The Stakes

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I want to share with my readers a post that I frankly can’t put on my business’s site.  If you’ve been keeping up with what I’ve been doing the last couple weeks you know that we launched a crowdfunding campaign.  What you don’t know is that there has only been one person really working on this campaign and that’s me.  My business partner is moving, our staff is overworked as it is, so I’ve been doing this by myself.  I’ve had a couple realizations during this period of time.  The first is that even though we have over 1,000 followers on social media that doesn’t translate to donations.  It doesn’t translate at all.  Everyone who’s given to this campaign is someone I know personally.  In order to really reach people you don’t know and get them to donate to your campaign you need to have some sort of overture that makes them trust you.  What I’ve been trying to do is get featured on a blog or website that reports on dog-related stuff.  I think if we’re going to get anything close to our goal it’s going to take something like that to build some momentum for us.

Authenticity is really important in these kinds of campaigns and authenticity is something that’s really important to me personally as well.  That’s why I wanted to write something to people who could help us, but haven’t.  Let me be clear about something: if you have a pulse you can help us.  Whether it’s retweeting one of our fundraising tweets on Twitter (@LHProdCo) or sharing a fundraising request on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LHprodco.)  A click of the mouse goes a long way in helping us extend the reach of our campaign.  You can also just share a link on any network for us.  The link to our campaign is: http://www.gofundme.com/flyball.  The network I’d really love to get engaged is LinkedIn, but they don’t have anything to help promote a crowdfunding campaign.  The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes people start crowdfunding campaigns for the wrong reasons, but this is not one of those instances.  We’ve been working on this for almost a year on an ad hoc budget.  The problem is that I can’t field a crew in Indianapolis for the flyball championships without money.  That’s why this is so important that I’m working just about every hour of the day to raise awareness about this campaign.  I can’t shoot a venue like the one in Indianapolis by myself.  I need my crew to help.

I wrote a post last night that lays everything out on the line.  Like I said before though I can’t post this on our business website.  My co-founder would hunt me down and the outcome of that wouldn’t be pretty.  She likes to maintain an image that we know what we’re doing, but let me tell you something: we don’t.  If we knew what we were doing we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now (or I wouldn’t be writing this post right now.)  The truth is I’ve worked on one movie before and that was over ten years ago.  That’s right: they were still using film in their cameras the last time I was shooting a movie.  Now, I’m learning how to shoot digitally and man, has that been a wild ride.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to reach out to everyone I know and hope that their generosity can help us out.  I can’t tell you how much it worries me that I’m relying entirely on the kindness of others.  It bothers me almost as much as the fact that I’m running this entire campaign by myself.  But, you know what?  The panic attacks aren’t going to go away by worrying about this more; they’ll only subside when we come up with a winning strategy.  Now I’m asking you, my readers to be part of that strategy.  If there’s one thing you should know about me it is that I absolutely hate asking for help.  There is a man who taught me that the most powerful words in the English language are: “I need your help.”  That man was my father and I’m not sure it’s necessarily true.  We’ll see at the end of this campaign I guess.  But, I do want you to know that this is not something that comes easily to me.  Far from it.

Truth be told: I can’t make you care about anything. Only you can do that. If you could make someone else care about something I would have done a heck of a lot better in school and I’d probably be practicing law right now working myself to death for people who don’t care about me. At least in this industry and in my current capacity someone, hopefully our audience, cares about us. That brings me to the subject of this essay which is: how do you get an audience that gives a shit? Seriously, we’ve been in business for over a year and although we’re sure that we have some followers who genuinely believe in what we’re doing, the majority are there either to sell us something or to say that they followed us when no one else did. Neither is a very good reason for pretending to care and let’s be clear that is exactly what a lot of social networking is: pretending to care. At the end of the day we’re all selfish, but some of us genuinely do care about what happens.
This is what we in screenwriting call “the stakes.” The stakes are what the character is risking in order to pursue their goal or what they have on the line if they fail. I want to explain our stakes. We’ve been working on This is Flyball for ten months. Our goal is to finish filming at the end of this year. We love flyball and we love our flyball family (and it’s with great affection towards the community that we’re included in that group.) Our journey through the world of flyball is nearing the apex and when we say we need your support we really need your support. Without your support this film cannot happen. We’ve been flying on a shoestring budget and we’ve reached that point where we either make it or we don’t. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the stakes. We’re making a feature length film on a $5,000 budget. This is such a small budget that ten years ago they didn’t even have a word for the kind of budget it was.  Today a five thousand dollar budget is what industry types call a micro-budget.  Now for the worst part of it all: we don’t even have the micro-budget sum of $5,000 for our film hence why we need you to help us finance our film.

We literally started this film with nothing. I didn’t even have a camera. We borrowed a camera from my co-founder Heidi’s church and put together a crowdfunding video that few people outside our business have seen. Yeah, it was that bad. We made our second video on my Canon T5 and the quality of the film was excellent. Too bad our acting abilities weren’t on par with the production quality. That film never got aired either. They were embarrassing. There’s no other way to put it. We didn’t even attempt another video for another six months. That third batch of videos though; the ones that are up on GoFundMe and YouTube are our third go at it and I’m pretty happy with the quality of those. I’ve always been proud of the content of our films. There’s never been any doubt that the message we had for the world was real. We’re in this for the right reasons and we followed our hearts in making the decision to do this film. In just under three weeks we’ll see if we can finish that task. I hope with everything I have in me that we can. My blood, sweat and tears are all over this film.
I’ve never been good at asking for help, but having to do the marketing for this campaign has made short work of that. I actually had panic attacks when I was putting together e-mails asking people for their support. It’s not because of what we’re selling. I believe with everything I have in me in what we’re selling. No, it’s the asking that’s been the hard part. Going through this campaign and not knowing if there’s anyone left to turn to for help has been a terrifying realization for me. We’ve called in all our favors. We’ve exhausted all our resources. We’ve run out of money and the goal, the thing we’ve been working so hard to get to is so close I started planning for it. Keep in mind that I started to plan for it. It occurred to me that we might not be able to do this thing. So, I stopped planning for what we’ve labeled “The Super Bowl of Flyball” and concentrated on funding our efforts. I feel like I should have kept planning and lived in ignorance of the outcome at times, but had I done that I would have never understood the reality of the situation.

The reality is this: we don’t know who our “fanbase” is. We don’t have all that fancy software that can track who’s doing what or where and when on Facebook and everything. Some believe that simply admitting this is an admission of failure, but you know what? I don’t believe in failure. Not anymore. Not after what I’ve been through and not after what my team has worked tirelessly on for months. Even if we can’t make this film the lessons of this journey will live on with us. But, I don’t want to think about that now. I want us to work together to make this film. In a blog post that I wrote a couple days ago I mentioned why we’re making the content that we’re making. It’s simple really. We’re creating the kind of content that we want to see in the world. We don’t want to see Mission Impossible 17 and we could care less about which Avengers movie breaks the all-time record for some box office figure that only Hollywood insiders know or care about. We believe in original storytelling. That is what our company is all about. This brings me back to the stakes. You may be thinking to yourself: “hold on, I have seen some flyball videos on YouTube.” Yes, there are flyball videos on YouTube and there are some that are really good. I reached out to an East Coast flyballer named Dave Strauss who was nice enough to do a guest post for our blog on how he approaches filming flyball. His videos are some of the best out there. You know what’s not in these flyball videos though? It’s the most important part: the story.

I asked Dave in an e-mail how he approached telling a story in his videos and his answer was short and simple: “right, I don’t try to tell a story,” he said. That’s the problem with relying only on five minute videos to speak for your sport. There’s no way for an audience to connect with the people involved in the sport. The people are the best part of flyball! They are the reason that we are making this film. If it wasn’t for people like Margaret and Carl who welcomed us not only into their flyball family, but into their lives we wouldn’t be talking about this today. If the twins hadn’t let me film the BC Boomerangs we wouldn’t have any footage at all. They have shown us what it’s like to have a legacy and their hunger for more has fueled our hunger. We don’t want the money we’re asking for here; we need it. We need it to film the rest of our film, but more importantly we need it so we can see how the story ends. That’s the most important part. It’s so important that we see how the story ends that I’m going to throw a couple offers out there.

Offer #1

Remember those terrible videos I was telling you about earlier in the post that only a few people have seen? If we meet our goal I’ll release those videos and post them to our YouTube channel. Yes, I’m willing to show the world how bad we were when we started. This project is that important to us.

Offer #2

We believe that barter is as good if not better than money. It’s one of the principles that our company was founded on. So, here’s the deal. If you live in the Indianapolis area and you have enough couches for my team and I to sleep on then we’d be proud to be your guests. Seriously. If you have a home in the Indianapolis area and you’re willing to put up with a three man and two woman film crew while we’re there filming the CanAm Nationals then I see no reason that we can’t go. You can e-mail me. I’m Chris@LivingHistoryProdco.com Let me know if that’s something you can do. We believe in what we’re doing and we believe in our fans. Help us make our dream a reality.

Offer #3

Fund 120% of our campaign and 10% of the proceeds will go to a charity dedicated to helping dogs. We haven’t found an individual charity that is willing to partner with us yet, but this is something that is also very important to us. My sister spent her college years working at HAWS. Two of our dogs are from HAWS (and both of them run flyball!) We would be happy to donate ten percent (a little over $700 to a group like HAWS) that has done so much to bring joy into the lives of our family. Flyball is a world filled with these kinds of stories about rescue dogs. We could make an entire film based on the stories of each of the rescue dogs, but we’ll settle for finishing this venture first.

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