Life Stories

When I finally forced myself to ask people for money, my life changed

Then, we hit a massive wall. 

What happens when two people raised on humility and niceness decide to start a crowdfunding campaign?

Anxiety. Fear. Several restless back-and-forths via text, always with caps lock on. Crippling self-doubt, and lots of it.

[bctt tweet=”Crippling self-doubt, and lots of it.”]

My friend Cameron approached me with the concept for a television program that he described to me as “Scott Pilgrim meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.” And if that weren’t enough to sell me on the show, the pilot episode Cam had written sure did. I came on board as his co-showrunner, and so began the months-long process of writing episodes, designing characters, and fleshing out the universe. Then, we hit a massive wall: the animation.

We always understood animation would be costly, but didn’t realize the importance of having a teaser clip to supplement our (eventual) pitches for studios. Right off the bat, we knew that putting aside portions of our abysmal weekly paychecks wouldn’t be enough— it would take ages to pool together the necessary funds, so we turned to the dreaded but inevitable idea of crowdfunding.

I come from a Pakistani family where fights over the bill at restaurants border on riots and asking a friend to spot you a couple of bucks is something to be embarrassed of. Cam’s Southern upbringing has had a similar effect— always be the giver, never the asker. Crowdfunding was a huge deal to us.

While researching crowdfunding (because what better to alleviate anxiety than four people on Yahoo! Answers telling you to go for it?) I came across Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk called “The Art of Asking,” which is a self-congratulatory piece of nonsense. The bit that people love quoting is “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking ‘How do we let people pay for music?”

Even if that made any sense whatsoever, it’s not some revolutionary concept in creating art, because I am not Amanda Palmer, established artist with hundreds upon thousands of fans to indulge my requests. My co-showrunner Cameron Carpenter and I are young aspiring filmmakers with less than 1500 Twitter followers combined. Where do we fit into The Art of Asking?

Look, I’ve never been gung-ho about crowdfunding campaigns. If you’d asked me a year ago, I would’ve turned my nose up at the thought of asking others for money to fund my projects— ordinary, hardworking people who have virtually no reason to throw their money at artists.

It took Cam and I nearly two months to talk ourselves into doing a crowdfunding campaign. Two months of battling questions like “What if we don’t make our goal?” or “How do we even ask? Who do we even ask?”

And the worst, “What if no one gives us money?”

[bctt tweet=”And the worst, ‘What if no one gives us money?'”]

Finally, one of my friends pulled me out of the hand-wringing stage when she asked me “What do you care about more? Getting the show made, or your pride?” When I answered with the show, she said “Then fucking do it, dude.”

So we fucking did it.

Cam and I expected we’d get 50% of our $2,000, and that’s if we were lucky. I know, that’s the kind of confidence you expect from people you’re giving money to, right?

By the first day, we were 23% funded, which every article and blog post swore meant your campaign was on the path to success. Our friends contributed, despite being students or recent grads. Our friends’ parents contributed. One person donated $100. Another person donated twice. People on Twitter who weren’t necessarily our closest friends contributed, simply because they believed in the project. The confidence from our circles increased our confidence in the project.

[bctt tweet=”Validation as an artist is difficult. “]

Validation as an artist is difficult. But people liked our project (and us) enough to part with their hard-earned cash. That’s empowering, to say the least. It takes a lot to ask people to get out their credit card, punch in the numbers, surrender their personal information, all for the sake of financing a project by two random 20-somethings.

What didn’t realize until I started my own campaign is that crowdfunding is important because it allows us to support creatives that otherwise are not on a level playing field in the industry. Whether that means women, PoC, or those in lower economic brackets, crowdfunding is an opportunity to elevate those who don’t have a fair chance in the dog-eat-dog mess that is Hollywood.

As the campaign winds down, I feel a sense of relief wash over me. Relief that the taxing process of running a campaign is coming to a close. Relief that people beyond my immediate circles are interested in the project. We approached the campaign with the sole goal of obtaining funding, and are walking away with so much more— support, confidence, and a really kickass show teaser under our belt.

Read the pilot script and check out the concept art on Amazon Studios here. Gaffytown Bounty’s Facebook page can be found here.