For some additional material to Episode 3, filmmaker Zak Forsman, who is currently in the process of funding his upcoming feature film Down and Dangerous through Kickstarter (campaign ends September 2nd!), answered my interview questions to help shed some light in to the world of crowd-funding.
Here is a little bit more about Zak (in his own words!):
Let’s not pretend someone else is writing this bio. I am an artist-entrepreneur and filmmaker at The Sabi Company. My movies have played numerous festivals, won several awards and my latest feature is being distributed in the US and Canada early next year. But nothing has been more rewarding than the friends I’ve made in our casts, crews and fans in the audience. I love making movies and I’ve tried to give back to the indie film community as the editor of the New Breed blog on The Workbook Project and by organizing LA screenings of works by fellow filmmakers under the CINEFIST banner.
For your upcoming film ‘Down and Dangerous’, why did you choose to go the crowd-funding route?
About six or seven months ago, I was feeling a bit of anxiety that my first and only feature had been over three years ago and that I didn’t have a project lined up to do next. I decided to just pick one that embodied where i wanted to go next. And that was a marriage of authentic story and characters with genre elements. It was designed for available resources and no budget. But I quickly realized how difficult that would be, especially in Los Angeles where the moment you mention “movie” people smell money. So what appealed to me about crowd-funding were a few things: First, it would give my an opportunity to validate the project in the eyes of the community. If they hadn’t supported it, I would have moved on to something else. Second, and this is related, it allowed me to build an audience for it, before making it. Over 1300 people have “liked” our Kickstarter page via Facebook and that’s a pretty good number to have in terms of people who are aware of what we’re doing. Further, we have over 300 backers who are now participating in this movie directly. And I think that’s wonderful.
How did you decide to set the pledge goal at 30k? What factors did you consider?
$30,000 was the bare minimum I knew we could responsibly make the movie for. I did a preliminary budget based on the first draft of the screenplay that included the percentage that Kickstarter takes if you’re successful. We currently stand at $34,500 with a few days to go and are rallying for extra funds that will go a long way toward an expanded schedule so we can craft a better motion picture, specialized crew members for stunts and special effects, better locations, and maybe even to attract a recognizable star in a cameo role.
What do you think is a realistic goal for someone Kickstarting their first project?
Most campaigns I’ve looked at on Kickstarter that generally swim in the same circles that I do have raised a dollar amount that is about 100x the number of backers they have. So to gauge a ballpark figure, I would list out everyone you think will contribute and take that number times $100. Some do better than that, others do worse. And that doesn’t account for variables like someone unknown discovering the project and donating $5000 (which happened to us), but it gives you an idea.
How did you decide what you wanted to show for the project overview video?
Admittedly, I have very little patience when it comes to bad crowdfunding videos and want to see right off the bat if the people asking for money are competent. The video gives me an impression as to how seriously they take it, and what kind of chops they have. For a filmmaker to have bad sound, amateurish graphics and poor picture and sound edits in their video, is inexcusable. It doesn’t have to be flashy, but it needs to have a certain level of polish and the content has to be authentic and personal, in my opinion. In terms of my own, I wanted to do two things: speak from the heart about why this project was meaningful to me and where my enthusiasm for it stems from, and to do it in a quick and concise manner. So I kept the video under two minutes, including some time dedicated to explaining how Kickstarter works.
You can see that video here. http://kck.st/qB45dd
Then, for our updates, i wanted to introduce new additions to the team, namely actors we cast in lead roles. Those received remarkable praise and each, released a week apart, bolstered additional conversation and support online.
Paulie Rojas http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1077901252/down-and-dangerous-a-crime-thriller-by-sabi/posts/104733
Ross Marquand http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1077901252/down-and-dangerous-a-crime-thriller-by-sabi/posts/107184
For future projects, will you consider using crowdfunding platforms again?
I would. I mean, I’m not sure how many times a person can return to the well, so to speak. I think a lot of that has to do with how well Down and Dangerous turns out. I imagine the old line “you’re only as good as your last movie” holds true here. And honestly, I hope to move onto budgets that aren’t feasible as a solely crowdfunded endeavor.
How do you feel crowdfunding fits in to the progression of filmmaking?
Well, I wish more filmmakers would treat crowdfunding as a filter for projects that people truly want to see from them. I know that’s easy for me to say now and that there is something to be said for moving forward anyway. But I strongly believe that if a campaign failed to attract interest, it’s worth ones time to re-examine the project and why it didn’t connect with people. For me, it’s been essential at this stage in my career. Without the amazing support of our friends, family and fans we would not have this amazing opportunity to grow and learn as storytellers. It’s a wonderful gift I’ve been given. I won’t squander it.
I would like to share an interesting question from an actress named Mira who also wants to write, produce, and create her own projects! I think this question comes up a lot during the writing and filmmaking process, since it is definitely a reality that all of us must face when shooting on a low budget.
Question: I have a few great ideas for scripts but zero experience in writing them, how do you know your script is good?
And I don’t know how to get locations for my film like : Jail, Airplane.. should I give up on that? I mean, how can you handle zero budget problems? I’m only 21 I can’t pay for locations…
Answer: First off, I think you have to decide whether you want to write. If not, you might be better off investing that time in finding someone in your area that is eager to share a story. However, if the answer is yes, then by all means go for it!
Start watching good movies and reading good scripts and pin-pointing what you like about them and why you find them compelling. You can also watch bad movies and read bad scripts and figure out what turns you off from these, so you know what to stay away from.
There are also tons and tons of books on screenwriting; you will find that there are mixed reviews on these books, as some of the beauty in writing is the writer’s unique and individual style stemming from their own creativity, which can some times be squandered if you try to adhere too much to a specific formula.
I am also a big believer in sharing your work with people you respect and trust, and asking for honest feedback. Make sure you take criticism with an open mind, as it is easy to become attached to certain ideas, dialogue, character traits, etc, but at least consider what others are telling you. At the end of the day, it is really your call with what you are writing, but at least play with some other ideas.
You can also try getting a few actors together and do a table read; that will help with pacing and dialogue, and you might decide you want to try something different with the story once you hear it out loud.
Use your personality in your writing. Your personality and view on life makes you unique. Most stories have already been told, but what makes them different is your perspective and how you tell that story. Don’t be afraid to try something new or ambitious, as that will help set you apart.
However, make sure you are still realistic with what you can obtain. If you cannot pay for expensive locations, like a jail or airplane, then be creative with what you can do. I don’t know the exact details of your script, but could the interactions take place in the car before someone heads to the airport instead of the plane? Instead of a jail, could you use an empty room as a sort of interrogation room? Could you bypass the whole jail portion and skip straight to when your character is getting out of jail? Think about what locations you have access to, and how you can manipulate your story to take place there. It forces you to be creative, but a lot of times it can work out in your benefit. For example, we originally wanted to use a big, ritzy club space for the clubscene in Superseeds, but ended up going with a smaller, cheaper venue, which actually worked out in our benefit. Having less room was easier to populate, the colors looked better on screen, and not having a ton of people added to the feel of the characters, since they would more likely be found at a smaller hang-out place.
Originally from Georgia, Kholi Hicks made the cross-country trek to Los Angeles in summer of 2005. Starting out as a cinematographer, he was able to absorb a wealth of knowledge that’s made him a source of technical information for many. In the most recent calendar year, he’s put his knowledge to the test, producing, writing, and directing his first feature film, Superseeds. He’s now in pre-production on two feature films, both of varying genres, and continues to develop and hone his skill-set, while also remaining completely in touch with technologies, both of today and tomorrow, and workflows for production environments.
How did you get your start in writing?
Short stories. Fiction, actually. My influences always came from video games or cartoons, anime, that sort of thing. I think I just wanted to tell fantastic stories.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
In the lives of others and from popular media or news, or even music: can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a story just from the sound or the lyrics of a song. Inspiration’s all around, I think, even when you’re not looking (or listening) for it.
What tips would you give to beginning writers?
Write. And explore, a lot. Even if you’re exploring another fictional or factual world in text, explore. If you’re locked into a hole of your own existence then you may be missing out on great inspiration.
And don’t lose touch with actual handwriting. Pen and Paper is a good way to get you in the mood for writing more.
How do you know when your script is ready to be turned into a film?
I think when I feel the changes aren’t returning anything major, and when the story’s losing its fresh charm.
Your 3 must-see movies and why?
-Primer, because it really shows you how to do Sci-Fi on a budget.
-Ghostbusters, because the dialogue and characters are very unique, so is the concept.
-The Room, because it’s an example of how one man turned a bonafide flop of a movie into serious financial success on his own.
Are there any good resources, including books or websites, you would recommend?
I read all of Syd Fields’ books on my way, and spent a lot of time on filmmaking forums in general. Try DVXUSER.COM–it’s all inclusive to filmmaking.