Is there no end to the enthusiasm among ordinary punters around the world for investing their hard-earned money in movies and documentaries?
Apparently not, judging by the remarkable growth of Kickstarter and other vehicles which raise funds for movies, docos, videos and music.
Founded in 2009 by New York-based entrepreneurs Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, Kickstarter bills itself as the world's largest funding platform for creative projects.
In two years, the online service has garnered $US19.7 million in pledges for feature films and docos and $13 million for music products out of total of $53 million; the balance is spread among pursuits including publishing, theatre, art and technology.
The projects launched on Kickstarter only collect the money once a set goal is reached but thus far $40 million worth of creative work has been successfully funded. Among them: animated pic Neil Gaiman's The Price, Costa Rica drama The Return, supernatural thriller The Blue Eyes and docos FACE 2 FACE, Remembering Frederic and 365 AM.
The public participation technique collectively known as crowdsourcing is also being applied to making films and videos. A high profile example of that is Life in a Day (pictured), the documentary compiled from video submissions from YouTube users around the world captured on July 24 2010.
Executive produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void), the doco is screening at the Sydney Film Festival after being launched at the Sundance festival in January.
Another crowdsourced feature film is StarWarsUncut, the brainchild of Casey Pugh, who cut the movie Episode IV: A New Hope into 15 second clips, invited users to re-film them in any way they wished and reassembled the clips as a feature.
“With the 473 submissions laid end to end (and subject to change at any time based on voter ratings), the resulting movie is one of the Internet's true cinematic wonders,” enthused Film Comment mag.
“Taken together, Uncut is manic spectacle, a giddy, bewildering bricolage of Lego stormtroopers, stop-motion Star Destroyers, tin-foil C-3POs, canine Chewies, and trash-can R2s. There's an impressive number of illustrated entries and handmade animations, but it's the backyard reenactments, with their moppet Princess Leias and minivan Millennium Falcons, that anchor the project in a shared love, the scope of which transcends the polish or perfectionism of any single segment.”
In a similar vein is The Johnny Cash Project, a global collective art project conceived by video director Chris Milk which invites users to create portraits of the Man in Black and integrate them into a music video of his song "Ain't No Grave." Staggeringly, more than 250,000 people from 172 countries have contributed to the project.
One of the first crowdsourced projects in Holland is DSB The Movie, a 45-minute drama chronicling the demise of the scandal-ridden Netherlands bank in 2009. Director/producer Jan Willem Alphenaar solicited the public's participation in every stage of the production, from the character descriptions and script through to acting, shooting and the soundtrack. After filming finished, the director asked the public to vote on the best scenes.
Financing wasn't an issue: Alphenaar persuaded everyone involved in the film to work gratis, he arranged free screenings at five cinemas in the Netherlands and posted it on YouTube.
The first mainstream Hindi crowdsourced movie, director Onir's I Am, launched in cinemas in India on April 22. Dealing with issues such as single parenting, sperm donation, child sexual abuse and homosexuality, the film was funded by more than 400 people, mostly sourced via social networking sites. The producers also used social media to source talent and crew.
“When I posted my cause on Facebook, it got an overwhelming response from people from all over the world who contributed financially, and that is how the film got made,” Onir said. “I have never got so much freedom while making a film before. Not one of our supporters asked me what the cast was, what songs were recorded, what the script was. My audience/contributors allowed me to make the film from my heart, without making it pass through several filters.”