Local Short Films Get Creative With Financing

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Mike Tuttle

Lexington, KY - In 1992, Columbia Pictures released El Mariachi, a film Robert Rodriguez made for $7,000. Rodriguez planned the film’s shooting so as to prevent all the big studio-style wastefulness and delays. How Rodriguez financed and supported the production has become the stuff of legend. He started with a list of props, vehicles and locations he knew he had access to, including a dog, a jail, and a van. He then checked in to a medical testing facility to participate in clinical trials as a paid test subject. For that he earned half what he needed to produce his film. While in the facility, he wrote his script around the items he had on his list. That film resulted in two big-budget follow-ups and launched a career for Rodriguez.

Wednesday, January 30th is Short Film Night at Natasha’s Bistro on Esplanade in Lexington. The five films featured are all produced by local filmmakers. The lineup includes Consignment by Justin Hannah, Bizarnival by Walk Softly Films, Age/Sex/Location by Jeremy Midkiff, Sour Notes by Jesse Harris, and Watch Me by Lee Clements. How these filmmakers financed their efforts puts a 21st-century spin on Rodriguez’s methods.

Jesse Harris bankrolled Sour Notes using “crowd-sourcing”, a donation arrangement that gets people to “invest” in your project just for the love of seeing it come to fruition. There is not investment return represented or allowed.

“I’ve used the fundraising site Kickstarter to set this up. The idea with Kickstarter is that you set a goal for how much money you need to create a project.  Then, you set up donation tiers: $10, $25, $500, etc.  With each tier, you establish a ‘prize’ that will be given to anyone who donates at that level, like a DVD copy of the film for $25 or an executive producer credit for $1,000.  If you reach your goal, Kickstarter takes 5% and the rest goes to you to fund your project,” Harris explained.

Justin Hannah produced Consignment a different way.

Consignment is a black and white, noir-style period piece set in 1954, so I had to think about locations, clothing, hairstyles, props, vehicles – basically everything we would need to create the world of the 1950′s. Which typically all mean money.

To raise funds for the movie, I submitted work to tongal.com, a website that connects creative people with large companies. I was able to raise around $1000 that way, through a Beach Boys video contest, and an ad pitch for Q-Tips. Using the contest winnings, I was able to cover the cost of the necessities.”

Lee Clements and Erin Picone worked hard to keep their expenses low for Watch Me.

“Our greatest single expense was probably the rental for an hour or so of the taxi at the end of the film–$80 for two hours, I think. He wanted to charge $300 but Erin managed to talk him down. We had various meals to pay for, which probably come to $100 total over the entire shoot. I think I paid $45 for the briefcase used in the film. In the end, Watch Me was an 8-page script that we shot for under $300.”

Scott Stafford of Walk Softly Films says they are currently waiting on the crowd-sourcing model.

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