A Journey Into European Puppetry

A Lesson in Crowdfunding

Puppet Ballet Strip Panel

A Puppet Ballet in the Gadagne Museum in Lyon, France. Note: Some arms are thicker than necks. One ballerina is holding her arm out, as if to ask for funds. She desperately wants to see me again.

So it has begun…

GRAVITY FROM ABOVE is officially live on the Hatchfund crowdfunding site. We have until the November 26th 2014 to raise our money. It occurred to me that a few of you might be interested in the process of raising money for a project this way. I’ve done this before back in 2012 and that is how I found the funds to get back to Europe to start this documentary. And that is even the reason for the existence of this site. So I thought I might give you some ideas about how to raise money through crowdfunding (What a clunky word!).

But before we get too far, STOP and check out our presentation at Hatchfund. WATCH the video. If you have a moment read the description. Or just bookmark it for later. Go ahead we’ll wait. (Click the blue letters.)


Happy Puppet Head

This is how I will feel when GRAVITY FROM ABOVE resumes! But hopefully with a body! A happy surprised puppet head from my 2012 journey at the Toone Marionette Theatre in Brussels, Belgium.


Okay now that you’re back…

The first question you might be asking is this: Why aren’t you using Kickstarter or Indiegogo?

Well that’s a very good question. And it raises the question of which system one should use to try to raise your funds? Kickstarter has the brand name recognition. That’s the primary reason why people use it. It’s almost like Muppets in America. You mention puppets people think Muppets. Likewise you mention crowdfunding and people think Kickstarter. And yes I will admit that there are some good reasons why using Kickstarter is tempting. Traffic is the main reason. They get a lot more of it. Indiegogo is attractive for a different reason. Whereas both Kickstarter and Hatchfund are all-or-nothing models, meaning either we hit our goal or we don’t get anything, Indiegogo will let you keep whatever you manage to raise. That’s especially good if you don’t really know if your project is going to find its supporters. And there are other many crowdfunding sites with names my spellchecker hates: Patreon, GoFundMe, RocketHub, teespring, Crowdrise, etc. So why did I go with Hatchfund?

Pleased Puppets

Look how satisfied these Toone Marionettes in Brussels seem to be. They must have already contributed to GRAVITY FROM ABOVE. Do you want to feel satisfied too?

You probably haven’t heard of Hatchfund. Hatchfund started life as USA Projects, which was the system I used back in 2012. Now one reason Hatchfund isn’t so well known is that it is more exclusive. Anyone can use Kickstarter. Which means you can see the most ridiculous projects being pushed by the dodgiest folks alongside truly worthy projects. There’s no serious vetting of the users. (Another drawback is that only US citizens can use it.) Hatchfund is only for artists who have some kind of reputation. (This isn’t to say that bonafide artists don’t sometimes come up with wacky projects.) In 2009 I received a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award for puppetry. A year or so later I received an invitation to take part in USA Projects. I was invited to join because I had received a grant previously. In other words I was in some manner a proven artist. (Hey I’m an artist!!!) And each of the people on USA Projects, now Hatchfund, were the same.

Also Hatchfund is a nonprofit organization. They also have relationships with many official granting organizations, the kind you hear listed at the end of NPR programs. And what that means is that during the short period of my crowdfunding campaign I am officially nonprofit organization myself! And that means that unlike most other systems a donation to GRAVITY FROM ABOVE is tax deductible. (But only until November 26th.) Now the big issue is to find people who can to take advantage of that.

Beyond the nonprofit status Hatchfund has a 75% success rate. And I am proof of that. So in other words. There is a track record here. I’m not wasting any money and I can actually accomplish my goal. If you help out…

Sour Faced Puppet

WHAT! YOU WANT FREE MONEY!!! Sometimes when you are asking for a help with your project you get the feeling people are going to look at you like this sour faced puppet in the Gadagne Museum in Lyon. And sometimes they do!

Now the next thing to discuss is one of the common misconceptions of what crowdfunding is and isn’t. It isn’t like winning the lottery. At all. You don’t just get free money. It is indeed some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. Not physically. But in the emotional toll. What do I mean?

First of all you can’t just turn this on and walk away. If you do nothing you will get nothing. You have to keep the momentum flowing. Which means you have to give updates, offer perks, report the growing totals, write letters, write emails, write friends, tell everyone you meet, talk about it constantly. And there are many more things. You spend a month or so talking to everyone you know with your hand out. And some days are glorious. You get donations that really punch the score up. You get support from people you don’t know. (That’s a hint dear readers.) Or you hear from people who haven’t spoken to in years. Other days you languish waiting for a nibble. Or you get an email from a friend saying I really want to help but… (And you’re thinking to yourself “Can you sacrifice a little coffee money?”) You almost wish they would just keep silent. They mean well, but they don’t realize that every person who gives you a thin little excuse just demoralizes you. And this game is all about keeping your spirit up. But that’s nothing compared to the people who just look in your face and sort of chuckle then say “Well good luck with that.”

Worried Puppet

And this is how crowdfunding feels on the toughest days. Glassy-eyed. Stressed out. Worried. Just like this poor puppet at the Gadagne museum in Lyon that I met in 2012. Note: It’s the eyes!!

Last time I did this there was a point where I just thought I couldn’t take it anymore. I had raised quite a bit of money, nearly half of my goal of $20,000. I was getting close to $10,000. I really needed to get to $20,000, but hey I couldn’t let that money disappear and I knew I could still do something with it. But here’s where it wore down on me. What happens to that money if I don’t get my goal? USA Projects then would keep it to apply it to other worthy projects as matching grants. Wait!!! These people are mostly giving this money to me because they want to see me accomplish my project. They aren’t really supporters of the Arts in abstract. And if I don’t reach my goal and their money gets put to other, no doubt worthwhile, uses I will never be able to raise funds from them again!!! They will say Byrne didn’t you raise $10,000 and then it went nowhere. That kind of pressure was nerve-wracking. So one thing I did was to call up my worker and get a concession stipulating that if they really wanted their money back they could get it. But they had to personally request it. Okay that made me breathe easier. But still I had less than a week to go and was hovering below $10,000. Short of receiving the attention of an unexpected angel I knew I couldn’t get up to $20,000 in five days so… I called up again and was allowed to change the total on the basis of the fact that I could still accomplish many of my goals. And I did… on an extremely thin shoestring. The only mistake I made was that I shouldn’t have made my new goal $10,000. It should have been $11,000 or $12,000. Why? Because a day or two before the end I made the goal and then all of the pressure was off. I probably could have gotten more. And I really needed it. I felt it later while traveling.

Sober Clown

And you wonder sometimes if your friends don’t look at you like this rather sober (And do I detect a note of greed too?) looking clown (This is a clown!?!) at the Gadagne Museum in Lyon.

Well that should do it for now. I’ll give you some practical tips for how to do this next week.


Why don’t you go over to the Hatchfund site now and check it out. Click this.

Better yet show you care about puppets! Or documentaries!

Donate to GRAVITY FROM ABOVE today!

You can donate €5 or $25 or ¥2000 or £10,000.

It’s quick, painless and safe.

Thanks for considering it.

Byrne Power

Haines Alaska


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