By Zak Forsman, September 20th, 2011

The following is a guest post by Koo.

I’m currently crowdfunding my first feature film, and rather than pitch it to you, I’ll first share this “multimedia lookbook” that I put together. My project, a youth basketball feature entitled Man-child, is participating at Independent Film Week in New York this week and I assembled this clip to help producers understand what I’m going for aesthetically with the film. It’s just a combination of clips from other films paired with a voiceover, but it should give you some idea of what I’ll be going for:

Okay, so how did I arrive at this point and why am I making this movie?

After co-directing the “urban western” web series The West Side with Zack Lieberman, we got an agent in LA and attempted to get a larger interactive project made in Hollywood. One lesson we learned in this process: you can spend a lot of time knocking on doors, taking meetings, and putting together pitches and assorted documents. When you set out to be a filmmaker and tell stories that you’re passionate about, however, these aren’t the activities to which you aspire. You’re not getting better as a storyteller because you’re not telling stories.

I knew coming out of that experience that I wanted to tell a story I was personally passionate about, and so I set about researching and writingthe script forMan-child.And if you’re going to crowdfund a film, it has to be a project in which you’re personally invested. Great example: Zak Forsman’s campaign to make a feature about his father. I grew up playing basketball in North Carolina and so the story of Man-childis definitely personal to me.

Why this is a story worth telling

Man-child takes place in the surprisingly high-stakes world of youth basketball. Sometimes referred to as grassroots basketball, the fascinating world (largely unseen by the general public) has been getting younger and younger in its corporatization. Middle schoolers are now nationally ranked and shoe companies sponsor teams and tournaments in an effort to be the first to discover the next Michael Jordan (and sign him to an unwritten contract).

In response to this, in 2009 the NCAA lowered the age limit on who can be considered an official basketball prospect to include 7th graders. They did this in an effort to protect kids from unregulated recruiting.

This world is compelling to me for a number of reasons. We’re talking about kids for whom the sky is the limit, but more often than not they have very little in their lives right now. Thus they (and their families) are more easily won over with offers of money, free shoes, and the other benefits that street agents, coaches, and other hangers-on offer them.

The fact is that the vast majority of talented teenagers will never make it as professional athletes, but it’s more than just a matter of athleticism: it comes down to the decisions they make. These are decisions that few of us have ever had to face, much less at such a young age. This is why I find the world of youth basketball to be so interesting from a dramatist’s perspective: big decisions for little kids.

Why I’m crowdfunding the film

First off, that part about knocking on doors — there’s nothing wrong with trying to get your film funded in a traditional manner. But as someone who’s spent 18 months sharing everything I possibly can about filmmaking on my website NoFilmSchool, I felt if I could get my readers behind the project that it could be a film that’s enabled by a community that actually wants to see the film, as opposed to an executive that thinks the film will be profitable. I want to make a basketball movie about real-world, quiet moments as opposed to big melodramatic set-pieces, and I didn’t feel the Powers That Be would be interested in making the film that I want to see.

Will we make it? I don’t know. The goal is an ambitious $115,000 — sports movies are logistically complex and expensive to make, unfortunately — and there are only a few short days left. Check out my campaign video if you’re interested and good luck with your own personal passion projects!

Koo co-wrote, directed, shot, and edited the “urban western” web series The West Side, which won the Webby Award for Best Drama Series. He is one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film and runs the website NoFilmSchool, which focuses on DIY filmmaking and independent creativity; Man-child will be his first feature.

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Posted in audience crowdfunding

Zak Forsman is an artist-entrepreneur whose emotionally-charged motion pictures are known for highly authentic performances and beautiful compositions. They have been praised by Ain’t It Cool News as “Brilliant” and “Absolutely Gorgeous” and by Filmmaker Magazine as “Very Accomplished, Amazing.”

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By Kholi Hicks, April 21st, 2011

Off the top of my skull, even reading the title immediately makes me think “Yeah right.”   I think it’s a fitting (if controversial) title for the topic that’s to be talked about here.  Before I begin, please, allow me to post a disclaimer:

None of this is fact, nor is it gospel.  This is what my experience is at the current time of writing.

I want to share a few thoughts about what I’m trying to do with my first feature film and the reasons why I lightly heeded the warnings of a wall of Caution Tape and ducked under it to attempt to walk right into the front door.  It’s a very ambitious project, the aspirations of which can be summed up with the pitch.

It’s superbad with super powers, or Harold and Kumar go High(er) concept.

To go a slight bit further, Avery and Pete: Superseeds is a gamer-generation adventure soaked in the batter that 90’s Saturday Morning cartoons were poured from. Set in Los Angeles, following slacker best-friends on a mission to stop their buddies–and enemies–from using their newfound superpowers for bad.

Right away, we’re talking about some very key elements here but, primarily, visual effects.  So, not only did I have to juggle fifteen or so key cast members, ten locations that I can count off of the top of my head, and everything else that comes with the territory of a nano budget production I now have to deal with getting believable post visual effects done, something that’s worth seeing on a big screen at the very least.

I’ve failed to mention the budget, but the Kickstarter for Superseeds (which can be easily found by a google search–it was successful) reflects more than half of it, so now we’re talking sheer lunacy.

I’m literally moving away from the traditional nano budget motto, where it’s mostly one location, two to three people, a dramatic situation, etc.

I’ll spare everyone the details on production itself until a later episode, and go into the mentality behind it in bullet points:

A. There are too many nano budgets that take place in one location, with a few actors (some are good, some are not), relying on horror gimmicks or other very similar (even though well done) storylines.  And, I swore I would never make a feature that opens with someone tied to a chair and bloody, no matter how easy it was.

B. I wanted to make my first one count for something serious.  It needed to at least smell like I tried to play a big boys game, and competently. Aside from getting lost in the sea, it was a test for myself to see if I was worth the criticism I dished out to big Hollywood features.  I’ve walked away with a newfound respect for a lot of directors and movies I hammered, regardless of if they are bad or not.

C. Even at this nano-budget, with the five years of experience here in Los Angeles, I knew I could pull it off. And, by knew, it was a gut feeling that I could make this happen one way or another. Thankfully, a lot of the key elements began to fall into place the second I made the decision to not wait for hundreds of thousands of dollars and just do it.

D. I wanted to make sure that it was worthwhile for everyone involved, from cast to crew.  Form the onset, it was destined to be a small crew, a skeleton crew.  The skeleton of a badger. I was going to shoot in tight spaces with a big camera(s), there was enough money to either feed a lot of people bad food or a few people decent food, and with the crew being so small I wanted each person to get a very prominent credit.

The actors needed to benefit too, and they will regardless of if I move forward.  They’ll have footage on their reel of themselves as tasteful superheroes (no spandex suits here), and the production quality was going to look several hundreds of thousands times more than what the budget really was.

People needed to benefit as much as I wanted to myself, take care of everyone. This is why, after this first article, the I becomes we

E. And, most importantly, I wanted to at least break even.  I didn’t hear enough stories of nano budgets getting advances,didn’t see enough of them getting into the trades like Gareth’s did or Lena’s Tiny Furniture.  When I began to look at them, I noticed what the trend was.

It wasn’t necessarily that they had no star power, they just lacked a certain entertainment cog that a mass audience is looking for. Or, better yet, pays for.  Production quality AND value ride along with this as well. Not a lot of people were attempting to compete with Hollywood on their own ground, with a fraction of the money. Probably for very good reason, as well. So, there is no fault or blame, I know why and I respect why.

But, I’m going to go where fewer fish school.

Rest assured, though, it doesn’t mean that it was any easier or harder for me. I am sure I experienced a lot of the blood bath that other filmmakers have, do, will.  It’s just another path I wanted to take.

With the investment that’s been made (Kickstarter, My own pocket–I’m so broke right now it’s a crime, and through the gracious dollars of private investors), I knew that if it didn’t happen with a distribution deal, there was a world of self distro opening up that I could recoup the small dividends with and then open up a profit as well. Again, this goes back to having content that’s at least competently “mimicking” what Hollywood tends to churn out.

This post isn’t to tell you that I’ve been successful by doing it, it’s to bring some awareness to the project. A Case Study of something that’s not exactly mumblecore (I respect it, trust me), definitely not a star vehicle, absolutely not well-budgeted enough for what’s going on, hopefully something that inspires the other Little Macs who are afraid to jump in the ring with the Bald Bulls and Sodapopinski’s of the Film World.   Ten points if you get the classic 8-bit video game reference.

Stay tuned to the New Breed for updates on progress of Avery and Pete: Superseeds.  I’ll spoon-feed you info from my experience at simply trying to entertain the way the Big H-Wood does, successful or not, and what I plan to do with the property beyond simply creating a single feature film.

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Posted in audience crowdfunding distribution production journal

Kholi Hicks LA tutored dawner of many hats, currently residing on the West Side, mildly relevant depending on who you ask. Surviving mostly on Wendy's ninety-nine cent value menu while attempting to construct a career, more than likely to be survived by a savvy more-feminine, prettier other half-slash-teammate thanks to the Wendy's ninety-nine cent value menu. Don't laugh, Ghostbusters is a really good movie! With only one-half of a short film to speak of, currently in Post-Production on a first feature length film. Avery and Pete: Superseeds -!/Superseeds)

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By Zeke Zelker, October 18th, 2010

Times are tough, listener-ship is down and Clarence Lindeweiler needs to come up with a plan to save his struggling alternative rock radio station, WTYT 960. Clarence’s plan is to host a billboard sitting contest, where four lucky contestants have the opportunity to win, “a beautiful mobile home and nine-sixty hundred dollars”. All they have to do, is be the last person to survive, living on a billboard.

Two weeks ago we announced our next project, a transmedia project based around the movie Billboard an Uncommon Contest for Common People!. I warned everybody in attendance that they could shape the course of the project, be a part of it, be immersed in it or simply be entertained by it when the finished movie comes out. I guess I should warn you too. This is what has transpired thus far.

The day before our announcement we launched our indiegogo crowd funding site. Our site outlines what the project is about, how the funds will be used, a description of the perks that we’re offering and details on how contributions can be tax deductible through our fiscal sponsorship with Fractured Atlas. Check it out, donate and please give me your feedback.

Prior to the announcement we sent out press alerts to 20 news organizations in the area, in fact twice, two days leading up to the announcement and the day of. We sent out invites to about 100 people to join us for the big news. Well, it poured down five inches of rain that day but we still had twenty people show up and two people from the press. While I was discussing the project live, people at the office where emailing out press releases. Why did we feel it was important to make an announcement? The project is inspired by a real contest that took place in the early eighties in the area and we need local supporters, a.k.a. funders, to help us make the project a reality.

We’ve learned that press begets press. Press also builds credibility with potential supporters, which can help a lot. The press that we have received, has resulted in over 130,000 impressions for the project thus far, which savvy businesses could have already been capitalizing on. A buzz on the street helps too when you start making phone calls to people, but it doesn’t exactly equate to dollars. We’re attempting to raise 10% of our budget locally.

We feel by having 10% of our budget in place, will also prove to those people who are on the fence of support, that the project has some legs and carry them over to the other side of support.

That is my focus for the next couple of weeks, to seek out some local brand sponsorships before I go national with a press campaign. I may look for someone who would be willing to match donations dollar for dollar for a given amount of time up to a certain dollar amount. Maybe you or someone you know could help us achieve our goal?

Stay tuned…

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Posted in INDIE FILM CAPITALSIM Storytelling audience crowdfunding transmedia

Zeke Zelker – an award winning filmmaker, blends art and commerce in all that he does. His latest film InSearchOf is not only creating buzz about the content of the story line but also for his business techniques. Always creating new revenue streams by blending traditional distribution outlets, adapting others to suit his film’s needs, and pioneering some of his own Zeke has been forging a pathway to profitability. He is currently developing on a transmedia project that will begin unraveling 2010.

By Zeke Zelker, September 10th, 2010

It’s been awhile! As politicians are heavily campaigning, attempting to add constituents money to their political coffers in return for “favors” or “supporting” their political agenda, there are many lessons to be learned on the fund raising front. Some of which I have done in the past and will be doing in the future.

I could cover a wall with the political meal invites I have received this season from my politician friends. Throw a party, EVERYONE loves a party especially if there’s a good reason. Over the years I have held cocktails parties, sit down dinners and “get canned with Zeke” (parties specializing in amazing canned beers) blowouts to raise funds for various film projects. Some have been successful, others not. The lessons learned: invited cast or a special guest, people need a reason to fork over their money and to get them excited. Know who you should be inviting. Aunt Lulu may not drink canned beer, she’s a draught sort of gal so invited her to the cocktail party featuring vodka X. Get brands or restaurants involved. People can identify with these things and they bring more excitement to the event. Don’t be afraid to ask just make sure there is some sort of return for them on their investment aka booze donation. Send out invitations, via mail, email, facebook events. The way you invite people should be a reflection of the type of event it is. I have raised as little as $380 to over $7,000.

There a couple of crowd funding sites out there where people can donate at various levels in return for perks. I really like indiegogo. They have an amazing tool kit and innovative ways to help artists achieve fund raising success. They’re also approachable and hands on. I plan on using them on my next project which I will be announcing very shortly. A friend of mine is currently using kickstarter for his innovative project the 8mm Film Project. My biggest suggestion; when it comes to crowd funding, give away perks that are unique and worthwhile and have a project that resonates with people. My wife and I were shocked when someone we did not know from California donated $500 to her Hand-Some Journey campaign.

Do not be afraid to ask for money outright. Send out a donation pamphlet describing your project and the different levels that people can support you. Remember fund raising is a campaign it’s an uphill battle and you need as many tool in your arsenal as possible. Be a little bold. If you believe in your project, you are the best salesperson to pitch your project and raise money for it. I have had politicians personally ask me for my financial support and I didn’t get much in return. Go to public events where you might run into people that you sent information to, follow up with them, ASK them.

Often times politicians will call on certain supporters to help them raise money by holding sales: bake sales, hunting trips, car washes, etc. Be different. Hold a Ballyhoo for a Kazoo sale! Sell kazoos outside your local supermarket. Kids will love ‘em and it will drive the shoppers crazy, thirty kids playing their kazoos in the store, imagine the sight. Really there are so many ways to sell things to raise funding.

Every town or city have different resources that could be used to tap into your fund raising efforts. Grants, scholarships, access to public equipment, etc. Make a list of things you will need in your budget and try to obtain the use of the item through your local community. Let’s say you need passenger vans, ask your local YMCA. You need a condor for a shot, ask your township maintenance department. It never hurts to ask and be creative in your ask, always give something in return.

I’m certain there are so many ways that politicians are raising money that we all can learn from. Over the next couple of months I will be writing about how I’m raising money for my next project. I know it isn’t going to be easy but I will share my insights and lessons as they are happening.

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Posted in audience biz crowdfunding

Zeke Zelker – an award winning filmmaker, blends art and commerce in all that he does. His latest film InSearchOf is not only creating buzz about the content of the story line but also for his business techniques. Always creating new revenue streams by blending traditional distribution outlets, adapting others to suit his film’s needs, and pioneering some of his own Zeke has been forging a pathway to profitability. He is currently developing on a transmedia project that will begin unraveling 2010.

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By Mike Ambs, May 4th, 2010

I’m not sure that tonight I will get much sleep – at around 4 in the morning I’ll be heading to the Detroit airport with several bags of equipement and one under-packed suitcase of clothes. In the air I plan on reading over the film’s script again and look for holes in the storyboards and shot-list. I’m excited. I’m nervous.

It still amazes me to stop and think that all of *this* is thanks to everyone who helped Amanda and I hit our goal on kickstarter. And I don’t simply mean that in a sense of backing the project, but all the people who helped share it, who wrote emails to their friends, who twittered and who posted it to their facebook pages on multiple occasions. KSR campaigns are a lot of hard work, and we could not have come so far on our own.

I think it’s best (because I have a lot of packing to do still) to leave you with this video that we first posted when launching our campaign – I think it really helps put the next 10 days in perspective:

FToM + Kickstarter = Love² from mike ambs ☂ on Vimeo.

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Posted in crowdfunding doc

Mike Ambs currently lives in Ypsilanti. He loves to film things and tell stories. And read on the subway. He's pretty sure blue whales are his power animal.

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