×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kickstarter stretches Sundancers’ budgets

Crowdfunder enables more fest filmmakers to get started

Sundance’s ‘Margin’ of success

While traditional investors may have gotten skittish, film fans are stepping up to help fund the indies they most want to see. In just its first year, the Sundance Institute’s partnership with film crowdsourcing fundraiser Kickstarter has helped raise approximately $1.5 million for 50 projects — about $35,000 per film on average — according to Joseph Beyer, the Institute’s director of digital initiatives.

This year, 15 Kickstarter-assisted films were accepted into the festival itself. That’s up from five (including breakout hit “Pariah”) on the 2011 slate, the first year the fest felt the impact of the crowdsourcing giant since its founding in Spring 2009 by Yancey Strickler, Perry Chen and Charles Adler.

Last year, Kickstarter’s film projects saw $32.5 million in film funding from around 310,000 people, a source notes of the initiatives, which can repay supportive cineastes with as little as a DVD of the finished film upon release. (If it fails to meet its fundraising goal, investors pledges are never collected.) “If you think (hundreds of thousands) consumers committing money to films that don’t exist yet, it shows that while some parts of the business might be in (bad) shape, there are other opportunities people are excited about.”

According to Beyer, the interest in Kickstarter among Sundance-associated filmmakers has been overwhelming, but he sometimes finds himself talking prospective producers out of a Kickstarter campaign. “Some people have said, ‘This is more work than I anticipated,’ so we help them by saying, ‘This is not for you,’?” he says with a laugh. As Strickler explains, “It tests the acumen of a filmmaker to promote a film and get an audience.”

The cross-promotion raises potential conflict-of-interest questions when Sundance Institute films funded via the Kickstarter partnership are accepted into the festival (seven were this year, and Institute emails promoting certain Kickstarter projects go out on a regular basis), but Beyer says strict rules are in place forbidding fest programmers from investing in or showing preference to those pics.

This year, the only Kickstarter-funded film in U.S. dramatic competition is Ira Sachs’ “Keep the Lights On.” Parts and Labor’s Jay Van Hoy, who exec produced, notes that online investing in the project allowed more traditional backers with bigger wallets to gauge the level of interest in the film, encouraging them to come aboard.

Other Kickstarter-funded Sundance features include documentary competition entries “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” “Me @ the Zoo” and “Indie Game: The Movie.” Midnight selection “Black Rock” is in the mix, as are Next features “Mosquita y Mari” and “My Best Day,” and experimental New Frontiers projects “Abacus” and “Room 237.”

Like Sachs, many of the helmers are Sundance vets, some with followings the filmmakers have cultivated to fund their new projects. The Austin-based Zellner brothers used momentum from their 2008 Sundance feature “Goliath” and a cult DVD shorts compilation to help fund the Next entry “Kid-Thing.” The Zellners tried a short, two-week campaign as an experiment to raise starting funds, and took in $10,000 — a fraction of their budget — from more than 120 investors.

Those investing over a certain threshold receive a special mention in the credits, another way filmmakers involve and cultivate their fanbase in the crowdsourcing era.

“It helps to get the word out,” says co-director David Zellner. “In hindsight, we would’ve done a longer campaign for more money.”

More Scene

  • Ron HowardBreakthrough Prize, Arrivals, NASA Ames

    Ron Howard Talks New Luciano Pavarotti Documentary

    If one is an anomaly, two are a coincidence and three are a trend, then Ron Howard might strictly become a music documentarian after “Pavarotti” hits theaters. The documentary about the world-famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti comes on the heels of Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” and “Made in America,” a look at [...]

  • Cara Delevingne poses for photographers upon

    Cara Delevingne to Be Honored With Hero Award at Trevor Project New York Gala

    The Trevor Project will honor Cara Delevingne with the Hero Award at its upcoming TrevorLIVE New York gala. Delevingne has supported The Trevor Project‘s efforts to end LGBTQ youth suicide rates, in addition to using her platform to speak out about mental health issues, women’s rights and animal conservation. On screen, she has acted in [...]

  • Kristen Stewart'JT LeRoy' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Kristen Stewart: 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Is 'Woke' but Still 'Funny and Weird'

    “Charlie’s Angels” has made the jump to 2019. Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot as one of the Angels, says the classic ’70s franchise has been updated to modern times without losing its pulpy action. “At one point I think we said it was woke and grounded, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, [...]

  • Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro Slams Trump Administration at Tribeca Opening Night

    The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival opened with Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo” at the iconic uptown venue which performers and Harlem community members call “home.” “You can feel the history, the echo of the entertainers,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a speech before the film. “In this administration, during [...]

  • Lilli Cooper Tootsie

    How the 'Tootsie' Musical Was Updated for the #MeToo Era

    Turning the beloved 1982 comedy “Tootsie” into a 21st century musical already seemed like a challenge when work on the adaptation began back in 2016. Then the #MeToo movement revved up — and the writers knew they couldn’t tell Dorothy’s story for a modern audience without it. “It’s different than it was when the movie [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content