“Hollywood Types” Go Micro-budget and Borderline Hipster with The Canyons on Kickstarter
By Laura Zinger
Filmmaker And Guest Film Blogger
Have you been wondering when the Hollywood would jump on the blitzkrieg bandwagon that is? It’s happened.
Writer Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) has teamed up with writer-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and producer Braxton Pope to utilize crowdfunding for the new feature titled The Canyons.
If you’ve never heard of crowdfunding, get with the program! As a modern moviemaker, you need to get used to the fact that you will, at some point in your filmmaking career, end up utilizing crowdfunding (Kickstarter or Indiegogo) as part of your fundraising strategy. Not only that, but you’re going to have to sell yourself just as much as you will have to sell your film.
If you’re new to crowdfunding, read this.
For filmmakers familiar with crowdfunding, check out The Canyons Kickstarter Page. It’s well worth it — if only for seeing the perks being offered. The Canyons offers everything from Producer’s coffee with Braxton Pope (only 2 out of 15 are remaining) to a money clip autographed and given to Paul Schrader by Robert De Niro on the set of Taxi Driver! Price tag? $10,000. Sold? You better believe it.
But my absolute favorite reward that The Canyons‘ team is offering is this: “TRAIN WITH BRET”
This perk allows you to train alongside Bret Easton Ellis and his personal celebrity trainer Christian Graham for a week. The package includes three hour long workouts, access to supplements and consultation. How much more could you give an absolute fan than the ability to sweat alongside one of your favorite authors in one of the most intimate of settings, the American gym?
Or maybe I am over thinking the intimacy factor here because I am a woman. Not sure. Please weigh in here, guys. Isn’t the American gym a place of intimacy especially when working out with someone?
Producer Braxton Pope admitted that they have gotten some fire from utilizing crowdfunding, because they are seen as “Hollywood Types.” (My quotes, not Braxton’s.) And some people feel that “Hollywood Types” should take on all the financial responsibility for their film projects and not take away funding from lesser known artists who do not have presumed access to the large piggy banks that “Hollywood Types” apparently do.
Braxton said that they are expected to call up Scorcese and ask him for funding.
Braxton was also quick to point out, that by their team even having a project on Kickstarter their eyes were opened up to other worthwhile projects on Kickstarter that they have themselves have become backers of. Pope has since backed two documentaries and a recording project in the last month. Additionally, Braxton said that there is so much support for crowdfunded projects in general, that there really is no need to get upset about their crowdfunded project.
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Last year alone, Kickstarter pledges equaled $99,344,382. (Please keep in mind that “pledged” means pledged on all projects whether they were funded or not. This is not the number for how much money was actually collected from successfully funded projects. Kickstarter didn’t release those numbers for some reason. Lame…)
According to Paul Schrader, in The Canyons’ Kickstarter pitch video, the team is taking their micro-budget to heart. Paul says, “The money we raise on Kickstarter certainly isn’t going into salaries, because everyone is working for free, or as free as the guilds will allow us to work.”
Not being able to pay cast and crew well or at all is a serious annoyance in independent filmmaking. I mean, how is anyone supposed to make a living? But if that is the sacrifice one must make in order to be independent of the studio system, I believe it’s worth it. (Having worked at Starbucks in my late 20s in order to temporarily escape “the man” was one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.)
Bret said that if they can pull The Canyons off successfully as a high quality production on a micro-budget, then they will indeed do another micro-budget feature. (Also, is it just me, or does the shirt and glasses ensemble Paul Schrader has on in the pitch video make him look like a Priest? I’ve done a double take every time I’ve watched this video. Maybe Pope put him up to it?)
But above and beyond who The Canyons team is made up of, and the fact that this team is using crowdfunding to fund their film.
Here is why I suggest that you, Modern Moviemakers, should support and pay attention to them: Bret and Braxton believe wholeheartedly in Transparency. They feel that crowdfunding allows them transparency and openness with their audience.
“Transparency,” according to Uber Indie Producer, Ted Hope, in his appropriately challenging and dynamic post, Our Obligation to Share “begins with us. Transparency is a process, a behavior. By definition, it is an openness to share – share not only our successes, but also our process and all it entails. It seems we have had a lot of trouble committing to this openness.”
In line with their belief in transparency, The Canyons’ team has offered a $10 Kickstarter reward in which you can “Help us cast the film! You will be given access to a private link on www.LetItCast.com that will allow you to vote on our casting finalists.”
Oddly, only 83 backers have signed onto this reward, but the implication of being allowed to have an opinion in the casting of a feature film is game-changing. Will this crowdfunding, the-fan-is-all mentality combined with the transparency philosophy that Bret, Braxton, and Ted Hope all subscribe to turn modern filmmaking into a loose execution of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure novels?
Will this make modern films better or worse? Is this the only way that crowdfunding can actually work? And at what point does fan engagement with crowdfunding lead to pandering to your audience, which is the supreme philosophy of the Studio System?
These are definitely questions worth asking, that modern moviemakers should ask themselves as they navigate the seemingly wonderful, dolphin and sprite-filled waters that are crowdfunding. (Sprites are a race of fairies with green skin and wings for those of you not in the know. And if you don’t know what a dolphin is, god bless you, Google it.)
Bret Easton Ellis says The Canyons lays out the true challenges their team faces in making a micro-budget feature: “Can we actually within those parameters make a real movie where we have the action beats, we have drama, a tight story, the camera moves, and a lot of exteriors.”
If The Canyons is a challenge for these “Hollywood Types” to see if they can make a high quality production on a micro-budget in an attempt at reclaiming once again their creative independence, I sincerely believe any modern moviemaker should take notice, and follow or contribute to The Canyons’ Kickstarter campaign, because for all of us, this is THE crowdfunded, film-based project to watch for the next two days.
In my humble opinion, if these “Hollywood Types” can pull it off, then there’s no reason the rest of us can’t. It’s time for modern moviemakers to pull themselves out of the murky depths of budget constrained quality production and do what this team plans to do.
Also, I noticed that producers Hope and Pope’s last names in juxtaposition seem almost a literal indication of what you as a Modern Moviemaker should be doing a lot of (hoping and praying) as you charge forward with your filmmaking!
You can listen to the hour long phone interview between Bret, Braxton, and myself by clicking the link below.
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Enjoy and good luck, Modern Moviemakers!
Laura Zinger talks fast and is the owner of 20K Films, a Chicago-based, documentary production company.
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TRANSCRIPTED EXCERPT: “THE CANYONS’ CRUMMY ONE-LINER”
Laura Zinger (Filmmaking Stuff Interviewer): So gentlemen, I wanted to ask you what The Canyons is about because for the life of me, all I can find is the same one liner which says, “The Canyons documents five twenty-something’s quest for power, love, sex and success in 2012 Hollywood.” What is it really about?
Bret Easton Ellis: I don’t know who came up with that. Who came up with that, Braxton?
Laura Zinger: Who are you going to blame?
Bret Easton Ellis: That really doesn’t, I’m not going to blame anybody.
Braxton Pope: It doesn’t capture the script really [laughs] really well at all.
Laura Zinger: No, I would say no. I would say that’s disappointing.
Bret Easton Ellis: Yeah, I would say…
Laura Zinger: And you raised $144,000 on that.
Bret Easton Ellis: Yeah, yeah it’s strange to me that was how, that that was how the movie ended up being synopsisized. You know I started out when we were first sitting down thinking about doing a micro-budget movie, Paul Schrader, Braxton, and myself, we were thinking how can we make one of these micro-budget movies that aren’t about two people in a car for you know 90 minutes talking…
Laura Zinger: You’re not a fan of that, Bret? Two people in a car for 90 minutes talking?
Bret Easton Ellis: Well when I was looking at certain micro-budget movies, I noticed one or you know they were usually very very simple and they seemed almost hampered by their budgets. But they looked okay and were made for, whatever, $20,000 before post, cool. That was cool. But you know it’s like ok, so two characters, and a car driving along the countryside complaining about their relationships or you know, they were newlyweds, you know 6 people basically in a loft complaining about their relationships, and…
Laura Zinger: It sounds like you’re describing Mumblecore.
Bret Easton Ellis: Uh, yeah, but at least Mumblecore with a movie like COLD WEATHER, for example broke out of the genre by actually heading toward noir, and had almost action beats to it within a Mumblecore sensibility, and I started to think, it’s very interesting you mention Mumblecore, because I think Mumblecore is kind of interesting and I’m kind of amazed at the quality of a lot of the writing and directing, of some of those movies, and it really came together last year, there were a couple of films.
I think UNCLE KENT was one of them, which I thought was really interesting, and I also thought that COLD WEATHER was one of them, and I thought the idea was okay, look, we’re going to make a micro-budget movie, there are certain constraints, but let’s not make the typical micro-budget movie. Let’s make a real movie, let’s make a genre movie and I think because I’m so identified with what the synopsis sounds like, it made it such a sell, but really I wasn’t even thinking about how old the characters were.
Yeah, everyone in the cast is basically in their 20s, but really, my launching pad, where I took off from was noir, was a noir script, and I was thinking about, okay, I know what the parameters were, I know what the boundaries are of what our budget is probably going to be, can we actually within those parameters, make a real movie, where we have the action beats, we have drama, a tight story, the camera moves, we have a lot of exteriors, you know, a lot of things that you know. So that was playing heavily on my mind, I was wanting to do a noir story, I wanted to do a kind of mystery thriller, but yes, but I did have to say it is true, it is kind of my, the cast is basically Ellis archetypes, you know? They are, some of them are rich kids living in LA, well one rich kid in particular, but it is, it does move away from kind of the aimlessness or randomness of quote unquote on some of my work and it really is a sort of tightly plotted thriller, you know.
Laura Zinger: You’re more interesting than the synopsis. You guys, I mean basically like, look, your one-liner, it’s tweetable right, but you both have the most fantastic twitter feeds, like you both write tweets so well, and you couldn’t write a better synopsis?
Bret and Braxton: [Both Laugh]
Braxton Pope: Neither of us wrote the synopsis so, perhaps one of us should have actually bothered to come up with it.
Bret Easton Ellis: Who did come up with the synopsis?
Braxton Pope: Someone from production did, but I don’t know who specifically.
Laura Zinger: Please don’t call them out.
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