Short Film, Big Vision
Trevin Matcek makes Life Begins at Rewirement for ITVS Futurestates
By Valentina I. Valentini
Labels: Feature Film
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Why it's here to stay
By Valentina I. Valentini
This summer, filmmaker Brandon David Cole built a Kickstarter.com campaign to raise money for his invention, The SnapFocus by Midas Mount, an automated focus rig for DSLR cameras. His goal was $20,000, but he surpassed that in four days and went on to raise $110,000.
"Launching the SnapFocus on Kickstarter was a perfect fit for us because they're sort of a punk-rock way of getting products out into the world as an upstart brand," says Cole. "It gave us a chance at kicking the bigger, more established brands right in the balls."
These are people who build their own products—whether an app or a movie or camera rig—advertise and market it themselves, and go through their own networks. Kickstarter.com is just the platform (taking a 5% cut of the total donations). So what makes it so popular?
Cole believes it's a mash-up of successful branding, video content, press releases, social-media outreach, endorsements, credibility and teamwork. But, really, the key is the product.
"Kickstarter, for us, wasn't about holding our hat out and begging for change," explains Cole. "It was basically a large presales event where we could bring our product and patent out into the world in a big way. We were offering people a cool product that adds tremendous value to their production work."
So it's no secret this is the newest trend in independent film financing, as well. Kickstarter.com, which launched on April 28, 2008 by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler to combat the perennial problem of not being able to find funding for creative projects, is to date the largest funding platform for creative projects worldwide in terms of the amount of money raised, number of projects funded and number of backers. The runner-up is Indiegogo.com, but they allow noncreative projects, so arguably it isn't as admired by the creative community. Two lesser-known sites supporting creative/filmmaking projects are RocketHub.com and NewJelly.com.
Anton King, a first-time feature director (and writer), successfully raised $100,000 on Kickstarter.com last year, completed production on Lust for Love a few months ago and is currently in post. "If you're going to use Kickstarter," advises King, "you should start building your social-media base now. You need access to a lot of people—a lot. And one mistake I see with Kickstarter is people using it for little projects, whether it's a few grand to finish postproduction or $5,000 to make a short film—you're asking for money, for help. You don't want to be going to Kickstarter over and over and asking the same people for help."
This past Sundance, 17 films shown (10%) were funded all or in part by Kickstarter.com, including some of the most popular films this year, like Ai Waiwai: Never Sorry, Keep the Lights On and Me at the Zoo. There were also 11 films at Tribeca.
For Ron Najor, producer of I Am Not a Hipster, which garnered attention at Sundance and made quite a few "Best of Sundance" lists, including Rolling Stone and The Huffington Post, but didn't get picked up, it was time to take distribution into his own hands. "We kept getting this positive reinforcement from each fest we screened at," recalls Najor. "When you get out of Sundance and you don't get picked up, you question whether it was just Sundance that liked you and the rest of the world doesn't really care. But that wasn't the case with us. Everywhere else people kept coming up to us and saying how much they enjoyed the film and asking when it was coming out."
Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton and Najor felt that was the push they needed to start a distribution campaign on their own. They felt that they should distribute the film in the same spirit that it was made: pure independence.
Today, with Hulu and Netflix, if you can raise a little bit of money to cover the entry-level fees, you can get your film out there in a big way. Ten years ago that wasn't possible on such a budget. Hipster asked for $27,500 on their Kickstarter.com campaign. For an average independent film, it can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 in distribution costs to deliver the movie to an outlet.
These costs include, but aren't limited, to Errors & Omissions Insurance at about $3,000 to $7,000, cable VOD (On Demand) with a fee of about $5,000 to $6,000 to get it to all the different cable outlets, M&D track dubs so it can play internationally at about $5,000, and DVDs and Blu-rays at another $7,000. It certainly does add up, doesn't it?
"Kickstarter has become a way for indie filmmakers to retain control of their movie and try to do the best they can with raising money, but also getting exposure for the film," says Najor. "Ultimately, Destin and I know that the odds are against us in terms of making large amounts of money. Our goal at this point is more about getting seen because that will help everyone's career."