Veteran POV filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís (The Reckoning, POV 2009) have launched a unique campaign on Kickstarter, the site that utilizes the power of crowds to get filmmakers, musicians, writers, designers and other artists the money they need to make a creative project happen. Since launching in 2009, the community crowdfunding site has generated a lot of buzz in the film community. Kickstarter team member Kendel Ratley told us that films make up the largest percentage of projects posted. In fact, one of the most successful projects in the Kickstarter Hall of Fame was for Blue Like Jazz, a feature film based on Donald Miller’s New York Times bestselling memoir, directed by Steve Taylor and starring Marshall Allman.
Yates and Onís’s project revolves around their most recent film, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, that had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. (Granito will have it’s national television premiere on POV in 2012.) “Granito” means “tiny grain of sand,” and is a Maya concept of collective change, how all of us “persevering together over time can bring change and justice to society.” Granito the film illustrates this concept and received a sustained standing ovation at Sundance. With their Sundance-supported Kickstarter campaign, they are asking fans to partner with them to make an independent run for 2012 Oscar consideration.
We caught up with Pamela Yates, currently traveling with the film in Australia, over email and asked her to tell us about the project.
POV: Is this the first time you placed a project on Kickstarter?
Pamela Yates: This is our first Kickstarter campaign at Skylight Pictures. Though I have backed 8 other projects. I believe in the potential of harnessing the power of the internet for crowdfunding, and I was curious to see how it worked. Because it’s not just about the funding, it’s about becoming part of a community that accompanies the film on its journey to completion or outreach. Kickstarter is as much an audience building tool, as a funding one.
POV: Tell us about your project. How much are you trying to raise and what do you want to achieve?
Yates: We are trying to raise $35,000 in 30 days, and make an indie run for the 2012 Oscars. We want to go around the commercial distributors and be able to qualify for Academy consideration by striking our own 35mm print, and making sure that we have a 7-day theatrical run in New York and Los Angeles. We don’t want to go the commercial distributor route because we like to retain DVD rights to our films so that we can work our outreach campaigns for social justice and human rights, unencumbered by the bottom line.
POV: It must be fun to see all the backers sign up. How many backers do you have so far? Are they mostly from the United States or do you have any international backers?
Yates: To date we have 138 backers, they are in the US, Guatemala, UK and Spain. Yes, it’s great fun to watch them coming on board!
POV: It looks like tickets to the New York premiere (at $100 each) are the most popular pledge reward.
Yates: Yes, that $100 level is sold out. We’ll probably add additional tickets to it in the next few days. It seems like most people wanted a reward that included meeting and talking with the filmmakers. So we decided to add a new reward today: Get to know the filmmakers. We’ll be scheduling a series of skype video conference calls between the backers and we the filmmakers. The most effective prizes in Kickstarter seem to involve the human connection.
POV: Did you have fun brainstorming rewards for your backers?
Yates: Sure. [W]e asked people to donate like Dutch portrait photographer Dana Lixenberg whose stunning photographs taken with a large view camera are classics, and she agreed to make vintage prints for the $1000 level. And 2 people pledged at that level. Probably our most creative reward is a piece of the filmic evidence — a 16mm film strip of what was entered as evidence in the Guatemalan genocide case.
POV: What advice would you give to other filmmakers who are thinking about launching their own Kickstarter campaigns?
Yates: You have to work your Kickstarter campaign every single day by sending out requests beyond your own social networks, by writing personal emails, by following up with heartfelt thank you notes. Be prepared for that. Remember you are building support for your project in the long term. Send updates creatively. Use humor, and pathos.
Join the growing number of backers at Granito‘s Kickstarter campaign page »
- Watch the Granito trailer on YouTube
- Sundance Institute Blog post: Kick It: Sundance Doc Granito Launches Campaign on Kickstarter.com
- Sundance Institute Curated Kickstarter page