Making a movie outside of the studio system: Part 1 – Why crowdfunding sucks.
If your dream is to make it in Hollywood, open a business, invent a gadget, write a book, do stand up comedy, join the circus, or sing and dance on Broadway: What are you willing to do to make your dreams come true? For me starting at a very young age, I knew I wanted to make movies, engineering every detail of life to lead to the ultimate goal of directing films – bloody horror films! As a kid I would put on weird puppet shows for my parents, in high school I would make spooky little commercials for the school, lip-synced music videos, and film local bands and sports. I would jump at any chance to get in front of or behind a camera. From public access TV shows, to set visits for BloodyDisgusting.com, to marketing for Repo and producing on The Devil’s Carnival films, my life has been one giant film school, all leading to that ultimate goal: directing.
In 2013 the first of three investors got behind the early germ of the idea of making a film about Krampus, and the next chapter of life began, the stars had finally aligned and I set off to make a feature length film, MY first f’n horror movie called Slay Belles! Months of script revisions and notes with my co-writer Jessica Luhrssen had brought us to the day when we could pull the trigger and go into pre-production. We had a modest but reasonable budget, a script that included a full creature suited Krampus monster, Santa Claus, an abandoned amusement park and a cast that was better than I had dreamed it could ever be. We shot Slay Belles over the course of three weeks in the mountains of Lake Arrowhead CA. After wrapping the principal photography exhausted and exhilarated we had 85% of the film in the can ready for post production.
Here comes the truth, the true unfiltered stuff that no one wants to tell you. It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t shed a great light on me. I went over budget. This is my fault, due to overly ambitious scheduling, locations costing triple of what was budgeted, line items not being accounted for and more. I can bore you ?with more details, or give you excuses and try to point fingers, but the blame is on my shoulders. No money left to pay the people needed to finish the film though post. The original investors had already put up a lot of money. By the time we wrapped, the three investors were all tapped out on cash and my bank account was bled dry.
I tried for over a year to get traditional financing for finishing funds for Slay Belles, and I received a handful of offers. All of those offers included contracts that would allow me enough money to finish the film, but it would never ever pay back my initial investors (welcome to indie filmmaking). I will not knowingly screw over the people that had the faith in me to get the film made. We have all made mistakes, but this isn’t one I am willing to do. So flash forward to finally caving in and resorting to crowdfunding on Indiegogo to get enough money to finish Slay Belles. http://igg.me/at/slaybelles
We all get bombarded with requests from Gofundme, Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and they do get annoying. It does feel shameful asking for help, especially when close friends have voiced their opinion that I have resorted to “begging and panhandling”. Some people firmly believe that crowdfunding is an unforgivable thing to ask of people who are friends, family and fans. While no one comes right out and says it to your face, it’s easy to read between the lines when people say things like:
-Do you really think you have enough clout to do this?
-Why are you asking for so much? You will be lucky to get a few thousand.
-So you’re like that potato salad that raised a million bucks.
-Distributors don’t like crowdfunded films.
-Anyone can beg online, maybe enough people are stupid enough to donate.
-You won’t be taken seriously as a filmmaker because anyone can beg – digitally.
-Won’t you feel bad asking people to help?
It sucks asking for help, and it does feel shameful. To be brutally honest, I put off the option of crowdfunding for a whole year because of the simple reason that it would make me look like a failure that I didn’t raise enough money through traditional routes. Our egos are a tough thing to fight.
Is Crowdfunding panhandling?
Is it really bad to ask for help when you need it?
When is it OK to ask for help?
Crowdfunding isn’t a walk in the park. It isn’t free money, it’s a full time job to try and stay on top of everything. So through my bruised ego and all of the shame that comes with asking for help, it’s humbling and uplifting knowing that loads of people have decided that they are willing to help out. We are still a long ways from the goal, but as of today we have over 100 donations from friends, family and even some strangers who want to help or want to see the finished film. I am so thankful and humbled through this experience. The amount of generosity is overwhelming and everyday is an emotional roller-coaster, seeing so many people willing to help. I can only humbly say…Thank you to all of you for helping, it super crazy means the world to me!
When is it Ok to crowdfund? That’s a hard question to answer, if we make it to our goal then it will be much easier to answer, but until that happens, I can tell you that it’s a tough decision to willingly annoy people who you know and love, and many others who you don’t know to ask them for help to support my crazy dream. I hope that we will all be sitting in a theater or in front of our TVs this coming holiday watching Krampus and Santa Claus battle it out, and I can say, I’m happy we decided to crowdfund.