While I would say that the written pitch is probably the most important part of a Kickstarter project, the video is definitely the face of it. And it’s also vital. While you aren’t required to have a pitch video, campaigns that do use them raise 40% more than those that don’t. Even if you don’t know much about video editing, it’s highly recommended that you have some kind of something.
With any kind of video project, it’s all but mandatory. I couldn’t imagine funding a film that wasn’t accompanies by some kind of basic proof of competence. So for Reel, we knew we had to do something. And what we ended up with wasn’t particularly fancy or high tech, but it was what we were looking for.
Here’s what we did, how we did it, and why we did it that way.
[Alec is doing a Kickstarter. You can (and should) back it here. Through the project’s duration, he will be writing a series of articles about the process. More about that here. Check out the other entries here.]
The Kickstarter pitch video really serves a dual purpose: it is both a proof-of-concept and a human introduction to the creators. I’m always leery of projects that don’t feature the creators themselves, because it’s fundamentally dishonest. By creating a Kickstarter, you’re putting yourself out there to the world. You have to put yourself out there in the process. So it was always vital that the video featured us talking.
But here’s a secret: We shot and scrapped an entirely different version of the video, because it was really kinda terrible. The footage has since been deleted, which is kind of a shame because I wanted to post a part of it here, but it’s probably for the best. The original version featured not just Gerard and me but JD as well. JD is our primary fight choreographer, and his name appears throughout the text. I wanted to have him there.
We used a teleprompter. For the first time around, it was just a word document and we had a fourth party scrolling down for us. It ran about two and a half minutes. It was longer, more detailed, and awkward. I was especially awkward, sitting in a “comfortable” position that made me look really uncomfortable. If you’ve followed my work on Flixist, you know I have no problem being on camera. So the fact that I looked awkward was entirely unacceptable. We didn’t have JD the second time around, but that was fine. We got his appearance during the fight scene that ends the video. That said more than enough. But more on that in a moment.
We totally rewrote the script for the second video. We cut a lot of extraneous information that was explained in the text and basically got it down to the barest essentials. The original video was about three and a half minutes. We wanted it to be under three, so we cut the length of our dialogue to approximately 1:45. To make sure that we were on time, we created an extremely simple scrolling video of the text in Final Cut and ran it immediately beneath the camera. You can tell that our eyes aren’t quite looking into the camera, but it’s close enough (I think) to still look fine.
We recorded five takes. Some were better than others, but we got one we were happy with and that’s what we used. We considered splicing some of them together, since we were overlaying some other visuals throughout, but it didn’t seem necessary when all was said and done.
The visuals were also important, though, just to break up the image. From the start, I knew that I was going to splice in some footage from my last short, Miranda, which was also a martial arts film. I’m not entirely convinced I used the right shots for that (I started from the beginning, but those were the shortest shots in the fight by a massive margin (the shortest is 2 seconds, the longest was 44)), but I think it got the point across. By putting the entire fight in the pitch, I figured that it was enough of a teaser to make the case.
We also put in a couple of concept sketches, both of which were there just to show we had some idea of what we were doing beyond the fights. We had originally planned for a few more, but the way the timing of the video ended up working, the two seemed fine.
But the most important part of our video was the fight scene. Since we’re making a martial arts movie, we needed something more substantial than some clips from Miranda. We wanted something new and unique to this. The fight went through four iterations, and ended up looking pretty great, I think. The decision to not edit it at all (aside from bringing up the audio, which was way too quiet in camera) came early on. Kickstarter is about being open, so we wanted to show something a little different. The footage from Miranda was the final product, but this fight was everything from the start. No speeding up, no cuts, no nothing.
Most people won’t be putting in a fight scene, but I think having this behind-the-scenes sort of thing is important to a video, because it shows confidence. When you’re asking total strangers for money, you need to be showing them something you believe in. If you can only show them something heavily packaged, that shows you can shoot and edit (or know someone else who can), but Kickstarter thrives on authenticity. You’re backing real people who are trying to realize something that is meaningful to them. They should believe in what they’re doing and be proud of it. They should be able to pull back that green curtain just a bit and show you how it’s all working.
Heck, that’s what this series is all about.
In the end, we were able to keep the video under three minutes. There’s no golden length, but I felt that it was a good one. I’ve watched videos that are nearly three times as long, but eventually it’s too much. The video pitch is the elevator pitch. A slow elevator, perhaps, but something short, sweet, and to the point.
I don’t know what the average statistics are on Kickstarter video completion, but we’ve maintained a consistent 34-35% from the start, and I’m pretty happy with that. It means well over 100 people watched the video from start to finish. Not all of them have backed the project, but the fact that they stuck with us feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. It also feels like a vindication of that philosophy we used. More in-depth analytics would be interesting, seeing at what point the other 65% stopped watching, but I feel good about the video we produced.
We wanted to be honest with those people we were asking for money from. In everything I do, whether it’s here, there, or anywhere, I never want to bullshit people. I try to be as honest as I possibly can. That was the philosophy behind every aspect of the video, and thus far it seems to be paying off.
And if you take away anything from this, it’s that honesty is the best policy. If you can’t be honest and open with your backers, then maybe you shouldn’t be using Kickstarter in the first place.