Why we need a Kickstart

I know that a lot of people who might be visiting our Kickstarter page will be unfamiliar with independent film. You might be wondering “why are they asking for a handout?” and “shouldn’t they be getting funding the NORMAL way?”

Well, this is the thing:

Kickstarter IS the normal way. It’s just a more visible form of the normal way.

Before we had things like Paypal and Kickstarter, we made the money for documentary projects a number of ways. Here’s what they were and how THIS production is dealing with them:

Grants: We are pursuing some grants and funding through foundations. But it’s also a very slow and uncertain process. So yes, we’re working hard on applying for as many of these as we qualify for, but we don’t want to wait so long for grant funding that we miss the story we’re trying to tell because story is the most important thing.

Personal Funding/Credit Cards: I would never ask the community to fund a project that I didn’t believe in myself, and I’ve actually invested a significant amount of my own savings in order to get the film to this point. I’ve put in the first bit of the investment capital because I wanted potential investors and donors to see what we could do before I thought about asking for money. I’m not asking for a handout because I don’t want to spend my own money. I’m not asking for anything that I was not willing to also put in myself.

Distribution Sales: Films often get their budget by selling their distribution rights before the film is completed. This actually is one of the functions of Kickstarter, because for a $25 donation you’re pre-ordering a copy of the film. It functions in the exact same way, only on a more individual level than a corporate one. Through Kickstarter we can get the word out about our film to people who would want a copy for their collections, in a much bigger and better way than any other mechanism that has been around in the “old days.”

Donations/Investors: This is where the bulk of the funding for independent film has always come from. I’ve heard that Sam Raimi basically walked around town asking every business owner he saw to help support his film work and that’s how he made his first features. That’s the way it is for people outside the studio system. You walk around and ask anybody that stands still long enough if they’re interested in supporting your next film project. I’ve been a part of at least a half dozen indie shorts in the last year, and that’s how we got the money for each one.

Kickstarter is just an evolution of this concept. It’s a systematic way to approach more people and pitch them your idea. It’s also a way to streamline and organize who has donated to you because Kickstarter has a great system for helping you keep track of and talk with your backers. On top of that, it’s better for donors because they get something out of it rather than JUST our love and adoration. This was the approach I took when I raised money for my last film, using a mix of Kickstarter and other methods. That was successful on multiple levels, not just in getting money to pay our expenses.

I know it might seem sometimes like there’s always somebody with a hand out on Kickstarter, but that’s exactly what Kickstarter is about. It’s crowdfunding, and it really is the newest and biggest thing for indie film. That’s because it’s not just about the funding, it’s also about the crowd.

Yes, this film needs the funding. I can’t make the movie as good as I want to make it without help. There simply isn’t enough money in filmmaking as a career for any of us to always fully finance our own films, that’s the reality of what we do. Independent filmmakers will always need the financial support of people who believe in them and their work.

But what every film needs just as much (if not more) than money is an audience. Filmmakers (good ones at least) don’t make films to just watch themselves and leave on dusty shelves. Sure, I’m making this documentary because I’m fascinated by the topic and I wanted to put my skills to use making a film that I’m passionate about. But the point is to make a movie that YOU will enjoy just as much as I do. This film has two goals: to showcase the e-sports community to a mainstream audience and to bring new fans to professional gaming and to give the community a film they can enjoy and love that celebrates everything that they already know is so great about this world.

That’s why I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign, so that people who are interested in the film can do more than just watch it one day. They can get involved, own a piece of it, and participate. You’re not just a donor, you’re a member of the team making the film. That’s why so many of our rewards are also participatory. You can use your promo kit items to start a conversation with somebody about e-sports. You can see the donor only videos, and give us an idea of what you’re enjoying and what isn’t working for you. And a select number of people will even be our test audience, getting to see the film before it’s finished so that YOU, the fans, get to say what you’re enjoying or what doesn’t work. As a filmmaker, I want your input because I’m not making a film just for me to watch. Always remember, I’m making a film for you to love.

And that’s why we’re doing a Kickstarter campaign. It’s both crowd, and funding.

Why are we asking for so much?

It’s a pretty common refrain for us filmmakers these days, “why is that so expensive? I could make that for half the price.”

Trust me, for every time you say that, we’ve heard a producer say it ten times. We’re pretty used to it. Actually, most of us that have been doing this for any length of time are very frugal. It’s just that filmmaking does actually cost money.

For example, it takes three people at each event to really do this job properly. It’s a vast oversimplification, but it takes one guy to hold the camera, one guy to hold the microphone, and one woman (at least in my world) to keep everything on track, download footage, do the interviews, keep everything moving and all the other things a director does. For a documentary of this size and scope, that’s actually a smaller crew. We chose this size crew through careful consideration of what we needed to get done and the way to balance costs with quality. I talked to several documentary filmmakers when making this plan, it’s not something I pulled out of the air or that I’m doing because “it’s what you do.”

Because of the topic of our film, travel is a necessity. So far this year, we’ve been to Boston, Massachusetts, Columbus, Ohio; Las Vegas, Nevada; Ontario, California; Anaheim, California; and Raleigh, North Carolina. Each trip requires air fare or gas, and hotel costs for an average of three people. Along with that, we’ve got the costs associated with the crew and the equipment. All in all, each trip has cost us an average of $2,500.

We’ve called in every favor, negotiated deals, and done everything we can to keep those costs as low as possible. But again, you balance that with quality. We chose not to shoot the film on a consumer grade camera for many reasons, all of them relating back to the quality of the film and giving you the best product. Again, this wasn’t a decision made lightly, but done after discussions with other professionals who had been there before us and could help us weigh the cost/benefit ratios.

Those trips that we’ve already made are only the first half of the film. We did not ask for your help until now and used personal funds to get the film to this point. The money we’re trying to raise for our Kickstarter isn’t for the places we’ve already been, but for the ones we need to take to finish up the year. There are at least three more tournaments, along with traveling to the EG Lair in Arizona to finish up the year. And of course, we can’t talk about EG’s Starcraft 2 team without seeing their players in action in South Korea. To be honest, the goal of the Kickstarter campaign probably won’t cover all of this. It is only a portion of the total budget. Rest assured that every dime we raise will go towards the film.

We’ve worked hard all year to get the best deals and save money at every opportunity, and we’ll continue to do so from now on.

We’ll stretch your donation as far as possible, so every single amount is helpful. But if you believe in this project like I do, helping spread the word so that we meet or maybe even exceed our goal will only bring you a better finished product.

Why support THIS project?

I’m well aware that we aren’t the only documentary about Starcraft. The first job of any filmmaker when they start a project is to research other projects on the same topic. When I started pre-production, the first thing I did was get my hands on every video game documentary I could find and watch them.

When I started this project almost a year ago, there were no other documentaries. I’m not going to make a big deal about that, but I want everybody to understand that this isn’t some flash in the pan idea we had because it seemed popular. I started pitching the idea to friends and filmmakers last October, and contacted Evil Geniuses about the idea a month or so later when I had formulated a proposal and started my research. This is not a bandwagon project, and we had been working for months before any other films showed up on the radar.

We started filming at PAX East, and then picked up again at MLG Columbus. That was when several other films announced their projects. It very quickly became clear that each of the films had entirely different focuses and points of view. I’ve talked to several of the other filmmakers, and we all agree that there’s no use in us duplicating each other’s work. We also think that’s not going to happen.

For example, my film is focused on a single team and their journey through 2011 as esports stands as high as it has ever been. We’re talking to the players about their journey, yes. But we’re also talking to the team management and to different employees about their jobs within the organization. We want to know what makes Evil Geniuses work. Yes, this is also a film about Starcraft and about competitive gaming. But at it’s core it is a film about one team with their own struggles and successes.

I personally don’t believe in disparaging others in order to promote myself. So I’m happy to spend some time telling you why my project is worth your time, but not as a “those guys are doing X, and I’m going to do Y.”

I’ll just tell you more about who I am, the crew I’m bringing to this project, and why you should be as excited about their work as I am.

First, I’ve been making films for over a decade. Along with several short documentaries, I also made a long-form film called “Watashi Wa.” In it, I explored the world of cosplay at anime conventions. It was screened at several conventions in the years following it’s completion. What can I say, I really like making films about people that are passionate about things other people don’t always accept.

I’ve got two film degrees (a Bachelor’s and my recently completed MFA), if you care about those kinds of things. I’ve also got awards in both screenwriting and filmmaking. Last year, I wrote and directed two short films. Along with that, I’ve been working in the DC film industry on a wide variety of projects. I’ve learned how to make a film by being on a number of sets of every shape and size. You can find more of my credits and filmography on my website, http://www.ninehourfilms.com.

But enough about me. Nobody makes a movie by themselves. In my opinion, one of the main jobs of the director is to bring the right people in to do the job. I’m extremely lucky to have met some amazing and talented people during my time at American University.

DP Stephen Tringali, sound mixer Jeremiah Horan, and editor Banu Debre have all already helped the project immensely with their skills and talents. This is a crew that I have worked with before on multiple projects, and that I trust to make this film the best that it possibly can be. They’re a group of talented professionals who have the skills and experience to do the job right.

So we have a track record, experience in the industry, and as you can see on our video page, we aren’t just talk. As an added bonus, Stephen and Jeremiah are both gamers who love Starcraft. I’ve been a huge fan of Blizzard’s games since the days of Warcraft 2, and I spent most of my college days playing Starcraft on Battle.net with my friends. My senior thesis project for my Bachelor’s degree was actually a fan film about Starcraft and Blizzard called “Waiting for Warcraft.” I can bring the expertise of both a gamer and a filmmaker to this project.

I should also go ahead and address some of the concerns I’ve seen raised before, so that we can put your mind at ease (I hope).

First, people have wondered if other projects are just going to “take the money and run.” We’ve already put a year of work and a very significant amount of money into this project. I’ve put a lot on the line for this, and I hope that shows you that I’m serious. For that matter, I think it also proves that I’m not looking for somebody else to fund my vacation. I’ve spent more than enough to have funded a really great trip to Europe. Lucky for everybody, I’d rather make movies.

People have raised concerns over the timeline for a lot of these projects. The only thing I can say to that is that it’s just how the process works. To make a high quality feature length documentary, you have to put in the time. Our intention from the beginning was to follow the team for a lengthy period of time. This isn’t just a quick puff piece, it’s a film, and that takes time. We’re following them at least through the end of the year because that’s the actual story we’re telling, a year in the life of a professional Starcraft 2 team.

After we’re done filming, we have to go through post-production and that’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed. I’m sure you can all think of a film you’ve seen that seemed like they just slapped together some clips and free music clips. I’m just as excited about finishing this as (I hope) that you are about getting to see it. I want to show it to you as soon as possible! But if you’re going to support my film, I want to give you a worthy film to support. I know it’s going to take patience, but I think it will be well worth it.

I also want to point out that we have the full support of the team on our side. They have been with us every step of the way, and are just as dedicated as we are to making this something the fans want to see and can be proud of.

If you have any other concerns, then I welcome you to voice them. You can use the contact form here, tweet @ninehourfilms, email me…I’m pretty easily available. I want you to feel confident supporting my film. So ask away if you need to.

Where We Are, Where We’re Going

Hello!

I know we’ve been out of touch for a bit here on the blog, but the good reason for that is that we’ve been filming and working on exciting new stuff for the movie. First, we’ve been to MLG Anaheim and MLG Raleigh, which were both great events. We got a lot of fantastic new footage, and I can’t wait to show it to you.

Second, we’re planning our trips to IPL3 in Atlantic City and to MLG Orlando next month. There’s a lot of logistics to get in order to make it all happen, but things are coming together perfectly right now.

Of course, there’s also been a lot of changes in the world of Team Evil Geniuses, with their two new members and all of that fun stuff. We’ve been following all new developments and working on making sure everything you want to see is represented in the film.

We’ve got two new sneak peek videos that were posted last month if you haven’t seen them, Meet Anna Prosser and Meet LzGaMeR. Make sure you give them both a look.

We also got to attend our first Barcraft event, going to celebrate opening night of NASL Season Two with the fine folks from Barcraft DC at Public Tenley. It was a lot of fun, and I’m hoping to do a more complete write-up of it soon.

The team here is also hard at work on something extremely exciting, which should be going live in a matter of days. I can’t wait to share it all with you.

Keep an eye on this space! More to come!

Interview with WT Gaming

Last week I got to talk a bit with SQS from WT Gaming about Good Game, and his questions got right to the heart of a lot of things I’d been wanting to address. It’s a great interview, you should check it out. They even made the perfect screenshot for the film from our teaser.

Why choose Team EG? Is there anything unique about the team that makes them a particularly good for the documentary?

I chose EG for a lot of reasons, partially because I needed a team that had a group of interesting people with a variety of stories, play styles, and personalities. I actually started working on the project last October, just after I attended MLG DC. At the time, EG was still talking about plans in Korea and starting a team house there…

Check out the entire interview (and the rest of the answer to “Why EG?”) at their site.

Newest video: Meet iNcontroL

Want to know just what type of person it takes to spend 13 years playing a video game? Then let me introduce you to EG.iNcontroL:

Meet iNcontroL from Mary Ratliff on Vimeo.

Get to know Geoff Robinson, or EG.iNcontroL, a professional gamer who is one of the stars of Good Game.

This sneak peek features footage shot at PAX East, MLG Columbus, and the NASL Season One Finals. We will be continuing to follow Geoff and his teammates throughout 2011.

Anaheim: full steam ahead + BARCRAFT DC!

I’ve been spending the last week getting everything together to go to MLG Anaheim this weekend, with only a short break for my birthday last weekend. I’ve been organizing the logistics, getting my flight plan ready, and hiring one of the best DPs I know to come with me.

I’ve worked with Stephen Tringali on several other projects, from music videos to experimental films. I’m extremely happy to have him on board for this weekend, and I know he’s going to shoot some amazing stuff. Since he moved to L.A. we haven’t gotten to be on set together as much, so I jumped on the chance to bring him on for this trip to California.

While I’m excited to be going to Anaheim (only my second trip to the west coast!) I’m also a little sad that I’m going that I’m going to be out of town for the weekend.

It’s not a new thing in America for sports fans to gather at bars for their favorite games. I’ve not really done that a lot in my life, actually I’ve only done it twice. But the first time was actually one of the inspirations for me to make Good Game.

You see, my first sports bar experience was going to see the US vs. Alegria game in the group stage of the World Cup last year. I don’t know if you remember, but there was a pretty epic goal in the 91st minute of the game.

It was kind of a big deal, and it would have been exciting even if I was just watching it at home on my couch. But the reason this was such a big memory for me was that I was in a crowd, and I realized how much being in that crowd of people made everything just that much more FUN.

What in the world does this have to do with Starcraft? Well, Starcraft fans are a community. They are like sports fans, they want to get together and watch the ups and downs of the big event together. And having cheap beers while they watch certainly makes it all the more fun.

Which is why Barcraft exists. This weekend, the people who have been organizing meet ups in my area will be having a big event at a bar called Public Tenley on Sunday. And I really, really wish I could be there.

I wanted to make this film because as long as I had been playing Starcraft, and as much as I had watched Tastless casting, it wasn’t until I went to MLG DC last year, not too long after that experience watching the World Cup, that I realized just how much excitement and fun there was to be had in the world of e-sports. At MLG, I saw that same sort of atmosphere as I felt in the bar when that goal got the US to the next round of play.

If you’re in the D.C. area, then you probably won’t be able to fly out to California to attend the Anaheim tournament in person. But you CAN join everybody at Barcraft DC and I guarantee you that you will have a great time. Even if you’ve never seen a Starcraft game before, even if you don’t play games yourself, by the time you leave you will see how great this whole scene really is. You have to stop by.

(As a side note, if you’re not in Anaheim OR in D.C. then you can look for other Barcraft events on Reddit.

© Nine Hour Films 2013 - site by Tim Chow