A new crowd funding avenue looms for Australian filmmakers.
14 Jun 2011 - 10:45 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 3:33 AM

Kickstarter, the world's largest crowd funding platform for creative projects, has flagged that it will make its service available internationally, opening a new door for Australian filmmakers and other content producers.

Launched two years ago, the online service has raised more than $US53 million for films, docos, music, publishing, fashion and other projects, but it's been restricted to US Amazon account holders.

“We're working hard to open up to international project creators in the future,” Kickstarter spokesman Justin Kazmark told SBS Film. No timing has yet been revealed for that move, which will make Kickstarter more competitive with sites such as IndieGoGo.com that don't impose geographical boundaries.

New York-based filmmaker Jennifer Fox, whose documentary My Reincarnation (pictured) screens this week at the Sydney Film Festival, believes Australians are well placed to capitalise on these crowd-funding initiatives.

“I think it is a viable route for filmmakers everywhere,” said Fox, who raised $US150,456 from 518 donors in 70 countries for her doco via Kickstarter. “Mostly it seems the only issue with crowd funding is the cultural ignorance to the concept. It may take a few brave Aussie filmmakers to start the ball rolling. Once it functions for them the whole game will be changed in Oz.

“I think this will lead to an Australian businessman setting up a platform for crowd funding in the Asia Pacific. There are already German and French crowd funding sites.”

The producers of the low budget Australian film The Tunnel enlisted the public's support, raising nearly $44,000 by selling individual frames online for a dollar apiece. A horror movie about a government cover-up over plans to use the water in disused train tunnels in Sydney, it was launched online on May 19.

Fox says My Reincarnation is the ninth-highest fundraiser in Kickstarter's short history, the second highest for a documentary and the most successful in generating coin for a finished project. She used the money to pay for sub-titling, the sound design and mix, editing the trailer and other enhancements.

The filmmaker spent 20 years, on and off, shooting the spiritual journeys of Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his Italian-born son Yeshi. For years Yeshi refused to accept he is the reincarnation of his father's uncle, a Dzogchen master (the highest path in Tibetan Buddhism) who died after the Chinese invaded Tibet, and that he was destined to become a spiritual leader.

Her initial target on Kickstarter was $50,000 so no one was more surprised at the final total. She credits the response to a number of factors including support from Buddhists and other religious, spiritual and New Age groups, tapping into social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, and offering incentives on the doco's website such as off-cuts culled from more than 1,000 hours of footage and a gold ring donated by Rinpoche, as the Tibetan Master is known. Some 60 people in China got together to donate $10,000.

Using a database of 7,000 worldwide contacts she's assembled, she's aiming to generate a further $40,000 or more to bankroll a US theatrical release in 20-50 cities via a distribution-for-hire company. She knows that can be a profitable exercise after arranging a 20-city US release for her most recent film, Flying Confessions of a Free Woman, a co-production with SBS which explored the role of the modern woman, filmed in 17 countries

While in Sydney she hopes to close a deal with an Australian distributor.