Ready, Set, Fund: Labor, Gourds, Retirees and Free Radicals


Photo Still The Gourds from ALL THE LABOR

"Ready, Set, Fund" is a column about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects.

It's only natural that talented acquaintances in the local music scene like Britt Daniel of Spoon or Ian Moore have achieved national recognition for their musical talent. Another success story is that of one of the hardest working bands I've ever known, The Gourds, comprised of Kevin Russell, Keith Langford, Max Johnston, Jimmy Smith and Claude Bernard. In addition to routinely playing at Shady Grove and Threadgill's South, or touring nationally, the Gourds also contributed music to a local short film, Mike Woolf's 2003 documentary Growin' a Beard.

The Gourds themselves are now the subject of All the Labor, a documentary currently funding through Monday, June 11, on Kickstarter. Filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis is the founder of the annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana, where he initially met the band in 2001. The Gourds played Missoula nearly a dozen times in the last decade and Hawes-Davis attended every show, allowing him the opportunity to meet and convince the band to participate in a film documenting their story.

Mike Woolf is one of the cinematographers providing support in Austin on the film project. Another interesting local connection is that Hawes-Davis' nonprofit was the fiscal sponsor of Winter in the Blood, a new film by Alex and Andrew Smith (The Slaughter Rule) -- Alex teaches at UT while Andrew teaches at the University of Montana. Winter in the Blood had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year.

Find out about more local film-related crowdfunding efforts after the jump.

Local filmmaker/cinematographer PJ Raval is seeking funding through Monday, May 28, for an unnamed documentary film focusing on gay retirees as they navigate through their golden years. According to research conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, "there are an estimated 2.4 million lesbian, gay or bisexual Americans over the age of 55. LGBTQ seniors are five times less likely to access social services than their heterosexual counterparts, half as likely to have health insurance coverage, twice as likely as straights to live alone, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker should they fall ill." Raval's film project humanizes these statistics -- a very timely and critical subject considering the current focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States.

The Church of the Friendly Ghost is funding its fourth annual New Media Art and Sound Summit (NMASS) through a Kickstarter project through Thursday, May 31. This four-day event runs from Thursday, June 14 through Sunday, June 17, featuring art installations, workshops, video and film as well as a dance party. Video art from Sam Sanford and Rebecca Carlisle-Healy, projections by Sandy Ewen, videos by Paul Baker, films by Experimental Response Cinema. Specifically for the summit, filmmaker Jeanne Stern is creating a "surf music re-interpretations" cycle that combines visual artists with musical ensembles.

Also at NMASS, Brooklyn-based artist and filmmaker Steve Cossman, whose work incorporates Super 8 and 16 mm, will present a program of experimental animation featuring a rare 16mm print of Len Lye's 1958 classic Free Radicals. Lye reduced the medium to its most basic elements by directly scratching black film using a variety of tools ranging from dental picks to Native American arrowheads. Free Radicals features the synchronization of singing and rhythmic drumming of the African Bagirmi tribe with a mesmerizing pattern of flashing lines and zigzags. Watch Free Radicals below:

Other local film-related projects running crowdfunding campaigns this month:

  • A Melting Horizon: Capturing Climate Change in Peru -- Water resource engineering grad student Johnny Sullivan is creating a film that captures the impacts of climate change on the people of Andean Peru and the efforts of an Engineers Without Borders (EWB) project to help in the rural village of Huasta. Its people rely on glacial melt and seasonal precipitation for fresh water, but due to climate change, the people's water sources are diminishing. Sullivan's film will document the impacts and mitigation effort related to this climate change. In high school, Sullivan was a national finalist in the documentary category of the National History Day competition, and had documented work of EWB through video. (Kickstarter, ends Sunday, June 3)
  • Camp Kickitoo -- A fast-paced hip-hop comedy that centers on the unlikely romance between an unemployed banker, and, a beautiful rapper. Alvin takes a summer job at Camp Kickitoo, which turns out to be not a typical summer camp. Instead the camp is actually a rehab facility for minor drug offenders. Alvin becomes a counselor in charge of Wanda, an angry camper, unjustly busted for marijuana possession. United by music, their unlikely relationship becomes a love connection. Funding is for some final audio post-production as well as festival submissions. (Kickstarter, ends June 14)
  • Creating Film, Music, and Photography -- This feature-length documentary examines the meaning and relative importance of art in today's technologically advanced society where everyone has the access and ability to create. Explores the depths of these concepts while chronicling the spiritual and artistic journey of accomplished music photographer, Christopher Durst. This film also features commentary and in-depth interviews with influential figures in film, music and photography regarding the advancements in creative technology and its artistic impact on their respective industries. (Kickstarter, ends Friday June 22)
  • Roger (ASSGLASS) -- In the film, alcoholic vagrant Roger and mislead youth Hank, a misled youth, have a meeting of the minds at an otherwise ordinary bus stop. (Kickstarter, ends Saturday, June 23)
  • The Quiet Girl's Guide to Violence -- This short film by actress and producer Jennymarie Jemison was shot over nine days in Austin, and is in the process of raising money for post-production that includes editing, color correction, sound design, scoring and festival submission fees. (Kickstarter, ends Friday, June 15)
  • The Story of Sharon -- This documentary subject is the filmmaker's aunt, Sharon, lovingly remembered for her many talents including painting, weaving, acting, doll making, hat-making, making jelly, and joke-telling. When Sharon passed away from cancer in 1999 I set out to make a documentary about her amazing life. Over the years filmmaker Rene Pinnell (who is also related to the late great filmmaker Eagle Pennell) has interviewed 23 family members and friends of Sharon, collected 35 tapes of home movies and scanned thousands of family photos. (Kickstarter, ends Monday, May 28)
  • Tiny Tape Recorder -- The story of a man who must confront his past after discovering a tiny tape recorder embedded in his ear as part of a vast government conspiracy. This film will attempt to tell a story that explores the ways in which the past constantly influences the present. (Kickstarter, ends Saturday, May 26)
  • Uncle Sam Isn't Real -- Co-written and co-directed by recent UT Austin Film program graduates Bridget Green and Jara Wallace, this comedic narrative short film is set in a world exactly like our own but with one exception -- much like Christmas has evolved over the past century into a commercial phenomenon, so has July 4th evolved into "Amerimas." On Amerimas Eve, Uncle Sam flies all across the country on his eagle, Artemis, delivering presents to the good patriotic girls and boys. A satire of all the imaginary characters that parents perpetuate on their little ones. (Kickstarter, Thursday, June 7)

Not all crowdfunding projects meet their goals. Ricinus Communis, which was featured in the April edition of "Ready, Set, Fund" is still funding through May 26, having raised less than $4,000 with a funding goal of $480,000. This project is an example of how not to succeed in a crowdfunding project -- over-reaching goals, minimal updates from the filmmakers, and no engagement of backers.

I've observed that the most successful crowdfunding projects are those that set more reasonable financial goals or stage their production costs into multiple crowdfunding projects -- at the very least, one for equipment and filming, and another for post-production including film festival entry costs and travel. Engaging fans through both Kickstarter and social media is an effective way to drive financial support from friends and fans.

Have a project that you would like to be considered for an upcoming "Ready, Set, Fund," feature about crowdfunding and related fundraising endeavors for Austin and Texas independent film projects? Contact us if you've got a film fundraising project going on you'd like us to know about.

tiny tape recorder movie magic

Check out this video of movie magic on the set of Tiny Tape Recorder and help us reach our Kickstarter goal if you want to see more: