Let’s start at the beginning. You began your career working on film sets. What drew you from that to the world of creative crowdfunding?
Peter: My first career was as a gaffer, working on all kinds of film sets, large and small. What I loved most was the camaraderie: when a bunch of creative people came together to make something wonderful that never existed before. But I was frustrated by the gatekeeper culture – to put it bluntly, it’s a far from meritocratic industry. With Greenlit, I saw the chance to open some doors for people with talent and drive that were not getting the recognition and opportunities they deserved.
Why do you think people are choosing to crowdfund their projects, rather than pursue ‘traditional’ funding sources?
Peter: The conventional idea that I’ve constantly had to battle is that crowdfunding is what you do if you can’t get the money anywhere else. Of course it’s hard work, but the benefits go way beyond the money: you’re building your community, your fanbase of people who want to hear what you have to say—and that is hugely empowering. You’re not waiting for someone else’s permission to create!
What impact from COVID-19 have you seen in crowdfunding?
Peter: The first lockdown was a frightening time, and I think either launching or backing a campaign was far from most people’s minds. Yet by late summer, we were busier than ever, and that trend has continued to this day. I think audiences are now much more interested in the community and the creative people behind the work. People value being part of something, and I think that trend will continue, even when we get back to ‘normal’.
After a year of closures and lockdowns, how do you see the arts industries moving forward? How will Greenlit respond to that change?
Peter: There’s huge pent-up demand for cinema screenings and live events; to experience things communally is thrilling again. But I actually think the biggest shift has been the Black Lives Matter movement – there was finally a mass recognition that many people weren’t seeing themselves on screen, or getting to tell their stories. And that sense goes beyond the Black community; people want to learn from, and empathise with others, whether they’re BAME, queer, disabled, or working-class. That diversity has always been at the core of Greenlit: we want to help anyone with a unique perspective share their story with the world.
Greenlit has evolved a lot in just two years: now the site is regularly funding feature-length film projects, it has expanded into music and theatre, and you’re rolling out new features like video-on-demand. What’s next for Greenlit?
Peter: The scale and budgets we’ve been dealing with have been increasing, so we want more creatives to recognise crowdfunding as an essential tool that can work on bigger projects, hand-in-hand with more conventional methods of financing. I also think theatre and music will be huge for us; the process of finding an audience is the first step and those art-forms lend themselves exactly to our methods. We’ve also been looking at the success of other creator-led platforms such as Bandcamp and OnlyFans, so in the coming months we’re rolling out more tools where our creatives can monetise their work. So watch this space!
What would you say to someone who is reluctant to crowdfund their next project? What do you see as the unexpected benefits from it?
Peter: Our philosophy is ‘Audience First’. You should be focusing on finding and engaging your audience, and if you do that right, they will support you beyond this project and throughout your career. As a creative, you have something to say about the world. If you find the people who want to hear what that is, the money will follow. The biggest hesitation I hear is ‘I don’t like asking people for money’ – you’re not! You’re (persistently) telling them what you’re doing, and giving them the chance to come on the ride with you; nobody will think any less of you for doing that, and you will find support from the most unexpected places.
One last question: what kinds of projects do you want to see more of?
Peter: We thrive on all kinds of stories, no matter whom they come from—so if you’re feeling excluded from the industry, we want to help. That said, there’s great crowdfunding potential in documentaries and genre films, horror and action. I’d be very interested to see how well we can mobilise a crowd for those, and at bigger budget levels.