Danielle DiGiacomo is an independent film producer, consultant, and programmer based in New York City. She participated at the 2011 Sundance Institute Creative Producing Lab and is currently working on Elijah Rosenberg's Ad Inexplorata, an FFP-supported project.
On November 21, five days after the Best Kept Secret Kickstarter campaign was launched, I received the following Facebook message from a Hebrew school friend I haven't seen since shortly after her bat mitzvah.
"Danielle, I cannot tell you how moved I was by your link to Best Kept Secret. I'm sure you're unaware but my son is autistic (very high functioning with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS) but I can remember when the therapists broke the autism word to me—it felt like my nightmare was coming true and I couldn't imagine how my son's life would turn out. Who would care for him when we no longer could, etc.
"We are so lucky that his progress is ridiculous and, quite frankly, he may be a quirky person who works his way out of the official diagnosis, but I know what know the fears, and the crushed dreams, and hopes of how things are supposed to turn out. I'm so glad you shed a light on the lack of public resources and good resources for special needs people who age out of school. Great work, thank you."
I was moved to tears by this message.
We—myself (producer), Samantha Buck (director), Scott Mosier (executive producer), and Zeke Farrow (associate producer)—launched the campaign for $14,675 to be used toward the rough cut of the film. That number is far lower than what we actually need, but after several discussions, we decided to play it safe and lowball our goal, due to our recent experience in the marketplace and the stagnant economy.
We were awestruck when, a week after we launched, we surpassed our goal. Through all the tools of promotion we have been using--Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, subway solicitation, sandwich boards, and oh, Scott Mosier (who is Kevin Smith's longtime producer and talked about the film on their weekly podcast, SMODCAST)--people beyond our usual circle came to be aware of the film and were responding from all over the country. People we had never heard of. Our film had hit the nerve we wanted it to hit.
And messages keep pouring in:
"I am a parent of an autistic child... You have my money and thanks for putting together such a great project."
"Kudos to Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier for making this project known. As a father of an autistic son, I cannot wait to shake Mosier's hand and hug all the teachers at the JFK school."
"My 5-year-old son is autistic and the more information that gets out there about this condition the better."
The money, obviously, is why we used Kickstarter; frankly, we still need at least $60,000 total to finish the film. But the unexpected and most rewarding effect of our Kickstarter campaign has been finding our audience--people dealing with stories like the one we are telling in the film, including parents of autistic children, special education teachers, and social workers.
My number one lesson learned from this, my fourth successful Kickstarter campaign: Crowdfunding? Yes. CrowdFINDING? Also yes.