Creative Crowdfunding

Serena Stevenson
Roots on the move
Roots on the move
After selling her house to travel to North East India and film ‘Roots on the Move’, Serena Stevenson has turned to crowdfunding to distribute the documentary.


After selling her house to travel to North East India and film Roots on the Move, Serena Stevenson has turned to crowdfunding to distribute the documentary and create a ‘transmedia campaign’.

Serena shares her journey to make and fund the film and how she hopes it will end in a full circle – with funding going towards helping the Roots Music Festival return to the North East.

"Roots on the Move is more than a film. It is an ongoing conversation that travels through music, dance, technology, east, and west, in which youth are free to express themselves."

Tell us a bit about Roots on the Move

Roots on the Move is a journey that began in North East India with a travelling festival. The North East of India is a place made up of many different cultural, social, and religious groups who are caught up in a situation where they struggle to find unity with each other. Their history is complex and today the only thing remaining that connects them with their governing nation, India, is a 23-km stretch of land that transcends Tibet and Burma. They suffer from neglect, attacks, bad media coverage, and growing western influence through media.

Of all the communities living in the North East, the youth are the most active; frustrated and willing to take action to create change. Their lives are continuously shaped by militant rule, insurgent attacks, fear of speaking openly, and human rights violations.

Amidst the difficulties of experience, and for the first time in the history of the North East, an opportunity has arisen as if out of the darkness which allows these youth to be free, be creative, and be peaceful. This opportunity is manifested in the form of a travelling festival of indigenous and western music called the ‘Roots Festival,’ founded by Spring Board Surprises, Keith Wallang and Anungla Longkumer.

I travelled to North East India in 2007 to film this movement, and talk to the oppressed youth, poets, activists, musicians, military, police, and underground along the way. I had conversations about freedom, creativity, culture, music – and allowed the people involved with the tour, as well as the youth of North East India to have a VOICE.

This film celebrates the voice of the people as they speak for themselves.

I discovered people, ideas and experiences in the North East that inspire us as human beings – in the unique way Roots on the Move represents an important aspect of humanity that the whole world would benefit from experiencing. Against the odds, these people have fought and fought for peace and freedom, and today, FINALLY, they are starting to see that happen.

What are you currently fundraising for?

First and foremost: the distribution of Roots on the Move. We have a brilliant documentary and no funds to get this screened or to distribute it. The first few hundred dollars have already gone towards film festival submissions, to garner some attention to the cause.

Our next goal is to take Roots on the Move and turn it into a transmedia campaign.

One part of this will be an interactive platform, where we invited people to participate with the music and stories of ‘Roots.’ Youth all around the world will be invited to choose a song from any of the 'Roots' bands and make their own music video, with their own pictures and video. Each song will have guide-lines. These unique videos will then be entered into a competition and the winner will have their video feature on the Roots on the Move DVD, exhibition, and in an online interactive space. Each song will profile each band and the members, the area they come from and the conversations/characters that are connected to this area. Through participating in this project, the global youth will learn about the interesting ways youth in the North East are coping with day-to-day living in such a diverse physically isolated region. It’s all about connection essentially.

We also aim to build a unique website that allows for user interaction to explore the stories of North East India, the music videos produced in the competition, and the characters involved with Roots on the Move. The website will allow users to interact with others in different countries, follow the festival, and watch unseen interview footage with the various characters that feature in Roots on the Move.

Ultimately, funding as a result of the transmedia campaign and distribution of the film will go towards the Roots Music Festival, so that it can bring music, once again, to the North East.

You have self-funded most of the project so far, why did you did decide at this stage to start a fundraising campaign?

One reason would be that I hadn’t tried it before. I self-funded the production and edit of Roots on the Move because it was the only option. I couldn’t get NZ fundraisers behind it – believe me, I tried – but when making a New Zealand produced and funded film with no New Zealand content, you’re on your own. I had to sell my house to travel to North East India with a camera crew, document and edit this story.

We started the IndieGoGo campaign because it was free and easy to navigate – we didn’t have any expectations, having never done anything like this before. There have been some ups and downs, but we’ve also had some interest in the film as a result and have raised a small amount of funds.

How much research and strategic thinking did you put into the campaign?

There are some great articles on IndieGoGo and various other crowd funding websites that offer advide on how to go about this. We read through and followed all the advice – going through social media channels, providing information about what we need and why, regular updates etc.

One great article advised to just go for it. There’s not really anything to lose – it’s a free service – so why not? So, essentially, we just went for it! If we don’t reach our funding goal then we can try again through another platform. That was the great thing about crowdfunding, it won’t break the bank.

Why did you decide to crowd fund it instead of going to one sponsor?

As I said before, it’s really hard to find New Zealand funding for a documentary with no New Zealand content, so this seemed like a great idea to get some funding, and also raise awareness of Roots on the Move through campaigning.

Why did you decide to use the IndieGoGo platform?

A few other sites, such as Kickstarter, are targeted more towards business ventures. This isn’t a business venture. It’s a not-for-profit campaign about culture, creativity, and unity. After looking through some of the other projects on the site, we saw some quite similar to what we were doing and a lot of cultural content. It just felt right. Also, other websites you don’t get any of the funds raised if you don’t meet your target. With IndieGoGo you can choose to go either way, and you can still keep funds raised if you don’t reach your target.

What have you discovered are the pros and cons of doing it this way?

Pros – it’s free. You can choose to take the funds, or leave them if your target is not reached.

Cons – it does require a lot of nurturing. A lot of people won’t want to donate right away. They’ll take some time to go away and think about it and then maybe come back and donate, or forget all about it. We’ve really had to be on our toes with updates and emailing potential donors.

What feedback have you received?

People really love the project. We’ve managed to spread the word of what we’re doing with it and get more people interested. As a result, our small team has grown slightly, and we have a few more people working on the campaign. With the exposure we’ve gotten so far, and a bit more campaigning, we’re hoping to be able to hold a benefit screening early 2012 to contribute more funds towards ‘Roots.’

Would you do it again? What would you change?

Yes I think we would. We are thinking about trying some other crowd funding websites, just to test the waters. IndieGoGo has been fantastic, and we like the way that it runs, but we may want to asses whether another crowd funding site might suit our project more, or have better ties to our audience.

Any tips for others wanting to try this form of fundraising?

Make sure you have a good base of potential funders, and be prepared to hound them for donations! ;)

Now pitch your project and why we should give to it....

Roots on the Move is the uplifting story of an event that rises from the ashes of violent political unrest to bring a generation of divided youth together. It's the story of a moving festival that transcends borders.

Creativity unifies tribes and creates positive action for youth in a place forgotten by the world - the North East of India. Geographically, psychologically, and politically annexed, India's 'sixth finger' contains a diverse ethnic mix with a legacy of violent political unrest.

Roots on the Move is more than a film. It is an ongoing conversation that travels through music, dance, technology, east, and west, in which youth are free to express themselves.

For the first time in the history of the North East of India, an opportunity has arisen as if out of the darkness which allows the youth to be free, be creative and be peaceful… a travelling festival of indigenous and western music called the ‘Roots Festival, on the Move’.

The film: a series of undercover veritably-themed interviews made by Serena Stevenson, disguised as the music festival documenter. Serena filmed and photographed over 30 days across 4000 miles through militant and army controlled borders.

We have designed a multi-faceted campaign in order to distribute, raise awareness, and continue the movement of Roots on the Move - but we can't do it all on our own!

This entire project has been fully self-funded by film-maker Serena Stevenson. After four years of re-edits and despite no commercial funding, the project is still going strong. The final version of the film is now complete, but the real story is just beginning.

'Roots' continues to grow and influence lives all over the world.

The aim now is to secure funding to support the distribution and construction of a global transmedia campaign which will then intern keep the festival alive, for the youth of the North East India.

Funding will go towards:

  • Creating additional DVD content from unused existing footage
  • Building an interactive project, in the form of a global competition to create a music video using music from the Roots on the Move soundtrack
  • Building an interactive website where users can explore the characters from 'Roots', as well as stories of North East India
  • Distribution of the film as a DVD with add ons
  • Enabling the voices of North East India to be heard
  • Raise awareness of the 'Roots Festival' so that it can return to the North East again

Right now we have a film, but no means of distributing it. The transmedia movement will create noise around the film, leading to additional funding, and continuance of the campaign to raise awareness and tell the stories of North East India.

By contributing to this project, you will become part of something that has and will continue to really change people's lives, by connecting people across the world through a well-executed transmedia campaign.

Help to make the 'Roots Festival' a reality once again!

And how do we give?

Visit the IndieGoGo campaign site to donate to our cause.

You can also help spread awareness by following and retweeting on Twitter:

Or follow us on Facebook and share the story.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

10 Nov 2011

The Big Idea Editor Cathy Aronson is a journalist, photo journalist and digital editor.

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