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Kickstarter has proven to be one of the more popular crowdfunding platforms for independent filmmakers these days. Whether it's a heavily publicized big budget venture or a lower budget film from an up-and-coming filmmaker, crowdfunding is one way to rally financial support, as well as interest in a developing project. As movie fans, some of us may have kicked in some money toward interesting projects at Kickstarter, but what is it like to fund a film that way from the filmmaker's perspective? We spoke with with Robert Hillyer Barnett about that very subject. Barnett is currently in the process of making a film called Tears of God. It's described as an atmospheric feature-length fable about possession, death and mourning in a rural community. Its Kickstarter campaign is up and running, with a little more than a week to go.
Barnett said they decided to fund Tears of God through Kickstarter both out of necessity and a desire to build an audience of people who might be interested in the film. From a backer's perspective, there's certainly something to be said for getting to contribute to someone else's art and Kickstarter allows us to do that, especially if it leads to the film being completed. Barnett spoke about that a bit when talking about the benefit of contributing to a Kickstarter campaign. "I think it is much more rewarding to the audience as well to know that they've helped bring a unique film into the world that otherwise wouldn't exist." Barnett said. "Or at least exist with the kind of production value we are striving for."
While this isn't Barnett's first experience funding a film through Kickstarter — he was involved with a Kickstarter campaign to raise $700 for a film called Holy God Holy Mighty Holy Immortal Have Mercy Upon Us — the campaign for Tears of God is seeking significantly more money, with the goal set at $23,000. Currently, there are nine days to go and with 78 backers, they've raised over $6000. While $23,000 is certainly higher than $700, it's still far less than some projects funded through Kickstarter. The Veronica Mars movie set its goal at $2,000,000 and raised over $5,700,000. And Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here, which just debuted at Sundance, aimed for $2,000,000 and ended up coming away with over $3,100,000 from backers. Of course, these were projects involving people with pre-established fan bases and they were much more heavily promoted than the average independent film on Kickstarter. Barnett talked a little bit about that and how he's seeking a very specific audience for Tears of God:
The difference between those kinds of projects and ours, is that they have an audience and a community ready to rally and support them. For our film, which we are asking a significantly lower amount for, we are seeking out a very specific audience that either barely exists or is difficult to target. We are making a film which draws from niche inspiration from European horror films of the 70's/80's that I think lovers of the genre — or film in general — would really really enjoy. We also have a dream cast in place, with Kate Lyn Sheil, who is known for her unique volatility on screen, in a role I think fans of Kate have been waiting for, as well as Samuel T. Herring, the singer in the band Future Islands, whose passionate and theatrical on-stage presence is building anticipation with how he translated that to screen.
One of the things involved in the process of setting the goal is obviously trying to determine how much money to try to raise. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing situation. Meaning, if a campaign is successful and it raises — at minimum — the set goal amount of money, the contributors are charged and the project creator gets the money. But if the project fails to reach its goal, contributors aren't charged and the project creator doesn't get any of the money. So it's necessary to set a goal that is reachable but that is also enough to allow the filmmaker to do what they need to do to get the film finished. Barnett talked to us a little bit about how they set their goal for this film and what they're planning to do with the money if the campaign is successful:
You can't ask for too much, and with the cost of the rewards and shipping you can't ask for too little. We basically drew up a budget for the film, and we decided how much money of our own we could put into the film, and what we would minimally need to shoot the film, we would do a Kickstarter for. All of the money on the Kickstarter is going directly into principal photography, to just get the film shot. Any spillover will go into post-production, which includes sound design, color correction, score, etc.
As of right now, they've shot about 15 minutes of Tears of God. All of what they filmed involves Samuel T. Herring's character and it was shot in an abandoned heatless movie theater — during a blizzard — in Mars Hill, North Carolina. "His band Future Islands is about to go on a massive tour with the release of their new album and this was our only window to get him shot out," Barnett told us. "His scenes are wild and shocking. I'm excited to see peoples' reaction to them."
Barnett told us the rest of the movie is going to be shot during the first couple of weeks of February, and that's what they're hoping to raise money for. "We are planning on an early secret screening in late summer before it enters the festival circuit," Barnett said. That screening is actually one of numerous pledge incentives offered for those who contribute the film. Among the others are t-shirts, Blu-rays, a limited edition poster, a Skype call, a private screening and more. As is usually the case with Kickstarter, pledge incentives vary based on how much a backer contributes. A backer who contributes $10,000 to Tears of God will earn themselves a producer credit, among other perks.
With nine days to go, we're hopeful that they're successful in getting Tears of God funded. If you'd like to contribute or take a look at the pledge incentives, check out their Kickstarter page.
TEARS OF GOD is the first feature film by writer/director Robert Hillyer Barnett, co-written by Diamando Proimos. After her father's death, a young woman, Ida, confronts the source of the demonic scourge plaguing those around her. Longing for reunion with the dead and seduced by the chaotic allure of possession, Ida struggles to find meaning in a barren, apocalyptic landscape, while those around her succumb to despair and madness.