It’s “only”* for the Best Documentary Short Subject, but the Kickstarter-funded film Innocente picked up an Oscar last night.
The film, which tells the story of a 15-year old homeless girl in California who pursues her passion of becoming an artist, used the crowdfunding site to raise finishing and marketing funds last summer. The filmmakers behind the project, Sean and Andrea Fine of Fine Films, had previously been up for a Best Documentary Feature award at the Oscars for their piece War/Dance. So it’s not like this is total underdog story here.
However that’s part of what is interesting about crowdfunding these days. The services are democratizing the funding process for experienced filmmakers who want to bypass the traditional funding models… and it is working again and again.
via The Daily Dot
*If you really think making an Oscar-winning short is easy I have a theme park in Anaheim I’d love to sell you.
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Everyone has an expectation of privacy, right? But for different people that means different things. We all live in varying degrees of public. The Unabomber had a ton of privacy. Brad Pitt does not. The rest of us are in the middle. Naturally, the internet has shifted that profoundly–whereas fifteen years ago it was virtually impossible to know where someone was, you could probably figure out where I am right now within a 50 foot radius, just by looking at my Foursquare checkins and my Twitter feed.
As a result, these companies know a lot about me. I’m ok with that. It’s the trade-off for being able to use services that make my work infinitely easier. But what exactly am I trading?
Cullen Hoback‘s documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply attempts to shed some light on exactly what’s in those Terms and Conditions we click with nary a thought to what’s in them. After all, who has the time? I don’t. Neither does anyone else. (more…)
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Marcie Hume is a documentary filmmaker whose latest work, Where The Magic Happens, is entering that oh-so-critical step: the editing phase.
The film is a labor of love for Hume, whose passion for stage magic runs deep. Hume and her co-director Christoph Baaden have gathered hundreds of hours of footage at this point, and are now turning to Kickstarter to raise the funds to bring on an editor and get the film ready for audiences.
What intrigues me here is that the lives of the magicians Hume follows can echo the struggles of artists and freelancers of all types. Only in the world of magic truly wild success is even more elusive than in other fields of entertainment. Which is a shame, since the level of inventiveness that is the professional magician’s stock in trade piques the interests of experience designers and storytellers who know what’s what.
I reached out to Hume by means of the techno-magical tool we call email. Read the full interview after the jump.
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Robyn Gee on Monday, Aug. 13th
The game of politics makes some people gag. But for others, it’s what they live for.
Meet DJ, Ben and Nick — the protagonists of the new documentary “Follow the Leader,” which just received a $27,000 boost on Kickstarter.
The film follows these young men from the age of 16 through their first year in college. At age 16, all three have political ambitions to be national leaders.
Director Jonathan Goodman Levitt calls it a “political coming of age story” — an accurate title since two of the boys go through a serious political transformation. The project was born out of Goodman-Levitt’s hypothesis that the 9/11 attacks drastically affected the political beliefs and mindset of an entire generation of young people. (more…)
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For those of us with relatives who suffer mental health problems, Jonathan Caouette’s Walk Away Renee– a documentary about his relationship with his mentally ill mother– is a raw punch to the most sensitive parts of the soul. For anyone who has ever wondered what life must be like for those with mentally ill relatives I can answer with authority: it’s like this. (more…)
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2012 has become a year for earth-shaking documentaries. Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In stunned and angered me at Sundance this year and now The Invisible War– which also took it’s first bow in Park City– has done the same at this week’s Los Angeles Film Festival.
Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering take an unflinching look at the epidemic of rape in the armed forces and the broken institutional culture that allows sexual predators free access to what one expert in the documentary calls a “target rich environment”. The film mixes the harrowing personal tales of several ex-military personnel, not all of whom are women, with the on camera testimony of former military prosecutors frustrated with the system. Also in the mix are current military officials who appear to exist solely on a continuum of dangerously clueless to willfully obtuse.
Two Defense Department flacks come off particularly poorly in the footage that Dick and Ziering share. Rear Admiral Anthony Kurta’s blink rate was so extreme it brought to mind the old adage that liars blink more than those who are telling the truth. Studies have brought that into question, and anyone who has sat under camera lights knows how they can play havoc with your usual expressiveness, but the officer just does not project real confidence in his defense of the Navy’s handling of the criminal investigations of rape cases in the way he carries himself. To his credit he does not come off nearly as badly as Dr. Kaye Whitley, the former point person for the Defense Department on sexual abuse who the filmmakers manage to paint as a clueless, out of touch bubblehead. Nor does it appear to be a hatchet job by Dick and Ziering. There are some questions you need to have an answer beyond “I don’t know” when the subject is rape.
The filmmakers lay out a compelling case that the military is coddling sex offenders. The motivation appears to be saving face of those in positions of authority and an almost pathological fear that female service members use allegations of rape as a political tool. The damning conclusion the film reaches is that this unwillingness to give the issue the full weight it deserves creates an environment where serial sexual predators are able to hide in plain sight, and in so doing erode the effectiveness of the armed forces. The implication is in place by the time the last reel unspools: many of these rapes are preventable if the military would only choose to weed out the predators in their midst.
Dick and Ziering would be unable to make their case without the courageous selflessness of the women and men who are willing to share their stories on screen. How anyone could bear witness to their testimony and assume that they were seeking personal advantage is beyond me. These are people willing to unveil deep pain and shame, many of whom endure suicidal thoughts. Nevertheless they are willing to expose themselves so that others might one day know justice. They posses the very values we profess to admire in our military “heroes” and yet our military institutions treat them like trash.
I spent a great deal of time watching The Invisible War with fists clenched. More than once the film elicited gasps and murmurs of shame from the audience. Like Jarecki’s The House I Live In this is one of those documentaries that should be mandatory viewing for every citizen. The sexual predators allowed to roam free in the military are a problem for more than our armed forces– they are a moral stain on our nation. It is, after all, our tax dollars that are keeping these monsters in human form fed, sheltered, and free to prey on honorable men and women who have chosen to serve their country. Moreover: it is to our towns and cities that they return when they finally do leave service. Unpunished and emboldened to strike again.
The film is an effective call to action: as a society we cannot afford to let rape stand as an “occupational hazard” of military service as the civilian courts have ruled. While it is beyond uncomfortable to look directly at, to ignore these crimes is to surrender our society to the kind of corruption from which it may never recover.
The Invisible War enters release this Friday, June 22nd in New York, LA, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Boston and is distributed by Cinedigm an Docurama Films.
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Davey D on Friday, Jun. 15th
This weekend, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap opens in theaters, and it is absolutely deserving of an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. It’s compelling, witty and much-needed in terms of refocusing us on what hip hop, and rap in particular, is really about. There have been a number of documentaries put out over the years that have focused on emceeing, but this one really hits home for a few reasons.
First, the stories are being told by those who do it. This is important, because far too often the nuanced and subtle perspectives by the practitioners are often left out or overshadowed by everyone else when documentaries are made. There’s no middle-man, expert, punditry interpretation. Instead, you hear firsthand stories and thoughts and it leaves you understanding how and why hip hop, and in particular, rap, is an American art form given to the world.
The second thing, is we got to hear from many of the pioneers and see them execute their craft without the feeling like they were being rushed off or their interviews cut short to make room for more well-known or socially relevant artists.
Interviews with pioneering and iconic figures like Grandmaster Caz, Mele-Mel, and Big Daddy Kane are nicely balanced out with folks like Kanye West, Immortal Technique, and Eminem.
Ice T conducts each interview, pulling things out of his peers that many film makers probably couldn’t. It was good to see the camaraderie and mutual respect and admiration which often led humorous exchanges.
As with all hip hop docs, there’s no way to fit everyone and everything in. Some people will leave the theater feeling like the film didn’t include their favorite hometown rapper. There will be a few who say the film should’ve included more pioneers, more cats from the 80s, more cats from the 90s and millennium cats. Some will want more underground, others will want it to be more mainstream. Personally, I think Ice could’ve added a few more sistas in the mix. And even with all that, this is a must-see film. Especially since Ice allows each interviewee to talk and rap. He wasn’t cutting and editing just to fit everyone in. Honestly, the film could’ve been four hours long and I would’ve enjoyed every minute.
Check out the trailer for Art of Rap in theaters, and visit http://theartofrap.com/ to find show times in your area.
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Believe it or not, there’s a science to all of this. Sure, it’s a soft science, but it’s a science nonetheless. I have a couple of colleagues who I send breakdowns of potential campaigns to and they’ll all come back with a projected amount they can expect to raise in the same ballpark, give or take 10%. Then, sure enough, that’s about what that campaign will end up raising. If there was a fantasy Kickstarter league, we’d dominate it.
Where it gets interesting is when a campaign comes along that doesn’t easily fit into a category. Some because they’ve failed, but others because they’ve vastly exceeded what any of us would have projected.
Is it a fluke? Or are they doing something we should all be doing?
Adam Baker’s I’m Fine, Thanks sells itself as a feature-length documentary about complacency, which isn’t exactly the sort of description that jumps out of your computer screen and shakes you until all the money falls out of your wallet. Yet it has raised over $85,000 of it’s $100,000 goal, and it still has 8 days left. All by itself, that’s impressive, but when you consider it raised the funds on the strength of 3,300 backers, none of whom came in at a perk level greater than $1,000, it gets more impressive still.
There’s no Hollywood names attached. Brett Easton Ellis isn’t on-board. The director has virtually no IMDb credits to speak of (or at least, nothing that would explain this sort of audience). So what the hell is going on here?
Let’s go to the database. We’ve got 96 successful campaigns on file that were explicitly raising money for post-production of a feature-length documentary. They, on average, raised 115% of their goal, a number I’m Fine, Thanks is on pace to easily surpass. Here’s some more metrics:
There’s a couple of things to look at here. Clearly this is the profile of a campaign that’s leaning more toward building awareness for their film than strictly going after money. But, on some level, everyone’s trying to do that. And if you check the film out on Kicktraq.com, you can see there isn’t one big spike. It just keeps going up, more or less methodically. It’s not like Oprah sent everyone there or anything.
For this project, we would project it to need roughly 4,700 “likes” of the campaign on Facebook and 814 backers (we’d actually adjust that up to 1,150, or around $75/backer, to be safe in budgeting) in order to raise their current amount of $85,500. They’ve TRIPLED those projections. But they haven’t just tripled the backer projection, or the “likes” projection, they’ve tripled both of them, while keeping that ratio (Likes/Backers) in what we think is the “sweet spot” of a campaign that’s running at a good level of converting eyeballs to backers (anywhere from 3.5:1 to 4:1).
The campaign itself is good, but there’s very little about it that’s extraordinary. Still, it doesn’t make any big mistakes (other than that poster perk at $50, which is going to hurt their margins). They’ve only done 5 updates. There’s zero video updates. The pitch video is standard stuff.
But look where are those backers are–88% of them came in at the cheapest two perk levels. 88%!!! And the vast majority of those did the $5, DRM-free download of the full film, a download that’ll be available before it’s available to the general public.
And why not? If people are willing to give you money for your yet-unfinished film, why shouldn’t they get a download of it in return? It’s not it costs anything to fulfill that perk. It’s a very audience-friendly move, yet very few films try it. Why?
Well, one answer you’ll get is that it could negatively affect potential distribution deals. I asked Adam about that over email.
McNelly: Talk about the decision to put the DRM-free copy of the movie at $5. Where did that come from? Were you worried that sending the movie to your backers first would negatively affect potential distribution deals?
Baker: It was inspired by the comedian Louis C.K. who recently recorded his own comedy special and sold it straight to his fans for $5, DRM-free. It was wildly successful and as a fan and supporter of his – I was blown away by the strategy. I’m a lifetime fan now.
We were a little worried about hurting our chances of a distribution deal – but knew that affordable and direct digital distribution was very important to us. So, the pros of doing this strategy simply outweighed the drawback of hurting a traditional deal.
And maybe that’s driving things more than we know. Adam runs the website Man Vs. Debt, which has an audience that’s not to be ignored, but nothing to the level you’d need to support this sort of audience on a crowdfunding campaign. He’s got almost 15,000 followers on Twitter, but that’s not nearly enough either, and his Klout analysis agrees. Hell, they didn’t even launch the Facebook page until after the campaign launched (and they’ve barely updated it).
There’s also the not-small factor of the blog network spreading the word. Or, as Adam puts it, “Sure we don’t have any “Hollywood” stars – but we’ve been fortunate to have dozens and dozens of wildly popular bloggers and communities share it thousands of times.” That never hurts.
I think, in short, Adam found his niche, his audience, and he hit it hard. As he should. No other explanation makes sense.
And that niche, you’ll notice is not fellow independent filmmakers. Once you find yours, everything else gets so much simpler.
Matthew Lillard’s Fat Kid Rules the World campaign hit the goal with plenty of time to spare…Marie Ullrich is looking at needing a rally to hit her $35K goal for The Alley Cat…J. Reuben Appelman is raising funds for a documentary called The Sick of Sarah Movie…This camera bag looks pretty cool…A bunch of video game forums tried to bully the campaign of Anita Sarkeesian. $126K raised so far says they failed pretty spectacularly. Good. I won’t get into a rant here, but feel free to imagine your own string of profanity directed toward the idiots trying to stop her.
Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn’t lived anywhere in a long time.
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The New York based comedy group Olde English, facing a parting of ways, decided to go out with a bang on one last big project together. Taking a cue from the surrealist technique known as “the exquisite corpse”, the challenge for the troupe was for each member to write 15 pages of a feature, knowing only what the previous five pages of the script were.
Which pretty much guarantees a weird, anything goes end product. The finished film is a hybrid between the work the troupe created and a documentary detailing their process.
Comedy fans in Los Angeles will get a chance to find out for themselves how it all turned out when the film debuts at the Dances With Films festival on June 2nd.
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WATCH THIS is a weekly column which highlights films and filmmakers from around the Web.
There’s a moment in HILL, the most recent installment of the This Must Be the Place series of shorts, that strikes me hard in the gut: Allan Hill, the film’s central character, looking out at the decrepit Packard plant in Detroit he calls home. The trees have no leaves, the landscape is one of cement and steel, of rust and garbage; a stray animal wanders around piles of refuse in the background. Viewing this and speaking to us, the viewers, Allan has this to say:
Everyone thought…kinda wondered why I’m here, you know? But then I look at myself and look at this place here. It looks like a perfect marriage.
This Must Be the Place is an ongoing film project from filmmakers Ben Wu and David Usui. They describe it as “series of short films that explore the idea of home; what makes them, how they represent us, why we need them.” HILL, which came out a bit over a month ago, is the fourth in the series, but the first one I’ve seen. It immediately made quick work for me of deciding what this week’s featured film would be.
The more documentaries about interesting characters I see, the more I am convinced there simply can’t be any more waiting in the wings to be filmed. Where, I always wonder, do these people come from anyway? The real art of documentary cinema is less technical and more visceral. Anyone can point a camera at a subject; it’s picking the subject that is the tough part. Allan Hill, hidden beneath the detritus of America’s once great city, is a great subject.
He never goes so far as to tell us what drove him to live in an abandoned plant because we don’t need to know. He’s a proud caretaker and the film’s only concern is how he lives. Hill has no plumbing, but he makes do in what he compares to living in a two-acre “farm with a roof over it.” He talks briefly about the troubled economy and how Detroit will one day make a comeback, but overall he is content to live his life as he sees fit. There is nothing ideological about the way he lives; it merely suits him.
For Wu and Usui’s part, the film is beautifully put together. The cinematography is spot on; their camera “gets” the space very well. They cover the massive plant from nearly every angle, but the focus always remains clearly on the space and its lone inhabitant. As we move through the space and Allan’s thoughts, there are some lovely, low tracks playing to boost us along. Again, they fit the space and the story nicely.
I point all of these technical details out because in my Internet video viewings I find that filmmakers’ egos obscure so many otherwise decent projects. HILL is a work of art, meticulously crafted to tell one man’s very specific story. I am yet to view the other films in the series, but I am excited to check them out. And This Must Be the Place is definitely a series I’m excited to see more of in the future.
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