If you're a filmmaker thinking of raising money via crowd-funding, you might also like our How To Crowd Fund Your Film guide.
NB: This FAQ was written when we were raising the £450,000 to make the film in 2004-2006. Then, in early 2009, we raised a further £180,000 to launch in the UK and then another £100,000 for the Global Premiere in September. Now it's November 2009 and Franny is selling 20 of her shares, at £5,000 each, to raise the funds for our Copenhagen plans. Hope you can buy one. Contact email@example.com if you'd like to speak to a person before parting with your cash.
Q: Why are you crowd-funding The Age of Stupid?
Q: Will it be a better film?
Q: Will more people see it?
Q: Who will get rich if The Age of Stupid is a smash hit?
Q: How much will the film cost?
Q: Isn't that a low budget for a big movie?
Q: Who has already invested?
Q: What's the difference between investing and donating?
Q: Why are they loans not shares?
Q: Who can invest?
Q: I'd like to invest but don't have enough money. Can I buy a smaller share?
Q: What will I get in return?
Q: What percentage will I get?
Q: Will my percentage be diluted if more people invest?
Q: How much does The Age of Stupid need to take for me to get my money back?
Q: What are the repayment terms?
Q: Is my investment tax deductible?
Q: Do I get a receipt?
Q: What are the risk factors?
Q: Would I make more money investing in oil?
Q: What happens if you're under-subscribed?
Q: And over-subscribed?
Q: What happens to my money if you don't finish the film?
Q: Why should I trust that you'll give me my cash?
Q: What's the best case scenario?
Q: And the worst?
Q: Any secondary bonuses?
Q: What does anyone else think?
Q: I don't trust the internet. Can I pay by cheque?
Q: Can I speak to a human before I part with my cash?
Q: I'm convinced. How do I give you my money?
Our ultimate aim in making The Age of Stupid is to help bring about the exponential change in global awareness needed to force governments to introduce legislation which cuts global carbon emissions by 60% and allows life to continue on this planet. Gotta aim high, right?
Funding the film independently helps us achieve this, we hope, in three main ways:
- 1) What the film says
- 2) Who sees it
- 3) Who gets the cash
Should be. As we're making it completely independently, we don't have any Executive Producers or Money Men telling us what film we should be making. Or to hurry up and finish to fit with their deadlines. Or to tone it down because their advertisers won't like it.
The usual way to raise the budget for a documentary like The Age of Stupid is from organisations like The Film Council or Film Four or from TV broadcasters like the BBC or Channel 4. Which is how The Age of Stupid producer John Battsek has financed his feature docs in the past. But there's a major drawback. If a broadcaster commissions you to make a film, it is basically their film. They own most or all the copyright. And whoever owns the rights gets to decide how the film is distributed.
But by crowd-funding The Age of Stupid we control 100% of the copyright, allowing us to distribute the film as far and wide as our imaginations allow.
For example, as Franny made ‘McLibel’ independently she owned 100% of the rights. So she can sign whatever distribution deals she wants whenever and wherever she pleases. Meaning 34 million people have now seen it on TV, internet and cable, and at colleges, film festivals and cinema. But a drama version of McLibel was also made by Channel 4. Much to the producer’s frustration, it wasn't distributed internationally, so only about 650,000 people saw it on UK TV. The Producer isn't even allowed to distribute copies on DVD. That would be a fate worse than climate change for The Age of Stupid.
Of course we're not saying we're going to literally distribute it ourselves. The aim is to get to the end of production with 100% of the rights, which we will then sell to whichever international distributor comes up with the best plan to get the most people to see it. We will also be extremely careful to make a deal which still allows us to distribute the film through schools, on the web and whathaveyou.
John has made some of the most high profile documentaries of recent years. ‘One Day in September’ won the Oscar for Best Documentary and ‘Live Forever’ destroyed several forests in press coverage. So you might imagine he is rich. But when those funding bodies pay you to make a film for them, they also wrap up the finances. First, they insist that the initial money taken by the film goes to repay their investment. Which is often the only money that comes in. And second, if the film does repay all it’s production costs and goes on to make a profit, guess who gets most of it? For example, ‘Touching the Void’ is financially the most successful British doc of all time. It took an estimated US $10 million at the box office, none of which has filtered down to the filmmakers.
It'll be a different story on The Age of Stupid. Everybody who works (above a minimum) or invests in the film will own a slice of the pie. So if The Age of Stupid is the smash hit we’re dreaming of, the people who will benefit, money-wise, are those who made it, those who star in it and those who financed it. If we make enough to help fund future related projects & films, even better.
Also, if we succeed in raising the whole budget independently, there will be no debts or financiers taking their cut before we can start sharing out the profits - unlike most deferred payment films which are saddled with a million quid or so in debt.
We ran a similar scheme on McLibel and we have been making percentage profit payments to the original crew for 6 years now. <!-- br-->
£450,000 for the production, £180,000 for the UK release and £220,000 for the international release.
£450,000 is approximately a third of the cost of an equivalent production. We are able to do this, without any loss in the quality of the final product, because:
* The crew will mostly work at 1/3 fees (often minimum wage) plus a % of profits.
* The production company will not take a production fee (usually 10-15% of the budget).
* We have most of the skills and equipment in-house.
* We’ve had a lot of practise making documentaries on low budgets.
242 lovely people as of Feb 2009. Mainly individuals, but also couples, families, groups of friends, hockey teams, a health centre and one woman buying four "shares" for her four god-children.
Some of the investors have made their own pages on the site.
If you invest you get a percentage of the profits. If you donate you don’t. The minimum for investing is £5,000, but there's no minimum for donating. Both are brilliant for us.
Everybody. If you can’t manage £5,000 alone, syndicates of friends/ families/ colleagues are more than welcome. A syndicate can be an individual or a family or any other group - in the first round we had a hockey team and an alternative health centre clubbing together. But we need one person as the named individual on the loan agreement and we will only make one payement each year, so you’d have to make an agreement between yourselves as to who would take on the responsibility of sharing out the cash (if there is any).
Our lawyers tell us that, technically, they are “limited recourse debentures”, but we’re allowed to refer to them as loans. They're definitely not shares which are something to do with the stockmarket and shareholders and all that stuff we steer a million miles from.
We’ve already got 242 investors to send cheques to every year - not to mention the 100-odd crew. So really it’s for admin reasons that £5,000 is the minimum investment. The initial funders bought their “shares” for £500 but they invested on an idea alone – there was nothing to show them at that stage.
If you don't have £5,000 you can donate any amount. Or you could form a syndicate and pool your cash to buy a share between you. We can put you in touch with other people if you’re interested in being part of a syndicate.
You will get some or all of the benefits listed below, depending on your level of donation/investment. See table of benefits below.
| Warm Fuzzy Feeling
||Credit on Website
|| Credit on DVD
||Chance to Star in the film
||0.05% of profits
||0.1% of profits
||0.2% of profits||2 Tickets to Premiere
Credit on the film: We are redoing the credits on Monday 13th July 2009 before we make the mastertape which will be used to make the American & international release versions. So if you buy a share before then, you can get your name on the film itself.
Credit on website: Everyone gets their name listed on the website. If you invest (minimum £5,000) or donate over £500 you can also have your own page, if you'd like one. You can put whatever you like up there, within reason, and as long as it is not offensive. See some examples here .
Credit on DVD: You will get a credit on the DVD. You can decide what name you want credited. For example you could buy a credit for someone else as a birthday present so they can see their name on the DVD.
For the small print please see the Letter of Agreement (attached below) if you are planning to invest or Donating Terms & Conditions if you’re thinking of donating.
Additionally everyone who donates or invests will be included on the Age of Stupid mailing list.
The percentages of net profits have changed at each stage reflecting the lower risk of investing at different stages. The first round (December 2004) were the highest value as the risk was much higher because all we had was an idea. As of July 2009, now the film has not only been completed, but has been a big success in the UK, the percentages are as below. NB. They have not gone down again since we raised the 180,000 for the UK release.
£5,000 investment = 0.05% of net profits.
£10,000 = 0.10%.
£20,000 = 0.20%.
£100,000 = 1%
No. You own a set percentage of The Age of Stupid's net profits for 10 years after completion of the film. This percentage can not change under any circumstance and certainly not if more people invest in the film. See the Letter of Agreement (attached below) for further details.
The Production loans for Stage 1 investors will all be repaid in full when/if the film makes £1 million net profit.
The Production loans for Stage 2 investors will all be repaid in full when/if the film makes £2 million net profit.
The Production loans for Stage 3 investors (from June 2008 onwards) will all be repaid in full when/if the film makes £10 million net profit.
‘Super Size Me’ took £29 million* , ‘March of the Penguins’ took £63 million* and ‘Fahrenheit 911’, the biggest documentary of all time, has already taken £137 million* and is expected to rake in another £90 million in DVD sales and broadcast fees. (Before you get too excited, Franny’s film ‘Drowned Out’ took only about £80,000 in gross revenue.) But then again John sold two films at Sundance this year for a combined total of 4 Million US Dollars.
* Gross revenue. If you take off the share for exhibitors and distributors, net revenue equates to something in the region of 20% of gross.
* Lenders will be paid annually for 10 years following completion of the film. A written report will be included.
* Payments made will be subject to United Kingdom taxation. Lenders will be responsible for declaring their income on their tax returns.
* See the Letter of Agreement (below) for further details
No. We investigated the possibility of setting up this up and discovered it would cost £6,000. Not enough investors in Stage 2 were interested so we decided to use the cash for making the film instead.
If you'd like one.
This is a high risk investment, there’s no getting round it. Here’s the top three ways you might end up kissing goodbye to your cash:
* We make a turkey. If The Age of Stupid doesn’t make two million pounds, you don’t get all your money back. But you will still have helped make a film which (hopefully) millions of people will see and which (hopefully) will change millions of attitudes.
* Death/ Illness of key crew. We can’t guarantee against Franny falling off a mountain while getting the ultimate melting glacier shot, or John getting shot by an oil company, in which case your money will be as good as lost. But we’re not the giving up types. Franny spent the first night of filming ‘Drowned Out’ in jail and was let out with the warning never to return. (She went back three times over the next four years). And John persuaded a Palestinion terrorist to speak on camera for the first time after 25 years in hiding.
* Other Funders. We may be unable to raise the complete budget from private investors or pre-sales to broadcasters. Which may mean we have to turn to funding bodies such as The Film Council, who will most likely insist that they are repaid from the first income. In this scenario, we would be unable to repay our private investors until the funding body had recouped their investment. But we really don’t want to tie ourselves up like this and will do our very best not to take their money. Besides, if we do manage to raise all the money from individuals, it’s one more angle for the media assault when the film comes out..
Probably. If money is your main aim, don’t invest in The Age of Stupid.
We'll still distribute the film, just not as far and wide. But then we've never been under-subscribed before.
It’s first come first served, so hurry hurry roll up roll up etc. We were over-subscribed first time round, but everyone who missed out will hopefully be able to invest this time. We actually had to toss a coin to decide who would snap up the last of the 100 Stage 1 shares as we had two investors fighting over it!
We repay you a share of any unspent money left over. That's it. You've lost the rest.
We make a hit documentary on the scale of 'Fahrenheit 911' or 'March of the Penguins'. All the investors get fat cheques for ten years. The crew buy themselves new cameras and lifetime osteopath passes. 200 local climate campaigns get funding. Spanner Films and Passion Pictures go on holiday.... ... and the public wake up to the impending climate disaster, all oil companies immediately divert all profits to renewable energy research and a new international agreement is signed at Copenhagen which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2030 (80% for big polluters like the UK).
Runaway climate change. And, terrifyingly, the latest science shows that we are just a few years away from hitting the point of no return where the positive feedbacks start and global temperatures go from 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 to 6 degrees. By which point most of the life on the planet will have died.
But in terms of your money, the worst case scenario is that The Age of Stupid is a total turkey, you don't get a penny back, we've wasted years of effort, nobody watches the film and it has no impact whatsoever on carbon emissions.
Climate change is humanity's biggest problem, for sure, but there are any number of other pressing issues which also need great documentaries. As the mainstream media becomes more and more corporate-controlled, independent documentaries are one of the few remaining ways to deliver alternative ideas to tens of millions of people. One commentator called them “the new rock and roll”. It’s hard to think of any other way in which the ideas in Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 911’ could have found that global audience. Equally, independent docs can be a very effective way for philanthropists to affect social change, if they are able to find filmmakers working on the subjects they care about.
As one of our first round of investors said, “It’s hard to think of another social investment which would return as much bang for my bucks”. So we would be very happy if, as a side effect of The Age of Stupid, we inspired other filmmakers to copy this funding model, take on the big issues, sidestep the corporate control of the media and get millions of people watching films that matter. We will certainly take every opportunity to highlight our financing model when The Age of Stupid is released. (There has already been one newspaper article - in Denmark, weirdly - about it). To this end, alongside the main documentary, we are writing The Film's Diaries, hopefully for publication, as well as The Making Of companion documentary.
From our point of view, an unexpected bonus of the funding scheme has been the support, encouragement and bloody good ideas we've received from the community of 242 "Age of Stupid Insiders".
Quotes from some of our investors here.
You certainly can. To donate, please make your cheque payable to "Age of Stupid" and post to: BCM Spanner Films, London WC1N 3XX, UK (yes, that is a mailing address). Please include a note with the exact name you'd like for your credit. If you'd like to donate by bank transfer our details are:
Bank Name: The Co-operative Bank
Bank Address: PO Box 250, Delf House, Southway, Skelmersdale, WN8 6WT
Account Name: One Off Productions Limited Trading as CRUDE
Sort Code: 08-92-99
Account Number: 69228399
To invest, follow the instructions here.
Sure. Contact our Head of Finance, Andrew Douglas, on firstname.lastname@example.org
This webpage is provided for your information but is subject to change and does not bind OOPS to any of the content herein. This webpage does not constitute or form part of any loan or donation agreement nor shall it or any part of it or the fact of its distribution form the basis of, or be relied on in connection with, any contract therefore. No advice on investments is given on this webpage or by the promoter in relation to it. If any person has any doubt about the suitability of the investment which is the subject of this webpage he/she should contact an appropriate authorised person for advice on investments. No responsibility is accepted by any of Oops for any errors, mis-statements in, or omissions from, this webpage nor for any direct or consequential loss howsoever arising from any use of, or reliance on, this webpage or otherwise in connection with it.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR DONATING
LETTER OF AGREEMENT FOR INVESTING