Producer Gary Goldstein and Kickstarter
Filmmakers flock to Kickstarter for project funding, exposure
by Craig Manning
For many, the name “Gary Goldstein” may not immediately ring a bell, but chances are that most have seen the movies he’s worked on. Goldstein, one of the Hollywood producers behind films like Pretty Woman, the prototypical 1990 romantic comedy, or Under Siege, a 1992 thriller starring Steven Seagal, has largely disappeared from the limelight in recent years. In fact, lately Goldstein has spent more time speaking and consulting, bringing his entertainment industry expertise to businesses inside and outside of Hollywood, than he has producing films and building up his IMDb profile. However, the filmmaker hasn’t retired. On the contrary, he’s channeled his knowledge and experience into a book called Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success hitting the market in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook for all to enjoy in the next couple of weeks.
Still, despite Goldstein’s impressive resume and the lingering affection many bear for the Julia Roberts/Richard Gere vehicle that Pretty Woman turned out to be, the producer hardly has the Hollywood notoriety that would cause his book to leap off shelves or make it a surefire bet for a major publishing company. Sure, the book’s concept, described by Goldstein as “a practical roadmap of every insider strategy I’ve learned on how to make it in Hollywood as a successful screenwriter,” could be winning one for any struggling writer currently trying to break into the movie business. But according to Goldstein, publishing the book the old-fashioned way barely even crossed his mind.
“I had written this book, and it resided on my hard drive, as a PDF, gathering dust,” Goldstein said. “I was so busy that I had not figured out how to effectively market the book, and why would I spend all my money on services like e-formatting, book cover design, or editing, go through all that work and expense and time to end up with stacks of boxes in my office, filled with books that were unsold?”
It wasn’t until Goldstein’s publicist suggested building a following first, and finalizing the book second, that the project finally took off. By constructing a fan community and pre-selling the book, Goldstein would be bound to fast-track his manuscript into production and distribution rather than letting it gather more dust in his office. The path toward building that following? Popular crowd-funding website, Kickstarter.com.
Beginning on April 24, Goldstein’s Kickstarter project was set to last for a 30-day period and was asking for $12,000. With the help of his talented, public-relations team, Goldstein gave 100-percent to the campaign, participating in live-chats with fans, increasing his presence on social media platforms like Twitter, and maintaining a series of blogs on Huffington Post. By the time the campaign wrapped on May 24, Goldstein had collected well over 400 “backers”—Kickstarter’s term for people who donate money to a project—and received pledges amounting to more than $25,000. However, while the money was certainly helpful and will result in a more fully-realized publication of Conquering Hollywood than Goldstein originally envisioned, the writer said that the most valuable thing about the campaign was the way it allowed him to spread awareness about his book.
“This was a real eye-opening experience,” he said. “The awareness bled so far beyond just the number of people who contributed, beyond a specific dollar goal, even though we more than doubled our dollar goal. Dollars are just one of the values achieved through Kickstarter. We had millions and millions of impressions and we somehow garnered the attention of a very significant blogger community. It taught me how brilliantly efficient these platforms are, not just to reach a monetary goal, but to see and find your audience and to get word-of-mouth going.”
Goldstein certainly isn’t the only filmmaker out there finding out about the potential of Kickstarter. In March, students from the Florida State University MFA screenwriting program raised over $6,000 for their spring writer’s showcase, and similar film-oriented projects launch every day. For his part, Goldstein believes it’s a terrific model for gaining both funding and exposure, but one that requires time, effort, and careful planning to be successful.
“There is a learning curve with Kickstarter,” he explained. “You can’t set up a campaign, sit back, and expect the money to roll in. You need to be fully in the game on a daily basis, stirring the pot, creating a bigger conversation. It is a commitment and it is work. Do it with the idea that the money is not the prime directive. It’s a great benefit and it’s probably why you’re there in the first place, but I think along the way, you’re going to find that there are values equal to the money.”
Of course, Goldstein’s resources and industry position likely aided the success of his campaign. Kickstarter allows users to offer “perks” depending on how much their backers pledge, and some of Goldstein’s higher-end offerings included mentor workshops with Hollywood veterans and even a meal with Goldstein at the Beverly Wilshire, the iconic hotel immortalized by his own Pretty Woman.
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