Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Crowdsourcing Part II: Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

Some more thoughts about crowdsourcing, based on my experience as part of the “Reply To All” campaign team, my first experience of Kickstarter fundraising. This is part II - you can read part I of this article here.

Get All The Money

Fourth lesson: remember that you will not get all the money to spend on your project. Even if successful, a percentage is paid to the crowdsourcing website, and another large bite will be needed to pay for the rewards.

You Are A Filmmaker, Damn It!

Fifth lesson: Use your talents for the campaign. You are a filmmaker, damn it! (unless you are something else) and I’m fairly sure a Kickstarter campaign video is a kind of film. So produce it like a film – write a script, use locations wisely, rehearse, shoot in decent quality with good lighting and sound, and pay attention to editing and post-production. We had lots of lovely feedback about our campaign video in particular.

If you are not a filmmaker but, say, a graphic artist or musician – the same applies, make sure you incorporate your own artwork or music into your campaign, and give it the best production value you can.

Dive Straight In

Final lesson: before you dive straight in, I would recommend studying successful campaigns, particularly for similar projects. Follow or back one or two interesting-looking projects yourself so you get a feel for the process, and watch plenty of videos before making yours. We learnt a lot, particularly about choices of reward, and the importance of keeping the updates flowing, from other short film campaigns.

Thanks to our backers, we’ve already been able to shoot “Reply To All” at a standard that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible, and I can't wait to see the final result once the edit is complete. As director I found that the involvement of backers was a great motivator when we were under pressure, I felt I wanted to  keep going and create something worthy of all the support.

Crowdfunding is definitely an option for funding an artistic project provided you have the stamina and organization. There’s very little to lose and everything to gain. However at time of writing the Kickstarter success rate is about 43% (up to date figure here) so a Plan B is a good idea – despite all the hard work we put into achieving our result I know luck also played a part.

You can find out about “Reply To All” on the Caramie Productions website or Facebook page.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Game Of Hobbits [Review: The Desolation Of Smaug]

If only The Hobbit had been written by that other fantasy writer with the initials R.R.

Just as with An Unexpected Journey the expansion from short young adult novel to blockbuster trilogy leads to pacing problems, particularly action sequences that continue for much too long, even though beautifully shot and choreographed with plenty of humour – the barrel ride is so good the length is almost forgiveable. It doesn’t help that no-one important is in real peril, we know the main characters will all survive at least until the next film, a criticism that doesn’t tend to get levelled at the work of the other R.R. quite so often.

Another problem for R.R. but not for R.R. is gender balance: I commented on the absence of female roles in An Unexpected Journey and it seems Peter Jackson heard my cries of pain.

A romantic side-plot has been pulled from thin air in order to give an interesting role to Evangeline Lilly as warrior elf Tauriel. This jars with my memories of the novel but I am thankful: there is such a thing as being too faithful to the source.

Even if it drags in places, The Desolation Of Smaug is more enjoyable than An Unexpected Journey. Both films feature outstanding performances from the all-star cast which now includes Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch as a distinctly Sherlock-like dragon, and a bizarre but highly amusing cameo by Stephen Fry.

Incidentally I should stress that I saw The Desolation Of Smaug in 3D/24FPS so I cannot comment on the additional frames included in the HFR version which could well take the film in a whole different direction.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Crowdsourcing Part I: Get Your Kicks On Route 66

Some reflections on raising money through crowdsourcing, following the successful “Reply To All” Kickstarter campaign. I've been asked several times how we did it and I have to say I'm no expert, this is my first campaign, and these are just my thoughts and opinions. You can also find out more about “Reply To All” on the Caramie Productions website and Facebook page and I will continue to post updates on the production here.

Free Money From Strangers

First lesson: Kickstarter is not a way to get free money from strangers. Unless you already have a global brand or are lucky enough to go viral, you will be raising money by approaching people and asking them to give you stuff, just like any other form of fundraising: mostly this will be friends, family and colleagues and you will need to campaign hard through all your online or offline social networks.

And by hard I mean hard. I thought I was working hard until I saw the dedication some of my team-mates were putting in. Being part of a team will work in your favour – you will have more social contacts, and you will be able to push each other to succeed. We finished with 103 backers most of whom are known to at least one team member.

Watch The Money Roll In

Second lesson: you can’t just post your video then sit back and watch the money roll in. The aim is to engage with your backers and keep them up to date with your progress. We posted updates (text, written, photo or video) every few days. The campaign was planned in advance although we also updated on some events, such as the casting process, as they happened.

Hundreds Or Thousands Of Pounds

Third lesson: most backers will not sign up for rewards costing hundreds or thousands of pounds. Our high end rewards such as signed art materials, VIP screening tickets, being included in the film as an animation, and producer credits were of interest to a few backers - it's certainly worth offering these premium rewards, but it’s probably best to assume you will do most of your fundraising through lower level rewards. Most backers do want some level of access to your finished project, in our case digital download or DVD, and we had good take-up on coffee mugs. Everyone seems to like coffee mugs.

To be continued…

Friday, 7 February 2014

Work in progress: Fearful Symmetree

Two background frames from the background for an animated sequence. Trees were generated using the Sapling add-on, bark is a combination of several procedural textures. Produced in Blender 2.68