Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kickstarter, and Sundance film On the Ice

by Brandon Isaacson

Kickstarter is an emerging online method for funding art projects, that allows ordinary art fans the ability to co-fund projects in manageable sums. Creative projects can mean films, music, photography, theater, art or anything really. As Shawn Levy put it in The Oregonian, “Kickstarter allows people with creative projects to build pages on the site to describe the work they hope to do and the costs they face, and, crucially, to offer various rewards and benefits to potential backers in exchange for pledges of support.” This method of crowdfunding allows artists to spread the word on their project while raising money and letting their fans be involved. As Levy noted, Kickstarter campaigns use rewards as incentives to donate money. One such example lies with current project On the Ice, an award-winning film that seeks money for marketing. For my donation of $30, I will receive a digital download of the film (upon its release in late 2011 or early 2012), a DVD copy, and a thank you from the film’s Facebook. Interestingly, if a project isn’t fully funded by its stated deadline, it doesn’t receive anything. This all-or-nothing method is cited by Kickstarter as less risky for both the artist and consumer, and motivates consumers to spread the word in order to see a project come to life. Kickstarter truly is a revolutionary way to connect artists to their audience.

Personally, I see Kickstarter in many ways being the future of independent film. There will always be movie studios for Transformers and such films, but what about indie films? While the industry booms, it’s still difficult to find funding. Filmmakers need to use Kickstarter, even if it’s just supplemental. For example, many projects are made for much less than they intended. One case where Kickstarter could’ve helped was Kevin Smith’s Red State. In the film (minor spoilers!), a prisoner is executed while covered head-to-toe in plastic wrap. Originally, Smith wanted the prisoner to be covered with a goat’s head, which  would have cost the equivalent of the entire special effects budget (approximately $5,000). Had he quickly started a Kickstarter campaign for this lone special effect, I bet he would’ve found the funding within a few days. This theory applies also to more extraneous aspects of film, beyond the production and release. As DVDs and Blu-ray are constantly losing market share to online streaming and downloading, special features are becoming less and less important. Kickstarter can be used by filmmakers to create an extra special features disc for consumers. While I have my ideas, I can barely imagine the many benefits Kickstarter will have on the independent film industry.

You can learn more about Kickstarter on their WebsiteFacebook, or Twitter.

As I mentioned, one project that I’ve financially committed to is On the Ice. Andrew Okpeaha MacLean’s film debuted in the U.S. Narrative Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, won a Crystal Bear and Best First Feature award at the 2011 Berlinale, and took the FIPRESCI Prize for Best New American Film at the Seattle International Film Festival. Set in the isolated, frozen town of Barrow, Alaska, two young Iñupiaq men, Qalli and Aivaaq, must cover up the death of a friend—a death that was partially their fault. The film is based on the short, Sikumi, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking. In 2008, the director was named one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine.


Now why does this project want your money?

They’re looking to raise $80,000 in order to:
·      Release the film themselves in at least 10 theaters across the country (*fingers crossed for Boston*)
·      Create a film trailer
·      Create and ship the 35mm prints
·      Pay for advertising/marketing/publicity
·      Make On the Ice available through all possible outlets, from theaters to Netflix
“Rewards [for donation] range from a DVD and digital download of the movie for $30 to a signed, numbered museum-quality giclée print of a still from the film featuring a beautiful Alaskan vista for $500, to an authentic Alaskan experience led by an Iñupiaq guide in Barrow for $5500. Rewards will be shipped just before the release, which will be late 2011/early 2012 – except for the set visit, which will take place in the two weeks immediately after the end of the campaign.”

Given a successful Kickstarter campaign, they hope to release the film in late 2011/early 2012 through theaters, retail, movies on demand, and iTunes.

“Many great films over the past few years never made it to theaters because the industry couldn’t find a place for them, but with your help we can prove that it is possible for a film like ours to succeed - that audiences will come to a film with a fresh voice, a story full of suspense and humor, with characters and a world unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  We think ‘On the Ice’ deserves to be seen, and we hope you do too.” - Cara Marcous, producer of On the Ice

Currently the project has $27,911 with 14 days left.
For more information:

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me at or @BrandonIsaacson on Twitter.

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