Note from Beth: Over five years ago, I connected with Sam Mayfield, an independent media maker, through my blog. In 2008, she asked for advice about raising money to go to Africa to help support the first community access television station opening in Ghana. At that time she made and raised $2,000 using Chipin, using the case study I had documented where I raised money to send a young Cambodian women to college. This was the very beginning of what we’re calling crowd funding or social fundraising. Will a networked approach to making and funding documentaries, particularly those that are about social change issues become the norm in our connected world? Vince Stehle thinks so as he explained in this guest post about Gasland. And, this month, Sam is raising money to support a new documentary called Wisconsin Rising on the kickstarter platform. I invited her to share her experience in crowd funding.
A Guest Post by Sam Mayfield
When I think of story telling, I think of books. The Little Golden books from my childhood, non-fiction books that revolutionized my perspective of the world and novels that I rarely take the luxury of reading. The art of storytelling though, and documenting an event or a slice of time is, of course, not restricted to bound pages. Stories surround us on the radio, in newspapers, in our music boxes, in short web videos and on large screens in movie theatres. I am a documentary filmmaker and video journalist, and I think of my work as a form of story telling and documenting. Some of the tools needed to do this work are obvious: a camera, microphone, headphones, tripod, laptop, and maybe a light. As an independent producer, I can tell you that these are merely a fraction of the tools that one needs in order to properly document and later tell a story. Social media has become an important tool for me in storytelling and, in particular, helping to finance my work. I am currently raising funds for a story that I believe needs to be told about the 2011 people’s uprising in Madison, Wisconsin.
In the months of February and March, 2011, in Madison, Wisconsin, we saw thousands upon thousands of people occupying the Wisconsin State Capitol building. The people’s response to Governor Scott Walker’s announcement of his controversial Budget Repair Bill was historic: a prime space for a storyteller, and documentarian.
As a freelance video journalist, I was asked to go to Madison on assignment for the progressive media outlet The Uptake. When I got on the ground in Madison, I checked in to my hotel and headed straight for the capital. I saw for myself that history was unfolding in front of me. Thousands of people were in the streets; people carrying political signs surrounded the statehouse, and inside the capital building itself, thunderous sounds of chanting and singing filled the halls and bounced off the marble. This was a little slice of heaven for someone who appreciates the value of people acting collectively and standing up to the bully of injustice.
My background is in community media. Before branching off to work as an independent producer, I worked for five years full time at CCTV government access television in Burlington, Vermont, and before that I worked with community radio and community television in college. Rooting myself in community media taught me the value of covering a story thoroughly. We do not swoop in to get the hot sexy moments at an event and then swoop out to our next story. We cover an issue from beginning to end. Some call it boring. I call it thorough. Admittedly, I am a sucker for municipal government and find municipal meetings interesting. I’m ok with that.
Telling stories independently and without the backing of major media outlets or a major film company is what separates independent freelancers / filmmakers from the rest of the storytellers. We scrape it together. Our stories come from our heart. Why else would we put ourselves out there to live on the dimes we make per story?
Social media has provided a unique platform for independent producers to get their stories out and to raise money for their work. In 2008, I raised money to go to Africa to help support the first community access television station opening in Ghana. At that time I made a blog and raised $2,000 using Chipin. (Thanks Beth for helping shepherd me through that learning curve). Now, fast forward to 2012. I have a blog, a website, a twitter account, a facebook page, a reddit account and we recently launched a Kickstarter campaign.
We are currently trying to raise $40,000 of our $200,000 budget through Kickstarter, the online fundraising platform that facilitates grassroots investment. We set a target goal and must raise that amount or lose all pledged funds by the set deadline of 12 p.m., January 21. If we are successful, we’ll join over 15,000 artists, filmmakers, activists, and entrepreneurs who have collectively raised over $125 million using this innovative “crowd-funding” model.
Times have changed and so have the tools, but the need is the same. Dollars help make independent projects possible.