Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

“Who The F*@% Is Frank Zappa?” $1.1 Mn Pledged. Kickstarter Documentary Record Smashed

Kickstarter smashed its record for the documentary category when 8,688 backers pledged $1,126,036.

The campaign?


Frank Zappa is one of the strangest, most amazing and influential figures of our era, but his definitive story has never been told. Now, for the first time ever, the Zappas have given us complete, unrestricted access to the contents of Frank’s private vault, and their full blessing and support, to tell his story.”

Saving the Zappa Archive

The Kickstarter All-time Top Documentaries

#2. “The Bill Nye Film”

  • 16,850 backers pledged $859,425
  • “Once the host of a popular kid’s show, Bill is about to take off his “Science Guy” lab coat and battle the naysayers to create a more scientifically literate and engaged universe.”

#3. “For the Love of Spock”

  • 9,439 backers pledged $662,640
  • “Last Year, just before Thanksgiving, I approached my dad, Leonard Nimoy, about the possibility of working together on a film about Mr. Spock.“

#4. “Bridegroom — A Love Story, Unequaled”

  • Bridegroom will tell the emotional journey of Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship — a relationship cut tragically short by a misstep off the side of a roof.”

#5. “BronyCon: The Documentary”

  • 2,621 backers pledged $322,022
  • A feature length documentary about the unofficial fan convention for aficionados of the show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”

#6. “THE WRECKING CREW” The Untold Story of Rock & Roll Heroes

  • 4,245 backers pledged $313,157
  • “This is a documentary film about an elite group of studio session musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s who played on hits for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, The Monkess, Mamas and Papas…”

#7. “Embrace”

  • From Australia: A feature length documentary that will unite women across the globe to love their bodies!
  • 8,909 backers pledged A$331,046

#8. “Be Here Now” — The Andy Whitfield Story

  • Inspiring documentary about Andy Whitfield who put the same dedication he brought to his lead role in SPARTACUS, into fighting cancer.
  • 5,265 backers pledged $302,810

#9. “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time”

  • Recounting the extraordinary life of author Kurt Vonnegut, and the 25-year friendship with the filmmaker who set out to document it.
  • 3,755 backers pledged $300,319

#10. Saving Capitalism — Starring Robert Reich

  • Robert Reich’s latest book will be made into a documentary film after 3,790 backers pledged $298,436.
  • The Kickstarter page for “Saving Capitalism” has been updated with an interesting breakdown of the project’s budget.
  • The project features Reich and is directed by Jacob Kornbluth.

Kickstarter: Numbers &  Recent Projects

  • $120+ million has been pledged to documentary films to date.
  • Since its launch in 2009, one million people have collectively backed 15,000 documentary film projects using Kickstarter.
  • 5,493 of those projects have been successfully funded.
  • Documentaries are backed more than 600 times every day.
  • In 2009, they were backed 18 times a day.
  • There were 76 documentary projects with active funding campaigns in January 2017.


  • Most of these films are pre-sold from a tie-in with a bankable TV show, movie, name or a brand.
  • Popular culture seems to drive crowdfunding hits.
  • Only Embrace and Bridegroom break the pattern.

Curious George



  • Plimpton! Kickstarter Case Study in 3 parts: 1. Backstory2. The Campaign, 3. Ten Takeaways / Results
  • The Plimpton biodoc is terrific: it captures the life of a vulnerable celebrity author who links the sports and literary worlds with a whiff of northeast aristocracy.
  • It’s an all-time favorite Case Study : Very instructive about the challenges of running a Kickstarter campaign!

A Brief History of Kickstarter

  • The origins of this crowd-funding service go back to 2002 and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
  • Learn more about the Kickstarter strategy from this helpful video:

Kickstarter Promotes from Within

Kickstarter recently promoted Liz Cook to the role of director of documentary film. Cook has worked at the company since 2013. Her most recent position was documentary outreach lead.

“Over the past year, our film team has worked really hard to grow the backer community that fosters and supports documentary film and video projects on Kickstarter and so far, we’ve seen more than one million backers rally to help these documentaries come to life,” said Cook in a press release.

Cook has served as an advisor on Kickstarter campaigns for “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” “The Bill Nye Film,” “Maya Angelou And Still I Rise” and “Who The F*@% Is Frank Zappa?” She also helps partner filmmakers with international film organizations such as Sundance Institute, Berlinale Talents and CPH:DOX.

Indiegogo Developments

  • Indiegogo, another crowd funding service, just announced a partnership with filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to help fund and finish documentaries that need a final push to market.
  • Spurlock aims to get four documentaries released through this partnership in 2017.


  • Read our Kickstarter Top Ten Doc list from 2015.

Additional Research: Gregory Crofton


Next Speaking Engagement:

AIDC 2017
Melbourne, March 5-8

Instant Documentary: So you think you know Live Video?

  • LIVE! video is immediate, unscripted, and it loudly rings the bell for “authentic”.
  • Broadcasters and Cab/Sat channels are green-lighting live prime time ‘events’ as well as series. And they’re commissioning hybrid forms of live content for their social media platforms. Their targets are the young viewers who are drifting away from the channels. Dominating the conversation is social media, where viewing of LIVE mobile video content has exploded.
  • This panel explores how producers, channels and online content services are all testing live video solutions that will compete in a Facebook and YouTube world. The panelists describe the demanding editorial, technical and scheduling challenges of delivering LIVE programming.
  • Learn why LIVE! is the wave of the future, driven by channels who are redefining themselves as video-based brands that operate across platforms, and as social media leaders double down on their investment in original video content.


Laura Fleury, A&E Networks International, New York
Nicola Harvey, Buzzfeed, Sydney
Graham Wallington, WildEarth, Johannesburg
Moderator: Peter Hamilton (ex-Sunshine Tech)