Money Blues.

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:

$40 000.

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.”

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Fundraising, Hazards of being an artist, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Money Blues.

  1. Jud says:

    Nice presentation. I have shared it.

  2. Bob says:

    You only need 599 more donor/supporters because I will be kicking in my $67 as soon as your Kickstarter page is up. I believe strongly in your message and, as you do, that the time is now for that message to be shared around our country. I also just really want to see your film because I like your work so much.
    best wishes!

  3. sean says:

    hi signe,

    have you heard of openfilm dot com or filmannex dot com? please check them out. they are social networks designed for indie filmmakers. both have an ad based model to generate revenue for the filmmaker. openfilm, i think, has more money behind it. plus a couple of hollywood names. they also have a festival option for the paid accounts. it’s quite detailed, you should check it out.

    film annex is basically a video blog host. they have 15 second ads play in front of the video and banner ads. not quite as slick as openfilm, but it seems to work pretty well. a friend of mine hosts his web series there and it’s generated a suprising amount of money for him since his first episode aired in the summer.

    also, for digital distribution there is KinoNation dot com. a hirez version of your film is all that’s needed and they split the revenue they generate. they encode your film for just about every digital and VOD service out there. they are in beta and accepting trailers. but it’s probably a little early for you.

    finally, there is VHX dot com. they help you to sell your film directly from your website. they take care of the backend and take a small percent of every sale.

    i wish you the best of luck. it sucks to read about the troubles filmmakers go thru to get their art made. especially in this day and age. things are changing so fast, thanks to the web, it is hard to keep pace.

    i hope i helped! keep at it, it’s worth it.

    sean wickett

    • THANK YOU, Sean!
      YES I heard about VHX and Open Film, but I am going to look into Filmmanex, too. THANK YOU for the information! I am excited about the new opportunities for independent filmmakers – it will be a new golden age for film once people figure out how to make it all work for everybody. Right now the marketing side is a bit overwhelming. And sites don’t generate too much income (if making a movie cost $100 000 won’t you want to make that money back and a little bit more?), yet.
      We shall see!
      Thank you!

  4. Esn says:

    I probably wouldn’t pay $67, but I’d pay the price of a movie ticket or a bit more if I got a nice-quality DRM-free digital copy of the film in return. Doesn’t really matter when it’s delivered – it could be some time after the main theatrical release.

    Bill Plympton’s $75,000 Kickstarter campaign seems to be very close to success, by the way – perhaps some encouragement…

    • YES that is one of our rewards – for $15 you’ll get a DRM free digital copy of the film plus several other small things.
      I hear that DVDs are on their way out.
      : )
      As to Bill’s campaign success – Bill is The BILL PLYMPTON. No one can do what he does. He reaps the harvest of hard work of the last 30 years, and his “Simpson’s opening gig brought awareness about him to mainstream.
      Although Bill is a great inspiration for all of us indies, I am still not sure if I can pull off my $40 000 goal.
      : )

      • Esn says:

        “I hear that DVDs are on their way out.”
        Oh no, I’ve been spotted! 🙂 Yes, I suppose the relative anonymity of the internet makes me feel a bit freer to write opinions like that on Kickstarter comments pages…

    • Oh no! I didn’t spot you, Esn!
      : )

  5. make that 598 people left to find! I hope you get all the money . . i’m going through exactly the same things at the moment, and your new post really spoke to me – trying to get the money and most importantly the physical space to make these things happen in, and it’s so hard and can really make you feel like it is totally impossible, but I don’t think it is, or the universe wouldn’t have let you start this project in the first place. I hope you get all the money you need to finish this, I can’t wait to see it!

    • Thank you, Matthew! YES sometimes it feels like Universe is making it happen with our minds and hands. We have to trust that what we do is necessary for larger entity than ourselves. Otherwise – why do it just for our little Ego fulfillment?

  6. vm says:

    I’m sure you can complete a feature on your own or in a small group, even without any funding and in your spare time. but I’m not so sure you can do it with handdrawn animation. the visual style dictates here… if it takes 2 months to complete 3 minutes you’re in trouble… cuz it would take 5 years to just animate the thing, in theory, but practically… much longer.

    • Virgil, recently there was an animated film that received rave reviews – “Consuming Spirits”- that took 10 years to make. To spend 10 years on one project is mind boggling for me. I animate on paper and can make about 80 drawings a day. Since I work on 4’s and use a lot of holds, on a lucky day I can animate up to 40 seconds. I had animated “Rocks” 90 minutes in a year and 3 months. Coloring those drawings takes longer.
      I don’t believe in making a feature film on your spare time – I have done that with my shorts and it works for a short, but feature requires a tremendous focus and coordinated effort.

  7. Ben says:

    Great to see the film is nearly finished and you have my support for this final push!
    While I wish I’d been following this sooner I’ve been enthusiastically reading through the blog and all of the film’s many fantastic (though sometimes horrific while always brilliantly told) backstories over the last couple of weeks.
    A suggestion that you may very well have considered and incorporated into your approach: Given the subject matter I’m sure there are a huge number of organisations that would, if not willing to donate themselves, be eager to spread the word of the campaign and even the film itself once it’s out there. Here in the UK alone there are many support groups and charities that take on depression and anxiety issues such as Depression Alliance, Big White Wall, Depression UK and Mind to name a few. The time, energy and sincerity that has gone into this film is clearly evidenced by your writings here and as such I highly doubt any of them would consider being approached as disingenuous or self-serving. After all, it is these types of films that have a tremendously positive effect on the way audiences view mental illness and social disorders; Adam Elliot’s films that deal with alcoholism, depression, autism and many others are even used as educational tools in some Australian schools. It’s the personal nature of those stories, as with yours, that I think are what make them so authentic. As far as I can tell any cross-promotion could only benefit both parties as your goals don’t seem to be too far apart.
    In an early, particularly relatable post you talked about how researching for funds and grants can be wearying and I appreciate this isn’t entirely dissimilar, but given how it is a worldwide issue it could conceivably give the film a little bit of extra reach and anticipation?
    At any rate I’ll be doing my bit to spread the word this side of the pond. Good luck!

    • Ben, THANK YOU for your wonderful, thoughtful and generous comment! I am going to explore the depression organizations you named. Although, not to sound negative, but when I tried to get mental health organizations and groups involved in the project back in 2010 when I just started fundraising, they mostly ignored my messages. Maybe now, with credibility of almost finished film they would react differently? I’ll try that.
      THANK YOU for helping to spread the word!
      I am going to post more about my Kickstarter adventures, but at the moment there is not even one minute to spare on anything else but the campaign…
      Thank you!
      Till soon!

  8. David says:

    “The idea that most filmmaking is a business is a false notion” is itself a false notion and blankets all filmmaking into one giant basket of apples and oranges and every other fruit imaginable. Does she mean short films, art films, feature films, feature documentaries (her area of expertise), action films, animated feature films, only live-action films? I congratulate her on raising funds for her documentary this way, but for this is such a broad and reckless statement she made, it needed to be called out. It’s a very altruistic and encouraging though rather naive point of view, I’m afraid.

    • Hmm… I would like to argue some with you, but I am not sure what is your contra argument. If she says “The idea that most filmmaking is a business is a false notion” what do you reply to that? You said “It’s a very altruistic and encouraging though rather naive point of view” but I would like to know what is YOUR point of view. What is filmmaking for YOU?

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