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Internet Fundraising: Rocks Snakes

by Sydney Levine
March 4, 2011 3:30 AM
6 Comments
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Introduction by Peter Belsito, Guest Blogger

The below piece (really feels like a diary entry) by a filmmaker of our acquaintance introduces an interesting and worthy project attempting to raise funds over the internet. This indie feature, a dramatic film, is going through a process now that is becoming more established and useful in our indie world.

What is the main problem today?

As Ted Hope, profiled recently in this blog, eloquently said, "the rules for funding have fundamentally changed". Basically as we see it more and more films are coming on line every day and funding sources have not kept up (i.e. have not been increasing).

What to do? How to get these things made? Our filmmakers, always an enterprising bunch, have correctly touched upon the internet's 'community aspect', the ability to reach a large number of (sympathetic) people and also to reach 'your demographic', i.e. the ones who should will and want to help you create your vision, 'your' people. They get involved now and will also form the core of your future viewing audience. Getting them involved (i.e. by giving money at this early stage in whatever amounts) is an excellent thing.

We also think that while this is a good thing, it is not ever easy. If you want easy take a holiday in Afghanistan now - because film is never easy - just kidding of course but you get my point.

Lastly, I can't wait to see the limo bikini drivers film (again just kidding) but I understand perfectly how that harebrained film concept motivated our high minded filmmaker David. His odyssey begins below. We will revisit his efforts as time passes and that way will have a ground level view on this interesting DIY film project.


Crowd-Funding the First Conscious Filmmaker® Feature
By David C. Bojorquez

I attended the American Film Market conference in November of last year with a credible slate of films at different stages of development. My associates and I proceeded to meet with distributors, international sales agents and buyers. If nothing else, AFM is a profound learning experience into the mechanism by which full length, independent features are marketed and monetized. To prepare for the event I researched companies both on the Cinando database and the Film Catalogue - often visiting their websites to see if any of our productions were a good match. In the process I came across one film that struck me. It was titled, Bikini Limo Drivers.It looked like it had been fully funded, was in the can and available for distribution. Not knowing a thing about the movie, I inferred that it was probably one of those movies, like the classic Bachelor Party, i.e., the title IS the high concept.
Ironically, this little known indie, Bikini Limo Drivers, awakened a rallying cry within. For me personally, it became the most current archetype of a film created with no other intent but to simply make a profitable movie - leveraging a titillation factor, sans any other meaning. I even told my business partner, “If Bikini Limo Drivers (BLD) could get funded then there’s no reason why any of the movies in our slate can’t get funded!”... Not because they were comparable to BLD, but because the scripts we had optioned were very well written, the stories were highly entertaining, and these films could truly enrich any viewing audience, with timeless, meaningful themes that mattered.

All the films we had in our slate represented a filmmaking ethos my company (Vision4Media Entertainment) embraced. It’s an ethos that many other filmmakers follow as well… We were fortunate enough though to be able to give this “ethos” a name we eventually trademarked.. We call it the Conscious Filmmaker® approach. We have defined a “Conscious Filmmaker” as an artist with the aware intent to create motion pictures imbued with an enlightened purpose. As independent movie producers, everything we do reflects that commitment to meaningful entertainment.
Since attending AFM, last year, the perceived success of BLD has haunted me. Not from any superior sense of morality, or any prudishness on my part; rather, it had to do with the fact that once again I was reminded that so many films are created simply as a commodity. I suppose I am still idealistic and naive enough that I continue to wrestle with that reality. No doubt, bikini clad limo drivers will sell. And certainly such vacuous media has its place in the market. But what about films that don’t wear a cheap gimmick on their sleeve? Certainly the market has demonstrated time and again that substantive films do have a place, and they become among the most memorable and important films we’ll ever see. For me as an artist, creating a production, any production, has to mean more than simply making money. It’s more than a career. It’s a calling, a vocation even. I often state I’ve been”blessed” with no other marketable skills. But assuming that by providence I have a certain inherent proficiency at painting pixeled stories on a screen, then I am responsible in how I use such gifts.

In the several months since AFM, we have continued our journey in marketing and funding our film projects. We are much further along now in both our knowledge and strategy. We have registered for the Marche of the Cannes International Film Festival, and we will have meetings already established prior to the event. As part of our preparation of materials to have ready, we also embarked upon a project that will greatly enhance our credibility at Cannes. It’s one that uses a crowd funding model and is currently posted on Kickstarter.com. When I created the video pitch, again Bikini Limo Drivers entered my mind. My goal was for us to be the antithesis to a “Bikini Limo Driver” approach when it came to becoming a viable player in the independent film market. The pitch we produced was for one of our flagship projects - an extraordinary film written by Gary Bickal, an equally extraordinary, award winning, and multiple Nichol Fellowship finalist. The film is called “Rocks, Snakes and the Art of Desert Cooking”. It’s a highly entertaining movie with a deeply meaningful, universal message that speaks to every person. To learn more about it I encourage you to view the pitch here: http://kck.st/dQ4hq2 ; and then visit the website we created specifically for the movie: http://www.TheArtofDesertCooking.com/ .

We’re a little over two weeks into our Kickstart campaign, and our journey thus far has been both harrowing and heartening. Harrowing emotionally, in that many friends and family, whom I was convinced would be supportive in pledging just a single dollar, have not done so. Granted in these times, for some, sparing even a single dollar for a pledge is a challenge… So I do my best to refrain from judgment. And then there are those fantastic and good people who believe in what we’re doing… Amazing friends, who, despite any personal economic challenges, pledge even as much as $100.00. The same has even been true for virtual strangers. And it’s in this belief and the support of such people where I draw my strength. I can’t spend my time with any bitterness towards others, when there are so many who are willing to be supportive - and even encourage others to pledge.

Our goal is to raise $39,000. About $4000 of that will go to the commssion for Kickstarter and Amazon payments processing ... leaving just enough money that will enable us to shoot (with a committed crew and professional actors at discounted rates) 18 pages in 3 days - of great scenes that will communicate the gist of this feature to the buyers at Cannes. Because we have our own, in-house fully equipped high definition, Avid Media Composer edit bay, we can absorb the post production costs… Being the director and also a proficient Avid editor, has certain advantages. We would not be able to finish this project with the above budget otherwise.

But still we are up against some difficult challenges. As of the date of this writing we have raised just over $1027 and we have only 25 days left. Kickstarter is a do or die proposition. If we don’t raise the full $39,000 by March 28th then any moneys pledged up that point will be reverted back to the contributors. When we first decided to place our project on Kickstarter we had conducted what we thought was more than sufficient research. We viewed all the most successful projects. And then told ourselves… We can do that! In fact, we knew that in some ways we could do even better. But we missed something. What we subsequently learned was that these successful projects already had prior hugh networks in place. We had no such advantage. In fact, the most successful crowd funded feature in Kickstarter history was launched by the wife of an actor on one of the most successful sitcoms on TV. And a well known actor was already attached. Between those two actors there were already tens of thousands of Twitter and Facebook followers. Add to that support from connections within studios and the advantages were significant, as compared to a scrappy little company like ours with no such connections, but a long and multiple award-winning track record. We are doing our very best in leveraging all our friends on Facebook, our Twitter accounts, my existing blog, and LinkedIn to bring attention to our cause.

We have not despaired and we’re determined to make our goal. In the end we just may well be the first Kickstarter film project to achieve a signficant fund raising goal with virtually no industry advantages. Of course, as the clock ticks down I may be tempted to garner a lot more attention, and change the name of our project to: “Rocks, Snakes and the Art of Bikini Limo Drivers.” I wonder how many then will pledge a $1.00? :-)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
David C. Bojorquez is a prolific filmmaker-director with over 300 productions to his credit. He has directed, produced, written and edited nationally broadcast dramas, reality segments, commercials and acclaimed documentaries. His work has been recognized by numerous awards including 18 Silver and Gold Tellys, finalist honors at the New York Film Festival and most recently a nomination at the Banff World Television Festival.

David's hobbies include texting the unabridged works of Tolkien to random cell phones, harassing Imperial Storm Troopers, and translating Braille at drive-through teller machines. Besides his current work on "Rocks, Snakes... ", David enjoys directing mime musical theater. For additional background information on David visit http://www.theartofdesertcooking.com/aboutthedirector.html

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6 Comments

  • Film Budget | August 29, 2011 4:19 AMReply

    Know your film budget level and pour as much production value, blood, sweat, tears and favors that you can muster into your indie film. Hire a line producer to create your film budget and schedule. A small mistake in film budgeting can multiply in the financing chain and cause immense problems for all. http://FilmBudget.com

  • Kelsey | June 22, 2011 8:27 AMReply

    This is great to hear about. How has the internet fundraising been going since the aritcle?
    I am involved with a cause film that is also trying to raise money via the internet and donations.
    Any more tips?

  • Angelo Bell | March 5, 2011 6:33 AMReply

    Thanks for this article. I found it very interesting, and I completely empathize with David on many levels. I, too, attended AFM last November for the purposes of meeting the right people who could help me make my epic fantasy, "Legend of Black Lotus." I had tried four times to crowd-fund a concept trailer to show investors. I was unsuccessful each time. However, as a result of attending AFM I was introduced to someone at the HK Trade consulate. That introduction led to sponsored admittance and hotel accommodations at Hong Kong's FILMART. All I needed to do was buy my plane ticket.

    Hence, an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was borne. In just 9 days I raised $1705 thanks to various supporters all over the world. The campaign paid for my airline ticket and a ticket to the Hong Kong Asian Film Finance Forum (HAF), which runs concurrent with FILMART.

    My goal is to secure funding for my film from international sources. I'm currently negotiating with companies in Beligum and New Zealand. On March 19th (my birthday) I'll be on my way to Hong Kong to meet with representatives of several PRC and HK production companies to finalize the co-production partnerships needed to shoot in mainland China.

    In short, a combination of crowdfunding and taking indie international is the newer, smarter, and more effective way to get films funded and made.

  • Rose-Marie Couture | March 4, 2011 7:13 AMReply

    P.S. I have now discovered that the website ending with .com is fine. It is the link provided in the article that did not work for me.

  • Rose-Marie Couture | March 4, 2011 7:05 AMReply

    I found this article both funny, inspiring and heartwrenching. Being an independent producer I am also faced with the challenge and question mark of quality vs/and commerciality.
    I was intrigued and wanted to know more, but when I tried to go the website for the film, the page could not be found (contrary to the Bikini Limo Drivers clip!).
    Good luck on your journey. I look forward to hearing more about your quest.

  • Julia A. | March 4, 2011 5:38 AMReply

    This is a really good article. And, I actually found the blog well written... We're all on this journey together. No need to call each other names. I want to give this guy props, especially because of the Kickstarter pitch. If you haven't seen it, you should! We're working on creating one, and I like what he did. I'll probably borrow a few of those techniques.

    (Explanation by Sydney Levine: This is my blog and I will always delete comments which are inappropriate. Thank you Julia for your comment.)

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