Archive for the ‘crowdfunding’ Category

Crowdfunding: A Primer

Friday, May 20th, 2016

From THE CIRCLE by Julie Mallozzi, crowdfunding on IndieGoGo

This is an updated version of a previously published article.

So, you have a creative project (an unfinished film, music album, graphic novel, etc.) and you want funding so you can adequately – make that epically – realize your vision.

Instead of relying solely on traditional grant programs (such as our Artist Fellowships or Local Cultural Council grants), which may or may not match up with your project’s timeline, you might consider using a crowdfunding site as part of your fundraising strategy.

Artists crowdfund by soliciting donations from many individual supporters, directing donations to one central online presence. There are a number of crowdfunding sites for artists to choose from, which generally have these things in common:

  • They make it easy for individuals to make tax-deductible donations.
  • They ask artists to set a fundraising goal.
  • They provide helpful and novel ways to interact with donors, including the ability to offer rewards.
  • And a certain percentage of the donations go to the crowdfunding site to pay for the service.

What sites are out there, and what differentiates them?

 

From the Kickstarter video for THE CHEMICAL WEDDING BY CHRISTIAN ROSENCREUTZ by John Crowley, illustrated by Theo Fadel, to be published by Small Beer Press

Kickstarter
The most prominent crowdfunding site is Kickstarter. Anyone from tech entrepreneurs to working artists can use the site to create campaigns for their project, with a funding goal. Kickstarter campaigners then offer creative rewards (say, an embroidered t-shirt or a DVD of the project or a personalized portrait) to donors, increasing the appeal of the reward based on the donation amount.

Things to keep in mind about Kickstarter: if campaigns do not meet their fundraising goal, the artist gets nothing, so the incentive is high to drum up support. Also, project campaigns need to be approved by Kickstarter to launch.

For an example, check out this campaign by Small Beer Press (out of Easthampton, MA) to publish a new version of what just might be the history’s first science fiction book. The background story is unique and appealing, and the project’s video is especially strong.

 

THE CLEMENTE PROJECT by James Rutenbeck, crowdfunding on HatchFund

Hatchfund
Another major crowdfunding site is Hatchfund (formerly called United States Artists Projects). Hatchfund is similar to Kickstarter in many ways, with tax-deductible donations, creative rewards, and an all-or-nothing fundraising goal. (Additionally, there’s a “stretch goal” if the original is exceeded.)

Unlike Kickstarter, Hatchfund is specifically focused on artists. Some projects may receive matching funds from Hatchfund for a portion of their campaign. And perhaps most significantly, Hatchfund offers one-on-one coaching and support for artists by Hatchfund staff.

Check out The Clemente Project by James Rutenbeck (Film & Video Finalist ’11), which you can also read about here. The campaign does a great job conveying how a story about unheralded voices in one struggling community can have universal significance.

 


THE CIRCLE Crowdfunding video from Julie Mallozzi

IndieGoGo
Another crowdfunding site is IndieGoGo. The big difference is that, unlike the all-or-nothing approach of Kickstarter and Hatchfund, you can elect to keep all of the money you raise (minus site fees), even if you don’t meet your goal.

Check out The Circle by Julie Mallozzi (Film & Video Finalist ’15, ’07), which very successfully conveys the potential impact of the project and its appeal to both targeted communities (like anti-violence activists) and a wider audience.

Go Totally DIY
Not a joiner? You could also take the principles of crowdfunding and set up your own campaign. You’ll need a PayPal or similar online payment account, a home base (like a web site homepage or a blog), and a group that will act as an organizational fiscal sponsor so that donations will be tax deductible. In film, the Center for Independent Documentary and Filmmakers Collaborative both serve as fiscal sponsors for film projects, and the New York organization Fractured Atlas serves as fiscal sponsor for artist projects in all disciplines, and throughout the country. You can even include creative rewards and frequent updates to your donors – you’ll just have to handle the infrastructure of these actions on your own.

Best Practices
What are best practices in crowdfunding? Successful campaigns tend to…

  • Tell a compelling story. The campaign, whether through its video, description, updates, or all of the above, successfully conveys why this project is essential and why its supporters’ contributions are meaningful.
  • Tap into and cultivate an interested community.
  • Incentivize support. Rewards are part of that incentive, but even better is when the story is the incentive: the project’s storytelling convinces an interested community that this is a can’t-miss opportunity to be part of something important.

Further research:
Read How do you use online platforms as an artist? on ArtSake
Beth Kanter’s blog shares five basic crowdfunding tips
Find tips on best practices when crowdfunding an artist project on The Abundant Artist

Image: still image from THE CIRCLE by Julie Mallozzi (Film & Video Finalist ’15, ’07) crowdfunding through IndieGoGo; still image from the Kickstarter video for THE CHEMICAL WEDDING BY CHRISTIAN ROSENCREUTZ by John Crowley, illustrated by Theo Fadel, to be published by Small Beer Press; screenshot of the crowdfunding campaign for THE CLEMENTE PROJECT by James Rutenbeck (Film & Video Finalist ’11); IndieGoGo video for THE CIRCLE.

James Rutenbeck on The Clemente Project

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

James Rutenbeck‘s latest film-in-progress, The Clemente Project, explores the The Clemente Course in the Humanities, a tuition-free, college-level course targeting adults from disadvantaged backgrounds. The film tells the stories of participants in Dorchester, such as Kafi Dixon, a recently evicted MBTA bus driver, and Carl Chandler, a father/grandfather/mentor in a struggling neighborhood.

James, a past awardee of MCC’s Artist Fellowships Program, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the project. We asked him about the film, the campaign, and his career listening to – and sharing – voices seldom heard in film.

Can you talk about the trajectory of The Clemente Project – its origins, its development, and where you hope to see it go?
I heard a Clemente graduate speak at a dinner a few years ago and I, along with everyone else in the crowd, was absolutely blown away by her. The Clemente Course in the Humanities is a rigorous, college-level night course for low-income adults in 19 cities around the world. The way she talked about how immersion in the humanities had changed her life got me thinking about the Clemente Course as a film idea. Mass Humanities came in as first funder, followed closely by the LEF Moving Image Fund, two foundations that had supported my film Scenes from a Parish. This meant we could start filming classes in Dorchester in October 2014. Over time Carl Chandler and Kafi Dixon have emerged as the kind of indelible characters one looks for in making these kinds of films. I anticipate filming and editing over the next year to continue keeping pace with Kafi and Carl’s stories.

Why are you choosing to crowdfund the project?
Mostly out of desperation – this is a tough film to pitch to funders because it’s complicated, and the outcomes are not obvious. We’ve been filming for the last eighteen months, and the characters’ stories are unfolding. We’re getting closer though, and once I have an assembly or rough cut, I’ll feel ready to approach some foundations that have supported my work in the past.

The Hatchfund goal is modest – just enough to keep us up and running at this critical moment. Every dollar will go to paying crew. That said, I’m not really comfortable with crowdfunding and don’t believe it’s a sustainable way to make films. And there’s definitely Kickstarter fatigue in the air. When the first contribution came in, my first impulse was to send Jack Cheng‘s check back to him.

I’m curious about the idea of “responsibility” as relates to the real people in your films. How does responsibility affect the way you work, at each step in the process?
I seek to give a voice to undervalued people – not unlike the Clemente model of creating a space for people to bring their life experience into a Socratic dialogue about history, philosophy and literature, or the research approach of social historians. To that end, I have to be in an honest relationship with the characters of the film. I need to understand, as best I can, how they experience the world, and that means listening closely. Not inserting myself constantly – just shutting up and listening.

I’ve realized I’m living in parallel universe with Carl and Kafi. When Kafi asked me to observe her meeting with Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, a meeting that could determine whether or not she would end up homeless, she told me, “This is your trip to Taiwan.”

The question of responsibility is a deep one, especially when the people you are filming are living so close to the edge. I’ve been transparent with Carl and Kafi about my intentions, and they are intelligent people who push back when they’re not comfortable with what I’m suggesting. They understand the implications of what we’re doing and have accepted the risk of becoming film characters.

That said no one ever really knows how what is recorded digitally will be shaped behind cutting room doors. This is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. What ends up on screen is my understanding of what happened, and that filter is flawed. I’m stating the obvious now.

And with this film, racial undercurrents are always present. Executive Producer Llewellyn Smith, an accomplished filmmaker and African-American who grew up in Dorchester, helps me keep perspective.

Do you maintain relationships with your films’ subjects after the films are completed?
Sometime it’s clear that the relationship was based on the heightened experience of making a film together; in other cases, it’s more than that – a lifelong friendship. Sometimes I may want to continue a relationship, but they may not. It’s a two-way street! I do have a bunch of friends, many on Facebook, from films I made many years ago.

Still from SCENES FROM A PARISH by James Rutenbeck (2009)

Am I correct that you studied film at MIT? How did that experience shape your filmmaking style? Your career?
I’d learned about the MIT Film Section during a month-long seminar with Jean Rouch in 1978. It was a studio-based program – students and teachers were always heading out to shoot films, and filmmakers came from around the world to screen their films in classes and at Monday Night Screenings. For a small town Iowa kid, being part of it all was exciting and transformative. I’ve supported my family with dozens of editing and producing jobs over the years, and I wouldn’t have been able to hold onto an aesthetic that feels like my own if I hadn’t had that formative time at MIT.

I believe a non-fiction film, at least the kind we made at MIT, is an entity with a life of its own. It will reveal itself over time. You have to be patient and open to what might happen next and where it will lead you. That was a principle of Ricky Leacock’s that has stuck with me. I’m a spiritual person, and it’s how I see the world anyway. My life has been disrupted by harrowing life events that have turned out be absolutely transforming.

What, if anything, is the throughline that connects the subjects you’ve explored in your films throughout your career?
Some of the people in my films have been badly bruised by savage capitalism; others are vulnerable people who are in one way or another excluded from society. Being the father of a non-speaking autistic son has made a deep imprint on me. Twenty-six years spent with Anthony at home and out in the world, endless hours speculating about how he might be experiencing his day and being challenged later by reading his eloquent writing about his experience, have made me acutely aware of people who live as outsiders.

The films I make are all personal, but some are more political than others – The Clemente Project is inherently political, dealing as it does with poor people living in a city with the highest rate of inequality in the U.S.

What other artists, in film or otherwise, interest and inspire you?
I struggle to read but love books. I am a big fan of Marilynne Robinson, whose novel Lila played in a loop in my car for several months. As I listened over and over, it began to feel like a folk song. I’ve been reading Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, a non-fiction that feels like a novel – The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is like that too. I also love theatre – a Steppenwolf performance of Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer from many years ago is lodged forever inside me.

I am lucky to have long-standing friendships with some remarkable artists, like the deeply committed political filmmaker John Gianvito and Rob Todd, whose experimental films place a primacy on image. I love Alexandra Anthony’s Lost in the Bewilderness and whatever Steve Ascher and Jeannie Jordan are doing. As I’ve been working on The Clemente Project, I’ve been thinking a lot about Richard Broadman, a Boston documentarian who taught me how to sync 16 mm dailies when I was his intern many years ago. Boston is a place where a deep engagement with films is on-going. I like the small town feel of the place.

What’s the most surprising response to your films you’ve ever received?
I worked on my last film (Scenes from a Parish) for five years, and when it premiered at the MFA, the press response was strong. But the festivals largely rejected the film. Every time I’d get a rejection, it felt like someone had punched me in the stomach – just an awful feeling. But being leveled over and over again was good for me. I’m not looking for approval or attention anymore. If it comes my way, that’s a nice surprise, but it feels fleeting. When I received word that Class of ’27 would be in the IFFB line up this year, I thought it was sent to the wrong filmmaker.

Making films, telling the stories of people who are voiceless is really a vocation, and the work itself, however overwhelming or uncertain it can feel at times, is the ultimately its own reward.

 

The Clemente Project will be crowfunding on Hatchfund through July 10, 2016.

Read James Rutenbeck in the ArtSake discussion How Does Place Impact Your Art?

James Rutenbeck (MCC Film & Video Finalist ’11) is an independent producer, editor, and filmmaker at Lost Nation Pictures. His films have been broadcasted widely and have screened at museums and festivals throughout the world. He is currently Executive Producer of Class of ’27, a series of three short films about the lives of very young children in remote parts of rural America, which will have its world premiere at the Independent Film Festival Boston April 3-May 1, 2016.

Seth Lepore: Transforming Performing Arts Careers

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Performing artist, educator, and artist-advocate Seth Lepore has launched a crowdfunding campaign through HatchFund. He’s writing a new book, Ruthless Reciprocity, and wants to create a living document to transform the performing arts community.

The book will focus on building a career as a performing artist, entirely from an artist’s perspective. Based in part on Seth Lepore’s workshop “The Nuts and Bolts of Being a Performing Artist,” Ruthless Reciprocity will approach the current performing arts landscape from three vantage points: practical, community-driven, and future-of-the-field.

In keeping with the artist’s tech-savvy and community-driven approach, the e-book version of Ruthless Reciprocity will receive ongoing updates to reflect changes in the field.

Learn more about the project on its HatchFund page.

Related content:

Dance Artist James Morrow: Sweaty Epiphany

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Dance artist James Morrow (Choreography Fellow ’14) has launched a crowdfunding campaign for his upcoming event Sweaty Epiphany, October 23-24, 2015 at the Dance Complex in Cambridge. The event, Morrow’s Boston-area introduction, explores performance and ability, patriarchal culture, and the convergence of public and private reality, and will include work by Morrow as well as collaborating artists.

We asked the choreographer about his art, the impact of his MCC grant, and how dance threw him a curve ball.

James Morrow

What are the origins of your upcoming performance, Sweaty Epiphany?
Sweaty Epiphany was the title of one of the first shows I ever premiered in Chicago over ten years ago with my company of that time “instruments of movement.” I believe the name comes from a Bill T. Jones interview. If I remember right, I was at the American Dance Festival in 1999 and sitting in on a lecture with Bill T. Jones and Gerald Myers. Myers asked, “What is dance?” Jones responded, “A sweaty epiphany.” I agreed and thought years later that it was a great title for a show, being that I literally am a sweaty mess by the end of any work I perform and each performance allows for many little and big epiphanies for myself and the audience. (More about the project)

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you got the news about your MCC award?
I had just finished teaching a class at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts where I was on faculty at the time. Jen Polins called me and told me that she had just received word that she was a fellow and also just spoke to Paul Matteson who confirmed he too was a recipient. The three of us worked very closely together for over a year creating a trio for Paul to be performed all over the US (see a sample). Jen was praying that with me receiving the award, we would have a full trifecta and she was right. The three of us went out and celebrated. I am very thankful to Jen Polins. She really took me (and Paul) under her wing and introduced us to the dance community of Western Mass. She is an amazing friend and generous individual. She was also the person who informed me of this Fellowship and encouraged me to apply. Without her initial help I would still be floundering through Massachusetts.

What did you use the money for?
Most of the money was used to travel to festivals and performance opportunities. I know I could have used it to pay off credit card bills, but where’s the fun in that?

Share a surprise twist in the James Morrow story.
I guess a surprise twist would be that I actually became a dancer. I was at a university on a baseball scholarship and ended up dropping it my junior year and taking a dance talent waiver. My freshman year, I was introduced to concert dance in a musical theater dance class. I noticed that I was shaving time off my throws to second base. I was a catcher and I also realized that my defensive skills like blocking wild pitches were effortless. I continued taking dance classes for another two years until it became my priority and baseball became the hobby. It wasn’t you baseball, it was me.

 

Sweaty Epiphany takes place Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24, 2015, at the Dance Complex in Cambridge. The project is currently crowdfunding on GoFundMe.

Paul Turano on Wander, Wonder, Wilderness

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Paul Turano set out to make a personal, nonfiction film about urban green spaces  – but the project wandered into a new realm. The resulting work, Wander, Wonder, Wilderness, is a multi-faceted, participatory documentary project. Fresh off screenings at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Boston, the artist has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the ongoing work.

We asked him about WWW, the possible tension between authorship and participation, and the urban wilds of his life as a film & video artist.

Wander Wonder Wilderness Publicity Still

Can you talk about the trajectory of Wander, Wonder, Wilderness – its origins, its development, and where you hope to see it go?
This project is based on a community engagement approach, so in essence it’s a participatory artwork that crosses many disciplines and fields of interest. It connects with environmental concepts and concerns, natural history, philosophy, urban planning and human ecology. It uses technology to encourage creative expression and outdoor exploration – prompting people to visit green spaces in greater Boston and to really immerse themselves in these locations. The mobile app experience offers an opportunity to learn something interesting about these sites, and invites people to explore, contemplate, and consider our relationship to nature in an urban environment.

So much of my research has disclosed the hypothesis that nature-based experiences are a foundation for well-being and balance. Green space can act as an antidote to the challenges of urban living, it can cultivate our creativity and raise consciousness around our relationship to the environment. I see this project as an opportunity for a whole community to collectively test this hypothesis.

When I started this project I was really just considering making a personal essay film about my experiences in green spaces around the city. Early in the collecting process when I was shooting portraits of green spaces and urban wilds, around 2011, I was at Walden Pond and visited the cabin site where Thoreau lived while he wrote Walden. I found this rock pile full of smooth round pudding stones and noticed that people had inscribed Thoreau-inspired sentiments on these rocks, leaving them for other visitors to find and perhaps consider contributing their own. I was struck by the idea that technology would now allow us to do this virtually. We could chronicle our experiences and inspirations in green spaces for others to “find” using our phones as field recorders and creative journals. From this realization flowed the idea that this could be an interactive documentary project – where audiences contribute content for the ultimate artwork. The film is merely my experience, and I hope it can be a reference point and inspiration for others to document their own experiences with image, text and sound.

Wander, Wonder, Wildernes Still 4

The backbone of the user experience is in the bi-weekly prompts that the app provides. They ask participants to visit a green space nearby, or one that the prompt is specifically written for. Once there, people are asked to put their smart phones away – do something creative, contemplative, educational, profound or pleasurable, either alone or collaboratively in the green space – then take out their devices to use as interpretive and creative tools, to document the experience they just had. We are hoping that this approach encourages them to really immerse themselves in their immediate environment, but also consider the role technology plays in their lives and ways in which it can be used creatively and as an empowering form of expression.

We know that smart technology can be intensely distracting, even addicting, and has dramatically altered our everyday lives. I am interested in asking participants to consider our relationship to technology, to try using it as a positive and nurturing tool. If we integrate more nature-based experiences into our weekly routines and document those experiences over multiple seasons, what are the cumulative effects? I think regular use of the app may change our behavior patterns and hence our thinking.

Screen shot 01 Screen shot 02 Screen shot 03

Is there any tension between your artistic “control” (for lack of a better term) of the project and its collaborative aspects? If so, how have you dealt with this tension?
There is a tension here for sure around control on so many levels. Between artist and audience, hypothesis and results, technology and nature, between individual and community. But out of this tension, really interesting things can transpire. I am trying to embrace this aspect of the project by thinking of it as a participatory experiment – we are collecting data from our field work to see what can result. On a creative level I am typically a solo creator (as well as an OCD control freak), so I guess I am operating way outside my comfort zone, and taking a leap of faith in the potential of collaboration. I am learning so much from this process. Urban living forces people to consider their relationship to each other, and effective problem solving often depends on collective voices and collaborative approaches. The Project Team I am working with is amazing! We all put our heads together and come up with solutions that are much better then anything I could come up with on my own. For this project the “team” idea expands to include the community of participants and I’m interested in seeing what we can do with the sum of our parts.

Why are you choosing to crowdfund the project?
Deep down I feel it is both a worthy project and a worthy cause, and offers something unique to the contributors. Given the participatory nature of the work it seems to make sense to run a crowdfunding campaign, as it fits with the crowdsourced nature of the interactive content generation concept. I am hoping that people who would be interested in becoming part of Wander, Wonder, Wilderness would look at the opportunity to donate as providing a positive return on their contribution. They join a community that is grappling with the role and relevance nature plays in our urban lives. Right now the project is being developed for greater Boston, but it could be a model for other cities and easily be adapted to their green spaces. There could be a Wander, Wonder, Wilderness San Francisco, Houston, Detroit, Atlanta!

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What artist do you most admire but work nothing like?
Olafur Eliasson

What’s the most surprising response to your art you’ve ever received?
“Can you make money off of this?”

If forced to choose, would you be a magic marker, a crayon, or a #2 pencil?
#2 Pencil, as I want to be able to hit undo.

How do you know when your work is done?
For 16mm filmmaking it is when you get the final corrected print – there is nothing you can do to change anything because it is analog. For digital, you could just keep going back in and tweaking stuff, it drives me nuts.

What do you listen to while you create?
Hmm, I can tell you what I try not listen to – my inner (negative) voice saying “this makes absolutely no sense, why are you still doing this?”

What films have influenced you as an artist?
The late Harun Furocki’s essay films, Kitlat Tahimik’s Perfumed Nightmare, Agnes Varda’s more recent personal docs, The Planet of the Apes (the first one) and The World According to Garp.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Nature Principle by Richard Louv about adults and Nature Deficit Disorder – and See a Little Light by Bob Mould, former front man for Husker Du.

Have you ever revised your work on the spot, during a shoot (intentionally, I mean)?
I don’t think there has ever been a time when I made a pre-conceived plan for what I was going to shoot, and then got to the place and followed through with it.

How many revisions does your work typically go through?
So, so many that I’ve stopped counting.

What’s next?
I want to take my two-year-old twins to the Arnold Arboretum, sit down on Peter’s Hill and watch the sunrise.

Wander, Wonder, Wilderness Still 1

Wander, Wonder, Wilderness Still 2

The Kickstarter campaign for Wander, Wonder, Wilderness runs through Fri, Oct 24 2014.

Paul Turano is an award winning visual artist whose work in film and video has been presented throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. Based in Boston, he has presented his work at the Harvard Film Archive, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Museum of Fine Arts. His films have also been screened in over 50 national and international film festivals.

A Rare Insight

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Every story suggests a larger narrative. Even complete in its own right, it can serve as a tile within a larger mosaic, or a window overlooking a vaster experience. Photographer and filmmaker Michaela O’Brien encountered two girls with the rare skin disease Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), and her investigations of their story led to the documentary In Crystal Skin, as well as a larger conversation of the way society addresses (or doesn’t, as the case may be) rare diseases.

The film is currently raising post-production funds on IndieGoGo, and we asked Michaela about her project and the larger story it illuminates.

What inspired the In Crystal Skin project?
I first visited a Colombian orphanage in 2011 as a documentary photographer. It was here I met Nixa and her older sister Nury, both of whom were born with EB and continue to struggle with this disease. The sisters wrap their limbs in plastic to minimize damage to their raw and fragile skin. Life with EB has proved isolating; the sisters draw stares on the streets of Bogotá, whether on their way to a medical appointment, or just out for a walk. Despite their challenges, the sisters are a feisty, resilient pair who fervently yearn for independence.

Inspired, I began an impromptu shoot, and upon my return to the U.S., shared the footage with editor Melissa Langer. Convinced of the story’s power, we embarked on the first of four return trips to Bogotá, scraped together with personal funds and vacation time. Over the course of the next three years, we uncovered a larger EB community, colored by different people and perspectives, yet united by a common struggle and setting. In Crystal Skin reflects this process of organic discovery, following four characters along their individual yet interwoven paths which combine in a universally resonant story of courage in the face of great odds.

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How does this film relate to the larger dialogue about rare diseases of all kinds?
This documentary will be a window into the untold story of a tireless network of individuals, parents, and doctors battling an orphan disease. Our film unearths the personal experiences of spirited individuals to create a portrait of just one of the world’s 7,000 rare diseases. These rare diseases affect 1 in 10 Americans and over 350 million people worldwide.

From the tight-knit neighborhoods of Bogotá to the bustling biotech firms of Boston, the struggle to understand rare diseases and how they affect our lives and our families reaches across continents to form a global community. In Crystal Skin ignites dialogue about managing life with a rare disease and reveals those at the forefront of developing life-saving therapies for EB.

Our IndieGoGo campaign is a chance to be a part of that dialogue and to be a part of a larger effort to bring these stories to light. Our donors’ generosity will help finish this documentary and in turn will help bring the experiences of people living with rare diseases out of anonymity.

Why are you choosing to crowdfund the project?
Creating In Crystal Skin has been an act of dedication and perseverance. What inspired us to create this film in the first place – the voices and stories of those living with a rare disease – is what drives us to complete a documentary which will reach a wide audience. We are turning to Indiegogo first to raise money to complete a film which deserves to be shared, but also to establish a relationship with the many individuals experiencing life with a rare disease and those involved with patient advocacy, EB & rare disease research.

The In Crystal Skin IndieGoGo campaign is raising funds through 7/1/14.

Michaela O’Brien is a filmmaker, producer, and photographer based in Boston, MA. When she is not behind the camera, she works as an Associate Producer at Northern Light Productions located in Allston, MA.

Images: all photos by Michaela O’Brien: Melissa Langer places lav mic on interview subject, Maria Alejandra; cribs in an orphanage, Bogota, Colombia; Miguel watches the city pass him by as he rides the Transmilenio to work.

Crowdfunding: a Primer

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

We noticed a large number of Massachusetts artists launching crowdfunding campaigns this month, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to update this previously published article about crowdfunding as an artist.

So, you have a creative project (a yet unfinished film, music album, novel, interactive crochet installation, etc.) and you want funding so you can adequately – nay, spectacularly – realize your vision.

Instead of relying solely on traditional grant programs (such as our Artist Fellowships or Local Cultural Council grants), which may or may not match up with your project’s timeline, you might consider using a crowdfunding Web site as part of your fundraising strategy.

Artists crowdfund by soliciting donations from many individual supporters, directing donations to one central online presence. There are a number of crowdfunding sites for artists to choose from, which generally have these things in common:

  • they make it easy for individuals to make tax-deductible donations;
  • they ask artists to set a fundraising goal;
  • they provide helpful and novel ways to interact with supports, including the ability to offer rewards to donors;
  • and a certain percentage of the donations go to the crowdfunding site to pay for the service.

What sites are out there, and what are their particular facets and emphases?

Kickstarter
The most prominent crowdfunding site is Kickstarter. Anyone from tech entrepreneurs to working artists can use the site to create campaigns for their project, with a funding goal. Kickstarter campaigners then offer creative rewards (say, an embroidered t-shirt or a DVD of the project or a personalized portrait) to donors, increasing the appeal of the reward based on the donation amount.

Things to keep in mind about Kickstarter: if campaigns do not meet their fundraising goal, the artist gets nothing, so the incentive is high to drum up support. Also, project campaigns need to be approved by Kickstarter to launch.

Want to see some samples? Look no further than these Massachusetts projects:

 

Hatchfund
Another major crowdfunding site is Hatchfund (formerly called United States Artists Projects). Hatchfund is similar to Kickstarter in many ways, with tax-deductible donations, creative rewards, and an all-or-nothing fundraising goal.

Unlike Kickstarter, Hatchfund is specifically focused on artists. Originally, the site focused solely on artists who had won awards from nationally-recognized organizations (an MCC Artist Fellowship enabled artists to launch a project). But more recently, any artist can enroll and apply to launch a project. Another interesting difference is that some projects may receive matching funds from Hatchfund for a portion of their campaign. And perhaps most significantly, Hatchfund offers one-on-one coaching and support for artists, by Hatchfund staff, when running a crowdfunding campaign.

Examples:

  • Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth raising funds for their In My Mind and In My Car project
  • Candice Smith Corby & Leslie Schomp raised funds for a catalog for Self-Fabricated, the exhibition they curated (past)
  • Cristi Rinklin raised funds to support Diluvial, her solo exhibition at the Currier Museum of Art (past)

 

IndieGoGo
Another crowdfunding site is IndieGoGo. What differentiates it from the others? Unlike the all-or-nothing approach of Kickstarter and Hatchfund, you can elect to keep all of the money you raise (minus site fees), even if you don’t meet your goal.

Examples:

RocketHub
And, another site, RocketHub, is similar to IndieGoGo in that no invite is needed and you get to keep all funds raised. RocketHub has a partnership with A&E’s Project Startup.

Go Totally DIY
Not a joiner? You could also take the principles of crowdfunding and set up your own campaign. You’ll need a PayPal account, a home base (like a web site homepage or a blog), and a group that will act as an organizational fiscal sponsor so that donations will be tax deductible. In film, the Center for Independent Documentary and Filmmakers Collaborative both serve as fiscal sponsors for film projects, and the New York organization Fractured Atlas serves as fiscal sponsor for artist projects in all disciplines, and throughout the country.

You can even include creative rewards and frequent updates to your donors – you’ll just have to handle the infrastructure of these actions on your own.

Further research:
Read How do you use online platforms as an artist? on ArtSake
Find tips on best practices when crowdfunding an artist project on The Abundant Artist

Image: still image from the Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry.

Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn: Mapping New Territory

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn, two composers working in an array of traditions and media, have launched a crowdfunding campaign for their latest project, In My Mind and In My Car. Using the Hatchfund platform (formerly called United States Artists Projects), the artists are raising funds to expand a 45-minute piece for bass clarinet and electronics to a longer performance incorporating video and new music.

We asked the artists about their project, its crowdfunding campaign, and the topography of their lives as artists.

Why In My Mind and In My Car (the title)? Why In My Mind and In My Car (the project)?
Christine: The title is actually from my side of the project – we started working on this last year, as two separate pieces. I was making some electronic music for video, actually the whole project began when we were in residence on a Mangrove in Panama, with no wifi and barely electricity (just 2 solar panels), and I wrote Underwater to accompany video that I filmed in the surrounding reef. I didn’t really have goals with it beyond making music to accompany videos. Then, while I was working on more of these, Evan was simultaneously working on pieces using old field recordings from Africa, as backing tracks for cellist Mariel Roberts. Somehow we overheard what each other was working on (our offices are in different parts of our house) and we thought, hey, these go kind of well together! And we decided to make it into a single project, with Evan playing over with his bass clarinet.

Evan: As soon as we put them together it was hard to imagine it was ever any other way.

Christine: The title – I wanted to write one for Evan, before the project idea actually came together. I actually wrote two for him, one was called Morse Norse Love Song which is just electronic – it takes ancient Norse poetry, translated into Morse Code and performed on synths; and the other was In My Mind and In My Car, inspired of course by the Buggles tune Video Killed The Radio Star, but aptly named because Evan IS quite often in my mind and in my car!

You’ve described the multi-media project as a “musical topography.” Can you talk about the journey on which you hope to take the audience?
Evan: The pre-recorded electronics for this piece are actually a bit of a jungle, thick with lots of layers, different types of musical life forms that intermingle and in themselves suggests a number of possible pathways. Part of this is the material itself, which ranges from very old, scratchy recordings from Bali and Africa, to nature sounds, all the way to synthetic sounds generated in our studios. But it’s also the way they’re put together – in fact one of the things that attracted me to Christine’s tracks was that I could navigate very different routes through them, that the music was somehow both fixed and malleable. I could take the music very different places depending on the circumstance. I then started taking this approach to my own tracks, gradually letting go of the written material (which incidentally Mariel Roberts performs beautifully on cello) and just responding to the moment. So the recorded versions are just one possible interpretation, ones we felt would stand up best over repeated listening and would go well in the set as a whole. My role is to guide the listener through the piece, and since I know the territory I can choose which things to highlight, which detours to take, etc.

Why are you choosing to crowdfund the project?
Christine: Fundraising has become really really difficult. There used to be a huge variety of grants to which we could apply, and now it seems like there are only a few, and simultaneously they’ve become much more competitive (because there are fewer total…), more unpredictable, just less reliable. This first part of the project we just did, for no money – it’s a labor of love! And quite honestly neither of us are happy if we’re not writing music! But we need equipment to make this performance work, and money of course always makes it easier to make time to set aside to compose – otherwise I need to prioritize the income-generating parts of my work (i.e., making websites for other people, etc.). We’ve never done this before, but we decided to give it a try. It’s strange, you first have to get over the weirdness of asking friends for money, but our friends love our music and they seem to want to help! So that’s great!

What artist do you most admire but work nothing like?
Evan: For me it’s the great minimalists, in visual art as well as music. Mondrian, Steve Reich, Rothko – I appreciate the ability to distill, to have confidence in form in that way. Mondrian in particular is hugely important to me because his trajectory was always toward more simplicity – if you look at his early paintings it’s almost like the later paintings are already in them, waiting for the window dressing to be removed. But my own work is never that pure.

What’s the best/worst day job you’ve ever had?
Christine: Best day job – working at the Wine Bottega in the North End.

Evan: I’ve blocked out all the bad ones – the best ones were at record stores (back when there were record stores), that’s where I discovered most of the important music in my life – Balinese gamelan, Anthony Braxton, and Earth Wind & Fire, to name three. The weirdest (albeit one of the shortest) was definitely demonstrating video games at an electronics convention in 1982.

Share a surprise twist in the Evan Ziporyn/Christine Southworth story.
Evan: We like to drive to Walden Pond in our 1979 MGB every day over the summer, swim across and back, and go home. It makes us feel like we’re on vacation a long time ago, for a little while.

Like, what does your work MEAN?
Christine: It means an escape, a story, a labyrinth of sonic landscape and journey through magic and nature and time. That’s what I hope my audiences get from my music.

Do you secretly dream of being a) a pop icon, b) an algebra teacher, and/or c) a crime-solver/writer a la Jessica Fletcher?
Evan: A pop algebra teacher who solves crimes through math, definitely.

In a paint ball battle between artists of all disciplines, who wins?
Christine: Jackson Pollock, of course.

Computer, longhand, or typewriter?
Christine: Computer computer computer

Were President Obama to create a cabinet post in the arts, whom should he appoint as Secretary?
Christine: Glenn Branca

How do you know when your work is done?
Christine: Gotta go with Auden on this one, “poems are not finished, just abandoned in desperation.” Sometimes that’s the case, and sometimes it’s the opposite, you think there’s more to do, and then you realize it’s done!

Do you live with any animals?
Christine: So many animals! We have 3 grey cats, a beautiful Goldendoodle dog named Gigi (who is also in our minds and in our cars), 2 seahorses, 2 clownfish, 3 cardinal fish, a lobster, and many other fish, crabs and snails. I also volunteer with the Billerica Cat Care Coalition. My dream pets are a Savannah Cat and an octopus. My unreasonable dream pet is a Cheetah. But do you know about Cheetohs?

What films have influenced you as an artist?
Christine: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Evan: Topsy Turvy, Casino, and Ed Wood.

What are you currently reading?
Christine: The Beak of the Finch
Evan: The Book of Job

Have you ever revised your work on the spot, during a performance (intentionally, I mean)?
Evan: See above – I’ve always been an improvisor, and am continually trying to find ways to loosen the boundaries between composed and improvised material. This is getting increasingly important to me, in this and in other projects, in my trio Eviyan, in Gamelan Galak Tika, etc.

How many revisions does your work typically go through?
Evan: It’s just a continuum of chaos until it’s done, to be honest…

What’s next?
Christine: Watch this space – airplaneears.com/blog

In My Mind and In My Car, the Hatchfund crowdfunding campaign by Christine Southworth and Evan Ziporyn, is running until May 15, 2014.

Image: all images courtesy of the artists.

How Do You Use Online Platforms as an Artist?

Monday, September 9th, 2013


From Bruce Myren’s THE FORTIETH PARALLEL project

There are numerous online platforms artists can use to share, promote, sell, or otherwise advance their work. Each platform presents many possible uses, making the task of navigating how best to use them ever more complex.

We asked artists in different disciplines, What is your strategy for using online platforms, as an artist?

Henriette Lazaridis Power, writer and editor
I think the first thing you have to do with online platforms is to decide what aspects of yourself you want to present as part of your public image, your brand, as it were. There’s your book (if you’re a writer), but there might also be a hobby or a political viewpoint or a social issue that are all important parts of who you are. Online, you want to be touching on those various elements on a regular basis. For instance, I’m a novelist and a rower and I’m Greek-American and I edit a literary magazine (The Drum). So I use my Facebook page (both personal and author), as well as Twitter and my blog on the Huffington Post to keep those aspects of my personality alive online. For one Huffpo post, I might write about something to do with Greece; for another, about rowing; and for yet another, about the art of reading aloud (since that pertains to my audio-only literary magazine). The idea is that all these different pieces present a complete picture – and also one that is varied enough to offer something for a few different groups of people. I also feel strongly that it’s important to one’s peace of mind to be sincere and honest always. If you’re going to enthuse about someone else’s novel, be sure you really do love it. Your integrity isn’t worth the few extra likes or page-views you’ll get. When you do feel strongly about someone else’s work, your enthusiasm will be all the more powerful.

Seth Lepore, performing artist
Being a solo performer I don’t see the point in creating a separate entity for my business. I make my Facebook posts public, let people subscribe to my feed or friend me. I use Twitter mainly for touring and crowdfunding purposes as it’s not my favorite platform. Google+ is a weird one. I love the look of it but it still seems very aimed at tech junkies.

The thing I’ve been using the most lately is Instagram. I love the simplicity of taking an interesting shot, tagging it and posting it to FB and Twitter with ease. I think visuals go a long way and I tend to get a lot of comments and likes from those posts or by going in depth in a FB post about something I feel strongly about.

I try to update my blog once a month and make the posts relevant to other artists as sharing information on touring, marketing and PR is so valuable. My site is my home base for everything. I’m constantly trying to point everyone to go there and my email list is gold. I limit my newsletters to once a month and if I don’t have anything relevant to say or share I don’t.

Ellie Lee, writer, director, producer of the web series Chinafornia
When we came up with the idea for “Chinafornia” and spent some time pitching our pilot to network executives, it became apparent that an online platform would make the most sense, because of the Asian characters, politics and satire in our series – there’s a diversity in online talent & content that you would never see on network or cable channels. While you can probably count the number of prominent Asian American actors and directors currently on television on two hands, Asian American filmmakers have been able to attract & sustain huge audiences on YouTube. For example, Asian American actor/writer/directors Wong Fu Productions (1.8 million subscribers), KevJumba (3 million subscribers), and Riya Higa (a whopping 10 million subscribers) have found extraordinary success online. But the road to attracting that kind of audience online is really challenging, and we have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to try to be competitive with millions of other online content creators.

Bruce Myren, photographer
Part of my recent strategy has been to create a unified brand across social media platforms. This past summer I started to change my online identity from various names, Bee Digital, Bruce Myren, and other variations of my name to Bruce Myren Studio. I have a page on Facebook for the studio and use it along with Twitter to share news and events in real time to my followers. Ultimately I use these platforms to drive traffic to my website, but sites like Tumblr and Pinterest allow me to experiment or make visual notes to share with the world.

My most successful experience with social media was last summer using Kickstarter to fund the completion of “The Fortieth Parallel.” Through the use of Facebook and Twitter, I was able to reach a worldwide audience and reach my goal in the first week of a 40-day campaign. I was also able to generate press by directly targeting media outlets with Tweets and tagged Facebook posts. This resulted in the project being promoted by Slate.com, The Huffington Post, and Fast Company Design, among others, creating international exposure, and a new GPS unit from Magellan.

Related reading: Getting More Out of Getting Online, a guest post by Jessica Burko

 

Ellie Lee is an award-winning director, writer & producer of animated, fiction, and documentary films. Her Web series, Chinafornia, was successfully funded by Kickstarter and will air its first season online.

Seth Lepore is a writer, humorist, musician and solo performer. His workshop The Nuts and Bolts of Being a Performing Artist, a crash course in running a successful and sustainable business as a performing artist, will take place on Saturday, September 21, 9AM-6PM, at Flywheel Arts in Easthampton. Register at Easthampton City Arts.

Bruce Myren is an artist and photographer based in Cambridge, MA. His series The Fortieth Parallel will be on exhibit at Gallery Kayafas in Boston September 6–October 12, 2013.

Henriette Lazaridis Power is an author and publisher/editor of the audio literary journal The Drum. She will read from her novel The Clover House at Weston Public Library on Thursday, September 19 at 7 PM.

Image: Bruce Myren, N 40° 00′ 00″ W 91° 00′ 00″ CLAYTON, ILLINOIS (2012), from THE FORTIETH PARALLEL project.

Of Slams, Fruitlands, and Shiny Things

Friday, September 7th, 2012

A quick round-up of some of the interesting things happening in the Massachusetts art-o-sphere…

Big Red & Shiny
Big Red & Shiny is back! This region’s art scene is shiny indeed, and it deserves the thorough – and idiosyncratic (see video art, above) – exploration this online journal/blog is known for.

A little background: until 2010, Big Red & Shiny was a key force in the New England art scene. The online journal and blog delved into this region’s art from the POV of its artists. It explored news, offered reviews, discussed issues, and wittily observed the local scene, all with a unique and at times fiery collection of sensibilities. But by 2010, after more than six years of publication, BRS’s founders announced they were discontinuing the journal.

Now it’s back. Its founders are now board members, and the editorial staff is new. They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign to support the relaunch, and there will be events at Boston Center for the Arts (Mills Gallery, 9/29, 6 PM) and MIT (Bartos Theater, 10/27, 4 PM).

Schooled by massmouth
In this land of hallowed academic institutions, we appreciate a good schooling. Massmouth wants storytellers to consider the theme “schooled” for its next story slam. Similar to poetry slams, massmouth holds story slams that encourage storytellers of all experience levels to lay it all out, in narrative fashion, before a live audience. Their fourth story slam season begins Sept. 9, 2012, 6:30 PM, at Doyle’s Café in Jamaica Plain.

Ten audience members will be selected at random to tell a real-life story. Future story slams will take place at Club Passim in Cambridge, Rosebud in Somerville, and Puppet Showplace Theater in Brookline.

Congratulations, Creative Activists
Congratulations to Clara Wainwright, textile artist and founder of First Night, and Eryn Johnson, director of Cambridge’s Community Art Center. Both were honored with Creative Activist Awards by ArtCorps. From ArtCorps: “These two outstanding leaders are being recognized for using the arts to engage, educate, empower, connect and inspire.” ArtCorps will honor Clara Wainwright and Eryn Johnson on September 20, 2012 at the Raising Spirits gala at the Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA. The event will also mark the launch of Clara Wainwright’s Welcoming Quilt.

Transcendent Landscapes
Meanwhile, art is transforming the landscape of the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts. Artist-in-residence Andy Moerlein has created large-scale sculptures inspired by the natural world, installed throughout the premises of Fruitlands, the former utopian community founded by Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May!). This month, a panel discussion of “Art and the Transcendental Landscape” will feature a host of prominent curators and New England artists (including Moerlein, his partner Donna Dodson, and others). The discussion is on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, 1 PM.

Help Assets for Artists help artists
Assets for Artists is a great program to help artists grow their careers, with grantees participating in an innovative matched savings grant program, financial/business training, and home ownership assistance. Now you can help the program (which is administered by MASS MoCA) help artists. To continue and expand their funding and service, they’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign.

Media: Kickstarter video for Big Red & Shiny.


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