Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

The Plimpton! Kickstarter Crowd-funding Case Study. Part 3: Ten Takeaways / Results. Singapore MDA Workshop

“I just gave these complete strangers @PlimptonMovie some cash, and it felt amazing.
I wish everyone would try it!”
– Twitter Feedback


What are the secrets of a Kickstarter campaign? And how much cash is likely to be put on the table?

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

The Plimpton! Kickstarter Case Study is based on several conversations and email exchanges with co-producer -directors Tom Bean and Luke Poling. David Thomas contributed his editorial wisdom.

This is a 3-part Tutorial:

  1. Click here for the Backstory about the film and Kickstarter.
  2. And here for how Tom and Luke designed their Kickstarter campaign.
  3. This week: Ten Takeaways  / Results.




“We put in a lot of work to prepare for the campaign:


  • We researched other Kickstarter campaigns
  • Personally contributed to Kickstarter projects
  • Interacted with Kickstarter personnel


“And then we created and launched our own Kickstarter campaign in July, 2011.”

Ten Takeaways

“Here are our Top Ten Takeaways for documentary producers who are considering a Kickstarter campaign:


1. “Highlight what makes your project different and unique.

“A lot of worthy projects are seeking funding on Kickstarter, so it’s important to distinguish yourself from other comparable campaigns.

“Fortunately, we have a unique character, so in our clip we tried to convey — at lightning-speed — the things that make George Plimpton a very special subject for a documentary


2. “Make sure your video clip captures the tone & style of your project.

“At first, we took a ‘serious’ approach in our sizzle reel, focusing on ‘Plimpton the author’.  Friends who saw the clip made it very clear that this was a bad decision. We are making a fun, upbeat, exciting, feel-good movie, so we decided to make a clip that matched this tone. We also tried to evoke this tone with the copy on the site and in the “Rewards” column.


“Click here to see our Kickstarter campaign site and view the sizzle reel.


3. “The more detailed the information you can give, the better.

“Don’t be vague or coy! It won’t persuade anyone to back your project.  We provide a lot of detail. And there are links to our website, which has even more information. Our relationship with our equity investors is all about ‘transparency’: we want to start out on the same page with even a $5:00 backer.


4. “If you give stuff away as rewards, make sure it’s something that you’d be excited to receive.

“When we started making lists of the rewards that we could offer, we kept thinking about the Kickstarter projects that we’ve backed. We asked: ‘What was the deciding factor that pushed us to back a certain level?’ If the difference between $25 and $35 was a reward that I was enthusiastic about receiving, then the decision was easy.


“When we were considered our options, for example, a T-shirt, a Plimpton book, a Paris Review subscription, we kept asking: ‘Would we want this? Would this get me excited about this project?’


“The Kickstarter guys recommended making the rewards specific to the film, or to a unique experience that the backer could only get via our Kickstarter campaign. If they can buy one of George’s books on Amazon for $5, it’s probably a very bad idea to offer it on Kickstarter as a $45 reward!

5. “Be prepared to work hard to get the word out.

“Don’t rely on Kickstarter to do all the promotional work for you.  Kickstarter gets a lot of traffic, and they do a lot to promote the site, but it’s easy to get lost amongst the lots of very strong projects on their site.

“Our plan is to aggregate the emails of all the folks we’ve met through the film, our friends (and their friends), family, and anyone else who we think might be interested in the project, and blast out frequent emails about the campaign, our goals, and the results to date.


“Even if they don’t donate, they’ll be updated on the progress of the film. Perhaps they’ll forward us on to others who might be interested. We are using all the usual social networking tools.

6. “Be personal, honest, and direct.


“As little as Luke and myself wanted to appear in our clip, we decided to film a direct-to-camera, personal message as part of our campaign.


“We wanted to let our potential backers know who was involved in the project, not just what the project was about. It took us a couple tries to get something we were happy with, but I hope our enthusiasm and energy come through and that we connect with people who watch the clip.



7. “Kickstarter is as much about raising awareness and enthusiasm about the film as it is about the money.

“We see this as a terrific opportunity to get the word out about the project and connect with people who are interested in our subject matter long before we distribute and market the finished product. An investment in the film, no matter how small, ensures a level of interest and enthusiasm down the road when we’re ready to show the film.


8. “Make yourself available to bring people into the world of the film.

“We decided to offer direct communication, screenings, parties, and even a tour of ‘George Plimpton’s New York’ as rewards.

“We felt like this was a truly unique opportunity to connect directly with people who are interested in supporting our work, and it provides a cool opportunity for backers to offer feedback and ideas that could be helpful to our process going forward.

“One of the best things about making a documentary is connecting with people, and Kickstarter is a great way to expand the circle of project.


9. Carefully analyze the economics of each reward.

“Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of the contributions. And each reward has a cost: for example to purchase or manufacture and ship a DVD.


“We carefully modeled the exact cost to purchase and deliver each reward. Our goal is to reward each donor with something that matches the value of their contribution. But it’s also important to retain a healthy margin that you can put to use in the film’s production.


10. “Set a goal you think you can reach, and give yourself enough time to get there.


“If you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get to keep any of the money donated, but if you go over, you get to keep the difference. We set our goal at $25,000, and gave ourselves a 60-day campaign window.


“Many filmmakers have recently exceeded their goal, and we hope to be in that group.  But we don’t want to bank on the idea of raising a lot of money, and then not getting there.”

From Kickstarter: Successful projects by Amount Raised

How We Did It!

“Here are the cumulative weekly results ($ / backers):


Week 1: $8,000 / 115
Week 2: $10,000 / 155
Week 3: $11,700 / 180
Week 4
: $12,577 / 195
Week 5: $14,787 / 233
Week 6: $19,187 / 267
Week 7:
$20,432 / 280
Week 8: $26,507 / 291
Week 9: $28,004 / 314


Our favorite response to the campaign:

“George was a fabulously fun guy to know … I dated him in the ’60s when I was a fashion model in NY and Paris … on our first date he took me to a fight in some old gym up in The Bronx … another time, I bumped into him on the island of Hydra where he was visiting, on his way back home, after playing one of hundreds of Bedouins on camels, racing across the desert, in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” … Never a dull moment with George!!”


Partial list:

Read the complete 3-part Plimpton! Kickstarter Case Study

1.Back Story: Plimpton, the movie and ‘Why the Case Study?’
2. The Campaign
3. Ten Takeaways / Results


Singapore Producer Training Workshop

  • Many thanks to the Media Development Authority‘s Li Ling Keh (R) and Geraldine Phua (L) for their vision, organization and gracious hospitality.
  • Thanks also to the Singapore producers and industry experts who enthusiastically contributed their market knowledge, strategies and projects.
  • Participants were: Beach House Pictures, Blk A Pictures, Film Formations, Fimat36, Fine Cut Media, Hoods Inc., Hurrah Productions, Infocus Asia, Interactive Digital Reality, MediaCorp, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Oak3 Films, Ochre Pictures, Off The Fence, Overt Media, Refinery Media, The Big Picture Productions, The Moving Visuals Company, Third Floor Pictures, Threesixzero Productions, Vertigo Pictures, Very!, Xtreme Production
  • We are very excited about our future collaborations!



  1. I just posted this top 10 list on our Documentaries Facebook page… excellent advice and feedback! I want to wish Tom Bean and Luke Poling the best of luck with their documentary.

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