From creating an immersive cinema in a New York living room to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to film a unique, self-designed project rejected by agencies, Emily Best has built an impressive film career in her own right.
But like many filmmakers, she ran into problems raising the necessary production funds. With only 60 days before shooting one project, her team needed to raise $20,000. After being consistently rejected by agencies, Best took it upon herself to get the funding. In one month, they raised $23,000 in cash and more than $200,000 in loans. Not only did Best learn the power of crowdfunding after attending 20 festivals around the world, but she realized the importance of telling narrative stories to highlight the lives of everyday people.
Since then, she’s been helping bring more creative projects to life with her crowdfunding platform Seed&Spark. As Founder and CEO, Best has built up the platform specifically for diverse storytellers. It boasts an 88% campaign success rate.
Best described Seed&Spark as a way “to spark vibrant conversations among people everywhere with their work.” Producers can submit their films for review on the Seed&Spark website. From there, the project is marketed on social media and advertised on streaming platforms to potential funders. Once creators fund their projects, they have access to tools to help get the project off the ground, be it waivers to festivals, access to consultants, or other specialized forms of help.
“The projects on our platform are all doing many different things. Some are going out there specifically as activist tools and calling cards that want to go on the festival circuit, while others go directly into distribution deals. It’s all a huge variety of things,” Best commented.
Best told Hypepotamus that filmmakers on the platform are accepted into 22% of film festivals they apply to (the average acceptance rate for short films is 13%). She added that Seed&Spark filmmakers attend eight festivals per year, with 35% of creators bringing home awards.
Best is also dedicated to making filmmaking more inclusive.
“80% of our projects have women in key roles because I built the company with a team of mostly women. Women have been so sidelined by the industries, specifically women of color, that they’re more likely to be finding alternative funding pathways for their work,” Best told Hypepotamus.
All submissions to Seed&Spark require creators to submit an inclusivity statement, describing the value of their project. After 2016, Best wanted that type of accountability to ensure the platform was increasing representation and diversifying the storytelling landscape. Once the inclusion statement became mandatory, the success rate increased drastically. “You really have to be engaged with helping people understand why a certain story needs to be told right now,” Best explained.
Some organizations will not accept films that include swearing, drugs, or sexual activity which can eliminate many independent films; however, companies like Seed&Spark believe the more raw and real the film is, the more credibility it gives their team. To appeal to every audience, Best explained “[our team has to] program across a pretty wide range of corporate appetite.” Implementing this strategy, Seed&Spark fans have raised over $39 million to help creators film over 3,000 movies and shows.
From the initial launch, the backbone of Seed&Spark has always been education. We offer educational workshops around various stages in the creative journey. “We teach through the lens of how to run a really kick-ass crowdfunding campaign that serves you for your entire career,” Best said.
Seed&Spark initially started in Los Angeles, but Best relocated to Atlanta in June 2022. While Atlanta has a strong film and tech ecosystem, she told Hypepotamus that she is “closely watching the legal fight for reproductive rights in the state [of Georgia]” following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this month.
“On the one hand, the diversity of Georgia, the presence of huge enterprise and incredible creativity makes it a sandbox for building the systems that we will need to replace the ones that are breaking down. And: I will not grow a team in a state where it is dangerous to exist, where all team members do not have equal autonomy to make decisions about their bodies. So I’m staying tuned,” she added.