It is 4 AM and I wake up with a feeling that a large fist in the center of my stomach is pulling my whole body inside. My muscles crack with tension like guitar strings too tight. My back and neck are ready to snap. I am afraid to move.
Surrounded by darkness of the night with mind still hazy from the sleep it takes me a couple of seconds to put a name of the cause of that tension:
We are short of that much money.
Short of $40 000 to just finish the film, without counting how much it will take to send it to festivals, to market, promote and self-distribute it. The expense of the final format (DCP) is not included in the sum, either.
I admit, I was a fool. I had heard about 873 times Bill Plympton publicly (at panels, interviews and parties) say that he made his “Idiots and Angels” for $200 000.
- My rent is 3 times cheaper than his, – I thought. – And I can be more frugal with other things, too. I’m certain can make an animated feature for $100 000.
I am a Queen of Frugal. But in the last 2 months it became obvious that frugal isn’t what it takes. It also became obvious that Bill didn’t include his studio rent in his budget calculations.
Rent is probably the most unavoidable cost of making an animated film. Animation takes a long time during which you must have a roof to shield your drawings and electronics from rain, and you must have a floor to rest your tables on, and you must have walls and a door to regulate unwelcome/welcome visitors/distractions. You have to pay rent as long as you are using the space, so, for example, if it takes 5 years (it took Nina Paley 5 years to make “Sita Sings the Blues” by herself) to make a feature and if you pay $2000 a month, in 5 years it’ll be $120 000.
To cut the time shorter you could ask other people to come and help you. But a person cannot help you for free because they have their own rent to pay. So you might end up paying $2000 a month to people helping you to shorten the time you are paying the rent. However you look at it, it is $120 000, in 5 years or in 2. And that’s just when we look at rent.
At the moment “Rocks In My Pockets” is facing two big expenses that one cannot make a film without: music and sound. It was included in the budget, but the coloring took more resources than I had wishfully anticipated (I guess I write my budgets with a great deal of delusion, if I didn’t have a touch of madness when accounting money I would never do what I do: make films). In a few weeks I would have to let my 3 young, hard working assistants go and shelve the film for an indefinite time.
I feel responsible for my team, they count on being the ones to finish the film, they count on having this work, they need it. I also feel responsible for the project, it is looking at me expecting me to give it a full life. Mental health is in the center of national conversation right now, I’d like “Rocks” to be part of it. We need to find money ASAP.
Applying for grants and waiting to be rejected takes a long time. Organizing one fundraising event like we did in the past doesn’t raise the amount we need. So, I turned to the place I’d heard does the Crowd Funding Magic: Kickstarter.
Starting a Kickstarter campaign is not unlike writing a grant proposal. Except, you are trying to appeal to real people, not an intimidating art/film committee. It took 5 weeks to write the campaign pitch and to make the video. The pitch was thought and over-thought and thought over again. The rewards were listed and re-listed and re-shuffled hundred times. It seems, we might be ready. We are starting the campaign on the morning of January 15th.
The stakes are very high. The sum we need is high, too. Initially, the possibility of a failure made so public was stressing me out. By now am burned out to even think about it. It doesn’t matter, a public humiliation might teach me a thing or two. I am willing to risk it all.
The calculation is simple: if 600 people join the efforts to support “Rocks In My Pockets” with $67 each, we will meet the goal.
But are there 600 people in the World who would feel so strong for a funny film about depression that they would give their hard earned $67?
Thus, the gnawing feeling at 4 AM. The nervous tension, the feeling of despair. The fear.
Jennifer Fox raised over $150 000 on Kickstarter in 2011 for her documentary “My Reincarnation”. Here’re her words of wisdom:
“The idea that most filmmaking is a business is a false notion. We are in the arts. It’s an expensive art, but in order for the arts to survive they need patronage. So I think it’s almost a false axiom or incorrect concept to accept that arts pay for themselves. Why are the arts invaluable if they don’t pay for themselves? Art is society’s reflection on itself. Art provides a really important function. It’s crucial that we don’t talk about “donors,” we talk about “patrons,” and we don’t talk of “give us your money,” we talk about “participating in a process,” “joining movements,” “supporting the arts.” With these rewards it’s not implied that you give me something, and I give you nothing. I think we’re giving a lot back to the people who make contributions.”