'How To Win' Director Rhasaan Nichols Raises $10K in 10 Days on Kickstarter… and You Can Too
Photo Credit: S & A
Filmmaker Toolkit

'How To Win' Director Rhasaan Nichols Raises $10K in 10 Days on Kickstarter… and You Can Too

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For some time now

Shadow and Act has covered many a filmmaker working to raise funds for their

films whether it was for production, post-production, getting their crew to a

film festival, and the like. 

However, it is rare when we get to cover a filmmaker, especially one not

very well known or from one of the top film schools, who not only was wildly

successful in getting their full amount, but also was able to pull out all the

stops in the final days of their campaign to make it happen. 

Meet Rhasaan Nichols. 

A Philadelphia, PA

native and graduate of Yale University, this young man dreamt of being a doctor

most of his life, a dream that carried him through a disadvantaged childhood all the

way up to the Ivy League. But instead of becoming enamored of pre-med life, at

Yale he discovered a love for film and changed his focus from medicine to

movies, developing a niche for documentaries and a yearning to highlight cultural

issues and the human experience through his current production company Nichols

Makes Sense.

Now you may have seen his recent documentary, "Letters to My Sister," a touching film about his little sister Chenee

who was born with cerebral palsy.  For

that film, Nichols received a fellowship from international communications and

advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi at the Martha’s Vineyard

African-American film festival in 2013, which he readily admits helped him

learn to polish his skills as filmmaker and prepared him for his latest film.

“How To Win” centers on Orlando ‘Magic’ Washington, a young

Black high-school senior and veritable genius.  With his whole future laid out for him, what he really wants

is to control his own fate and land the girl of his dreams.  Now with his dream girl finally single,

Magic must navigate the questionable advice of his friends along with his

insecurities, to finally get what he wants.  A personal story to Nichols, the real lesson he wants audiences

to learn are two-fold:  for better or

worse, the real win is in having

the heart to even try, and, that he is eager to tell stories about who he calls “the new

Black man” – not just the media-accepted athlete or a criminal, but kids being

kids growing up to want more than the American dream and think beyond the one

job/one life standard. These are images of Black men being denied in pop

culture. “How to Win” therefore serves as what Nichols calls, “a humanizing re-introduction

of young black from a young man’s perspective. “

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While he shot the film over three days in early November

2014, funding it through generosity and a maxing out of his credit cards, he

needed more capital to pay for outstanding production expenses, editing, color

grading, and more intensive post-production, and so his Kickstarter campaign

was launched…and the first 20 days were practically silent.

“I spent 20 days talking to myself and waiting for something

to happen,” says Nichols. “I tagged specific segments of my friends in stories

in order to make them part of my success story, many of which you can see on my

Creative District project page.” But that

wasn’t enough as he quickly entered the home stretch.  Like many other filmmakers, he had read a number of advice

columns on how to do Kickstarter the right way, and thought he could rely on

his inner circle of friends and family to support him after sending out blanket

emails.  All a dud. 

It wasn’t until Nichols was referred to a fellow Yale

graduate, Soma Water founder Michael Del Ponte who was previously successful at

raising $100,000 in nine days, and altered Del Ponte’s guide to suit his own

needs, that he unlocked the somewhat simple yet highly affective rulebook to

land donors.  Nichols then:

1.  created a landing page

containing

links to his social media and the campaign so that people could share his info

all from one place

2. began to use Facebook and

Klout to audit his list of friends to the most personal and influential ones

and invited them to his landing page to help donate and market his film

3.  also wrote several advance

emails, and sent them out through, 1) Boomerang for Gmail, which allows email scheduling,

and 2) Facebook, which his new research showed that most traffic comes to

Kickstarter from.  All of these

were individualized to multiple old friends, compelling them to donate with

various types of absorbing content and personal stories.  Two out of every three friends were

more than willing to donate money to him.

This momentum allowed Nichols

to try riskier approaches, like when he tagged his closest college friends in a

humorous and eye-catching post regarding his never finding true love and

near-obsession with internet personality Ayisha Diaz – a plot that got results.

He was also able to track his results through KickTraq.com

All in all, with five hours

left in day 30, Rhasaan Nichols met his $10,000 funding goal.   A huge bonus was his managing to reconnect with many old classmates and acquaintances that came up on his

newsfeed, but he didn’t not feel close enough to actually interact with on

social media.  The personal

connection, much like the one many directors aim their film audiences will

achieve when viewing their work, was and will continue to be the key to

Nichols’ success. 

Make sure to watch the trailer

for “How To Win” below and visit the “How To Win” Kickstarter page for more information. 

And keep up with Rhasaan Nichols on Instagram at Saan0149 and his film endeavors.  You will indeed soon see him at a film

festival near you.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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