“Life is a banquet!” Auntie Mame (1958)

 To continue with last week’s theme of charity during this time of year, if one has a soft spot for independent cinema, there’s a way to contribute directly to needy filmmakers. They’re not as cute as the support-me-for-a-dollar-a-day kids on the TV ads, nor are many of them as deserving. However, if one is interested in the future of the art, becoming a part of crowd-funding on the Internet is a way to take action to provide opportunities for new artists to emerge onto the filmmaking scene.

Kickstarter is the ubiquitous site used by many independent film projects, but there’s also IndieGoGo and Film Interactor. Kickstarter is also home to many other types of startup projects, but there is an entire sub-section devoted to film and video projects. The site allows someone to browse projects and contribute online. A contribution will not be charged unless the project receives enough pledges to reach its fundraising goal.

In return, the filmmakers are required to provide perks at different levels of involvement. As a low-level contributor, a person might get a “thank you” on their website. At higher levels, the thank you may come in the screen credits or an invite to the premiere of the film. Usually, at the levels someone is donating at online, there is no expectation of a return on investment; it’s simply a gift to someone with a dream. If you’re looking for a film investment, just step outside your door and throw a rock – you’re bound to hit someone who has a film project in need of serious cash. Note: I do not endorse rock throwing as an investment strategy.

What projects merit donations is up to you as a donor. Maybe you love horror films and want to develop talent in the genre. Perhaps there’s a documentary with a compelling subject that needs the seed money to get off the ground. With smaller donations, pick projects and filmmakers that simply interest you. For higher level donations, do a little research on the people involved in the project to ensure that the money will be put to good use. A list of previous credits on the producers, writers and directors is usually provided.

It’s an interesting way to get involved in the film industry, even if it’s a bit vicarious, from the comfort of one’s own home or work computer. If you want to follow the making of the film, pick a project that promises frequent social media updates as the filmmakers move forward. Remember, though, that what is entertainment to you is serious business of providing that content to those on the receiving end. Increasingly, new filmmakers need crowd-funding to get their start.

Gina Hall is a writer/producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate of USC’s school of Cinematic Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @GScottEnt.