Discussion: Crowdfunding

Crowdfund Pic
This week we want to focus on a growing problem in the indie horror scene…crowdfunding.
by Adam Holtzapfel
Over the past few weeks in various groups I have seen claims of people being scammed by filmmakers. While there are several doing it right with the way crowdfunding is there are also several doing it wrong.
If you look at the model crowdfunding has been used successfully by Bandit Motion Pictures (Scott Schirmer & Brian Williams) and Steven Biro. They use the format as more of a pre order, they have a finished product, you order it, and the money goes to their next project.

James Bickert has also run a successful campaign for Frankenstein Created Bikers. When asking him what issues he faced he had this to say “I was asking for 72K and we raised after Kickstarter fees around 42K, we set the cut off around that amount because I knew I'd get it made even if I had to sell everything I own. Since we were shooting on Super 35mm film, I had to raise some additional money for post. Raising the funds for film development, telecine (scanning the negative to a digital format) and sound mixing took longer than expected. Then we got bogged down in festivals, which I should have avoided all together to save time, but I owed it to the crew to have it seen all over the world. We also had some replication issues involving original price quotes and had to switch replication houses a couple of times during disc production. It's always going to be something and this film was by far the biggest beast I've dealt with in terms of cast and crew size, SPFX, running time, etc. What helped was having an online viewing after a year so everyone who backed could make sure their names were correct in the final credits. The response was really good and the backers could see that every penny went on the screen. It has been really important to keep everyone informed during the entire process.” 



I had also asked his opinion on how to run a successful campaign, he added “Results. The film business is the sleaziest business that I've ever seen. I often joke, human traffickers have better business ethics. Sadly, like anything, there are opportunistic crooks out there or inexperienced people in way over their heads. I'm not in this for ego or money. I'm looking to contribute something new to the genres I love and I will kill myself trying to do it. Anyone that believes in me with their checkbook, I'll kill for them too. You have to approach it like every one of your backers is an Executive Producer and you're working for them. It's your duty to give them everything you have and put a smile on their face. We ran over on our time window but I'm giving back more than what they originally were expecting. It's the right thing to do.



The rumblings I’ve seen on the negative side reference mostly Ryan Nicholson, Dustin Wade Mills, and most recently Misty Dawn.



With Ryan Nicholson we know he had a serious health issue, but as of the past month I’m seeing where people are stating they’re being blocked for asking the status of a project they backed 2 or more years ago. Ryan had this to say "I lost 2016 due to brain cancer. I had already shot the film within the film of Gutterballs 2 and even screened it 3 times. Gutterballs 2: The Real Deal finishes shooting in May, then it's edited, created on Blu, DVD, and VHS, and shipped to all of the Indiegogo backers. I had only one other campaign, Collar which was a huge failure. I raised a couple of grand on that, but all orders were shipped. I honestly understand their anger. I am in the same boat. I contributed $100 to horror dude's flick. He actually put the campaign out before GB2. I still haven't received anything, but I understand his answers to the questions. I respect him, I'll wait as long as it takes. My reputation to some was shit, which makes sense to me. A movie I sold pre orders for, Big Fucking Monster is yet to still be released. I sold around 50 copies 5 years ago. Some got refunds and others have waited. This wasn't a campaign, but the fact is legalities on the copyright, who owns what, etc. So that delayed everything. BFM is now in the USA getting color correction and end credits, as well as the existing opening credits. The movie was cut together years ago. Thank the Lord it's in the US being handled by the right people. Finally the guys and girls that have waited years will get it. It wasn't anything like the GB2 campaign, but there's a couple dozen people waiting that are completely awesome.:



With Dustin Wayde Mills it’s a case of him announcing several projects while backers are still waiting on perks from other projects. Dustin had this to say "I think I get lumped in as a scammer. We're just late, and it's for reasons almost entirely out of my control. My producers have kept people updated and I always have an answer when people ask. I've personally never felt scammed by any crowdfunding campaign and I've backed several. I think some folks probably get in over their heads. I also think some supporters can be impatient. Mob mentality is an unspoken of issue in the realm of horror fandom. I've seen it. It's ugly. I've been threatened and harassed even though we've kept people abreast of the situation as much as possible. I don't publicly air anyone's dirty laundry and I don't throw people under the bus. When it comes to the Her Name Was Torment II campaign... I'm kind of waiting like everyone else and unfortunately I get the brunt of the abuse from impatient supporters.”



I was approached about Misty Dawn. I was informed she was given money at a convention and when asked about the status of the project the person was labeled a racist and sexist. When I asked her about it she said “I’ve never spoken to him, let alone taken cash from him”. After that she declined to comment further. Looking at the Indiegogo campaign it has not been updated in 8 months, but an unofficialtrailersurfaced on YouTube on 2/28, the day after I spoke with her.



James Bickert also had a little blowback for changing one of the perks on Frankenstein Created Bikers. He had this to say, "Originally we offered Dear God No! and Frankenstein Created Bikers on bluray as a reward. I thought it would be cool to have both films play together as a special feature with fake snack bar ads, trailers and an intermission. Give everyone a 4 hour drive-in experience. By upgrading the FCB bluray from 25GB to 50GB (maxing out my personal credit cards and running a pre-order campaign to cover the additional cost), I could have FCB at a ridiculous MP4 bitrate with uncompressed sound that would take up 38GB and incorporate this special feature. Better quality and more content for everyone. A win-win, right? There were three people who complained about it, even though they were getting an extra DVD, a reversible cast signed cover, and 2 trading cards that we never offered. They were also getting the two films we had originally promised them, just on one 50GB disc instead of two 25GB discs. And it is way cooler! The complaints all seemed to stem from anger that other people who just ordered the FCB bluray were getting the same bonus they were getting. Keep in mind these people got their name in the end credits also. My first reaction was, "that's kind of shitty." But you know, when you're dealing with people, not everyone is going to have the "in this together" attitude that you have. I find there is always one person out of every 100 that just doesn't get it. It doesn't matter if you're making movies or selling girl scout cookies. So you have to make them happy too, even if you don't necessarily agree with it. So I'm sending them something nobody else will be getting. I wish everyone was getting it but... I work for the backers and they have spoken.  








Speaking with actor Lee Vervoort he feels that “It seems that the bad outweighs the good sometimes” when it comes to fans getting turned off from backing a project due to previous experiences. James Bickert also shared that sentiment by adding “I really hope the actions of a few don't give crowd-funding the reputation of being a scam. FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS could have never been made if it hadn't been for crowd-funding. The project was taken to Cannes in 2012 and we lost years trying to get it developed. Foreign investors had changed it into an action film, they wanted to replace actors and I'm sure my head was on the chopping block too. Thanks to crowd-funding I was able to go back to the original script and get this film made. It would have sat in limbo for eternity or worse been a mediocre mess geared to a world-wide market of blandness. I personally back lots of crowd-funding projects and have had a good success rate. What I look for is people who have previously ran successful campaigns and I lean towards Kickstarter because of their "all or nothing" policy. Filmmakers will complain their fees are higher than say Indiegogo but the traffic is much better and knowing they have to reach a certain goal can give you some insurance that the project will get made. I also research everyone involved. If they haven't taken the time to shoot a quality presentation for their project, I don't back it. If you're still on the fence, look for completed projects that just need finishing funds. I love my crowd-funding backers, they helped me bring art into this world and I'm forever in their debt.



There’s also another issue where Helvete Video was doing a VHS release of Lucifer Valentine’s Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, but the owner of Helvete vanished without orders shipping.



So we have to ask why is this not talked about more? If a business takes your money and does not deliver a product, people have no problem talking about. What makes this different? Is it due to people possibly having to work with them someday? Is it fear of seeing them at a convention? Or is it just not to disturb the system?



You also have to ask who the onus is on. Is it on those not delivering? Is it on the backer for not researching? Is it just a broken system?



James Bickert added this as something he looks for “One of the "red flags" I look for in a crowd-funding campaign is a poster mock-up that say's "A film by______". If their name isn't John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg or Marin Scorsese, then chances are they're in it for ego. I would wager they won't give a fuck about your backer reward. Putting that designation on a poster should be about advertising a proven track record of quality money generating blockbusters - it's not so some wannabee can hit-on waitresses like an L.A. douchebag with your good-faith contribution.



Note: I asked several filmmakers on both sides of the spectrum for their input on this and received no response.