When I decided to take on producing TEXICAN, I also took on the responsibility of paying everyone involved. Was this necessary? Yes and…..YES. Sure, there are tons of unfunded film project floating around in the world, but in my experience $$ means comfort and stability. Additionally,this is a union-level project, so the actors are definitely getting paid per union guidelines. But I did have a few favors come my way by friends in the industry on the crew side of things, and in order to honor these favors I operate at starting with “you get paid for your art.”
**TBH, I have done a lot of free work for other people either because the text/story was good, or the other professionals were compelling and could teach me something. I find I do even BETTER work when I give a shit, and honestly, I end up giving a shit when I get paid, even a tiny little bit. Like I ALWAYS SAY – everyone has bills to pay.
So I started building a budget, which of course included a lot of different areas that were going to need funding, and then I started building a funding plan.
TEXICAN FUNDING AVENUES
4. Throw an event
Honestly, we’re exactly four weeks in and we’re not doing tremendously well. Of the $7500 goal, we’ve funded just a little over $1500 in four weeks (plus another $500 I contributed from my second job.) Truthfully, this $1500 comes from people who truly support and believe in my vision, and it’s not a mere $1500 to be tossed about lightly. This is a HUGE boost to the film, and encourages me to continue reaching and finding new avenues. This $1500 is FREE MONEY and is $1500 I did not have four weeks ago to support an idea that I came up with and started talking about. It’s a breathtaking $1500, and is the very first glimpse for me of what it is like to have freedom to do what I want to do with my art. It’s a responsibility and a commitment for me to do my best work, and in this case, my best work is being applied to the field I am best in, so it’s a real-life challenge/opportunity/test for me to grow and realize what kind of salt I’m made of.
There are a lot of online crowdfunding avenues, a lot of choices. I chose Indiegogo.com from the recommendation of another filmmaker who successfully utilized the campaign previously, and was pleased to find many tutorials and tools to build a successful campaign. Indiegogo is also specifically focused on the arts, and allows for transmission of most of the money raised, even if we do not meet our funding goals. They also allow for me to keep the campaign “alive” after the funding period has been reached which is helpful in case we don’t make our goal and/or need financial assistance with the festival circuit.
So I started the crowdfunding page on Indiegogo.com as a way to connect all my friends and family all over the country and world. It’s a place where anybody could learn about my project, and a place for me to really lay out the plans of the project and succinctly discuss what it is, and why it’s important. It’s accessible. The crowdfunding page also links to the project’s page on www.turnwestproductions.com, so there’s an additional online presence in case a potential backer had a bee in their bonnet about donating to the film and wanted to know what Turn West is all about.
It’s also a conversation starter. Now that I’ve blasted it out to family and friends, I’ve had countless people ask me how the project is going or inquire into what it is all about anyway. This is good! It means awareness has been raised, and it really starts the conversation moving forward. With a project that is slightly social and political in nature, I have to tread lightly on conversations, and suss out what may be most relevant to whoever it is I’m talking about the project with. For me, there are a slew of reasons why this project must be done now – but I’ve already convinced myself to make it. Asking someone else to help me make it a reality that requires me to listen very carefully and see what issue hits closest to home – is it the racial aspect? The political? The local, and/or creative side? Having political, careful conversations about this film is paramount in continuing excitement – I have a very clear vision (that could potentially be polarizing) so need to stay true to my vision while sharing it well.
The second part of funding this project comes from investors/backers of the project, or, of me, personally.
This is an area that I am definitely not succeeding in. Many of the projects in the arts are privately funded by people who are interested in seeing the arts succeed. TEXICAN does have three backers who have contributed $250 each to this project as a way of seeing what happens when I, Allyson West, have the support I need to realize my dreams. This is the beginning of having backers. Backers are people that have faith that ultimately I will create work that is meaningful and impactful, and would like to be attached to that work. A lot of time backers or investors get large advertising rights, but none of this is very financially rewarding in the beginning.
An ideal backer for TEXICAN would contribute 2-4 thousand dollars toward the film, but as I do not have many connections or experience asking people for this kind of money for the arts, I am doing the best I can by spreading awareness and creating a reputation for myself through the development of this project with the hope that future projects can obtain larger backing.
The number of small backers we are getting for the film are also making a large difference – each $10, $15, $20, $25, $50 that comes our way adds up and – again – pays local artist to create work that changes our community. These smaller backers make a difference overall, and are especially important as this is the first short film project from Turn West – they keep the momentum going!
Sponsorships are very similar to investors but usually come from a business. Again, the social or networking element is missing for this part of TEXICAN, although, the largest sponsorships we would have if they were “official” would be from the Dilly Deli in Mariemont and Holman Motors.
The Dilly is sponsoring all the food needed for our cookout on July 3rd. This donation truly is a game-changer – it allows us to provide an environment that would attract investors, and so the ripple effects of this may be immeasurable. Furthermore, the owner of the Dilly personally contributed $250 to the campaign via the Indiegogo.com page, which lands the Dilly as the #1 Backer/Sponsorship of this initial project.
Holman Motors may be considered a sponsor of the project as the location is donated through their generosity. Since we are filming in one location for one day, they have made it easy for us to have access to the set we need, which may have been a much larger puzzle without them.
4. Throw an Event
The fourth piece of our fundraising plan involved an EVENT – something that would a) raise awareness, b) provide more opportunities for me to talk about the film and ask people directly to contribute, c) provide more fun reasons to fork over money (beer, food, silent auction, split the pot) – all small things that could ultimately pay someone’s daily rate or buy all our costumes for the movie, or set dressing, etc.
I really debated doing something like this – I really, really, really don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, and was unsure of where to focus my fundraising efforts. So I thought for a few moments about whether or not also planning and pulling off an event in one month was feasible, and decided quickly that it could be, but only if it was LOW KEY.
There also needed to be some large built-in draw that would allow me to reach a lot of people quickly, and I realized that my current position at Blank Slate Brewing Company may be helpful. So I reached out to my boss, Scott LaFollette, and posed the idea of a July 3rd event at Blank Slate. All of our guests CONSTANTLY ask us to be open on Sundays anyway and since there are many anticipated parties on the 4th, being open to provide growler fills for our regular clientele seemed like a good idea for Blank Slate. Scott would also get free labor for the day (two of the bartenders at BSBC are dear friends of mine and invested in helping me succeed with this project and agreed to work for free/donate tips to the film,) AND he would get a promoter (me) who was intensely interested in marketing and advertising the event, who would “charge” it on Turn West time, as opposed to Blank Slate time (of which he would end up paying me for.) In return, Scott agreed to contribute a portion of the daily sales for July 3rd, and I quickly set out rounding up ideas that could cause additional income for the movie.
Every event needs food, which is where Philip stepped in to provide a cook-out with food by cash donation only. The Dilly in Mariemont agreed to sponsor the food for the event (YAY!) which in turn should make all our visitors more apt to buy a second or third drink which should eventually wind up in TEXICAN’S pocket. We also set up a split-the-pot raffle (easy money where the prize IS money,) and many, many friends have donated items for a Silent Auction (including two sets of washer boards that are coming all the way from Texas.) A DJ friend (Tom Hogan) is providing great tunes for the day, and I myself have been preparing presentation materials including large copies of the script and the budget to serve as talking points.
Kristen and I are creating an Old West photobooth for people to have fun with, and I am picking up balloons the morning of. Let’s be real, one must always have balloons. We have lawn games in the parking lot, which is being expanded to provide more space and room, and I spent a whole week submitting the event to news channels in the area, as a press release, and Kristen traveled around town handing out flyers, postcards, and posters.
I’m REALLY excited for the event on July 3rd! This should be TONS of fun where I get to talk about a project I really love at a place I really love, AND my heart continues to be overwhelmed with gratitude to all of the people that are helping me be the best version of myself. If we raise $1000 at the event we will have a successful day – if we raise more than that I may lose my mind and start crying. Either way the event will provide a gauge for me as to how the funding efforts are going, and start planning for what steps to take NEXT (we do have some really great interviews coming up in July with professionals regarding structural racism and dealing with this through law, so stay tuned.)
All that being said, I took a huge bite of faith in trying to fund this project since I HAVE NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE. I have two months – which is quickly becoming four weeks remaining – to raise another $6500 to ensure that this project receives the attention it warrants and that all the professionals involved make REAL MONEY to pay THEIR REAL BILLS and give me THEIR BEST WORK.
Wish me luck!