Crowd-funding jumpstarts indie filmmaking

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Adrian’s story

It’s a blustery afternoon in Delta as the volunteer crew sets up the money shot; a black-tailed deer enters the frame and raises its head, aware of a nearby predator. The movie’s lead character Jim, dressed in hunter plaid, crouches on one knee and takes aim with his rifle.

“Cut,” yells 25 year-old Adrian St. Louis as the crew repositions to get close-ups of the deer, rented from an animal wrangler and tethered to its owner just out of camera frame. Adrian works as a landscaper and part-time valet, but today he’s on set directing his ten-minute drama, “Wild Nothing,” which he wrote while still a student in UBC’s Creative Writing program.

“I had this idea about a man coming to terms with nature and it just sort of stuck with me,” he said.

Fresh out of school, Adrian figured he’d have a hard time getting a grant or loan so he turned to crowd-funding to finance his vision. Crowd-funding is the net-savvy way to raise money from those the theatre community calls angels -- people who give whatever they can to float a production. Filmmakers sweeten the pot by offering incentives or rewards, everything from T-shirts to dining with the stars. Adrian offered an executive producer credit as his top prize.

There are two major players in the crowd-funding game, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Both sites operate on the same principle; the filmmaker posts a synopsis and a trailer on its website, the website funnels donations through its collection partner (either Amazon or PayPal) and the artist pockets whatever’s raised minus fees. Adrian went with Kickstarter.

Photo by Mike Boland.

He asked for $7,000 because “that’s what seemed reasonable” and limited his campaign to 60 days, “because that’s the norm.”  If Adrian had missed his goal within his specified time frame, he would have had to return whatever was collected to his donors. It’s the all-or-nothing model, and that’s okay with Adrian because he feels it reassures investors knowing they’ll get their money back if the film doesn’t get made.

Adrian feels using Kickstarter’s collection partner, Amazon, gave the project credibility -- more than if he were to ask people outright for cash. 

“I could have approached my friends and family privately, but this way I feel more of a pressure to follow through and deliver a good product,” he said. In fact most of his donations came from friends and family, usually in the $10 to $50 range. One family member put in $1,000.

Although he asked for $7,000 Adrian actually raised $7,300 and received $6,800 after a 5% fee to Kickstarter and 4% to Amazon. IndieGoGo, the other major website, offers filmmakers a choice. They can either go the all-or-nothing route, or the flexible funding route, in which case the artists keep whatever they’ve raised even if the funds fall short.  

RJ’s story

Like Adrian, RJ Sauer used Kickstarter to finance his eight-minute short, “Stag.” The film’s lead character wakes up nude and disoriented in a remote cabin. Relentlessly pursued through the forest by a gang of thugs, he finally meets his tormentors in a moody and startling climax.

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