Earlier this year, Sundance Institute announced an unique program to connect our alumni artists with emerging opportunities in creative funding using the new technology of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a community tool to fund and follow creativity that allows users all over the world to discover and support projects that spark their enthusiasm and interest. Small donations are made to the project in exchange for tangible rewards from the artists, while they retain full creative control of their work. More than 350,000 people have pledged over $30 million dollars to projects on Kickstarter since its launch in spring 2009.
As part of this initiative, Kickstarter Co-Founder Yancey Strickler presented a workshop to Sundance Institute alumni where he talked them through the Kickstarter system and answered questions from an anxious and rapt audience of filmmakers about how to utilize the service. In the crowd that morning were veteran documentarian Pamela Yates and producer Paco de Onis, furiously taking notes and quietly hatching thoughts for their own Kickstarter campaign.
On February 23, they launched and announced their plan to the world: they were seeking support to take their 2011 Sundance Film Festival project Granito: How to Nail a Dictator on an independent run to be nominated for the 2012 Academy Awards in Documentary. Their campaign on Kickstarter outlined their mission and philosophy, and offered one lucky set of backers the chance to attend the Oscars with them if they are successful.
As of this writing, over 117 people have contributed $8,500 with 20 days to go. They still need your help to reach $35,000 – we checked in with the Granito crew while they were traveling to see how it’s been going.
Sundance Institute: What was the most exciting part of dreaming up the Kickstarter campaign to do an independent Oscar run with Granito?
Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis: The most exciting part was realizing that as Sundance alumni, the new Kickstarter/Sundance platform might allow us to realize our dream of an indie run to the 2012 Oscars, to take the social justice message of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator to tens of millions of viewers without selling control of our film to a commercial distributor. We've been making social justice films for nearly 30 years, in conjunction with widespread outreach campaigns with a human rights rather than commercial focus, so it's essential that we maintain the ability to keep our films out there in the public sphere for use in social justice work. But the costs of an Oscar run are prohibitive for indie filmmakers, so most have to rely on distributors with deep pockets - Kickstarter is allowing us to bypass that model through the collective power of crowdfunding.
Sundance Institute: What has it been like now that the campaign has started? What surprised you the most so far?
Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis: We were surprised by the rapid response and the generosity of people who don't know us, but generously responded to the idea of becoming "granitos" (that's what we call our backers - it means each person contributing their tiny grain of sand). And we also realized that the most popular rewards were those that involved being with us filmmakers, either at our NY Premiere or at our Oscar qualification screenings, which speaks to the unique human quality of Kickstarter. It's brought a whole new cadre of supporters into our orbit, which is very exciting.
Sundance Institute: You are traveling with the film right now and still taking this on, describe your energy around the Kickstarter campaign? Do you talk about it everywhere you go? Are you learning anything about your supporters?
Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis: Filmmakers or others who might use Kickstarter take note: it will take over your life for the duration of the campaign! You'll be watching the backers joining the project (very gratifying), you'll be Facebooking, Tweeting, Tumbling, Emailing, Blogging. Sending out updates, replying to comments on the Kickstarter page, asking friends and family and new backers to spread the word. Examining the varying responses to the different rewards, making adjustments, perhaps introducing new rewards. You'll be busy! Our supporters are engaged and sending us encouraging emails, sometimes increasing their contributions - we look forward to a long relationship with them as we move onto the future with new films. And all of this while we are embarked on a global tour with Granito that started with our Sundance world premiere and is taking us through the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Geneva, Paris, Prague, London, The Hague, São Paulo, Rio, and more to come - so at every stop we're spreading the word about Kickstarter to other filmmakers and encouraging them to participate in crowdfunding.
Sundance Institute: What would you recommend to other artists who might want to try Kickstarter? What’s a little piece of advice now that you are in it, so to speak?
Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis: Think carefully about the project you want to launch and how it fits into the Kickstarter ethos. Browse the many campaigns and become a backer for ones you like, even if with a small amount, because it will involve you with the Kickstarter community and you'll receive the updates from the project you backed and join in the excitement of being a part of it.
To become a Granito yourself and join their campaign, click here and make a contribution right now or help them spread the word. Hurry, the campaign ends March 24, 2011. You can also watch Pamela and Paco’s video interview about their Kickstarter campaign here.