TFN Feature in Danish Magazine
We're delighted that Danish online magazine covering politics and civil society, Altinget, have written an article about their experience of live crowdfunding at last month's film funding event. Read it here, or if your Danish isn't up to scratch, check out the translation below!
"Don't be shy. Anyone can donate money. We are totally inclusive."
Like a night out
Six times a year TFN organises live crowdfunding events in London. Here people with flexibility in the economy and a desire to create social change donate money to four projects that are pre-approved by a committee of TFN members. Some of the donors are just in for a single night. Other are members like Karina, who has followed TFN since its inception almost 15 years ago. "I have a goal to donate about five percent of my income," she says. Karina estimates that on a typical evening she gives about £500 (approximately 4,500 Danish kroner). "It's about the same as it costs to go out to eat and take a trip to the theatre," she says.
Create the change
There are documentaries on the programme. "When filmmakers and civil society redeems their joint potential, they can initiate change in the whole population and in government policies," says Kate Marsh, CEO of TFN from the stage in the auditorium. Up on stage comes Josh Brown. Three years ago he watched the documentary No Fire Zone - a brutal documentary about the war crimes committed against the people during the civil war in Sri Lanka until 2009. The film touched and upset him so much that he has since been working in Sri Lanka to document the abuses that civilians were exposed to, he says - to great applause from the audience.
Film to be seen by the blind
Four filmmakers have passed through the needle eye and will now have 12 minutes each to present their projects. Six minutes of presentation. After that six minutes of questions from the audience. Common to them is that the films are finished, but the producers need money to get them out to either new, larger or very specific audiences. Peter Middleton is the man behind the film "Notes on Blindness". It is based on an audio diary of John Hull, who with immense detail and precision described the world he entered when he lost his sight in the 1980s. With spectacular visuals and a virtual reality dimension, the film recreates this world and makes it a living reality for the audience. But Peter wants to do more. He wants to reach the people, the movie is about. With a special soundtrack he wants to make the film an extraordinary experience for people without the gift of sight. Therefore, he is here tonight. "We want our films to reach the blind. Therefore, we need money to produce a soundtrack that makes them able to really experience the film", he says in the lobby in front of the cinema.
Investors meetings fiery souls
Before the auction, the circular room in front of the cinema is turned into a tightly packed exhibition space. For 45 minutes, the four candidates have the opportunity to meet potential donors and give them a personal reason to support their particular cause. From stands with flyers and posters the candidates tout their projects to the donors who gather in small clusters and chat while waiters circulate around with white wine glass and canapes. "The combination of the formal presentation in the auditorium and the informal breaks are key elements of TFN events", explains TFN's International Director, Eugenie Harvey. "It can be very difficult to get a sense of organisation behind a project from long project descriptions," she says and continues: "on a good day this is like a TED Talk paired with an auction, where you hear some people's tales told with passion, and you can feel them and their commitment. You can really feel the people behind it."
Small but important amount
TFN was started in 2002 by four people who all had money but not huge amounts of money, as Eugenie puts it. Since then TFN has donated a total of £9 million (a little over 70 million kroner) to more than 1,300 projects and is now present in 14 countries besides the UK. This is not about extravagant amounts for individual projects, emphasizes Eugenie, but often the money hits a dry spot. "For a small, new or local organisations - or for an organisations with a purpose that is hard to gather sympathy for - amounts of this size may mean a lot", says Eugenie. She stresses that the first donations may be the way to more money - and to new contacts and new skills that can be of high value for especially smaller organizations.
Support for sensitive film projects
Joanna Natasegara from Violet Films confirms this. It was she who produced No Fire Zone and after that the Oscar-nominated documentary Virunga about how a small group of park rangers were whirled into an escalating civil war, as they struggled to protect the National Park Virunga in DRC. Joanna has received funding for both projects. The first donations made it possible to display No Fire Zone at 18 film festivals worldwide. And in the case of Virunga the money was crucial making the film, she says. "When we did Virunga, the money came at a crucial time when we could not reveal details about the project without exposing our team on the ground for risk. The money helped us to recoup the indispensable costs for production". Today Joanna is here to raise money for the distribution of her latest film, taking place in Syria. The film's theme and title still has to be kept secret. And it makes it difficult to raise the money needed for screenings to diplomats, politicians and other decision makers. Therefore, support from TFN is important for her and her people. "The people who show up to events like this, have the will to support highly sensitive film projects that focus on creating real social and political change on a global level. The value of this can not be overstated", she says.
"It must hurt a little"
In the cinema commitments fall close. "£100 from Angie", "£200 from Gena", "£250 from Paul," proclaims auctioneer Michael Maynard, while constantly encouraging the audience. "Do not be afraid, even though you have not tried it before. It is completely painless", he says and locks eyes with a participant who has just donated his first £100 pound: "it feels ok, right?". From a desk in the left side of the scene Karen Millen keeps records of the bids. She is also in online contact with investors who follow the auction from the sidelines. "Tom and Kelly will double the next £1,000," she adds, after which Michael sends the invitation further out to the audience: "did you hear it, folks? Your next donations are worth twice as much. Better investment you cannot get on the financial markets." At 9pm Michael rounds off. On the bottom line is £25,950 (nearly 230,000 kroner). All four projects reach the evening's target of £6,000. One even got more in. And Karina had a good night out, although it was slightly more expensive than she had set out in advance. But it obviously doesn't worry her. Chatting with one of the TFN's founders, Paul Kelland, she says that she ended up donating £2,000. Paul draws a little smile and quotes Gandhi's finding that a donation at the same time is a gift and a sacrifice. "It should hurt at little bit," he says.