The Seed&Spark Blog

Film Crowdfunding
Success Story: I Am Thalente and the power of knowing your audience

June 20, 2017

Natalie Johns had two-thirds of a film and one problem: raising the funds to complete the final act. I Am Thalente, a feature documentary, was a deeply personal project for Johns. It was a story she needed to tell, following talented young skateboarder Thalente Biyela as he leaves the streets of South Africa to pursue his dream in America. She’d done so much: shooting and editing much of the film, securing Thalente a work visa, helping him navigate the skating industry in the U.S. Now she needed to engage the skateboard community to raise more than $50,000 in just over a month.


But Johns and the I Am Thalente team knew their audience. They understood that the film held massive appeal to skateboarders. They also understood skateboarders aren’t known for having massive wallets. To succeed in crowdfunding, they needed to put this audience knowledge at the forefront of everything they did.


Knowing that skaters can spend hours at a time watching videos of tricks and runs, Johns created loads of extras and posted these videos in campaign updates and social media promotion. She harnessed the relationships she and Thalente had formed during this journey,  getting pros like Tony Hawk to vouch for the project and offer unique, highly desirable incentives like a skate demo by Thalente and pro skater Kenny Anderson at your school. 



Authentic brand partnerships proved key as well. They reached out to skate brands of all sizes with the opportunity to reach skaters following the project worldwide. In return for this reach, the brands helped promote the project and some even contributed gear, product and signature prizes as additional incentives. L-R-G opened their warehouse and provided shirts to supporters, and Bombshell Skateboards released a limited edition board designed by Thalente. For smaller pledge amounts, they offered entries into a larger incentive pool, making certain that some of their most ardent supporters were as valued as those who were able to financially contribute more.



Partnerships went beyond the incentives, too. Conversations on Twitter led to articles on ESPN. Johns organized educational events at local skate parks and organizations, where they could talk about the project while connecting in-person with their audience. And it paid off: the campaign was successfully funded and got the greenlight. Just as importantly, Johns, Thalente and the team gathered passionate fans, who followed them through the production into their VOD and SVOD release.


See more best practices and crowdfunding resources, including tips on getting to know your audience.



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