Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Why Bother With Kickstarter?

For whatever reason, Stu Maschwitz is pushing this dude's Kickstarter project. It's the guy's first feature film. And he's trying to get donations of $30,000 to shoot it.
Every single thing about that is just wrong to me.
Now I realize, that being I'm on the "genre" side of the indy business I sometimes get a bit short with the "art-house" side of the business. And I suppose if you don't need to ever worry about making your money back, because it was all given to you with no expectation of return, then you also don't need to worry about ever selling your picture.
Still, for a personal project, you're way over budget here at $30,000. Way.
I'm going to get another drink.
There. Now let's go over the budget breakdown from the kickstarter project, my comments are underlined:

  • Location fees,
Location fees? Seriously? Stop shooting at places that charge location fees. There. Budget item eliminated. This is the kind of thing where the filmmaker just says "The story needs to take place in blah-blah-blah..." And it totally doesn't. You don't need a supermarket. Or an infirmary ward. Or City Hall on a weekday.
  • Permits,
We shoot in New York so we're predjudiced against location permits. But just don't get permits. Make the damn movie.
  • Insurance,
That should run you about $600 for 12 days.
  • Additional gear,
Like what? You don't need any additional gear.
  • Costumes,
Your costume budget is $250. Hell, my costume budgets are usually $250 and I make off-world sci-fi movies.
  • Production dressings,
Find stuff around the house. Don't buy stuff. Seriously, how much specific stuff is actually needed for the story that you don't already have? A telephone answering machine? A wine glass?
  • Catering,
Should be $15/day/man unless you're in overnight locations then thing $30 or so. Does that start to get expensive? Then reduce your crew. Think "crew of 3". That's about right.
  • Consumables (from gaffer tape and gas, to batteries and make up supplies)
If you're spending more than about $100 on this you're over-spending.
  • printing, photocopying, phone calls, internet
You really don't need to photocopy anything. Phone calls and internet should really be the same item. You need to print your contracts. Do not print more than one copy/person of the damn script.
  • Travel and accommodation for people who could afford to donate their time but not all their costs,
  • Music licensing
No no no no no. Do not licence any music. It is only a waste of money. I know you think that song is really cool and you'd love to have it in your movie. But you can't. Get over it. It doesn't make your movie any better. Some local indy band will provide music which is just as good. Ask them to deliver a mix without vocals.
  • Professional Sound mix
Can't argue with that.
  • Color grade
You're paying for this? Just do it. On the editing computer. Use Colorista or something. Without whining about it. The DVRebel Tools are free for cryin' out loud.
  • Conform, Online and Master
Conform? You're on drugs, right? Online? You're not shooting film here. Do all this stuff on your own damn computer. Look. I'm actually getting more cranky. Why is Stu recommending this project when they aren't even making lip service to the Rebel's Guide?
  • Website
  • Festival Submissions
You will get exactly zero sales from your website. I sure hope you know someone who's a program director at a film festival that buyers actually go to. Because as far as I know, that's the only way to get in.
To me, though, the worst part is the insistence of shooting on the Red camera with fancy-pants "anamorphic" lenses. So what? The Red isn't some kind of magic camera which will suddenly make your movie look mysteriously awesome. It will however, cost you a lot. Nobody will look at your footage and say "Oh clearly this was shot on a Red". No, instead they'll say "Oh, clearly, nobody bothered to do a re-write on the script."

Shoot the movie for eight thousand bucks. Without name talent in the lead you haven't a prayer of getting distribution right now.

UPDATE: I have nothing in particular against the Red camera. As I point out in the comments, some of my best friends have made features with the Red. Of course it was not their first feature, and they'd actually got distribution on earlier features. You know, so they knew they could afford to shoot on a Red.


Tod Gruhaf said...

Amen. Especially about the RED. That must be the new film school buzzword. It is all over Kickstarter. Some people don't even mention what their movie is about so that they have more time to talk about the pricey equipment they'll be using.

For anybody considering using the RED: A good friend of mine shot a short on the RED last year. It cost a helluva lot. The script had problems from the beginning, but he didn't concentrate on that. And he didn't hire the best shooter. And now he's got a short with a story that makes no sense whatsoever and looks like crap that, at best, he'll screen from an HD tape. He could've made three movies with the funds he had and the third one would've actually been good. It is painful to talk to him about that film. Painful.

Forget about the RED until you've mastered your craft. Please.

Chance Shirley said...

Very good points. If you're making a movie set in the "real world," what do you need other than a camera and a mic? (And a pro sound mix.)

Well, you need a good script and competent actors. Anyway...

Did you send this to Maschwitz? I wish he'd read it before he asks me for money again on Twitter.

(All that said, I wish I had an anamorphic lens for my 7D.)

DAVID FREY said...

@chance: I vaguely remember someone blogging about an anamorphic lens or adapter for DSLRs, so try googling around a bit

Drew, I've never seen you so upset while drinking before, although your points are very valid. I'd just like to point out that this person made no mention of lighting costs. Although the budget would likely be inflated, the notion that he/she would shoot on the RED and not mention lighting costs his hilarious and sickening at the same time.
For what it costs, and what is needed to shoot on the RED, your lighting game better be on point, or you might as well just flush your cash down the toilet. I've seen it happen.

Andrew Bellware said...

The "let me grab another drink" was a literary conceit. I was, unfortunately sober.
Actually, they do mention a lighting package -- a fairly extensive one -- on their Kickstarter page. My argument is that it's likely too much in the way of lights. Overlighting never looks good.
And I think we've all seen people flush movies down the toilet! ;-) Ha!

Andrew Bellware said...

@chance. I dunno about anamorphic. Spherical lenses have a lot of advantages. I will, however, gladly put in anamorphic lens flares whenever I can. ;-)

Andrew Bellware said...

@Tod Gruhaf. Yeah, I have a feeling the Red is the buzzword.

Lindsay Stewart said...

Screw RED. I'll be shooting my no-budget opus on a BEIGE cam (actually a T3i).

Andrew Bellware said...

Sure, and it's not like I don't know a couple people who shot on Reds and it looked GREAT, because I do. But both of these guys had a couple distributed features under their belts. One even had (what we would call) a pretty decent budget of several hundred thousand dollars. Now if that were me I'd probably shoot on an Alexa, but the Red is perfectly fine.
Just... first feature? About a guy with some emotional problems and no 2nd act conflict?