The Age of Stupid
Type of production/project: Documentary
Total Funds Raised: £730,000
The Company: Spanner Films
Fanny Armstrong and UK-based Spanner films decided to crowdfund The Age of Stupid so that the film could remain completely independent and they could retain 100% of the creative decision-making on the film. It was important for Armstrong because she wanted to create a film that would have a strong social-political commentary and did not want that to be hindered by other parties vested in the project.
The campaign used a hybrid investment-donation-lending model. The campaign provided potential contributors with two options: 1) Purchase profit shares, 2) Donate. Investors had to contribute a minimum of £5,000 for a 0.5% share of profits in the film. However, the investment was actually structured like a forgivable loan with clear lending terms and the provision that profit dividends would only be awarded if and when the film made a certain amount of profit. As such, the campaign avoided legal difficulties associated with selling equity or shares.
For contributors who could not contribute the minimum amount for an investor, the project team provided a second option where contributors could simply donate any amount to the film. They ascribed incentives for certain ranges of donation amounts—such as recognition on the website or in the film credits or a chance to appear in the film.
Spanner films raised £450,000 for the production, £180,000 for the UK release and £220,000 for the international release between 2004 and 2009, spread over three separate funding rounds.
The Age of Stupid is an interesting do-it-yourself crowdfunding case study that created a unique model which met the needs of the creators, the project’s contributors and worked within the legal and regulatory considerations in the UK.
It is also a great example of how a campaign can successfully complete multiple funding rounds for a single project by clearly defining what the funding is for and how it will be used.
One of the key success factors in the case of The Age of Stupid is that the film was about a topic that people are passionate about and were excited to support.
However, the most striking feature of The Age of Stupid case is that the terms and risks of the investment are described in clear detail so that potential contributors are fully aware of what their relationship is with the project and its creators. Indeed, Armstrong was so committed to transparency that she took special care to make any and all information relating to the production available on the film’s website including a detailed funding plan, a detailed production budget and regular updates on the progress of both her fundraising efforts and progress on the actual production process for the film.