Father Priest: What, my child, brought you so close to that?
Me: I must confess, Father, that I did something that made me curse my friends, doubt myself terribly, and descend into a hell I would never wish on anyone!
Father Priest: You say, "almost sinned." What do you mean?
Me: Well, about half way through this experience, I came to my senses, after a lot of praying and asking God for help. What I came to see, to realize was that what I was doing - a thing called Kickstarter, a fundraising thing -- was actually my Teacher. And so I did not commit the Final Act that would have led me to actually sin -- sin being, falling short of the High Road, of High Hopes and High Dreams.
Father Priest: Hmmm. A Final Act. And was that?
Me: I didn't pull the plug. I didn't hit the "Cancel" button.
Friends, as someone who was raised a Catholic and now an Episcopalian, I sometimes find it natural to use the imagery and language of my spiritual experiences. Thank you for indulging me.
I happen to start my 45-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 so that I could shoot my film this summer on the first day of Lent. Now this was a coincidence but no accident. I had set Feb. 13, 2013 as my start day, but not because of Lent -- but because this was the day Thomas Chapin died 15 years ago. Coincidentally, and again not by accident, the Kickstarter fundraiser ended on the last day of Lent, on Easter Weekend. How did I know that what I would be doing would turn out to be a "religious" or spiritual journey fraught with temptations, demons, angels, what felt like the Passion of the Christ sometimes, and have a Happy Easter ending?
I suppose there are many analogies or metaphors to describe doing Kickstarter -- a roller coaster ride, a good dream gone bad, a hard nut to crack, a high-drama opera. Hundreds of creative people like me have done Kickstarter; some have failed, many have succeeded. And I know each person has their tale to tell. Yes, we could write a book!
As I contemplated my tale and how to tell it, this metaphor of a Lenten journey seemed most apropos, because it is indeed what I lived for those 45 days. Lent is supposed to be about sacrificing something you like, giving up something for Lent to focus on God and to deepen spiritually. I hadn't planned this Lent/Kickstarter way, but from day one, the journey would have its lessons.
For the first two weeks of this six-week campaign, I found myself "watching the kettle boil." With the Kickstarter clock ticking its 45 days away, I found myself obsessing -- wondering who was going to come and back my film, and waiting for so-and-so to come, and wondering why not.
I confess those two weeks, and even the third week, was like being in hell. It was tortuous. It was an emotional and psychological assault on my being. It brought bad and nasty and hostile thoughts to my mind. How God-awful it was to be like this. For those first three weeks, two to three people a day on the average were coming to pledge their support, not multitudes as I had expected. And I was miles away from my $50,000 goal. Yes, I was VERY tempted many times during this phase to push that CANCEL button on my Kickstarter page.
Now this is hard to confess, ok? No one wants to own up to having their self-image brought low, or their petty feelings exposed. Or, for that matter, their selfish hostilities laid bare. But, hey, this was hell, and hell is uuug-ly.
What saved me from falling off that cliff, what kept me going and not pressing CANCEL, was a discipline I started practicing everyday as a Lenten practice. To spend a half hour every morning journaling with ruthless honesty and laying before God my wicked thoughts and wounded feelings. Now, what a good Catholic/Episcopalian I was being :-). No. I didn't do it to be good. I did it because I was desperate for a way through this. And so Kickstarter truly became my Teacher -- teaching me patience, kindness of heart, to put down unkind thoughts, to keep the faith, to still believe even though failure was in my face for most of those 45 days.
By the fourth week, I had turned a corner. Through kind friends who counseled me and prayed for me and listened to me, and through my continued Lenten Mornings, I began to see Kickstarter for what it was. Yes it was an all or nothing deal -- ie., you must raise your whole goal or no one's credit card gets charged and you get nothing. Or you succeed and get the monies pledge -- BUT, it wasn't the end of the world if you didn't succeed. I was taking a shot, that's all, it was only a shot, something worth trying -- to possibly raise $50,000 in 45 days seemed an awesome shot to me! At this stage of the film project, when I have nothing footage-wise to show, It beat writing grants with thousands of others for a small pot of funds we would all be going after, only to find in 6 to 9 months that we didn't get it. That's the way I had been doing it in my 25 years of filmmaking, and Kickstarter present a new way, a possible way of harnessing your social network to support your creative dream. It presented the possibility, with success, of speeding my project along by allowing me to shoot my film this summer and raise bigger funds with bigger funders. That's all it was, a shot. And a worthy one!
With that perspective fully engaged, I went on to face the finish. With only 10 more days to go, with only $26,000 of the $50,000 pledged, It looked like failure, and I knew I was being watched. I could feel it. I was being tagged with "doesn't look like she's going to make it, so why bother pledging." I could smell it in the air as the days had continued with one or two backers coming a day, and with a few days when no one came. I was in the doldrums, and I knew I needed a mighty wind!
That wind came with 9 days left. With an email to Michael Dorf, one of my well-connected backers who I asked for ideas, this NYC restauranteur who had helped launch Thomas Chapin and his music, hatched a plan to pledge $10,000 and to issue a challenge: "Email everyone and tell them to do the rest; let's get this film done!" And so I went to work, to tweet, email and Facebook his message. And with that the mighty wind blew, with backers increasing their pledges and with new backers coming in with big and small contributions. By the end of the Kickstarter clock on March 30, 11:45 a.m. New York time, we hit $51,552 pledged by 224 backers at an average of $230 each!!!
Kudos to my sister Terri Castillo Chapin, Thomas' widow and keeper of his musical legacy, who in the final hours drove it home while I "napped" exhausted yet resting in the belief that whatever happened in the end would be fine. I had come to acceptance, to detachment, to "letting go and letting God." Terri, on the other hand, had gone to work, convinced we HAD to succeed. And so we did. She was a gift, an instrument of God, I believe, and of Good Will towards this film.
Yes, Kickstarter was my Teacher. And to evoke another "religious" metaphor to make the lessons concise and perhaps helpful to anyone who would ever attempt Kickstarter, let me put the light and dark sides of Kickstarter in the form of Ten Commandments.
1. Do not hate thy friends for not backing you. You have no idea why they didn't, and it's best not to judge or think too hard on the why.
2. Dream big. Dream for what you really need. I really needed $50,000 to shoot my film this summer. Don't be afraid, don't listen to the naysayers. Go for it!
3. Make this a meaningful journey. Let it be your Teacher. Learn the valuable lessons that come to hone your character.
4. You can't control everything. Do what you can, work hard, think of everything you can, and know you can't know or do it all. Keep the Faith.
5. One and one does not equal two. Sometimes it does; but at Kickstarter, you can do all and it still won't add up necessarily. Check your expectations. Release.
6. Don't watch the kettle boil. Obsessiveness is anathema! Go and do your day, check the clock but don't watch the watch.
7. Success is good, if you succeed. If not, well, that might be good too. Stay open.
8. Magic can happen. Keep waving your wand. Don't stop believing.
9. Keep good company, and be good company. Sometimes the good comes because of the good will you sowed.
10. There are no accidents, not in the big picture. Look for the Help, the Hand, the Good God who is Love.