Surviving the Stress and Succeeding on Kickstarter

How our Fiscally Sponsored Filmmaker Got Help from a Kickstarter Expert for Her Crowdfunding Campaign and Hit Her Fundraising Goal

by Carole Dean

Our fiscally sponsored filmmaker, diane estelle Vicari, feared her fundraising campaign was set to fail.   diane (both her first and middle names begin with lower case letters) is the founder of Dites-Moi and winner of the Pare Lorentz Grant for her film Sugihara, Conspiracy of Kindness.  

Kickstarter Expert

“SHADOW MAN: The story of Sammy Nestico”

Her new film, Shadow Man: The Story of Sammy Nestico, needed to raise money to finish her edit.  It had a great story.  It is a feature-length documentary film that explores the music, art, humanity, impact, and life of Sammy Nestico.  He helped mold the careers of many jazz greats.  Sammy recently turned 94 years young. His most recent Grammy nomination came only a year ago, at the age of 93!

But, she only had 3,000 names on Facebook.  You should only expect to get about 1% of your social media followers to donate.  So, obviously, that was not going to get her to her goal.  And, with Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal, you get zero.

Her non-profit fiscal sponsor From the Heart Productions came to her rescue.  We hooked her up with our Kickstarter expert.  Working with him as a team, she grew her social media followers, reached a larger audience, and surpassed her funding goal.  She asked for $61,500 and got over $75,000!

On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, she shared with me her experience and what she had learned.

Realizing You Need Help and Accepting It 

diane had 3,000 names on Facebook and knew she needed help to reach her funding goal.  She took the leap of faith to do a crowdfunding campaign with From the Heart Productions and our Kickstarter specialist.  

After speaking with the expert, diane realized he was right for the task as “he knew money and how to get it.”  To make this campaign work, she realized she was the artist and he was the money man. 

She began to feed him stories every day about the film and introduced him to the subject in the film.  He met Sammy and saw his loving, generous energy.  After that, the Kickstarter expert was able to help diane build the Facebook numbers up to 6,000 followers by the end of the campaign.

Facebook to the Rescue

Once she got Sammy on Facebook with the heightened energy from the campaign it was a magical time.  Sammy had never heard of Facebook.   diane had to drive hours to his home and do the postings for him.

Getting him involved on social media attracted lots of followers.   Sammy talked to people all over the world who love music and even some who had read his music books written for schools.  

This participation was the key to their last days where they raised over $10,000.00.   People are more likely to support you when they can chat with you online. 

diane posted a video of Sammy watching his trailer on Kickstarter and seeing the funds come in on the campaign.  People loved it.  She thinks he was the oldest person on Kickstarter.

Choosing the Right Amount for the Goal…Even If It’s Less Than You Need

diane knew from her Kickstarter adviser that she could not raise the full amount she needed for her final edit with her data base.  They set a goal they thought they could reach.  She did not get enough for the full edit. 

She thought she could get at least a few months of editing with these Kickstarter funds.  But after consulting with D-Word’s Doug Block, she realized that was not a good idea.  Hiring someone for 2 months and then terminating them to look for more money might mean you could not get that same editor again. 

He suggested she view all of the footage for the last 16 years and hire an assistant editor.  Then, raise the balance needed, hire the editor, and do the edit all at once.

However, now she has a successful campaign behind her.  She has lots of new donors and followers on which to build her next campaign.  Her trailer was the most watched on Kickstarter and a copy of it is on our crowdfunding page. 

Sammy was the oldest person on Kickstarter and people loved him.  There were featured by Kickstarter.  diane had 511 rewards to fulfill and she had to handle all that herself.

After 44 days of working 10 hours a Day on Her Campaign, I Asked Her “Would You Do This Again…Is It Worth the Stress?” 

Looking back over the ups and downs of the campaign, diane says “Yes, I will do this again, even with the craziness and the stress.”

“Look at the benefits we received.  We found and connected to our audience with Kickstarter.  We now have people all over the world who want to see this film made.   They stayed with us to the very end to see we hit both of our goals.  People are still finding us even weeks after the campaign and they want to donate.”

She and Sammy are dedicated to keeping their audience.  They are continuing to work on Facebook.  They are keeping their fans up-to-date on the progress of the film and Sammy is personally talking directly to his audience. 

This experience took him into a new world. He is writing again.  He has found how much people love and appreciate him. 

I believe this magic of connecting with people personally will insure another successful campaign.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Sharing Wisdom: From Filmmaker to Author

An Award Winning Filmmaker Decided to Write a Book.  Here is What She Learned and Her Outside-the-Box Way of Getting a Great Deal to Write the Screenplay

by Carole Dean

Many filmmakers tell me they want to write a book to go with their film.  And they want to know if the book should be published first. I decided the right person to ask is Alexis Krasilovsky.

Filmmaker to AuthorAlexis won the Roy Dean Film Grant for her global documentary feature: Women Behind the Camera, which won four “Best Documentary” awards. She also directed a second global documentary, “Let Them Eat Cake” (2014), She is a member of the Writers Guild of America West.

Written under her “nom de plume” Alexis Rafael, her most recent book is “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess”.  Set in 1969, it tells the story of Ana who arrives at Yale just as it’s going co-ed.  It tackles sexual liberation and sexual assault on campus, as well as sexual harassment in the film industry.

I interviewed her on The Art of Film Funding Podcast about filmmakers writing books.  How important is it for your film?  Here are some tips from this podcast.

What Advice Do You Have for Going from Filmmaker to Author?

“It’s often a good idea to write a book first,” suggested Alexis.  “It not only helps you to solidify your ideas, but by getting a book published first, your readership becomes your potential audience for the movie.”

“If it’s a women’s topic, that can be especially significant.  Women comprise 75% of the readership of novels.  Even though the film industry is still very male-dominated in terms of who decides what gets produced and what doesn’t, they are finally recognizing that it can be very good business to produce a film based on a book written by and for women.”

Did You Base “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess” on Your Own Experiences?

“Sex and the Cyborg Goddess” is a work of fiction, set against the backdrop of the sexual liberation era, anti-Vietnam protests and Black Panther demonstrations. It’s a portrait of a filmmaker, Ana, as a young woman who won’t let sexual harassment stop her.” 

But I am not Ana.  Unlike the Ana of this novel, I did let sexual harassment stop me.  I retreated into academia instead of going to bed with the last producer I worked for in Hollywood. The books which I wrote while a professor became a kind of R&D – research and development – for creating the character of Ana as she moves forward through the 1970s and 1980s in L.A. and N.Y.” 

But some of what Ana experiences did come from my own life. Like Ana, the Yale student, I protested against the war in Vietnam in Washington, although the real me didn’t drop acid.”

What Do You Want People to Take Away From the Book?

“I want readers to find affirmation in their right to pursue consensual sex, as well as their right to live without sexual violence. 

For those readers who are part of the “#MeToo” movement, I want my book to provide healing by furthering the discussion about Ana, a relatively isolated character, and young women today, who belong to a Sisterhood.”

What is the Unique Strategy You Are Using to Get a Deal to Write the Screenplay?

“Before embarking on the screenplay, I took time off – including a research fellowship and a sabbatical – to write a nonfiction book entitled “Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling.” It was published by Routledge in NY and London last fall.” 

As a member of the Writers Guild, I thought that by establishing myself as an international expert in screenplay adaptation, I’d get a better deal on the screenplay for “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess.”  I’ve been speaking about adaptation at CBS Studios and on panels around the L.A. area.  In January, I’ll be giving a screenplay adaptation workshop at the International Academy of Film and Media in Bangladesh.”

I hope that strategy pays off. After teaching screenplay adaptation as a screenwriting professor for over two decades, you can imagine what a thrill it is to sit down at the computer, open up Final Draft, and finally, finally, go to work on my own screenplay.” 

I just sit there and laugh and laugh – not all of “Sex and the Cyborg Goddess” is tragic.”

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

Getting Creative When Creating Great Adaptations

Author Alexis Krasilovsky Explains When it’s Been Right to Move Adaptations Beyond the Original Material

by Carole Dean

AdaptationsAre you thinking of making a film or documentary by adapting a book, magazine article or TV show?  You’re not alone as many academy award winning films, Emmy winning movies, and series began as adaptations. 

There’s a ton of pitfalls.  Some, of course, are legal that could stop you before you start. Or, you could get tied up in lawsuits after you’ve invested time and money.  Other traps are creative.  How far should you or can you go in changing any aspect of the original?

Fortunately, on my recent The Art of Film Funding Podcast, I had an expert on adaptations to offer tips and guidance on adapting material. 

Roy W. Dean Grant winning filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky is the author of Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling.  Educated at Smith and Yale, with an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, her book is a compendium for anyone wanting to adapt a story from almost any source. 

How To Keep Adaptations From Being Stifling

“A good student will memorize the storyline and analyze the characters and some of the things they say – whether it’s a graphic novel, a short story, a play or a novel” noted Alexis.  “But a great student — or a professional screenwriter — needs to honor the spirit of the work without just regurgitating its storyline and dialogue.” 

The original work needs to come alive in a new medium.  Alexis says an adaptations calls for a close relationship with the original author.  But, you don’t want to be slavishly married to the book.

“It may mean divorcing yourself from the material you’re adapting in order to discover your own voice in the process,” she explains.  “That fresh perspective can be the key towards involving your audience so that they’re excited by the story and what you do with its characters, setting, and time frame.”  

How Important Is It to Stay with the Original Setting of the Story?

“Moonlight”, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”   was shot in Liberty City, Florida.  It’s the Miami suburb where both director  Barry Jenkins and author grew up.  But, Alexis mentions, before filmming began, there was talk about setting a in Chicago!

For some stories, like “Moonlight”, the original location is an integral part of the story and should not be altered.  Likewise, it’s hard to imagine Trainspotting taking place somewhere other than Edinburgh, “The Milk of Sorry” in any place other than Peru, or “Wuthering Heights” outside of England (although Luis Bunuel’s “Wuthering Heights”, renamed “Abismos de Pasion”, takes place in Mexico).

But many times, the creativity of changing a setting is what makes a film a winner.  One is example is Nobel Laureate Naguib Mafouz’s novel, “Midaq Alley”  The original story takes place in a run-down alleyway in poverty-stricken Cairo, Egypt.

Mexican Filmmaker Jorge Fons reset the location in his film “Midaq Alley” (El Callejon de los Milagros).  His film explores the parallel lives of characters in a run-down alleyway in Mexico City.  The film won 11 Ariel Awards in Mexico – the equivalent of our Oscars, and dozens of other international awards and nominations. 

It’s a great example of a story without borders:  It’s a story that resonates with poverty issues in both Egypt and Mexico but is also universal.

Adding to Original Material

Akira Kurosawa was famous for his many adaptations.  Alexis told a story contained in his cleverly named autobiography, “Something Like an Autobiography” in which talked about how  he combined different original stories to create a classic.

“As I cast about for what to film,” Kurosawa recalled, “I suddenly remembered a script based on the short story “In a Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. .. written by Hashimoto Shinobu.  It was a very well-written piece, but not long enough to make into a feature film”

Later the memory of it jumped out of one of those creases in my brain and told me to give it a chance.  At the same time, I recalled that “In a Grove” is made up of three stories.  I realized that if I added one more, the whole would be just the right length for a feature film.”

Then, I remembered the Akutagawa story “Rashomon.” Like “In a Grove,” it was set in the Heian period…The film Rashomon took shape in my mind.”

Kurosawa felt, that in order to write scripts, “you must first study the great novels and dramas of the world.  You must consider why they are great.”

“I’ve tried to do just that in while writing my book, “Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling,” said Alexis  “I hope it will be helpful to others.”

Bonus – Alexis Krasilovsky Negotiator’s Legal Checklist for Film Adaptations

There are six basic questions that negotiators can discuss and check off when working on film adaptations:

  1. Is the basic story under copyright?
  2. Who owns the rights?
  3. Have the rights been previously granted to a third party?
  4. If in public domain, have other versions been previously made and released.
  5. Monetary negotiation with owner or agent of copyrighted version.         6.  Non-monetary negotiations (such as territory, script approval, sequel rights, credits, etc.).

Attorneys can be very expensive and therefore doing one’s homework prior to your consultation can be a worthwhile investment. The answers are discussed in detail in “Great Adaptations,” in the second chapter.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

How to Get Your Film Funded with New Tax Law

Hidden in New Tax Law are Incentives For Film Donors and Investors That Could Help Finance Your Entire Film

 

by Carole Dean

Get Your Film Funded

Did you know that when President Trump signed into law the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in January, 2018, new incentives for film investors were created that could help get your film funded?  I didn’t and I’m pretty sure most filmmakers we work with at From the Heart Productions did not know either (and since many in Congress had not even read the new law before it was enacted, they may be clueless as well).

Corky Kessler, Esq. is one of the top film attorneys in the US and he knows better than anyone how filmmakers can take advantage of tax laws.  When I interviewed Corky on The Art of Film Funding Podcast, he brought this incentive to my attention and revealed you can use it to get your film funded.

Bonus Depreciation

The part of the new law that relates to film, television and theater and is called “bonus depreciation, section 168.”  Bonus depreciation means when a film is first shown, at the end of that year, the investors get a 100% depreciation.

As a result, that means the investor can take a loss of 100% for the amount invested.  For example, say your donor invests in 2017 and in 2018 you have your first screening.  At the end of 2018, your investor can get his 100% depreciation for the total amount of his investment.

What a great way to attract major donors or investors to your project by giving them a massive tax deduction.

Take Advantage Before They Put Restrictions on This New Law

Before there was bonus depreciation, there was Section 181 of the tax code.  Enacted in 2004, Section 181 allowed you to eliminate your investor’s tax bill by what they’ve invested in your film.  

Corky says that, when section 181 was introduced,  it had no rules or regulations until February 2007.  Those first years were wonderful.  It was like the wild, wild west with lots of opportunities to help film investors.

This new law replaces Section 181.  And, just like the early days of that law, there are no rules and regulations for the new law.  So, the field of how to interpret things is wide open.  This is good for filmmakers.   

Putting Your Film “In Service”

Your film needs to be “put in service” to get the depreciation.  But, right now, there is no definition of what that exactly means.  We know it has to be shown somewhere.  The law just isn’t clear on where that somewhere needs to be.   A festival could qualify.  You could rent a theater, charge people a dollar, and the film is “in service.” 

But, wait.  The law does not say if it has to be shown in a theater.  It does not even say how long the film has to be shown.  

Corky says it could also be shown on YouTube or social media. The law is triggered when the film is “put into service” meaning the time that a film is first shown.   For television, it is the year it is first aired, for theater it is the year of the opening night of the theater.

The Sky is the Limit

Under  Section 181, said you could expense up to 15 or $20 million.  This new law has no limit. It could be $100 million.  Better yet, the law is retroactive and begins in 2017.   The law ends on Dec 31, 2020.

The New Law is Excellent for International Co-Productions

One carryover of Section 181 is that 75% of your service wages of the film have to be performed in the United States.  25% can be in any country you want.   

So, in theory, let’s say we have a $10 million movie.  You could spend $2,500,000 in service wages in Canada or England and take advantage of their excellent tax incentives for filmmakers. Plus, you could shoot in France with their 25% incentive or the Dominican Republic with a 25% incentive.

We can go any place that we want and spend the 25% and still qualify for the US incentive.

Bonus Deduction

Part of the new tax law is Section 199A.  It gives you a 20% deduction on taxable income for money coming back to you.  If I return a dollar to you, you pay tax on only $.80.  So, you make 20% on the incoming funds.   I believe you can write off a maximum of $350,000.

Get a Good Accountant and Lawyer

There are limitations on what you can do under this.  So, please make sure to talk to your accountant to understand them.

A good lawyer to guide you through this is advisable as well.  Corky Kessler works at Rubenstein Business Law with his partner David Rubenstein.  He can be contacted at   From the Heart highly recommends him and his services for filmmakers.

He’s been in the business for many years and he is intelligent, creative and a lot of fun to work with.

 

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

 

 

3 Essential Indie Film Distribution Tips from Peter Broderick

by Carole Dean

Peter Broderick on Film Distribution Peter Broderick is an expert on film distribution for indie films.  His company, Paradigm Consulting, helps filmmakers design and implement state-of-the-art financing, distribution, and outreach strategies.

He can review your film and give you excellent advice on your film’s potential market.  I advise every filmmaker who has the opportunity to seek his advice.

He joined me on my Art of Film Funding podcast “How Not to Negotiate a Distribution Deal” and shared his film distribution wisdom with us.

Think of Film Distribution as a Partnership

“In many cases, in the past, the relationship between distributors and filmmakers has been a kind of master/slave relationship” Peter explained. “ All the power was in the distributor and all the decisions were made by the distributor.  The filmmaker just had to kind of follow whatever the distributor decided.”

Peter considers that these days, in the newer world of distribution, we should really think about partnerships that are win/win.  “It’s good for both sides.  They appreciate what the other partner brings to the situation and they want to maximize the relationship.  Have it work for both sides.”

Create a Customized Film Distribution Plan

Before filmmakers get that distribution offer, Peter recommends that they have designed a customized distribution strategy.  Customize it to their goals, their target audiences, and the avenues of distribution and the versions of the film.

You should be specific about what rights you want to give to the distributor. You also need to be clear about the rights you want to retain. This could include the right to do screenings, and the right to sell downloads, streams, and DVDs directly from your own website.

By creating this, you can show it to a distributor and say, “We’re really interested in working with you. This is what we’d like to do.  Can you partner with us using our customized distribution plan?”

This gives the distributor a clear understanding of what you want to give them.  It importantly outlines what you want to keep.  It puts you in a stronger position for negotiating.

Ask Before You Sign

When a film is finished, the filmmaker too often wants to get the film seen.  They sometimes can take a distribution deal they later regret. 

“Of course you want to hear lovely things about your film.”  But don’t, Peter warns, be seduced by the distributor’s flattery.  Be diligent in finding people who are working or have worked with this distributor.  Don’t rely on the references distributors give you, since all distributors will have at least a few clients that like them.

“Find filmmakers online” he suggests, “who have worked with the distributors you’re considering.”  Peter  recommends speaking with 3 to 5 filmmakers about each distributor you’re seriously considering. He recommends asking pointed rather than general questions.

For example, instead of asking “do you like your distributor?”, ask if they’ve made as many sales as they expected to make and if the filmmaker has received the amount of revenues they expected to receive.

Don’t ask, “Do you like your distributor.”  Do ask, “How much money have you made?” 

Ask “Is the distributor working for you?” “How often do they call you or communicate?” “Do they treat you as a partner instead of an annoyance?”  Make sure they are treating other filmmaker the way you want to be treated before you consider making a deal.

“You’re bringing knowledge, you’re bringing some core audiences, you’re bringing expertise in the area that your film is made within and they should value that.”

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.