Projects need green to hit screens

Two weeks ago we first wrote about the impending film production FOOD, for which crew and cast will shoot on location in and near Champaign-Urbana beginning next weekend. Many local talents who actively feed into “the film scene” covered by C-U Blogfidential will no doubt take part, while an inevitable cloud of curious onlookers, media reporters, business leaders, and arts proponents will hover around the periphery to try and better understand how such an occurrence impacts our community, if not merely to be nosy. Although FOOD might not exude the scope or star power of something like THE INFORMANT!, it will be too easy for everyone to get caught up in the excitement.

How can the non-filmmakers du C-U help if they are not already lending FOOD services, locations, props, vehicles, or their pretty faces? We suggest they investigate other ways in which to aid our subculture, such as giving the gift of funding to those already making movies in our shared backyard. You’ve no doubt heard of “crowdsourcing,” the Internet fundraising method popular with producers who use it to appeal to potential consumers in order to secure budgets for various aspects of film production, post-production, marketing, and merchandising, yes? Several camps amongst us currently need you to help achieve their goals via said methods, so let’s take a look at the details!

A pair of active crowdsource campaigns running since April provide interesting contrasts in pitch and prizes. One close to hitting its monetary plateau is the Kickstarter push for funding a second season of the sprightly “transistorpunk” series ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE 1970s by Kill Vampire Lincoln Productions of Champaign. As of 12 p.m. today, 142 backers had pledged $7,029 of the $8,000 goal, earmarked for “producing additional episodes, preposterously large robots, and (most importantly) compensating the cast and crew” per their campaign set to expire at 1:30 p.m. this Monday, May 19. In the following video, creators Chris and Anne Lukeman talk about their aims with assistance from “Stumpy the Pimpbot” of the “1977” episodes in Season One:

Elsewhere, Dreamscape Cinema of Champaign is seeking a robust cash flow with which to promote their upcoming action film LOWLIFES starring Booboo Stewart (X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) and William Atherton (DIE HARD). Their Indiegogo crusade lasts until the end of Wednesday, May 28, with 35 funders contributing $1,356 so far towards a $25,500 milestone intended to back “a small release in big cities where reviewers and distributors can view the finished movie, a film festival campaign where audiences [can help] build a following and theatrical distributors can watch and hopefully bid on [the rights, and an] on-line campaign and marketing [push] to build viewership demand.” Producer Robin Christian teases the near-finished feature below with exclusive clips:

Many crowdsourcing efforts gain traction due to creative pleas as well as novel premiums awarded at various dollar amounts. Dreamscape offers a mix of outreach, participation, and memorabilia in their LOWLIFES “perk” levels, ranging from a minimum $5 (personal tweet thank-you) to $2,500 (Blu-ray copy of the finished film, movie script, costuming item, admission to premiere, name in final credits, a personal call from Christian) to the top $30,000 tier including those items and a “Blue Stone Academy” uniform worn on the set. While at face value the gifts are keepsakes similar to those offered in other film funding efforts, the general appeal of the numerous up-and-coming actors in LOWLIFES might help encourage direct support from their fans.

Conversely, Kill Vampire’s array of swag directly reflects the eclectic, hand-made aesthetic qualities that endear ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE 1970s to younger science fiction, time travel, and “steampunk” aficionados. Pledge levels go from a mere $1 (personal thank-you) to $10 (high-definition download) to $60 (download, Blu-ray copy tucked in floppy disc casing, t-shirt, etc.), but then bonuses really become fun and unique. $100 rewards a supporter with a “vacuum tube robot spider” prop as seen in animated form during Season One, $150 earns a financier a limited edition 1970s board game, and so on. The top $8,000 tier encompasses certain goods, a credit as backer, robot naming rights, and the lovably clunky “Bruce” automaton prop introduced in the first produced episode, “1972.”

It should be no surprise that both Indiegogo and Kickstarter receive a cut of every campaign’s gross. The core distinction between the services is that Indiegogo allows campaigners to keep moneys raised minus the fee even if a goal is not met, while Kickstarter operates on an “all or nothing” methodology. Kill Vampire therefore needs to reach or exceed that $8,000 watermark in two days’ time to earn their future budget in full, yet Dreamscape might be forced to adjust strategies based on whether they hit their own goal, fall short but choose to work with what they gain, or fall short and look to other resources for making up the difference. It does not need to be dramatized on CUBlog how independent filmmakers need every penny budgeted in their respective plans to make it all work, for it is always a potential predicament.

Case in point is a third fundraising campaign for the dramatic feature THE GARDEN OF CHLOE, directed by Johnny Robinson of Urbana. His Indiegogo effort earned $1,760 from 27 funders, falling short of an expected goal of $4,000 by April 11 that would have “directly [made] it possible to complete filming, editing, and production, and provide the opportunity to present the very best version of this story.” Robinson and his team certainly have confidence in CHLOE, considering that both pre-production and the beginning of production had already transpired before the campaign launched, but moving forward they might have difficult choices to make due to the shortfall. There is no time like the present, however, to visit their Web site for updates and inquire about aiding the production posthaste.

We offer this last example not to embarrass but as a prompt to ask aloud if there is a saturation point in asking one’s family, peers, and community to invest financially or otherwise in one’s art, especially where crossover exists between producers and their spheres of influence. (Kill Vampire can partly circumvent this, for instance, due to the extended fan base they’ve built on-line and at pop culture conventions outside the C-U.) It is a key issue that has been batted around the Secret MICRO-FILM Headquarters as of late, not just in terms of how our neighbors might play a constructive role in the overall success of our homegrown filmmakers but whether or not they even have interest in helping strengthen our equally homegrown media … such as the C-U Confidential family. Look for a separate post about that in a few days.

Until then, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FILMMAKERS, all you peoples of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois!

~ Jason Pankoke

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