From Street Hustling to Cannes – How One L.A. Actress Got $2,400 to Pitch Her Natural Hair Documentary (Part 2)
When IndieGoGo no longer seemed promising for actress Nydia Simone’s crowdfunding campaign, she turned random people on the streets of Los Angeles into benefactors of her Cannes Film Festival trip. The experience quickly came with some hard but important lessons as she met with strangers in several areas including Long Beach, Old Pasadena, UCLA, Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw Plaza.
Getting donations from people who generally don’t carry cash on them when they’re surfing was among Simone’s many obstacles. Still, that Hermosa Beach experience was nothing compared to getting kicked out of The Grove by the concierge and later visiting Beverly Hills – a place she believes is so pretentious, you can feel the judgment oozing out of people. When a man who donated to the Cannes trip asked if Simone was homeless, she started wondering if her signage deterred potential supporters.
In the end, she is certain that all successful moments during this entire stint pounding the pavement was made possible by letting go of her pride and talking to God. I met with Nydia Simone before she flew off to France and we discussed how this New York native went from living out of a carry-on bag to getting over $2,400 in two weeks for her Natural Hair Documentary.
Madlab Post: How many hours a day did you spend holding signs and collecting donations for your Cannes trip?
Nydia Simone: An average of 3-5 hours a day. In the beginning, it was three hours and then I was thinking “If I’m gonna get this money, I need to average like four or five hours a day!” and that’s just standing outside. That doesn’t count me going there – and I take public transportation. So, it takes time to get there and it takes time to get back. I remember one time it took me over two hours to get to a place and I was a little upset because all I got was $35 at this beach but I did get a really cool idea after that. The thing is, you live and you learn.
In total, it takes up your whole day because you leave in the morning or mid-morning, you get to your spot and by the time that’s done, you go home.
You collect all these business cards and you’re emailing people “thank you for this” and people that want you to work with them or send them your headshot or information, blah, blah, blah!
Half of these people are bullshit. So, you have to figure out which ones are real but you never know. I’m going to be interning with a distribution company that I met on the street.
I don’t know what will come of that but I’m going to absorb notes and work as hard as I can so that they go “That girl right there is going to be somebody and do something amazing! We better watch her!”
Why did you choose those particular locations where you went to collect donations for your trip?
The most important thing was traffic. High traffic wins over…whatever. Sometimes I would get advice but I stopped listening to people because they were giving horrible advice. People told me to go to Hermosa [beach] – that was a horrible, horrible place! It was probably pretty good for what they were doing, but for what I was doing, I needed to be somewhere else. So, I’ve researched high traffic areas in L.A. when I ran out of ideas.
I learned that places where there is community, the people in that community are more likely to donate than those in tourist spots. When I went to Hollywood and Vineland – I could only stay for an hour that day because I have so much to do – but I got one dollar in an hour. Maybe I could’ve gotten $20 in the next five minutes -- you never know, but that’s not a good place for me to be.
Is there a stake in the community? North Hollywood was really good because a lot of people live and worked in L.A. and they believed in dreams. Crenshaw was great because black people are more likely to donate. Period. It’s a community, they want people in the community to do well; the older people in that community want young people to do it! It is common for people to collect donations this way. People don’t do it as much in California but I feel like what I did wasn’t so outlandish. Maybe it was, but I was so desperate that I was like “I don’t care,” (laughs).
The most amount I received was at Crenshaw Plaza -- $201 in one day. The least amount of money was West Hollywood and that was like $30. However, a lot of factors go into it because what time of the month are you going? Everybody has money at the beginning of the month. At the end of the month, their funds are a little low. It was the end of the month when I went to West Hollywood. Maybe I didn’t go to a good spot.
Maybe I didn’t have as much traffic as I was expecting. You can’t be on private property; you have to be on public property. The most I got was $35 or $37, so that was probably the worst place just because people didn’t have cash on them; If you’re in a bathing suit, then you’re probably not carrying any cash. I know I still have a lot to learn about crowdfunding, but, I make more money collecting cash on the street than on IndieGoGo.
What factors attributed to your IndieGoGo campaign falling short of its goal online?
My video was basically just me and my computer. Definitely your video is very important – if it’s nicely edited, if you have it done professionally, you’re probably going to get more money. I edited my video on iMovie and threw it up on there; you can see the black couch in the background.
When we’re face-to-face, I can sell you on my film, what I’m passionate about and what I want to do. It’s either you’re going to donate or you’re not. If you’re not, let’s move on to the next person. It’s very straightforward. Online, people have to take out their credit card, look at the numbers, and type them in. Soon it’s like “I don’t think I want to do this anymore. Oh, the pizza is here! I forgot,” so it’s a lot easier to get money now, on the street.
This came because I learned that as a black actress, in Hollywood, we just don’t get hired. People are like “Oh no, I hired a black girl last week” and a lot of people will agree that yes, black people do get hired – but not that much in Hollywood.
If I’m going to be working here, I’m going to have to create my own work. Otherwise, I’ll just be sitting around twirling my fingers.
I’ve wanted to do this documentary for 2-3 years and planned on waiting until I was seasoned and know more about show business but if I wait, I’ll just be waiting. This has already provided opportunities for me. I’m working on a new television network called the G-Block for teens and tweens. As soon as I figure out when we’re going to be shooting, then I’ll be able to start my production schedule. I’ve noticed that when you’re on a moving train, everything just comes. But when you’re waiting, nothing comes.
Stay tuned as my conversation with actress/producer Nydia Simone continues, where we cover…
- How Facebook played a role in her decision to seek out movie investors in France.
- Why she changed her business major to acting while studying at The City College of New York (CCNY).
- How she survives in L.A. while making time to attend church with one of Hollywood’s elite couples.
If you missed my chat with Nydia Simone about her Natural Hair Documentary, read Part 1: HERE.
What are some of the most pretentious cities/towns YOU'VE ever visited?
Who is YOUR favorite natural hairstyle wearing actress?
*Photos courtesy of Nydia Simone