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‘Kickstarted’ Kickstarts Kickstarting Kickstarter; I Interview The Documentary’s Producer

Posted by on May 10, 2013 at 3:21 pm
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Believe it or not, we cover a lot of Kickstarters here at FleshEatingZipper. It wasn’t really our intention, but we love the new and resourceful. We like movies to be made without commercial influence, we like our games to not be pinned down by publishers, we like weird stuff. We’re rebels. A few days ago, I put up an interview about Wish I Was Here and its Kickstarter campaign with Zach Braff done in service of Kickstarted, a new documentary about crowdfunding that already features interviews with Brian Fargo, Chris Roberts and others. In turn, I was able to have a few words with executive producer Jason Cooper about his Kickstarter campaign for Kickstarted and what he hopes it’ll pull off.

FleshEatingZipper: So, who’s involved with Kickstarted‘s production and what’s your background?

Jason Cooper: Jay Armitage and I are the primary people working on the film. We are co-directing and co-producing the project. We hope to announce our director of photography in the next week or two, as well as the addition of a notable musician who will be composer / music supervisor. We’re just finishing those negotiations. Most of our crew will be experienced folks that Jay and I have been working with for years.

I’m a producer of all sorts of content, mostly of the digital variety. I worked for five years as a producer at NBC Universal, primarily for a team called the digital studio where we made massive digital branded series like Gemini Division, Fact Checkers Unit, etc. I also worked as an exec on shows like Biggest Loser, Last Comic Standing, and Deal or No Deal. I left for 18 months to develop and produce my own projects, which included executive producing a movie called Four Dogs, which is being premiered at the LA Film Fest. This is my first doc, but something I’ve been working towards for a long time.

Jay is a founder and owner of a creative ad agency called Ralph & Co. He’s been producing, directing, and developing commercials and interactive advertising for 15 years.

FEZ: It seems almost tongue-in-cheek that a documentary about Kickstarters would launch a Kickstarter. Do you feel this makes your coverage ironic in a way?

JC: I hope not – and that is not at all our intention. We saw a unique opportunity to not only cover this massive change, but to participate in a real way. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with that community. The beauty of crowdfunding is that the creators get to share the process with the people that believe in them most. We’ll be able to share the filmmaking experience, exclusive content and more as a result of us using this approach. In the end, I think it will help us make a better film.

FEZ: How much is your Kickstarter ask and what’s it going toward? You obviously have some enticing footage, but where do you go from here? How do you avoid the trap that 2 Player Productions fell into with their Mojang documentary in which all that extra footage they shot, funded by their Kickstarter campaign, wound up dragging the film down after all their interesting stuff went in the pitch video?

JC: We’ll be raising $100K, although a number of people have asked to give us money in advance, which may help us lower that figure. The money will be used to finance what will be the meat of the production. As much as the Braff interviews and others are interesting, we want to focus on following the experiences of people in the midst of their projects. Not only during their raise, but after as well. How do you deliver on the promise you made with Kickstarter? In our eyes, the crowdfunding is just the first part of the story. We’re going to embed with a few to-be-announced campaigns (they’ve asked us not release their plans yet) from start to finish. The money will be used to fund that portion of the film. Our interviews will notable crowdfunders will be used to help tell the story – but we will probably release a lot of it in advance. Most wouldn’t end up in the final film anyway.

Our goal is to really make a movie like Indie Game: The Movie. The indie game movement was the background to some great personal stories. We’ll be approaching this the same way – except with crowdfunding.

FEZ: When do you feel that crowd-funding turned the corner from obscurity to, well, something you can make a documentary of? You cite Veronica Mars and Zach Braff’s recent work, but you said you’ve been working on this for a while. Was there any particular campaign that convinced you?

JC: It’s definitely picking up momentum, but I’ve been following it for years. At first, I was blown away by projects that raised significantly more than they asked for. My theory – and in talking to people I’ve been told I’m correct – is that it can really be a burden to grow so fast. My favorite example of this is Youngmahn Moon’s hot sauce. This photographer wanted to make hot sauce in his free time. He did a Kickstarter which went crazy – and he spent much of the next year cooking hot sauce, not taking pictures. Those types of stories got me thinking about the other angles of what’s happening… how much crowdfunding is capable of changing almost any industry.

FEZ: You’re obviously trying to cover the crowdfunding movement, but is there a reason you’re making Kickstarted instead of, say, Indiegogoing? Would you have gone with anyone other than Kickstarter for your own campaign?

JC: Kickstarter – to their credit – is sort of the name brand of crowdfunding at the moment. Kickstarted is just a title that we feel conveys enough about the project to get people’s attention. We have thought about other platforms (and we will feature many in the film). Still, most of our relationships are with Kickstarter projects – and that’s a big way we will get the word out about our own movie.

FEZ: To put it in a Kickstarter format: What are your risks and challenges?

JC: Same challenges of any production: we could get trapped in a legal fight, have all of our equipment stolen or broken, die in a plane crash…still, I’ve been working on this project for a long time. We are going to make the movie.

The real ‘risk’ is that the scope or tone of the project could change. That’s the nature of documentary filmmaking. I don’t have a set opinion on crowdfunding that I’m out to prove (which would be easy). I have hypotheses I want to explore and that might change as we film. Plus, we can’t say for certain where these personal stories of crowdfunders will take us. That’s the exciting part.

FEZ: When will we be able to see this movie, provided the Kickstarter goes well (and we all hope it does)?

JC: We hope to have it our in 12-18 months. Hard to say with a doc. We have timelines, but things are dependent on the situations of our subjects.

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