing on:

  • His role as the editor of The Paris Review, a literary magazine that he co-founded and edited for 50 years
  • His ground-breaking ‘participatory journalism’, which lead him to
    • quarterback for the Detroit Lions
    • serve as goalie for the Boston Bruins
    • go into the ring against heavyweight Archie Moore
    • sit in as a percussionist with the New York Philharmonic, and lots of other odd endeavors

The filmmakers also delve into his personal life:

  • Plimpton’s relationship with his parents, wives, and children
  • His friendship with Robert Kennedy, whose assassination George witnessed at close hand

The film touches on the worlds of literature, sports, art, politics, and wild parties.

  • It features themes of family, ambition, optimism, expectation, self-doubt, and fulfillment,
  • And captures Plimpton’s often harsh self-criticism of his own status as a writer.

EP Team

  • “We, Luke Poling and Tom Bean, are the producing/directing team. We are based in Boston and New York.
  • “The producers are Terry McDonell, editor of The Sports Illustrated Media Group, and Fernando Villena, the editor of numerous films including Rize, Every Little Step, and Crank 2.
  • “Executive Producers are Kris Meyer, a member of the Farrelly Brothers’ producing team; Antonio Weiss, the publisher of The Paris Review; Dennis Joyce, an angel investor and founder of Joyce Entertainment; and Phyllis Alexander, Vice President of Alex Keating Productions.


“We enjoy the generous support of the Plimpton family, The Paris Review, and many of George’s friends and colleagues.”


Unique Access


“The Plimpton family gave us access to George’s personal archive, where we uncovered nearly 100 hours of video and audio material, and nearly 1,000 photos. Most of these have never been seen by the public.


The Paris Review and Sports Illustrated also allowed us access to 50 years of historical documents, letters, photographs, and other ephemera.


“Meanwhile, we interviewed nearly fifty of George’s friends, family and colleagues, including Robert Kennedy Jr, Hugh Hefner, Graydon Carter, Gay Talese and Ken Burns.


“From the hundreds of hours of archival material that we gathered, we are cobbling together a narration for the movie in George’s own words. The recent interviews with friends and family fill in the gaps.”


Production Budget


  • Estimated Budget: U.S.$750,000
  • Archive: 38%
  • Music: 8%


Production Timeline


  • “We began in March, 2008
  • “We’re finishing up editorial now, and beginning to work on visual effects, score, graphics, and archival licensing.
  • “We hope to close our budget gap and complete the film in time to screen at festivals in the fall or winter.”

About Kickstarter & Crowd-funding

“Kickstarter is a grassroots, Internet-based tool to raise funds and awareness for independent projects, including films, records and artworks.


  • “Contributions are made by like-minded people who want to see your work come to fruition.
  • “There are competitors, but Kickstarter is the crowd-funder that people talk about.”

The Deal


  • Kickstarter earns a fee of 5% of the funds raised in a campaign
  • And Amazon’s fee is 5% depending on the product and campaign


The Kickstarter Process

There are four key steps:

  1. Build a site for your project on Kickstarter
  2. Set a financial goal
  3. Offer rewards for the various donation levels
    • For films, rewards range from a ’director’s thank-you note’ to tickets to opening night.
    • At the highest level, contributors could earn a ‘special thanks’ in the credits
  4. Set a term: Campaigns typically run for 30-90 days

“You only keep the money donated if you hit your target. If you go over the goal, however, you keep the ‘surplus’”

Why Crowd-funding?

  • “As Kickstarter has grown in scale and reputation, more films have raised serious money.
    • “Several have topped the $100K mark!
    • “But for us, it was more about the promotion than the money.
  • “Kickstarter provides a unique opportunity to promote a project before it is finished and ready for release.
  • “It’s a tool that implements a pre-release marketing campaign that is active, tangible, and with stakes: if you don’t reach your target, you lose everything! We are promoting our campaign to friends of the film, family members, and anyone else who might be interested via email, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. We are able to spread the word about the project, get people excited about it, and give them an opportunity to feel ‘invested’ in the process — literally as well as philosophically.
  • “We thought that a Kickstarter campaign would be a great way to get the word out about the movie and solicit donations from people who might not be inclined or capable of making an equity investment in the film.
  • “Our minimum donation of $5.00 allows just about anyone who might be interested to join our team and help us reach our goal.”

The Rewards

“Here is our is our list of ‘rewards’:

$5: A handwritten thank-you note from the directors and our monthly mailing list
$30: A DVD of our movie
$50: Our Plimpton! T-shirt
$100: A subscription to The Paris Review and a letterpress Plimpton! movie bookmark
$150: A Plimpton! movie print
$250: A Plimpton! movie book. And a Skype or phone conversation with the directors
$500: A ‘special thanks’ in the movie’s credits
$1,500: Two tickets to a special screening of the film in New York
$5,000: A tour of ‘George Plimpton’s New York’”

Our 3-part Plimpton! Kickstarter Case Study

1. Back Story
2. Campaign
3. Ten Takeaways / Results