When Jason Leaver came up with the idea for Out with Dad, the young director with no credential from Ontario knew very well that no producer would let him tell the story of a lesbian teenager and her father. “I therefore said to myself that I would produce and distribute it directly,” recalls the creator.
- Project name: Out with Dad
Production/project type: webseries
Funding platform: Patreon
Type of crowdfunding: subscription-based funding
Amount raised: $1,603 per month (April 2016)
Number of contributors: 171 (April 2016)
Average contribution: $9.37 per month (April 2016)
- Initially a volunteer effort
The following year, Out with Dad made its debut in the form of a volunteer project. “My day job consisted of filming corporate videos, so I had most of the equipment I needed. The cast and crew were all volunteers and I paid for the occasional expenses out of my own pocket,” explains Jason Leaver.
After two seasons of volunteering during which a button on the page used to collect donations and revenue generated by YouTube did not contribute much more than to pay for the catering, the director and his team made a decision: there would not be a third season of Out with Dad unless the public got onboard and contributed to a crowdfunding campaign.
A first “in-house” campaign
Instead of turning to Indiegogo or another one of the rare crowdfunding sites available at the time in Canada, Jason Leaver opted for his very own strategy, i.e., he created his own platform.
“Commercial platforms keep a portion of the revenue they generate and, besides, I didn’t think that I would have the time to lead a concentrated 30-day campaign anyway,” points out the director.
He therefore created a web page resembling the Kickstarter interface, proposing several different rewards and displaying a thermometer to indicate the campaign’s progress. The idea here was not to lead a blitz campaign but instead to generate funds gradually until enough money had been raised.
“There were inconveniences such as not having access to the statistics and graph viewing tools made available by commercial platforms. However, I knew how to use a spreadsheet and it therefore wasn’t much of a problem,” adds Jason Leaver.
After sufficient capital had been raised and thanks to funding received pursuant to a distribution agreement with French station France 4, a third 22-episode season of Out with Dad was shot.”
A second subscription-based campaign
“At the end of season 3, I was satisfied with the creative work we had accomplished. I believed that the series was over, but the fans were asking for more. I did not want to go through yet another long funding campaign, so I turned to Patreon,” continues Jason Leaver.
Patreon is a subscription-based crowdfunding platform. Instead of making one-time donations, fans donate funds on a fixed monthly basis.
Out with Dad now receives $1,519 per month via this platform. “It’s not enough to make a living, but it’s enough to decently pay all of the team members,” estimates the director.
However, Jason Leaver had to adjust the series to the budget generated through Patreon. “In season 4, we filmed at a single location per episode and only two characters took part in each shooting,” states a slightly disappointed Jason Leaver.
The advantage is nevertheless that the series can always be readjusted if the budget increases over time. Moreover, the team hopes to reach the level of $2,000 per month. This would enable it to cover the travel expenses incurred by an actress who moved to Calgary to participate in occasional shootings in Toronto.
“We even built that into the storyline. Her character was filmed with her phone in Calgary for one scene in particular. She said that she wanted to come back but couldn’t afford to. It’s really a big wink-wink to the public,” adds the director.
For the latter, by having a direct influence on the show’s content, subscription-based crowdfunding becomes an inherent component of Out with Dad.
A few lessons learned
Attract fans before launching the campaign
“The secret of our success is that we worked on Out with Dad during a three-year period before launching our crowdfunding campaign. You need to build up a public and earn its trust before asking for money,” upholds Jason Leaver.
“Today, when I promote my crowdfunding campaign, I no longer do it through my personal Facebook page. I no longer ask my family and friends for money. It’s a series I produce for the public. It’s everyone’s series,” he adds.
Privilege virtual rewards
If he could do things differently, the director would change a few aspects of his different crowdfunding campaigns.
“I would certainly not offer rewards that need to be mailed out,” he says laughingly. “Such rewards require time and effort and mailing costs consume a portion of the profits generated.”
“Today, I propose rewards that require no effort whatsoever on my part. Things that I would do anyway,” explains Jason Leaver. For example, he provides his scripts to those who fund his campaign and allow them advance access to episodes’ rough versions before they are broadcast.
Shoot several episodes at a time
Beyond reducing the scope of episodes, the team behind Out with Dad also changed its ways of doing things since it adopted a subscription-based crowdfunding model.
“At the beginning of season 4, when we began using Patreon to solicit funds, we did not dispose of the necessary capital to film an entire season in a single stretch. We therefore adjusted by shooting one episode per month as the money came in,” recalls Jason Leaver.
In his opinion, this mode of shooting had a negative effect on the quality of the product and the public noticed.
Now that Patreon generates stable financing, the team intends to shoot several episodes at a time, as it used to do, which should make things more efficient.
Build a crowdfunding community
“The most important thing to do during a funding campaign is to build a community,” believes Jason Leaver.
And, in this regard, Out with Dad fans are well served. Not only do the project’s funders get to see their names listed in the credits but also the director is constantly interacting with them and goes so far as to ask them for their opinion on things such as episode titles. “Several titles were suggested by the fans themselves!”
Jason Leaver is also active on Patreon, which platform he compares to a social network. “I want them to feel like the series belongs to them,” says Jason Leaver. After all, it is due in part to their sense of belonging that fans keep coming back year after year and continue to finance Out with Dad.