Students find arts patrons online

By Alexandra Kukulka

When a creative idea hits, money may be the last thing an artist thinks about. He or she is over taken by imagination and not worried about budgets. However, once the initial rush of excitement passes, the reality of paying for supplies and space to showcase the final piece sets in.

Many Columbia students are eager to start creative projects but have limited budgets. Increasingly, students with this type of restriction are turning to online project funding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to gather the cash needed to get their project going.

“Raising money through Kickstarter gave us enough [funds] to work with, more flexibility and helped spread the word,” said Andrew Hempfling, a film & video alumnus whose team used the site to raise money for their Web series “Kung Fu Jonny,” which began shooting in June 2009.

According to him, the one mistake the team made was continuing with the project after not collecting enough money from promoting the pilot episode. Producer Jon Rodriquez, also a film & video alumnus, had to pay for every prop, camera and location out of pocket, but eventually production costs became too expensive.

“I tried Indiegogo,” Hempfling said. “It didn’t work out too well for me, but I thought maybe the Kickstarter brand name has something going for it because I have known three productions that have raised more than their goal.”

According to him, the team only raised $60 through Indiegogo, compared to the $2,000 it raised through Kickstarter. The group still had to bring in an additional $2,000, but Kickstarter gave them a good basis, Hempfling added.

Junior film & video major Evan Mills and his production team for the film “It’s a Terrible Week for Singing” used Indiegogo and have raised $6,010 since the page was created last month.

When it came to raising money, Mills’ team looked into both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, ultimately choosing the latter because its lower fees allowed the group to keep more money for itself. He added that the team is considering using Kickstarter for postproduction needs.

According to their websites, Kickstarter takes 5 percent of total funds raised, while Indiegogo takes 4 percent if the goal is reached and 9 percent if it is not.

Mills said the group promoted its Indiegogo page through a link on Facebook, a method that proved to be effective for only a limited time.

“One of the biggest challenges was just trying to keep spreading the word because we would get it out and then a few people would see it, but then it would just stop,” he said.

According to Mills, his team had to find different ways to continually promote its project and page, such as emailing professors and teachers to help drum up support. The page is currently at a standstill again, he added.

“We were thinking about making another video to put on the update section [on the Indiegogo page] with our cast members and hopefully sending that out and showing other people,” Mills said.

As reported by The Chronicle on Feb. 20, sophomore fashion studies major Omar Villalobos and his business partner Gordana Rasic needed $3,000 to secure their fashion label GOCA a spot in this year’s New York Fashion Week.

The pair raised $3,000 with the website, netting $2,600 after fees.

“What drew us to Indiegogo was that there wasn’t a lot of competition,” Villalobos said. “People who wanted to donate, they didn’t have a lot to choose from [in the] fashion [category].”

According to him, the benefit of using sites like Indegogo and Kickstarter is they build awareness of a project and a fan base.

All three project-starters agree that such websites are a great help, even if only a small amount is raised.

“[Some] things that Gordana [and I] learned through the process was that a lot more people are likely to donate if there is a benefit involved, and people wait to the last minute to donate,” Villalobos said. “If within the first week or two you are not seeing any progress, don’t give up and keep pushing.”