How an avid fan community powers Noclip’s video production company

By Christine Donaldson

Danny O'Dwyer, founder of video production company Noclip

A filmmaker and video-game documentarian illuminates his strategies for building strong fan relationships, including community-oriented membership benefits that work.

In our Making the Leap series, creators who've turned a creative side project into a full-time business share a behind-the-scenes look at how they did it.

Danny O’Dwyer has been making internet videos with his friends since before YouTube was popular. It all started as a way to try to get a job at his favorite video game website, GameSpot UK. While the video making scheme eventually landed Danny his dream day job, it also gave him something he wasn’t expecting: his own enthusiastic fan base.

Years later, Danny’s remarkable relationship with his fans inspired him to launch his own business called Noclip, producing video game documentaries, which allowed him full creative freedom. In 2016, Danny led his fans to Patreon, announcing that membership would allow his videos to remain ad-free, with zero sponsorships from the gaming industry. Within hours of launching, Danny was one of Patreon’s highest-earning creators. Now, with more than 4,000 members, Danny continues to build his empire as a video game journalist.

So, how did Danny get thousands of fans to become members? Here he shares some of his strategies for rewarding members, inviting fans to participate, and fostering community.

Fostering a community of fans

“My fans are the only reason anything of mine exists,” Danny says. He explains that much of his career in the games press was spent making things that management didn’t think would work — but that passionate fans met with enthusiasm. “To have hundreds of thousands of people give me the thumbs up, while the people around me were shaking their heads, kept me sane. Noclip was my dream, but my fans were the ones that made it a reality. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a passionate group of people around me. I don’t consider them ‘fans’ to be honest. I feel like we’re all part of a movement, and I’m just the one with the megaphone.”

Danny offers rewards that support his community and bring him closer to his members. One is a space for his fans to join in conversation with him, and with each other: a members-only Discord server that he set up with a Patreon integration. At any paid level (starting at $5 a month), members can participate in this exclusive community.

"Noclip was my dream, but my fans were the ones that made it a reality... I don’t consider them ‘fans’ to be honest. I feel like we’re all part of a movement, and I’m just the one with the megaphone.”

“Enabling my patrons to chat with me directly via the Discord chat is an incredibly powerful tool for keeping me in contact with the people who matter the most to this project,” says Danny. “But much more than that, it encourages patrons to communicate with each other, allowing the bonds of our community to strengthen, even when I’m away somewhere on a shoot or fast asleep after a long day streaming.”

Another community reward that Danny offers? A monthly brainstorm meeting. For $20 a month, members get access to speak with Danny face-to-face during this live session, or watch the recording later. This is a great way to reward higher-paying patrons with a very intimate experience that isn’t available to the public — another way to build meaningful relationships with members.

Offering exclusive, bonus content

Danny offers a variety of bonus content to members. Just as one might subscribe to Netflix for their favorite TV show, Danny’s members subscribe for exclusive, bonus content that provides a look into his creative process, which wouldn’t otherwise be seen by the public.

Some examples of special content Noclip members get access to:

  • Exclusive making-of videos: All members get access to an archive of behind-the-scenes videos that reveal what it’s really like to be on a shoot.

  • Q&A videos: Danny collects questions from members and films a video of himself answering them. This is a worthwhile reward for many creators to consider because it doesn’t take much extra work to plan and members get personalized answers to their burning questions.

  • Early access to documentaries: For $10 a month members (and above), Noclip releases these videos as “early-access” a week before the general public gets to see them. This reward option works well for film creators because, not only is it a privilege for members to receive the content before it’s released, it’s also a natural step in the creative process along the way to a final product.

“While the public enjoyed those [videos], our amazing patrons got access to much more: behind-the-scenes features showing how we produced each project, early access to all of our popular extended-cut interviews with people like Hugo Martin and Mick Gordon,” Danny explains, “not to mention all of the amazing conversations we’ve had on our Discord chat, and bunches of Q&A videos and Hangouts. We’re building a community here at Noclip, and we want you to be part of it.”

Adding members’ names to the film credits

Displaying the name of a patron on a work of art is an age-old tradition, dating all the way back to the Medici era. Now, in the world of digital media, highlighting members is still impactful for creators. Danny lists the names of his $30 a month members near the top of the closing credits in his videos, which are seen by Noclip's hundreds of thousands of subscribers, who are fellow fans and members of the game community. And it’s a chance for Danny’s top fans to declare their commitment to his creative productions.

Danny also invites members to take part in Noclip's journey. “Let’s preserve gaming’s history. Let’s make entertaining docs about games. Let’s educate young designers and players,” he says. “I truly believe that together we can change games coverage forever.”

Thinking about making the leap yourself? Explore the Official Patreon Creator Community Discord server to connect with other independent creators.

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