AMA with Christina Raia


(Christina Raia) #1

I am a New York City based Writer/Director, the Founder of CongestedCat Productions, and the Director of Crowdfunding at Seed&Spark. I’ve crowdfunded 4 times (for 3 shorts and 2 features), with a 100% success rate. I make micro-budget content; both of my features had $20k budgets. I won Best Director for my first feature film, a horror titled SUMMIT, at Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival’s genre category. I co-created, directed, and produced the LGBTQ comedic web series ‘Kelsey,’ which premiered on blip.tv in September 2013 to rave reviews and consistent press coverage, including as a Critic’s Pick and named one of the 19 Best Comedy Web Series of 2013 by Indiewire.com. It has over a quarter million views online. I recently finished post-production for my second feature film, a dramedy titled About a Donkey. I have also begun pitching around what I hope to be my third feature, a horror-comedy titled Silent Night, which was a Quarter Finalist at Slamdance’s 2016 Screenwriting Competition. My other credits as Director, Producer, and Writer include over a dozen narrative short films that have made official selection at film festivals across the country. In addition to Indiewire, my projects and approach as a filmmaker have been covered by BuzzFeed, AfterEllen, and countless other media sources. My work can be viewed on Amazon Prime, Vimeo, VHX and Youtube. I also turned my desire to foster collaboration and engagement in the local film community into IndieWorks, a monthly film screening series showcasing and supporting the work of other independent filmmakers in New York.

Ask me anything related to micro-budget filmmaking, directing, screenwriting, crowdfunding, audience building, social media marketing, using Seed&Spark, running a film festival, making and releasing a web series, or submitting to/attending film festivals.


We've got an AMA for that!
(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #2

Hi Christina! Thanks so much for being with us! My question to you is

1.) How do you make money as a filmmaker?

2.) What is your favorite genre? I see your projects are quite varied!


(Bri Castellini) #3

lol sorry Sally I was a bit late to privating this post because I’m mid move! I’m moderating this AMA from the back of a Uhaul! See you in ten!!


(Bri Castellini) #4

Hey Christina!! I’m so excited to have you here today! Did you crowdfund before working for Seed & Spark, or did you start crowdfunding after working with them?


(Christina Raia) #5

Hi! Thanks for asking.

  1. I’d be lying if I said I make a living off my creative content alone. I wrote a blog post a while back about this and what I’m working towards: http://www.congestedcat.com/blog/2017/1/27/working-towards-sustainability-why-i-keep-crowdfunding-making-shorts. My content is streaming on various platforms and, because I’m able to keep my production costs very low, my streaming revenue is now in a place where a past project can help fund a future project. However, I’m not paying my bills through that revenue. I used to freelance and teach for various workshops. Once I started crowdfunding my own content and speaking on panels about my career, I was offered the opportunity to join the Seed&Spark team. So now I make a living being employed by Seed&Spark, educating at film festivals and helping other filmmakers launch campaigns, while having the support and flexibility to work on my own projects.

  2. There are common elements across all my work, but I don’t like to limit myself when it comes to genre. I do, however, tend to stick to horror and comedy. I love both. I’ve done them separate and combined. I can’t say which I prefer. I bounce between the two. But combining them is probably my favorite. Playing with audiences’ expectations is something I’m drawn to as a filmmaker, so blending genres kind of comes naturally out of that. I grew up loving both horror movies and classic sitcoms I was too young to be watching. So part of the appeal for me is as a fan — wanting to contribute to genres I love watching. But also, advocacy and commentary play a big role in my work; and genre is a great way to explore that without being heavy-handed. You can take a social issue and make a point viscerally but somewhat safely removed from real life. The high concept hooks people, but the subtext is what they walk away with. And comedy allows for commentary to feel disarming. Laughter is kind of unifying, even when topics can be polarizing. It’s a way to invite people in and engage them in subjects that they’d maybe shy away from. So for me, as an artist with a mission, horror and comedy are really what it’s all about.


(Jaime Lancaster) #6

You’re amazing!!! Omg where to even start. Ok. Micro-budgeting question first… what do you prioritize when planning a tiny budget short so the production quality is still high? What are the first things you cut from a budget/ cut down on?


(Christina Raia) #7

Hey Bri, thanks for having me! I first crowdfunded on Kickstarter in 2011, then again in 2012. I had success but met Emily Best, the CEO of Seed&Spark, in 2013 and loved the new platform’s audience-focused approach to crowdfunding. So I switched platforms in 2014 for my third campaign. When they were expanding their team in 2016 and I had been a big advocate of the platform, they asked me to join the crowdfunding department.


(Meg Carroway) #8

Welcome, Christina! What tips do you have for audience building, especially for audience building that sticks with you from project to project?


(Anna Bateman) #9

How do you get over the discomfort of asking people you don’t know very well to help you fund your project? I assume your projects can’t be completely funded by friends/fam


(Anya Steiner) #10

Hi Christina,

Your projects sound amazing! And there are so many!! I have two questions…

—how do you go about finding locations that aren’t your own apartment/house for veeerry low budget projects?

—how do you find your audience and connect with them in an authentic way? My team and I know there have to be people out there that share our interests, but it’s so hard to find and connect with them!


(sam lockie-waring) #11

welcome, christina. did you go to film school? was it worth it?


(Bri Castellini) #12

@alwaysafilmgeek @ghettonerdgirl @OSTSG @barbaramcthomas @afbarbag @dj_tilney @ronVceo @movieguyjon @mintypineapple @SnobbyRobot @filmwritr4 @idgafwebseries @ZackMorrison18 @mkatiehunter @DarekKowal @Brad_Riddell @RDRICCI @Offbeat @whoisjonporter @jonathankyall @JonSosis @shrutesnladders @Ian_David_Diaz @mdec24 @RobbieRuviews @OddLantern @floorthirteen @solostinlost @w-e-spear @olga_markovic @cec263 @Halen_Williamson


(Jaime Lancaster) #13

Also… how do you convince the rest of your cast and crew to help with crowdfunding? Even when they know we need to raise money sometimes it can be tricky to motivate them…


(Christina Raia) #14

Hi Jaime, thank you! I always start with what I can get for free from my community. Locations are something I try to never pay for, instead knocking on as many doors as possible offering special thank you’s, producer credits, social media advertising… Same with getting free food from restaurants or caterers. I find people really care about helping out if you have a strong WHY for your project. I try to loan out my own equipment as much as possible so that I can call in favors with other filmmakers’ gear. I believe in a creating a pay it forward culture.


(Bri Castellini) #15

Speaking of social media advertising, what would you say your general marketing strategy is, and what does your marketing outreach tend to look like?


(Meg Carroway) #16

What do you mean by a strong “WHY”? Does a film have to have a social issue it’s tackling (or a big name attached) to get free food and stuff, or is there a different way we can be thinking about it?


(Christina Raia) #17

Thanks, Meg! Knowing your audience, who they are, what they care about – and how that relates to what you’re trying to make is huge factor in engaging your audience and keeping them around from project to project. I recommend watching this episode of the Seed&Spark class: https://www.seedandspark.com/education/crowdfunding-class#Talking-to-Your-Audience. A big part of my method with my audience is understanding that I’m the brand, not the content alone. I’m really candid about my learning experiences with each project and always offer my a personalized WHY for following me to the next one


(Meg Carroway) #18

But how do I find/connect with an audience, even if I know them, in a place where they’ll be interested in a link to my work? Like Reddit threads in my interests or my project interests are pretty consistent about deleting my posts, even if I’ve posted on a few other things before, and I just don’t know where the medium space is between shouting into the void and handing out links to people who don’t want me handing out links there, you know?


(Christina Raia) #19

Hi Anna! Definitely not all friends and family. It can be uncomfortable at first, but you have to get in the mindset (and really believe it) that you’re not asking for a handout. You’re offering a product that people will get to consume and enjoy, and an experience that is unique to you and this project. So I always approach crowdfunding as an offer. What am I giving people that they’re not getting elsewhere. Every project has a WHY, and that WHY should resonate with its audience. It took me a while to get comfortable, but now that I understand what I’m offering people, I find success with it.


(Ollie R) #20

What kinds of crowdfunding perks seem to be the most popular? I know personalized stuff is hot, but… what KIND of personalized stuff? What are some trends you’ve noticed?