The Grace of The Crowdfunded Indie Film

Lead actor Rebecca De ornelas "records a videoblog".

Lead actor Rebecca De Ornelas “records a videoblog”.

As many of you probably know, we wrapped production on The Videoblogs late last month. Years of general preparation and months of work for this specific production culminated in a few weeks of shooting. Overall, I’m proud and happy to say, things went very well.

Also, some temporary stress-related weight gain aside, I also made it out of the process fairly unscathed (if a bit exhausted). This is good. This was a goal.

I’m almost as happy about how generally smooth it all went as I am with the fact that it happened at all. As promised, I will write more (relatively) soon about the entire experience of making the film, but for the moment I think it’s worthwhile to reflect once again at how grateful we at The Videoblogs feel to be in this position. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but we seem to have squeaked things out by prioritizing what’s important (story, performance, and the health of ourselves and our collaborators) at the expense of, say, a more expensive equipment list or a more elaborate plot structure. In all seriousness, it was a production engineered for and by both its cast and crew…and its audience.

For instance, as an example of this relationship at work…

More than once while shooting The Videoblogs, a cast or a crew member thanked me for something simple like providing a decent meal.

We mostly ate large turkey legs while on set.

First of all, it surprised me greatly to hear that there are still producers and filmmakers out there NOT providing decent meals. “Feeding your team well” is the second most basic rule in filmmaking after “make sure to have a camera”. Not only is it the decent thing to do – it’s just not smart to keep working while anyone (including you) is hungry. Even when pushing to complete a scene. I’m not even going to waste any more time talking about this.

Except to say that I didn’t accept the thanks – not personally. I explicitly made sure to recognize our supporters on Seed and Spark instead.

They (or you, as the case may be) deserve the thanks. And I want to talk for a moment about what that means not only to me personally but on a larger level.

I’d like to put forth the notion that a crowdfunded film isn’t only “cool” and “disruptive” but, also –- graceful.

For me, it felt more invigorating to credit our supporters for the means to make The Videoblogs than it did to accept the thanks myself.

Because the thanks don’t belong to me. They belong to you — to anyone and everyone who has contributed to the film in any way, whether monetarily or by spreading the word. Even by reading this or other posts on my site, you’re helping me and my collaborators to keep moving.

Woah. Thank you.

Woah. Thank you.

Last month, I accomplished one of the major dreams of my life. I successfully shot a feature film that I’m proud to stamp with my name. I don’t even have to edit it to know that. I don’t need any more validation than what we’ve already received by reaching (eclipsing) our goal on Seed and Spark — until it’s time to deliver the film to this same group. I am thrilled to be able to continue my journey as a filmmaker by bringing a cut of The Videoblogs to our supporters as soon as possible.

Beyond ideas of validation, the crowdfunding process is also fun. It’s my favorite sort of fun, too. Mischievous fun. Because, by so many (false, cynical) measures — this should not have worked.

It was not easy shooting a feature film for $20,000. I know people have done it for less. I salute them until my arm falls off, and then I salute them with the other arm until it too falls off.

Still, The Videoblogs is a rouge’s film. I feel fairly confident saying that (whatever it means). We bit, scratched, and clawed to eke it out over the course of a limited number of shooting days. Everyone on the cast and crew, and all of our producers, sacrificed to make it happen. I’m immensely proud to have come out the other side mostly intact. I still can’t feel one foot, sometimes, but as long as it continues to work for now I think I’m good. Right?

But back to the mischievousness. And the grace.

They are one in the same, as far as I’m concerned.

I know the journey isn’t over, by a stretch, but I can’t help it. I feel as if we (all of us) have gotten away with something here.

The Videoblogs isn’t special, by crowdfunding standards. We gave it a try and we thankfully seemed to have pulled it off. But, damn, does it feel good to be doing this in true independent (interdependent) fashion.

Regardless of how the rest of this plays out, I and my team are privileged enough to be making a film — to say it again — for our audience made possible by our audience.

That’s powerful. And beautiful. And it feels right. In today’s difficult indie film environment, it even feels…graceful.

I thank you. Not for the last time.

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Videoblogs Update: A Walk In The Sun

Our three leading ladies for the film.

Our three leading ladies for the film: Masha King (L), Rebecca De Ornelas (C), Phoebe Allegra (R). Photo by Zach Nading.

I just got back from a walk in the sun.

We begin shooting The Videoblogs in two days and I was able to go out and enjoy a walk in the sun.

This is not to say that things haven’t been busy. They have been. It’s been a long few months, and definitely the last two weeks have been a dash.

But we are in very good shape heading into Monday. And this is mostly because of all of you.

Thank you, once again, for your support — both financial and moral. We’re excited to begin this crucial leg of the journey.

I feel very fortunate. If you had told me a few years ago that I was going to have enough peace of mind to take a walk, get a bagel and a coffee, and then take my time on the way home to enjoy and appreciate life — two days before shooting my first feature film — I wouldn’t have believed it.

Has it all gone perfectly? No. But I’m not even sure I had any perfect expectations this time around. All I know is that, soon, Monday is going to come and we’re going to be on set shooting our film. We’ve done as much work as we could do, prior to now, to set things up as best as we could to squeak out something special. We’ll see how it goes.

Again, it couldn’t have happened without all of you. And it definitely couldn’t have happened without the wonderful cast and crew we have on this project.

It’s a privilege to be working for and with you all. More soon.

- Michael

The Videoblogs Monologues, Part 4: “Ramona”

Hello, wonderful readers (and Videoblogs supporters).

Here is the final installment in The Videoblogs Monologues. As a reminder, these videos were crowdsourced and produced as examples of what we’re aiming to accomplish with “Phase 2″ or our project, which has been renamed The Videoblogs Dialogue.

More info on that here.

Also, today is our last day of funding for the film. We’re hugely grateful to be over 100% funded on Seed and Spark. But any additional contributions still make a difference and are appreciated. Reasons as to why can be found near the bottom of this post.

Plans, Expectations, and HOLY SH*T

Woah. Thank you.

Woah. Thank you.

It’s part of the beauty (and sometimes the cruelty) of life — that it proceeds without regard to our plans or expectations. Which is my attempt at a more eloquent way of saying: Holy Sh*t.

The Videoblogs is currently 102% funded on Seed and Spark.

With a little less than two days to go.

How did we get here? The short answer is that a generous supporter, in the words of a pal, helped us “kick the door down”. We went from about 62% to 102% funded in an instant.

This was not planned or expected.

Before that, two friends from college had each contributed at a high level, to bring us to that previous point of 62%. What they had to say to me when I rushed out my sincere and surprised thanks — left me in tears.

Rebecca and I (and the whole team) are so very grateful for all of you. I cannot express that sentiment enough.

Thank you. Your support means the world to us. It serves as validation, and a reminder, that the struggle and the fighting is worth it. As I have said before — we promise to bring a great film to you.

Thank you.

So, where do we go from here?

Well, for the next few days, we would still encourage you to contribute if you can.

Here’s why:

  1. We’re already operating at a very limited budget level for a feature film. This is not at all a problem and we continue to be grateful to be in this position, but any additional funds past our goal WILL be similarly stretched to make challenges (and they will come) less challenging.
  2. We want you to see the film first. As summarized here, this film is also an experiment in helping to arrive at a model for sustainable, empowered indie filmmaking. Every person who simply “purchases” advance access to The Videoblogs via a $10 or $20 contribution is voting for this model. What does this mean? It means you’re helping us make the films that a growing subset of people want to see but which aren’t getting made by big business. We’re going to get The Videoblogs to you quickly, because you are our supporters. After that, who knows? It could take a year or longer before the film is otherwise made available.
  3. In line with our bootstrapped approach, we have not budgeted much money for post-production (editing) or marketing. This is because I can do most of it if I have to do it. But I am simply not as skilled or as efficient at certain elements of post as a professional editor, colorist, marketer, etc. And, even so, the completion of these tasks cost money. We may have to fundraise again next year for theses stages. I can promise you that if we end up with even a small surplus this time around, it will be stocked away to make that process easier.

It feels awkward to keep “the ask” open for these final days, despite our position, but these are in fact legitimate reasons. We would be doing the film, and those of you who have already supported us, a disservice by failing to be transparent about the fact that every additional little bit still helps.

The urgency, of course, is gone. I literally dreamed of puppies and kittens last night. And a few dead birds, because there are always going to be some dark corners in there.

But, let’s choose to focus on the brightness today. At least in this one regard. That’s not going to be a problem for me, I don’t think. Because all of you have made me proud to do what I do.

Cast Interview: Masha King + Final Days of Funding

We’re down to our final few days to fund The Videoblogs.

We’re getting there, but we still need your help to get the Green Light on Seed and Spark.

We're a STAFF PICK. And we are over 60% funded.

We’re a STAFF PICK. And we are over 60% funded.

If you’re able to contribute, please consider doing so today to help us build momentum heading into Friday. What we’d most like to do is show you the film. For $10, we’ll send you a download when it’s finished. For $20, we’ll mail a DVD.

In the meantime, here’s our very own Masha King (Cass) answering some questions about her role in the film:

Casting Announcement: Rebecca De Ornelas

Rebecca will be playing Margaret, the lead character, in The Videoblogs

Rebecca will be playing Margaret, the lead character, in The Videoblogs

I’m going to attempt to balance this post with a modicum of objectivity. I’m going to fail at this. It’s lucky for all of us that art is subjective, anyway. Except that it isn’t. Not quite. Moving on!

There’s a good reason why objectivity is hard. Rebecca De Ornelas is, quite simply, is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.

We’re married. Let’s get that out of the way for the few of you who don’t know it. But, while we’re at it, let’s get a few more things out of the way.

When I say Rebecca is amazing, I’m not speaking as her partner. I’m speaking as a person and as an artist who has followed her career for years.

Still, as someone who has shared a life with Rebecca over those same years, I have had the privilege of watching her arrive at “some next level shit”, recently, as an actor.

I’m not the sort of person who would be capable of deluding himself about something like this. Just like I’ll never be the sort of person who would collaborate with someone just because we’re married. Rebecca isn’t like that either. No one who worked with us on our first film together knew we were a couple until the shoot was almost over.

There’s a very specific reason why I’m excited to be working with Rebecca as the lead actor in The Videoblogs — the character already belongs to her.

In the beginning, the character, Margaret, was written for Rebecca. It’s one of the benefits to being part of a creative couple that you can create things together that work to each of your strengths. But I’ve also learned to grow as a writer and as a collaborative filmmaker in recent years by watching Rebecca work. She’s taught me a lot about the value of trusting a performer with the time and space he/she needs to create, and about how much value performance brings to things that may start on the page or on the screen but truly emerge from the humanity of the actor.

Last night, Rebecca and I started rehearsing her first “videoblog” scenes. I almost cried hearing “Margaret” bare her soul for the first time. This was after just three reads.

Quite simply, Rebecca is a great talent, as well as a wonderful person to work with. All of us on The Videoblogs team are excited to watch her bring Margaret to life.

Here’s a video of Rebecca answering some questions about the film and her character. Below is her bio.

We have just a few days left to get The Videoblogs funded on Seed and Spark. If you’re a fan of Rebecca, please consider contributing to the film before Friday.

A generous contributor is currently matching all contributions, up to $1,000. If you’re a fan of Rebecca consider picking up an advanced copy of the film to help us get it made :-)

-

BIO

Rebecca keeps busy and she likes it that way.

Born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to a Puerto Rican math teacher mom and a Portuguese fruit vendor dad, Rebecca learned the values of hard work and determination early on in life. These lessons helped her nurture her talents at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. They also provided Rebecca with a foundation for her current further study with renowned acting teacher and coach, Alice Spivak, who enabled her to put aside some of her fancy training and loosen the hell up.

After a few years spent working to become a better actor (it never ends), Rebecca decided it wasn’t enough to just be “in things” – she wanted to make them too. Spurred by her tireless work ethic (see above Portuguese Dad reference) and by the wonderfully creative people she has surrounded herself with over time, Rebecca co-produced the ambitious neo-noir crime drama featurette, Sex and Justice. Made with the help of friends and family, Sex and Justice was predominantly shot on a set built in a potato chip warehouse in Rhode Island. Rebecca and Writer/Director Michael DiBiasio then self-distributed the film, holding screenings at the Historic Columbus Theater in Providence, RI and at Tribeca Cinemas in NYC. The film was well-liked and well-reviewed but an overly ambitious business plan left them out of money and they were forced to live off free potato chips- more lessons learned!

Armed with additional knowledge and perspective, Rebecca went on to co-produce and star in Multiverse, a dramatic sci-fi short, which is available now to view. Rebecca is also a member of Alice Spivak’s OnTheRoad Repertory Company, formed in collaboration with her advanced acting classes made up of working actors. OnTheRoad produces revivals and original plays in and around New York City. With OTR, she will be playing Amy in George Kelly’s The Show-Off.

Rebecca is a member of SAG-AFTRA.