That Christmas Movie LLC recently launched an investment crowdfunding campaign to produce the witty family comedy “I’ll Be Next Door For Christmas” — the first such opportunity of its kind in the United States. Investors responded and the campaign reached over 300% of its minimum goal within days on the premier equity crowdfunding.

“Unlike Kickstarter campaigns — where you simply make donations or buy rewards — equity crowdfunding gives you a financial interest in an actual company. We’re giving audiences more than a movie. We’re giving them a chance to be part of the filmmaking process, as well as the chance to make money while doing so,” said producer/director David Willis, founder and CEO of That Christmas Movie LLC . “Not only is I’ll Be Next Door For Christmas the world’s first Christmas movie to use investment crowdfunding, it is the very first feature-length narrative film to successfully do so in the United States. Now, the average person can have something big Hollywood stars get — a chance to make money from a movie.”

“We believe in this project, and we’re excited to tell the story,” said executive producer Jay Kogen, winner of four Emmys® for The Simpsons and Frasier, and currently executive producer on the hit Nickelodeon show School of Rock. “One of the cool things about people outside Hollywood becoming involved in a project like this, is that when it’s finished and it’s been released, it’s a pretty good feeling to say, ‘Hey, I made that happen.'” 

The project, which is currently accepting investments, was made possible by the JOBS Act, which was signed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2012; and Regulation Crowdfunding, which went into effect in 2016. This means the 90-plus percent of the population who weren’t previously allowed to invest in startups can now take advantage of these opportunities.

Donald Markowitz, Oscar® winner for the hit song “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, will be writing a brand new Christmas song for the project. 

Actress Jennifer Tilly, known for her Oscar®-nominated role in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, is attached as a co-star.

Willis, who is also a co-writer on the project, says, “Not many people have heard of investmentcrowdfunding yet, and we find we have to do a bit of explaining. But for investors, it boils down to this big difference from Kickstarter — if the movie makes money, you make money.”

Marc Cherry, creator/executive producer of Desperate Housewives, is also a fan. “I’ve known David Willis for my entire professional career, and I know him to be a smart, incredibly funny artist who approaches his art with the same kind of passion that I do. He has keen insight into human behavior, a deliciously skewed take on the world, and a heartfelt desire to break new ground in the world of filmmaking.”

The vast majority of crowdsourcing efforts fall flat, because companies don’t do enough to cultivate individual contributors. A flood of ideas does not necessarily equate to greater innovation potential. That’s because companies tend to favor more easily actionable, i.e. less innovative, ideas as contributions pile up.

The majority struggles to garner consistent feedback of any kind, let alone an overwhelming response. Looking at the performance of a broad cross-section of companies rather than just the successes, we can see how difficult it is to extract any value at all from crowdsourcing. To make it work, companies must concentrate not on the crowd but on developing reciprocal relationships with individuals.

The baseline experience of crowdsourcing is not success but failure. Providing external contributors with the means to interact is far from a guarantee that they will. Perhaps blinded by the promise of innovation on the cheap, most organizations that build crowdsourcing initiatives lack a clear strategy for starting the flow of ideas.

The better performers are much more generous with their time and attention than the empty-inbox majority. And they don’t wait until the campaign is going to jump in but are visibly engaged during the crucial early stages. They take it upon themselves to start the conversation as well as to sustain it with a consistent flow of attention.

There are two kinds of attention that are important in this process: proactive and reactive. Proactive attention is when organizations become active contributors themselves and submit suggestions for community feedback. This shrinks the dividing line between organizational insiders and outsiders, acclimating external contributors to a back-and-forth that welcomes all pertinent ideas. It also gives the community a selective peek behind the scenes of the organization’s decision-making, which may demystify it just enough that people feel their own contributions would be valued. This is most important in the early, most tentative stages of the campaign, when contributors are more comfortable responding to someone else’s ideas than posting their own.

Reactive attention is the responses organizations give to suggestions from external contributors. This could be as extensive as actually implementing a suggestion and announcing it publicly, or as simple as saying “thank you” for the suggestion. More attention paid is generally better for encouraging participation, but even a small response is better than none at all. Responding to suggestions proves the politeness of the organization and makes contributors feel heard. It also may embolden lurkers to contribute by showing them what sorts of suggestions the organization most values.

Responding to first-time contributors makes more of a difference than responding to established ones. Having no prior experience to go on, newcomers are particularly receptive to their treatment by the organization. Paying special attention to them helps stave off the insularity that characterizes so many user forums on the internet.

As with the proactive kind, reactive attention has the greatest impact early on in a crowdsourcing initiative. Unfortunately, most organizations do exactly the reverse: they are willing to invest only after the initiative reaches a more critical threshold.

Crowdsourcing is misleadingly named. When it does add value, that value comes not from the agglomerated wisdom of the community but from real relationships formed with individual contributors. Cultivating these relationships takes serious time and effort. Organizations that decide to venture into open innovation should first make sure they have the necessary resources ready to devote to the process right from the outset. Remember, the early stages are the most decisive. Even if everything is done right, most attempts at crowdsourcing will wither and die.

The cinema industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of film-making, i.e., film production companies, film studios, cinematography, film production, screenwriting, pre-production, post production, film festivals, distribution; and actors, film directors and other film crew personnel.

Though the expense involved in making movies almost immediately led film production to concentrate under the auspices of standing production companies. Advances in affordable film making equipment, and expansion of opportunities to acquire investment capital from outside the film industry itself, have allowed independent film production to evolve. Hollywood is the oldest film industry of the world and the largest in terms of box office gross and number of screens.

Currently, the largest markets by box office are United States, China, United Kingdom, Japan and India; and the countries with the largest number of film productions are India, Nigeria, and the United States. Other centers include Hong Kong and in Europe the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany are the countries that lead movie production. The worldwide theatrical market has a box office of forty billion euros annually.

Distinct from the centers are the locations where movies are filmed. Because of labor and infrastructure costs, many films are produced in countries other than the one in which the company which pays for the film is located. For example, many U.S. movies are filmed in Canada, many Nigerian movies are filmed in Ghana, while many Indian movies are filmed in the Americas, Europe, Singapore etc.

There is a theme to Dwayne Johnson’s life, and that theme is never settling. Johnson vividly remembers a moment in the mid-90s when he was being driven back home to Tampa, Florida, by his father after getting cut from a Canadian Football League team, his dreams of an NFL career dashed. He looked in his wallet and saw he only had seven dollars left. That stuck with him, and it has fueled him ever since.

Fast forward to today. The Rock has become a household name as both a wrestling legend and a global movie star. Perhaps less well known is that Johnson and his business partner, Dany Garcia, have quickly gained ground in Hollywood as producers, too. Their production company – aptly named Seven Bucks Productions – is behind many of Johnson’s most high-profile projects, including this year’s Central Intelligence, next year’s Baywatch, and HBO’s most popular half-hour series in years, Ballers. Now the duo has set its sights set on conquering the online world, launching a digital channel named Seven Bucks Digital Studios this past summer.

The power in the entertainment industry is shifting to the superstars, and the smartest among those stars are finding ways to capitalize on that trend and emerge as business leaders. Dwayne Johnson is a key example—he is an extremely talented individual stepping up by not only excelling on the creative side, but being serious about the business side, too.

Dany Garcia is the woman behind the Rock, and an incredibly accomplished executive in her own right. Hers is a path that might look a little more familiar to business world: she studied finance and marketing at the University of Miami, worked at Merrill Lynch, and founded her own wealth-management firm, all before Dwayne asked her to take over the management of his enterprise. That she’s also Dwayne’s ex-wife and that they have a terrific working relationship makes the story really unique.

Stars like Johnson build a successful media business that cuts across film, television, and online media. Johnson was the first A-list actor to launch a digital channel. It will be interesting to analyze how that move fits into the broader picture of how his brand and company are evolving. Dwayne’s career speaks for itself. And Dany is running a billion-dollar business, all while competing as a professional bodybuilder. They’re both grabbing every opportunity available to them and are running with it, full speed ahead. It’s incredibly inspiring.


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