Financing films using crowd funding is growing in Australia.
24 Sep 2012 - 1:05 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2012 - 1:05 PM

Last week about 100 people gathered in a small studio in inner city Sydney to listen to Andrew Masterson read excerpts from his novel The Second Coming. Director David Barker and producer Angie Fielder also talked during the evening about how they intended to make the 2001 Ned Kelly Crime Fiction Award winner into a film noir murder mystery, and introduced actress Sarah Snook, who is set to be the film's femme fatale.

It is hard to get money for a feature if you have not yet made one.

The Second Coming is about a man who believes he is Jesus and has to clear his name after he becomes the prime suspect in a murder. It is hoped that the film version will go into production in 2013.

It is not normal for filmmakers to publicly present a film that is, strictly speaking, still only a twinkle in their eye but there was good reason: while most of the required finance has been raised, including from government agencies, they want a further $200,000 to enhance the apocalyptic, dystopian world in which the story is set and they are trying to get it through crowdsourcing.

“I think we're in pretty good shape but there's a long way to go,” said Fielder (pictured) of the $20,350 that had been pledged by 138 people in the fortnight following the September 10 launch of the fundraising campaign. Her deadline is October 22.

“Holding an event to reinvigorate the campaign was recommended to us by the people at Pozible,” she said. “We thought it was a good way to raise the profile of the film, reward the people who had pledged money already and spread word among their networks.”

This week she will hold a small private screening for a group of arts patrons of Wish You Were Here, starring Joel Edgerton, the last film she produced.

Pozible is Australia's first and biggest crowd-funding platform. It is a tool by which creative people and entrepreneurs can raise funds for specific projects by pooling together what are usually small amounts of money donated from friends, family, acquaintances – and strangers. Filmmakers, musicians, software developers, event organisers, food and wine businesses and others have raised more than $4.7 million using Pozible since it was established in May 2010.

Although The Second Coming team want an additional $200,000, they set a more realistic $75,000 target because creative projects on Pozible have to reach their target for the creators to get any money. Mostly short films and documentaries, with much lower targets, have used Pozible to date.

But crowdsourcing is not just about the money. Fielder describes it as a “revolutionary” way to build a dedicated audience for a film: “When people pledge money to support a film, it gives them a vested interest in it and its success. That kind of audience dedication is incredibly important to filmmakers.”

Everyone who contributes more than $25 to The Second Coming will get a copy of the film poster and their name in the list of thankyous in the credits. As the size of the donation increases so does the “reward”. The attractions for those who contribute more than $15,000 include two visits to the set during filming, lunch with Fielder and Barker, a private screening of the finished film for 30 friends, the opportunity to comment on the film before it is locked off, a making-of book, an associate producer credit and more.

Arrowhead, a sci-fi drama about a mercenary in the desert, and In Bob We Trust, the documentary about Melbourne media personality Father Bob, are two other feature-length films now using Pozible. Arrowhead's writer/director, Jesse O'Brien, will honour the first donor enthusiastic enough to tip in $10,000 or more by making the lead character's last name that of the donor's!

Melbourne-based O'Brien teamed up with Pozible after a musician friend raised $8,000 in two weeks to record an album. When he talked to SBS Film he had raised about one-quarter of his $40,000 target from about 100 people, with most pledging $20-$50 each.

“A lot have sent a private message that says something like 'The film looks great and we can't wait to see it',” he said, referring to the short film he made to demonstrate what the feature would be like. He has made many shorts and his day job is teaching people how to edit using Apple editing systems.

“It is hard to get money for a feature if you have not yet made one and, in strict terms, I am a nobody… I am not yet in the filmmaking world but I want to be.”

Horror film The Tunnel is probably the best-known Australian feature to use crowd funding although Iron Sky, in which an Australian company was a co-production partner, also used the technique. They didn't use Pozible but more than 1,500 projects have, 475 of which were films. Nearly half of the films have hit their targets but, certainly in the case of feature-length work, these targets are way below the full cost of making the film.

Australian film Canopy, which is billed as a different kind of film about war and was principally shot in Singapore, raised $23,000 through Pozible and used it for various aspects of post-production. The feature-length documentaries Cosmic Psychos: Blokes You Can Trust, about the musicians named in the title, and Gayby Baby, about the effect on children of having same sex parents, raised $48,000 from 302 people (the target was $28,000) and $13,600 from 198 supporters respectively.

“It is a tool for filmmakers but they have to tap into their existing networks,” said Rick Chen, who started Pozible with Alan Crabbe. Crabbe, who was born in Ireland, met Chen, who was born in China, after he used the website Gumtree to seek out someone to share the driving and costs on a Sydney-to-Noosa road trip. That was five years ago.

“We hope to see Pozible become one of the world's leading crowd-funding platforms, and we want to see the crowd funding industry grow and mature,” said Chen. “Eventually, it would be nice to see crowd funding become the future of film everywhere from Hollywood to Bollywood, Berlin to Beijing.”