Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to raise money on Kickstarter: Six Questions with THE GATEWAY producer Lee Sacks

Lee Sacks is producing an indie feature called THE GATEWAY. From its Kickstarter page:
THE GATEWAY is an exciting ensemble film that tells the stories of several people whose lives intersect in an explosive way at the rundown desert motel, The Gateway. Equal parts crime thriller and modern western, the film highlights the chaos that plagues modern time and has a similar tone to the films of the Coen Brothers. The story is an inspired continuation of the characters George and Princeton, central figures in LITTLE ODESSA, our award winning and internationally distributed short, and our self-released comedic web series, THE STOOGES.

I know that many of you guys also want to produce your own films, so I asked Lee a few questions about the experience:

1. What has been the history of this project/process up til now?
In 2009 I was introduced to a writer/director named Natan Moss who needed help producing a short film. The film LITTLE ODESSA went on to play several international festivals and get distribution; we continued to collaborate on projects after that. Natan has written a couple features, but we hadn't really tried to do anything with them, until a friend in NY came to me with a potential investor looking to finance a film. The feature Natan had is called THE GATEWAY and is loosely based on characters in ODESSA. We felt the short was the perfect pitch tool for the full-length film. That initial financier fell through, but it gave us the motivation to try and make it happen another way. Currently, we are still in the financing stages and have launched this Kickstarter as a way to engage the film community and push us a little closer to our overall budget goal.

2As a producer, how did you find a writer/director to work with?
I was introduced to Natan through my roommate at the time, who had been a PA on a previous short film that Natan made. We basically just clicked on LITTLE ODESSA and began a creative relationship that has carried through to today. I think that as a producer, finding creative people to work with whose opinions you value and whose personalities you gel with is very important. It is a relationship that involves a lot of trust and an over all shared creative impulse, even if you sometimes dispute the details. I also have good working relationships with other writers and directors based on the same principles.

3. What happened as a result the festivals?
We gained a little more notoriety as filmmakers, if only for a short time after ODESSA played the festival circuit. We got some good exposure at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, where our film was picked up for distribution by Ouat! Media. Also participating with NewFilmmakers LA to premiere the short at the end of 2009 began a great relationship with the creators of that festival. Susie Kim and Larry Laboe have been a very valuable resource and great supporters of our project and are helping us to get the feature made.

4. What did you have to do before you were ready to launch a Kickstarter?
The script for the project was completed long before we began the Kickstarter campaign. However, while we were in the early stages of financing, we were still making story changes and tweaks to the project. We actually put the project on hold for about four months while we made THE STOOGES, which gave Natan a lot of time to think about the script and make some significant story changes.

A portion of our main crew is already set for the film, including our production designer, director of photography and hair and make up artists. A lot of the crew will be the same as previous projects because we know that we all work well together and everyone is in this for the purpose of making a great film and are conscious of the constraints of working on a tight budget.

Launching a Kickstarter is rather simple; all it takes on the practical side is an Amazon Payments Account to run all of the money through to a bank account. Because we are using mostly investor financing for our film, we did establish an LLC for the project and a business bank account, so our Kickstarter funds are being run though that. However, you don't need a business account; you can use your personal one. It is also important to have a video component to the campaign, so we shot a main video to peak some interest as well as a few stand alone teasers. They were shot specifically for the Kickstarter, so their content is intended to pique interest for the project.

5. What are some things you have learned along the way in this process?
The main thing I have learned is that your reach is probably a lot smaller than you think. Unless you come from an extremely wealthy family or have wealthy friends that are very generous, making a ton of money on Kickstarter is very difficult. We set our goal at $15,000 which is around where most film projects plateau and it becomes harder to get past the $20,000 hump unless you already have a big following or some kind of appeal to a niche audience. Even then, our goal is starting to seem difficult to attain. It is important to utilize your social media resources as best you can, and make an appeal to the type of audience you think you have for the project. For example, two of our cast members are prominent YouTube creators, and we are still hoping to market the campaign directly to their audiences in the upcoming weeks. Also, I would recommend that you set aside some money to push your Kickstarters to your goal if you fall short in the final days.

6. Are there any books/blogs/resources that you used that you would recommend to other producers trying to make something independently?
There is no one book or resource I used to educate myself on this process, just as there is no one way to get a film made. I have read a few books that were helpful such as Shaking the Money Tree by Morrie Warshawski, but a lot of what I learned was just from reading independent filmmaking magazines and learning about other filmmakers experiences raising funds. I have been lucky to continue to work in film for the past five years in Los Angeles and have gotten to see and know mainstream and independent filmmakers which have given me good insight as well. I also try to attend as many film events and seminars as I can through Film Independent here in Los Angeles which has been a good resource.

Thanks, Lee! To help support THE GATEWAY, check out the film's Kickstarter page.

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