Independent Christian TV and Crowdfunding

independtv[Note: There’s a link in this article to the current crowdfunding campaign for the next season of Peculiar.]

I don’t know if this classification already exists, it probably does. To me, it means Christian TV programming that is not financially supported by another organization.

There are many shows that are a part of the broadcast ministry of a church, or attached to a network. Or supported by a ministry of some kind. Then there are shows that are out here, just making TV. If they are set up as non profit, then they are most likely ask for donations on their show and pay for their air time, continuing the paid time/donor model of religious programming.

Last week I was at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. I talked with 18 different stations and networks about airing Peculiar. Many seemed interested. As hard as it is for me to believe, it seems like I have the only Christian sitcom out there. (Surely, someone else is doing something similar…)

But almost every station and network has a problem with my show. It’s aimed at the wrong demographic. That doesn’t mean they won’t air it, but the fact is, my 18-35 year old target is too young for their audience. It’s a vicious cycle.

Young adults don’t watch religious programming. So Christian program producers don’t make programming that appeals to them, they focus on people they can reach. They do shows for 35-50 year old women, and people age 50+. Then, when a young adult flips through the station they don’t ever see anything they want to watch, so they don’t watch religious programming. And the cycle rolls on.

There are some exceptions out there, but generally large Christian networks don’t do programming for young adults. I talked at length with one network rep, and he seemed very interested in the show. They are creating a new commercial network (trying to navigate the changing nature of religious broadcasting, looking to the future when paid time won’t be viable anymore) but their target is age 35-50 women.

Smaller station are more flexible, and I have several that should begin broadcasting the show as soon as I can get the episodes to them. I hope to find at least one larger network that will take a chance on us.

Meanwhile, I am finding out more each day why no one does what we are doing. They have to fund it somehow. With no large church or ministry or network to finance the show, how do we pay for it?

First, we do it for next to nothing. Quality suffers, but not as much as you would think. You have to be smart, efficient, and be able to cast a clear vision for why people should give of their very precious time to your project. When I showed the rep at that network our promotional piece that listed the ideal budget for each episode, he was shocked that I could do an episode for $5000. I laughed. I told him that was the ideal budget, what I would like to raise so I could pay the people involved a little something. We shot the first 6 episodes of Peculiar for under $3600. Total. Not everyone will have the resources I do, but you can reduce the cost dramatically. I call what we are doing micro-budget.

Second, we use crowd funding sites to raise money. Right now (through April 4th) we are raising money for the new season. We went with IndieGoGo this time, but for the first episodes we used Kickstarter. Both platforms (and many others out there) offer independent TV and filmmakers the chance to find the money for their projects. There are a lot of things that go into a successful crowdfunding campaign, more than I have space for here. So do you homework before you launch.

Meanwhile, we work at it. Keep moving forward. Keep doing freelance work to pay bills.

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