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It’s 12:01 as I type this, and Lucas McNelly’s Kickstarter project “A Year Without Rent” has just closed out its successful campaign, raising $12,178 from 243 backers — $178 over the project’s goal. What’s absolutely remarkable about the project’s success is that the great majority of its money — over 75% — was raised in the final days and hours of the campaign. Now, come-from-behind Kickstarter successes are not that uncommon as many filmmakers line up backers ready to cinch their campaigns with large, last-minute donations. But I don’t think that’s what McNelly pulled off. In fact, looking at the stats for his campaign, I see one $250 donation and six $200 donations. There are three $150 donations and 12 $100 donations. That’s $3,100. The bulk, then, of McNelly’s supporters (113 in less than 24 hours!) came from small donations seemingly gathered through a very aggressive social campaign that generated its own participatory momentum.

What is “A Year Without Rent”? From the Kickstarter page:

So my plan is to spend a year on the road, traveling around the country and working on indie film projects. I’ll explore the idea of mobility in a creative professional. Just how mobile does our digital lifestyle make us? Does it even matter where we live anymore? How can a creative professional thrive outside of NYC and LA?

In other words, Kickstarter donations will enable McNelly to work on film sets across the country for 12 months and document his experiences (and the films) through blog updates, video, photography and interactive social media tools.

Year Without Rent funding graph

A look at McNelly’s Twitter stream — which was interrupted when he reached his Twitter limit for the day (I didn’t even know there was a Twitter limit) — reveals what those of us following online witnessed as a crowdsourcing battle of inches: last minute bonuses, including a Clerks 2 script signed by Kevin Smith; personal thanks tweeted to all contributors, which served to spread word of the campaign even further; all manner of superhero and movie references (“in serious need of the cavalry,” was one tweet; another was “We’re putting up a big Bat signal”); last-minute features in Film Threat and Film Courage; a team of invested friends and colleagues; and, mostly, a campaign that organically developed an unstoppable momentum mirroring the goals of the project itself. Indeed, an unfailing optimism was what seemed to push this campaign over the top. Here’s an excerpt from a blog post on the project’s Kickstarter page posted at 4:09 Friday morning:

We have a long way to go still in this FINAL DAY (the deadline is at 11:59pm EST), but things aren’t as dire as they sound. Some numbers for you.

94% of Kickstarter campaigns that reach 25% make their goal. We’re well past that point. Sure, we got there a bit late, but still. We got there.

Roughly 30,000 people are receiving tweets about the campaign EVERY DAY. If just a third of them put in $1, we’d blow past the goal. ONE DOLLAR. How much in spare change do you have on the desk in front of you? Or in the ashtray of your car? Right now I’m looking at $4 or so in loose change on this desk. $1, that’s easy.

431 people have shared the campaign on Facebook. 129 have backed the campaign. It stands to reason that the second number will start to approach the first one.

One of our backers has pledged to match every $1,000 we raise with $100. So essentially we’ve got $800 in hand.

See? The numbers get a lot less scary when you break them down.

From the Film Threat interview:

Why does this project need to happen? Who is your audience here?

The bigger audience is really the indie film community, but everyone says that. It’s a bullshit answer. There’s a tutorial aspect to it, so part of the audience is going to be people who are fascinated by how creative people work. But, beyond that, I think in indie film you’ve got two types of audience. There’s people who want to know how the sausage is made and there’s people who don’t. While I find it interesting to follow the progress of, say, TILT as it progresses from concept to finished product, there’s a lot of people who don’t want to know anything until they see TILT on the shelves. The latter group isn’t part of our audience. We’ll appeal to people who are interested in the process, people who like the networking aspects of social media. We’ll appeal to exactly the type of people who contribute to a Kickstarter campaign.

Why does it need to happen? I’m not going to act like it’s some big noble game changer. But the indie film community over the last couple of years has moved away from being location specific. If you’re only interested in the film community in your city, you’re really missing out. Plus, it’s a really fucking cool idea. We all have our inner Jack Kerouac we’d love to indulge.

Would-be Kickstarters, visit “A Year Without Rent”‘s page and Twitter stream and watch how enthusiasm and community are built. As for McNelly, I’m sending him big congratulations. I hope he takes a well-deserved break… and then I’ll be looking forward to 12 months of creative, ground-level reports on the indie scene all across this country.

Now that the Kickstarter campaign is over, visit the project at its website. (Funding graph courtesy of Tom Vaughn.)

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