The Cuban Hat Project: When Crowdfunding Meets Crowdsourcing

Mix between crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, the Cuban Hat Project has allowed audiences and members of the documentary industry to participate in the selection of the best documentary pitches at different Canadian and international markets.

A case study was conducted on one of the Cuban Hat Project initiatives: a Canada-wide online contest for documentary projects which took place as a collaboration with Doc Circuit Montréal in 2012.

Nine key learnings from this case study:

  1. Creative control is a central motivation for the creators taking part in the Cuban Hat Project and in crowdfunding processes in general. These creators are empowered by their ability to find funding, new audiences and production means in general.
  2. Success in the Cuban Hat Project depends on three main variables: 1) a creators’ existing social capital; 2) a creator’s ability to effectively convey the project’s relevance, needs and goals to the audience; and 3) the project’s inherent value.
  3. Putting together a crowdfunding campaign and maintaining the audience’s interest for it throughout its duration is a lot of work. It was therefore observed that the Cuban Hat Project’s process is better adapted to creative teams than solo creators.
  4. It pays to involve the audience as soon as possible in the creative process. Many filmmakers traditionally worked in isolation to research, write and even produce films. The new media environment makes it possible to integrate the audiences in the process from the onset of the project’s development stage.
  5. In the Cuban Hat Project process, other creators proved to be a significant audience. The advantage with peers is that their potential engagement in the project goes beyond voting and donating. They can also collaborate and pledge skills and advice that can be more valuable than money.
  6. Video pitches and trailers are essential pitching tools and their relevance is directly linked to the success of the crowdfunding initiative. It’s apparently important that the video pitch clearly communicates the project’s needs and objectives. The creators’ presence (on camera or as narrators) in the video is highly recommended since it helps the audience connect with the project and feel concerned and involved.
  7. Creators gain by knowing and understanding their audience early in their creative process instead of waiting until project’s marketing stage at the end.
  8. Misconception about crowdfunding, 1 of 2: “Crowdfunding is a popularity contest.” In the Cuban Hat Project experience, two years in a row, crowd and industry experts agreed on three of the top five projects. In 2012, the crowd and the experts agreed on the best pitch. More often than not, the crowd and the industry make very similar choices.
  9. Misconception about crowdfunding, 2 of 2: “Crowdfunding is all about raising money.” Yes, money is the most visible aspect of any crowdfunding campaign, but crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are also very much about building a community of fans and ambassadors around a project or common interest.

Click here to download the complete case study on crowdfunding and audience engagement for documentary films.

Industry & Market Trends | Veille stratégique
The Industry and Market Trends team is composed of Director Catherine Mathys, analysts Pierre Tanguay and Sabrina Dubé-Morneau, as well as editorial coordinator Laurianne Désormiers. Once a year, the team publishes a Trends Report that draws a portrait of the macro trends that are shaping today’s screen-based industries.
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