The awkward issue of social capital

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There’s lots going on in the 72 camp, of which most is to do with crowd funding and some is to do with filmmaking. It is probably better to describe it all as filmmaking now, as crowd funding seems to be such a staple part of the indie process, whether we like it or not.

Interestingly for us, it is a completely new part of our skill set, and whilst some of us have had a go at it before (with varying degrees of success), it is still somewhat of a dark art that carries over some of the horrors of the old model with it. Let’s be specific:

Crowd funding is about social capital.  

We’ll wikipedia this for sake of ease: In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasize different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea “that social networks have value”. Just as a screwdriver (physical capital) or a university education (cultural capital or human capital) can increase productivity (both individual and collective), so do social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups.

In other words, it is about your ability to draw upon your network to call in a favour and to influence people towards supporting your project. There is no problem in that, although it does lead to an awkward understanding when building a team. It begs the question – what are you going to bring to this? When we brought Ted Hope and Christine Vachon to the Spotted Dog, they spoke of Ellen Page’s ‘tweet sperm’ being important to the promotion of the movie ‘Super’. As well as her ability to act, they were interested in her ability to draw on her connections.

It is terrible to admit, especially when we are a project that is about giving opportunities to emerging talent where the traditional industry doesn’t provide them, but this social capital affects us too. Whether or not we like it, we have to draw upon the personal connections of people in order to fund this project, as the funding landscape has changed since 2010 and it is now the only way for us to secure 50% of our cash budget. We have to look at the ways in which people can bring more than just their enthusiasm to the project, it requires their social capital too.

The obvious problem is that this is a catch-22 situation. Some people don’t have the ability to draw upon established networks of family or friends to ‘get-a-break’ in industry. These people require someone to take a chance on them. But they usually have to work twice as hard in some other way in order to make up the value of their position on a project. It’s called ‘repaying the faith’.

The fear is that independent filmmaking is moving towards more of a ‘have vs. have nots’ culture than Hollywood ever was. And that is the wrong direction to head. Question is, how do we challenge it?

These kind of questions are the core of our research. Please support us at bit.ly/the72project

James and the 72 team.

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