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Kickstarting Ideas in Marina del Rey

The Digital Hollywood conference took place this week at the Marina del Rey Ritz-Carlton.

Keith Knight’s high school job in the mid 1980‘s was impersonating Michael Jackson at birthday parties. 

He performed as the “King of Pop” for a high school variety show, and eventually was charging $75 an hour for his performances, “which is more than I make now,” he said.

Knight is now an award-winning cartoonist whose work has been featured in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Boston Herald, among others. But a few months ago, he decided he wanted to revisit his moonwalking days and create a comic strip based on his MJ experience.

“People always said, ‘when are you going to tell that story,’” he said. “It never felt like I could take the time out to do it because I always had to draw my cartoons to make money.”

He pitched his idea, I was a Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator, on Kickstarter, a fundraising website that backs creative projects, and by April 6, successfully reached his goal of $40,000 that will allow him to create his cartoon.

Knight, along with five other Kickstarter entrepreneurs, shared stories on Thursday with attendees of the Digital Hollywood conference at the in Marina del Rey, who were eager to learn strategies behind successful projects.

“It’s a combination of having a great pitch and a great idea that’s going to stick in people’s heads,” he said.

Kickstarter, a company that started in New York about three years ago, surpassed its biggest milestone yet this week, when the Pebble watch, a customizable smart-watch, raised over $8 million as of Thursday. The website has allowed ordinary people to break down the traditional venture-capital model and reach customers and fans directly for seed money.  

When Matthew Cherry, a former NFL player, wanted to finish his film about the financial and emotional struggle many football players face after retirement, he turned to Kickstarter. His movie, The Last Fall, had been selected for the 2012 South by SouthWest Film Festival, and Cherry raised $15,000 to complete the film and take his crew to Austin, Texas.

Cherry, Knight, and the other Kickstarter panelists, which included Adele Romanski, Morgan Mead, Ryan McCoy and Sam Proof stressed that the most important aspect of a successful campaign is putting a human face on a project and involving backers in the creative process.

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