THE ART OF FAN-RAISING: Treating Fans Like Donors By Kevin K. Shah

Become well-versed in your field in terms of information, publications and resources that would be useful to the prospective Fan – and share.

Cut out all short-term thinking including the hard-sell approach. Instead, focus on developing a relationship with the Fan: (e.g. learning about them without asking for anything initially).

Change “Marketing” tactics to “Communication” concepts and make this communication with Fans a dialogue rather than a monologue. No one likes being sold to, and there’s no better way to approach our Fans.

Be unique in your proposition. They’ve heard almost everything before. What is unique about your idea? Highlight it and go from there.

Give Fans genuinely interesting and worthwhile opportunities. Make them active participants. Invite them to see you work, to be more than just ‘participants’ of your cause.

Invite Fans to ask questions and make it easy for them submit. A dissatisfied customer that doesn’t complain to you — will tell several others his thoughts about you and will no longer be a Fan. Go to great lengths to solicit feedback.

Focus on the major motivations of Fans and above all — give Fans choice in what they buy based on these motivations.

Eight primary reasons by why Fans GIVE to you. To be recognized and valued for my contribution. To feel good about giving. To know how my money will be used and what difference it will make. Desire to be inspired. To feel involved, a part of something. To be impressed so I can tell others, recruit them to support. To be asked for my opinion. Desire to know you are listening to me.

Make sure Fan emails are addressed to an actual person — and not a mass email list or a general greeting. Yes, it takes time. Always write personal thank you’s to all Fans/buyers.

CRM – Customer Relations Management. What is your strategy?

3 devastating words for Fans or prospective buyers: Changed My Mind. What are you doing to prevent this (you can’t always prevent it)?

Have “packages/offerings” available for “Regularly Giving” Fans, “High-Value Fans”, and ‘Legacy’ products — for ‘lifetime fans’ that want to contribute more over time.

Make sure that any ‘copy’ you write seeking anything — is emotional. Hearken back to a memory, make it poetic and accessible, use descriptive words that stick – and make it personal.

Step into the shoes of the Fan is perhaps the most important thing we can do on a daily basis. Take this mental shift and see what you’re thinking from a Fan’s perspective.

3 sentences of wisdom: a. When a customer buys a hammer & nail – what he really wants could be to hang a picture. What is the greater need? b. It doesn’t matter what you sell – the only thing that matters is what Fans want to buy. c. People don’t read advertisements, they read what interests them. Sometimes, this includes an ad.

Building a Fan community is about meeting needs and interacting — and not about celebrating achievements. Always state any achievements with a continued need. And the best time to recognize and state a need: while celebrating an achievement.

If you have a proposition you want to make then be as direct and impacting as possible: Fund an Art Film: $20.00.

The story you have to tell best — and the one to ‘practice’ until perfect — is the pitch/story of your organization’s core mission — why it was created and what it does.

If you can become facilitators of your supporter’s relationships to each other — you will survive. Find a way to connect everyone that is your Fan — and you will grow.

On average, people are exposed to a thousand promotional messages or advertisements a day. Don’t be promotional, be pertinent.

There are 3 R’s in Loyalty: Retention, Repeat Business, Referrals.

Let Fans know you received their information / money in a nice thank-you to their name shortly after. Also assure their gift (if a donation) will be used for the specific purpose they requested or tell them what you will do with their gift. Show progress.

Smile and Dial when picking up the phone with a Fan. Always.

Understanding Fans: Understand their Passion and their Inspiration. Seek first to understand — then be understood. Open hearts, open minds, and then if appropriate ask them to open their checkbooks. First and foremost, relationships should be lifelong and develop over time.

Footnote: Credit is due. A great deal of the above was inspired by what I was reading in Ken Burnett’s book “The Zen of Fundraising” which is an excellent book for anyone wishing to venture into fundraising (whether it’s for a feature film or a non-profit). It’s a very simple and quick read, and as I was devouring it, I discovered that in certain areas Ken’s keen advice on how manage relationships with donors could just as easily apply to fans of Independent Filmmakers. With this in mind I scribbled down notes in the margins as I was reading. A great deal of this list was born out of Ken’s book filtered through the considerations we’re currently having as we re-design the web experience for The Sabi Company (with our fans in mind.) Buy Ken’s book:

Super 8mm

Kevin K. Shah’s M.L.M.M.M.T. VOLUME ONE


Day 1. Baraka: Montage World Art Film. 2. Red (From the Three Colors Trilogy): Kieslowski Drama, one of my fav. 3. A Woman Under the Influence: J. Cassevettes. 4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Milos & Jack, made me want to make movies. 5. Raising Arizona: Comedy Coen Bros. 6. Breaking the Waves: Devastating Drama 7. Raising Victor Vargas: Childhood/adolescence Drama


Day 8. The Son : Drama, Suspense (Dardenne Bros.) huge influence. 9. The Ice Storm: Ted Hope, ahead of its time 10. Ratcatcher: Childhood Drama 11. After Hours: Scorsese 12. Amelie: A Romantic Comedy 13. City of Lost Children Dark Fantasy Children’s Story 14. Brazil: Terry at his best


Day 15. George Washington: Child Drama 16. Wings of Desire: Fantasy Drama 17. Big Fish: For fun, Romanic Fantasy Comedy 18. Robocop: Action, nothing like it. 19. Hustler & Cool Hand Luke: Paul Newman wow 20. Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolfe?: Liz and Paul 21. Dog Day Afternoon: Police Drama


Day 22. Werkmeister Harmonies: Hard to Describe – incredible experience. 23. Down by Law & A Perfect World Double Feature: Comedy (Jarmusch) & Costner redeemed 24. Quiz Show & GoodNight, Good Luck Double Features: Historical Drama 25. Stranger than Paradise More Vintage Jarmusch 26. MicroCosmos A film for the family! 27. Dombivli Fast Slick Bollywood Drama 28. Infernal Affairs Slick Hong Kong Cop Drama


Day 29. Shawshank Redemption Prison Drama, Classic 30. The Apartment: Classic Comedy 31. Restrepo: Fav documentary of the last 10 years.

INDIE THRILLERS: 3 Things you Likes about Thrillers and 3 Things you Dislike.

As we’re continuing to develop Falling Rock at Sabi Pictures, we’re looking to our fans and audiences for creative input and interaction, in hopes to better guide the creative team  as we embark together across multiple media platforms to tell this story.

We’d love to begin by asking you to contribute to the following list (please add your own).  We are particularly interested in your Dislikes, so as to avoid them with Falling Rock – a Thriller.

For Example, my responses: 

3 Things You like about Thrillers.

 1. Thrillers can make me feel real FEAR in thinking the worst, while HOPING for the best.

2. Thrillers can deeply explore the darker side of the human condition.

3. Thrillers can stay with me long after the film is over through the experience of suspense.

 3 Things You don’t like about Thrillers.

 1.  Thrillers that exploit violence gratuitously, unrealistically, and sadistically – causing trauma and diminishing of our capacity to empathize with real suffering.

2.  Thrillers devoid of any real meaning, hope, or possibility of redemption.

3.  Thrillers that use effects, music and shock-editing to manipulate its audience into thrills rather than suspense, mystery, and a willing suspension of horror & disbelief.


I would love to read your list!  

Please reach me here, or on Facebook or @drmental




Sabi Pictures is pleased to announce the production of ten new films in Sweden, from director J. Erik Reese.

Sverige: a series of short films by Sabi Pictures

Sabi Pictures is excited to announce the start on production of a new series overseas slated for completion in 2009. From the creative team that brought you Moments and Take 2 comes a series of films shot in Sweden that were highly influenced by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue.

The starring role is Mikael Ayele (This Can’t be Heaven, Elle’s Kite, Tired of Dancing by Myself).

Creative Producing is Daniel Carmody (Take 2, Moments),And creative team includes Joshua Nitschke (Take 2, Moments), Kevin K. Shah (White Knuckles) and Zak Forsman (Heart of Now).

“Sa – veh – ree – ya. Now try it over and over again… you’ll sound like a perfect Swede! Sverige simply means Sweden… These episodic series revolve around the character Jonas (Mikael Ayele). Inspired by Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue.

Sverige embodies events that take place in one area. In Sverige, a young man arrives in a small town in Sweden where he resides. There he begins to find himself changing with life: pain & growth.

–J. Erik Reese

Understandably, many actors are simply uncomfortable with the idea of using your own words for the character, but what should be happening is that the director and the actor are together finding the character’s voice.  

The Screenplay: Discarding the Words for Dramatic Improvisation in Interdependent Films.

Freeing oneself from the confines of the words on the page sometimes makes for a more authentic route for the actor that seeks to explore and refine his/her craft.  Often actors feel this process is more artistic, more “experiential”, and ultimately, more fulfilling when executed well, with a director that nurtures the kind of atmosphere necessary for good dramatic improvisation to occur.  What’s fascinating, is that often when it’s all said and done (and the film is put together) most of the beats and the words that were true in the original locked script, end up on screen anyway – but filtered through the heart and soul of the actor/artist.   And most of the scenes that never rang completely true – now do.  I wonder what it would be like to reverse-write White Knuckles or Heart of Now (which was a terrific script written by Zak Forsman all on it’s own) – just to see how the words have changed and/or stayed the same.  I’ve never gotten around to doing something like this, but someday maybe a huge Sabi fan will transcribe our films.  It would be interesting at the most – the final film is the ultimate tale:  what happens on set, and what is carved in the edit – is the truest story.

However, back to writing a screenplay to discard it:  in discussing problems that might happen during Directing Improvisation by asking your actors to discard their words, there are instances in directing improvisation in interdependent films where an honest performance is given and the emotions and words shared are true — but the beat is not honest for the character at that particular point in the story.


With improvisation, actors tend to courageously dive into the conflict head on – floodgates tend to open early on for an actor once they get the hang of it (and a lot comes out in particular scenes at the top of the production schedule where critical emotions that are to be explored later are felt “too early”).  That is ok.  Everything is useful.  Chemistry that will be explored later is sometimes put down here as a ground-work, or a foundation.   And I believe this happens generally, if the scenes’ intentions & objectives are not structured properly.  Again, that is ok.  Every production is rusty at the start, particularly on feature films heavy with dramatic improvisation.  There are ways to prepare for this.  Rehearsals, meetings, and call back-auditions are a way to kick start everything (if each are done as if we were shooting the scene).

With White Knuckles we had a full rehearsal with the actors doing character exercises – and it happened a) on set, b) in the scene, c) with lights, d) with camera and sound — i.e. full on.  And still we called it a rehearsal (though we were prepared to use it somewhere if it was needed – it wasn’t).  The idea was to get moving, slowly – pushing the train the first few inches…  

With Heart of Now, we got things rolling with what we called “Pre-Shoots” – 5 days of shooting with a bare-bones crew – which I think helped us ease into production (Note: there was also a million other things the core team – Jamie, Zak, Kester & Sam did to help the actors transition into this feature that would last 30 amazing and memorable days of everyone’s life – like White Knuckles).  


But when discarding the words (which takes some time at the start) there are times — fascinating moments where the actors have a legitimate feeling about something and go with it – but it is incongruent to the journey of the character in a way that would alter the story to its detriment.   I.e. change the direction of the story too far in an unrecoverable direction.   Sometimes it’s compelling, real, honest, and exciting – but just not right for the overall arc of the story (which the director and producer and editor carries).  Sometimes it is right, even though it was totally unplanned – and we must adjust the story around the moment accordingly.  But again – if it is not honest for the overall journey of the story – or if the new material doesn’t excite and challenge the director to explore a new direction with everyone & the entire production schedule – then it must be lost immediately.   Cut, clear our minds, re-set, move on.*  


*It is important for the director here to be as quick and decisive as possible about where to stop an actor during improv, i.e. when to re-set rather than give a note and keep rolling, trying something different.  On one hand all the previous takes are explorations of the take/moments that will be used (and should be allowed to play out) – on the other hand, a director doesn’t want to exhaust an actor (and acting for dramatic improvisation for all actors involved is physically exhausting).   Also, too many different options without clear direction leads to confusion (for the actor on set, and the editor in the bay).

Of course, this happens (exhaustion, confusion) – and there is no way of avoiding it.  8-10 hour days max for the actors I believe is a great help to heavily improvised shooting – to stave off the exhaustion factor.  But I say this to say, it’s important for a director to be fully aware of what will and will not be used in the final edit – on set – as best as possible.  And rather than cutting these moments off too soon – in directing improvisation, it helps to let them play out, let the emotions rise and fall again naturally.  Especially when discarding the words of the screenplay.   There are awkward silences in these moments that are real and could otherwise never have been staged. There are glances of a deeper understand, and the struggling to find the right words.  All of this is real.  And conversely, there are often beats that happen just after an intense improvisation scene where the actor may say the perfect line — out of real exhaustion — long after a conventional filmmaker would call ‘cut’.  A glance often says everything without all the words before it, and to help ensure we get these kinds of looks when directing improv – we often do what we call a “silent take” after all the other takes are completed.  We did this quite a bit with White Knuckles and it helped us tremendously in the edit (though it’s not necessary if you’re actors don’t rush through improv – as in comedic improv).  

Often, that little tiny silent beat where the camera kept rolling might end up being the only part used in the final edit, if that is what is honest in that moment – and right for the overall story.