Creating with the Crowd: Crowdsourcing for Funding, Producing and Circulating Media Content.
Beyond the buzzword and gimmicks using the concept, crowdsourcing is emerging as a new way in which creators are funding media production, inviting audiences into the creation process and exploring new and innovative means of circulating media content. What are some of the innovative projects forging new paths forward, and what can be learned from them? How are attempts at crowdsourcing creating richer media content and greater ownership for fans? And what are the barriers and risks ahead for making these models more prevalent?
Moderator: Ana Domb (Almabrands, Chile)
Panelists: Mirko Schäfer (Utrecht University, The Netherlands), Bruno Natal (Queremos, Brazil), Timo Vuorensola (Wreckamovie, Finland – see Iron Sky http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeAfoiN5SDw and Caitlin Boyle (Film Sprout)
AD: how can crowd participate at different stages of the production cycle? Can we describe the value crowd sourcing brings
TV: the hardest part is getting started. Often they start on the wrong basis, they ask too much, or nothing..in the pre-produciton process, it is easy to come up with 50 or so different tasks that are related. They need to be easy so anyone can give it a go, with a little work. So can they help create and test ideas…throw out a lot of small ideas and the crowd can get these ideas, and jump on it. eg a Nazi moon base on dark side of the moon..so what do they eat. People can research and add answers. Once they get something in, they get more interested
CB: on distribution side. Having a community, particularly for documentary, who have been invested, seeds their participation for the distribution.. In production, researching, info gathering all the time is a form of crowd-sourced, but not what I’m talking about. There is an understanding on makers that they need to assess, define adn reach out to audiences whilst making the film, as that can shape distribution. So not about the narrative, but about the message to attract the audience, to help bring the project to the world.
AD: a follow up with TV, it requires a different approach to comne up with tasks, to know what to ask the audience, that makes you work hard at same time. what advantages are there in investing this time, to work hard to get crowd participation, rather than financing etc.
TV: I never thought it was taking so much time and effort, it was kind of organic. It’s just social media, like checking FB, or twitter, i go and check the community. It’s about getting the rhythm right, making sure it does not take too long. YOu need to fail fast, so come up with things and kill the ones that don’t work.
BN: you can make a concert withouth crowd, but when get them invovled, you may make less money, but you get a buzz, helps promotion, more likely to be sold out…what you ask is about how much you ask and how much you give back. Ask them to work all day for it, then less people, will do..it’s a balance of activitities of asking and giving. If you just ask people to just like, everyone can do that, but it does not really do anything, in practical times, it does not move what you need to do. We want people to get more involved, but we need to give something bigger back, a matter of finding the balance.
TV: looking at your video…this crowd particpation, gives it an interestingness…it’s fun. they care, it makes it worthwhile. It gives you more inspiration, that people care what you do.
BN: it goes both ways. It is not every concert we can give a full refund. When we don’t, we still get responses., We send out balances etc, and a couple of times, the early adopters paid more than those later people…but they did not care, they wanted to be part of it. It is about doing something, about helping bringing bad to town,
TV: they can say they are helping set upa concert, more important to them
MS: in those examples, both are addressing motivations of consult, involvement, Breaking tasks down to feasible parts, that people can actually do. Successful in doable for users…the risk they take is limited
CB: there is an inherant reward for the transparancy. So film distribution is pretty hidden to most people, when we do things, using grassroots channels, to small rural towns etc, there is an inherant reward in being able to see what is happening. It becomes clear, that access to info, the feeling they have agency over the process, has social value they can feel good about.
BN: we keep everything as transparent as it can be. We try and make it simple, but clear that we run this for profit, they all know this. They know how many people are needed there, they know how many people attend, because they know what is happening, it is not a problem we are making a profit. We re-invest a lot, and they know this too. We try and let them know what can go wrong..we run the risks, so feel comfortable profiting. Last week we had Beady Eye concert (Liam Gallagher)…he did not like the hotel booked, so went off to the most expensive hotel in the place,,,it was not in the plans. They let everyone know…
AD: to get them off the ground, you need to develop a series of competences and a culture, both on production and the audience side
MS: The OS software is doing similar, breaking down things into simple steps, to engage more people. A bucket chain is crowdsourcing..it is about an infrastructure, that has developed, tasks executed by distributed group. SO web allows the infrastructure to be built, with wikipedia, the bar to participation is low. Successful crowd-sourcing works this wway, setting up a platform that is easy to use. The Guardian with MP expenses, asked people to check their own MPS expenses; had a level of gamification in it, showed scores of people finding thigs. Providing aplatform, an incentive, making it simple to do
TV: creative collaboration, it is important to teach the basic rules that make it work. YOu have to accept it is not democracy, it is dictatorship. There needs to be someone who decides, the choices. Looking at different styles, when you vote etc, it never works,, it dies, it is about lack of dictatorship..you need dictators! But this does not mean you need to be an evil dictator. In the end, we say we will make money, you will not. We say you have to give rights to us..we need to be honest with it, that this is what will happen. People can have wrong ideas about what will happen, you need to make them agree to the rights etc That is the only way tp make it work
BN: Agree, otherwise it does not work, no committee ever got anyway. You hav eto have a common goal and there is a decision maker. We get a lot of requests for bands, but you can’t bend to much to audience and you don’t go to new things, you can’t repeat everything over and over. Curator is important, we chose bands we want to bring, may not be fully known, we try and push to people. Now people tend to believe us, they have seen who we have brought to them. It is not just what they have seen before.
MS: looking at the limits of partipation, crowd sourcing and funding comes with some idea that the audience is taking over, but that is not the case…need to distance from the idea of crowd taking over, there is someone deciding about it. Look at an older form, the stockmarket, if you hold shares you’re influence is still low.
CB: IP can be an issue, the audience feel like there is ownership, even if no idea in it, just holding a showing, you need to get them to understand the linits. THey need to sign things, the licencing etc. You have to help people understand what it means to hold a licence for a public performance. It’s partially an education project, about at what point the crowd-sourcunbg stops being helpful. You see examples when audience are doing things that they cannot, eg got a disk for a screening, they copy and give them away…or want to show at a crowd and not pay licence fee..because of ‘exposure’. You have to be a benovalent dictator to move things through and decide when crowd-participation value ends..but also be aware of what the crowd think of their value.
AD: goes back to the interaction of economy and gift econony. In what ways do you see producers tackling questions about this model, what obligations are creators, producers, distributors etc have with audience?
TV: so what do we as a filmmaker have obligation to active parts of the audience. We have crowd-investment thing, lots of paper work, agreements about what you get from film. We need to know what we have promised and stick to it…
BN: beyond the rewards you actually give, what is interesting, that in palces like Brazil, we get people to a place where people participate..it gave a lot of people a practical example that you can take part in something and make a difference, It started giving people ideas, We are being approached by NGOs to help them, ie to raise money etc…what i like to observe is about how people approach different things, now they know they can do things, that they can make things happen. There is a sense of awareness, that this is ours, we are suipposed ot do things not wait for others to do it.
MS: IN France, before 1789, even if in favour of democracy, it could not be done as the country was too big, that you could not get the information out. One of the drivers for telegraph was to unify country, so people can partake in debate. Now we have tech, it gives the impression it is easier to achieve it. THere are interesting attempts in doin this, eg Iceland on the constitution, commenting on the document. Facebook was asked to vote on the docs that govern them. It is important, to unpack the crowd….so who is the crowd and what context are they participating.
AD: so unpacking the crowd…how can we turn a crowd into a group that can accomplish something, what sort of crowds?
BN: can you? there is a cohesive crowd for each project., it is not easy to have a base crowd, You need to find the right people for each specific project. Even with concerts, it is different people.
TV: it depends on how you define..the borders…you have a crowd and based on how it partipates with you, it becomes a different type of crowd. THere are people who give money to the film, we work with them slightly differently, get them active on things they do; then we have the collaborative creativecrowd on wreckamovie, where films can set up creative tasks on the films…we do different things with them and then there is Facebook community. YOu need to know what they have done and what you want to ask and help you want and which is the best for it
CB: you can move crowd to accomplish a particular call to action, there’s a reason the phrase corwd mentatlity exists, crowds are disorganised…it is important to have a call to action, that is beyond just participation. But then you have to give them a specific very narrow direction, to move them somewhere, to provide structure. So between Jan-Aug, we distributed a film about plastic bags, (Bag it). It has a specific cal to action – stop using the bag. An action campaign was created, to be a companion to the film., you see a ban on single use bags in the film, in a town. So if you want to join the Bag It town campaign, there is a toolkit about organising it in your place. Very specific, very practical. It works, we see people who want to just want to watch a light-hearted documentary, come in a crowd and some leave in a cohesive group. If you offer the presecription, you get some of them doing it.
TV: what i find out with crowds, they work best when you can get them together to fight against it…if you have an enemy…for example, when we were taken down from Facebook (because of swastikas), we got everyone asking Facebook to reinstate them. Talking about creative collaboration, ..you need to get an enemy etc…eg create someone who says they can’t do something…and then they will
MS: All these companies, such as Facebook, about integrating crowd without the crowd knowing about it….how do you channel the crowd without them knowing they are labouring for you. Crowd sourcing, is like crowd management. You can create crowds if moment of intrinsic interest..wikipedia editors are not a crowd as such, it’s temporal, they ebb and flow.
AD: a question, how long term can you expect crowd-sourcing intitiatives to be, A comment about Kickstart fatigue…will the well run dry. Can it be a long term relationship?
BN: the first comment we had..was about someone saying it would be really nice if someone paid my bills too. I can;t support all my friends projects..we give people money back, so it works for our team. YOu have to create something beyond contribute…has to be specific, about interacting etc, you ahve to find right crowd,
AD: TV, you have being working since 1998, is it the same crowd?
TV: with StarWrecks…the same core crew, some are still here…they follow you from project to project…they form the backbone, they don’t invest in projects, they invest in these people, they know they share the same mindset..with the concerts, they know that the organisers have good taste. You trust people behind the project and that is the important thing. WIthout the backbone, then the Iron Sky commuity would not have started. It is based on same people….
CB: it will never go away, as participatory culture will not go away., But how we do things will change…Kickstarter is faddish, crowd-sourcing is faddish, but you see it everywhere, not always web based.
AD: we have been talking about independent media…do these strategies work for larger corporations
BN: we do have support from corporations etc…up to half of our walls can be bought by a company. They have never sponsor, nor can they take up the whole thing, often local companies. We do not refund the companies. They lower the break-even, so fan investors can get money back quicker..so fans want companies involved. It’s bottom up, the crowd is doing it, you can join in. We help them interact and take part. It’s new and hard to measure..it’s a different relationship, a little long-tail. Working in many things with a lower amount of money. There has to be an understanding on part of the brand, about adding something to the experience
TV: introducing brands to communities, a hard questions..as many people don’t care about the brands..so we asked them people about what brands would work well with Moon Nazis..we got a lot of silly ideas, but we did get some good ideas. It needs to be integrated and you need ot be careful, but it still may not work..it’s about integrating brand into the content, so that people care about it, so they can participate in placing the stuff.
Question: Call to action, can you determine about mobile vs web call to actions
TV: don’t think it’s a different audience!
MS: do not know how to answer the question…it relates to about integrating funders, participants. We see how media literate people are. It is not enough that you are in Kickstarter, you need to be in a special interest magazine, in multiple channels
BN: are phones ready yet, they just replciuate it. YOu need time for something that is really diferent?
TV: has a film used foursquare in a creative way? Let me know
Question: Did you have to build own platforms, or off the shelf. And to Bruno, were the bands taking less than usual rates
BN: we built our own…but it’s a mess and it works. We had a specific need. We let poeple use it..if they can figure it out! We are doing a new one. And the bands get excited..and can often play for less than usual. We do everything wrong, but we provide a better experience. Most bands don’t really know the full story until they are there…it makes it special for them, it makes for a different concert
TV: we had to build it and it is also a mess. We got enough funding to get it in place, but had to build by ourselves, it is really expensive to build these. I know there are platforms that will facilitate..but they are so unsexy. Ours works
AD: Crowd funding is perfect example of R&D in action – Risk and Detachment..how to balance the tasks/crowd and the risk of asking them, meeting deadlines.TV:Always have a plan B..and make sure you have time..to do it anyway. It depends on how necessary the taks is and make sure you don’t depend completely on the crowd.
BN: we have deadlines given to us, we don’t choose them., We need to do contracts etc, so far we have been successful, but if it does fail, then would make a choice to go forward on own and see what happens or we cancel. So far, people have got involved…
CB: there’s a reason urgency built into marketing campaigns, because it works. We choose movies that are new, so the urgency about getting it now, it’s new, won’t last for ever. That’s why Kickstarter have that deadline. You can’t having meaningful participation without some shared pressure
TV: if you put a deadline too far away, then that does not work either..
MS: a question about Risk and detachment..aren’t there some key figures that you rely on, to balance the risk you have
TV: once you work with a crowd like ours, you get to know people, you can develop trust, you know they will participate..some will always do things and you never choose as not right…others you know will do things that suit, and oyu can conenct with them directly as well to ask them. THought about if would be worth making a different group, ‘gold members’ etc, make some more ‘important’ or more trusted etc…you know you can ask things, get them to do things.
AD: Where do we draw line between supported by crowd and created by crowd.
BN: two different things. Supported is someone elses idea,
TV: don’t want to make one or the other less important. If you give money, or spread word, you support. So how may that distinction be useful
BN: what do you mean by creating…getting it off ground and making it real, then supporting still part of the creation
MS: what do they mean? it opens upa range of other questions about the structures of crowdsourcing
CB: you have to tell the audience if they are supporting or creating..it is creative, promotional, financial etc. It reflects confusion in participants, about what their role is.
MS: at Flcikr, they are not being told they are developing a rich depository of metatags that can be used elsewhere…in other places, the building of churches through selling pardons etc Flickr and Facebook have a lot of unacknowledge particpation, they use the creation of crowd to do more things,
Question: Feel this panel is not controversial enough..so what is a crowd..what purpose are they serving. Examples are top down media examples, don’t change the form of the media. What is the crowd doing for these projects. We can look at other crowd circulated/produced that changes the product..so are your crowds just about money..
CB: we create channels that are new, not just revenue streams. Traditional documentaries go to same place, we go to low-incomne areas, rural areas, that don’t have cinemas, that may neve have seen independent media. Documentary is not new, but the way it is being watched, places that it is being watched. We are repurposing places as cinemas, we are providing new access and distribution channels, inchrices, farms, vacant lots etc. It is a littel unexciting, it’s still a film being projected, but the way they are doingit, the diversity and types of people is astounding.
TV: you ask about a crowd, you say we only use it to get money. We started working for many years, only in last 2 years have we asked for money. It has been doing the work we don’t have the resources for. We have to squeeze money..resources. Eg designers of spaceships, getting information, doing stuff we don’t have money to pay for. More than that it is creative resources. It also serves as a way, we don’t have many people who know Finnish films, we want a film to get the word about FInnish films. We have done this for ages now, and we have reached a certain state..everything boils down to money but it’s resources and PR etc..but it also tells me somebody cares about me 🙂 I was fighting against asking for money for a long time…and then we made a way for it to happen and people wanted to it
BN: we try and stay away from this..we create a scene that was not happening in Rio at all. We felt we lacked this Rio…the most known city in the country. It was killing the music scene in Rio, the local bands were not seeing any other bands…cultural circulation is important was not happening in Rio…it is about creating the scene, in the end we may not even be needed. in 10 years time, if people are going to lots of concerts…we have a VIP culture in RIo, no-one wnats to pay for concerts..we charge for every ticket, give none away…there are many directions that this will go, it changes a mentality in the town. We need to think how to make a different experience for them, will bring it back to partners to think about
AD: is the crowd over-romanticised?
MS: key question, who is the crowd..looking at the dicourse, if the word crowd pops up it is an excuse about not knowing who is behind it. If we did researhc, we could find out more about the crowd, the people who participate. The metaphor is over-romanticised. We need ways to look into it, to see who they are, understand the fans.
TV: platforms like Facebook etc are adding more features to know who is behind the ‘crowd’ We have tried to look into who are the fans, we have a good idea.
Question: who vets the benovolent dictators?
BN: we get complaints from people asking for specific bands, often from genres we don’t know about..so as it grows bigger, we get more complaints…they need to get off their butt and do it! I don’t know who vets them, but they should..or do it themselves.
TV: in films we have producers who look over the dictators…ie the directors
Question: if you are keeping track of people who are raising money,, how do you track fan value
BN: we know who they are, still thinking ways of rewarding them..or a mileage programme etc, still figuring it out
TV: it is easy to keep track, who is most active. You can give them credit and invites etc…not interesting, so how to track continuity..as project to project they get more. We have employed some of the most active.
Question: What sort of return rate do you get? WHo comes back?
BN: Almost all people who are working with us, all of them were fans of project and then asked if they can help…they get involved…
TV: a really small amount, but they are the most enthusiastic…it is not about getting as big as possible, you will get people in and out easily; the most inportant is the quality, the good backbone of people you can trust. They are more valuable