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General Updates

I know it seems like things have been pretty quiet around here. The trick is, that’s what post-production is like when you’re watching it from the outside.

Since we’re not attending events anymore to film, what we’ve been doing is a lot of the behind the scenes stuff. The editing team has been going through almost 100 hours of footage, logging it and taking notes about what we want to use and what is repetitive or not usable.

In the end, only around 90 minutes of those 100 hours will make it into the movie. In addition, we’ve got around 100 interviews that are being transcribed and sorted. Thanks to a few great volunteers, that was much easier than it could have been but it still is a long process. On average, transcribing an interview can take three to four times the length of the footage. Every fifteen minutes of talking is an hour of work on our end.

Along with that, there’s script writing, hiring people to work on the graphics, color correction, and sound design. We’re also going to start working with our composer, etc. I’m also putting together a mailing list so that it’ll be easier to get news and information. Our first list will be for donors only, so if you want in on exclusive information and images, you can donate today and you’ll be added when it goes online in a week or so.

So basically, I know it looks like nothing on that side of the fence, but there’s actually a lot of activity going on back here. It takes a lot of time and people to make a high quality film, and that’s what we’re working on.

In the meantime, why not go to our Facebook page and let us know what burning questions you might have about the production? I’m happy to answer whatever I can!

Crew News: “Dying Green”

Starting with MLG Anaheim last year, Good Game has primarily been shot by amazing cinematographer Stephen Tringali.

I’ve known Stephen since we met at American University, where the bulk of our crew studied filmmaking. Stephen graduated and moved to L.A. and I was very happy to be able to start working with him again for Good Game.

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Lessons in Marketing

For the past five weeks, I’ve been attending a class at Arlington Independent Media to learn marketing techniques from the founder of DC Shorts and marketing guru, Jon Gann.

The class has been wonderful, and I’ve got a few different things in the draft stage that we’ll be implementing as the next few weeks go by. I’ve learned a lot, and I can’t wait to apply it to the film. If you’re a local here in DC, I have to give a huge recommendation to the classes at AIM, especially if you want to start learning filmmaking.

Meanwhile, our editors have been continuing to work on the first rough cut of the film. I know that this part of the process seems extremely long to people who are used to this era of YouTube and instant streaming. For one thing, we’re taking over 90 hours of footage and carving it down to 90 minutes. That takes quite a bit of time!

We’re making sure that every single step of the process, from cataloging and transcribing to graphic design and music composition, is done with the most care and as professionally as possible. So I know that things seem quiet on our front right now, but that’s because things are happening that will make the film better, but look sort of boring from the outside. Let me tell you, transcribing 25 hours of interviews is actually so much more dull than you can imagine and it takes at least 75-100 hours to do it.

I should have some news about some website updates coming up soon. Thanks for being so patient!

The USPS, my new best friend

Last week, I got the shipment of all of the signed mousepads that are owed to donors from our Kickstarter campaign. They’re currently taking over my dining room table.

By the way, that larger stack in the picture is just the ones signed by IdrA. We’re very grateful to him and apologize if his hand cramped up from so many autographs. You guys are definitely fans of his though!

Since I started working on the film, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the post office. They’ve been very patient and nice to me, since I routinely show up with stacks of things to be mailed internationally.

With the mousepads, it’s going to take a few trips to get it all done. First I’ve got to package them all up, and confirm addresses. Then international packages require customs slips, I have to go bother the post office again to ship everything. So it’s going to take a bit of time for me to get them all sent, but I’m working hard to get everything out since everybody has been so patient and kind while they waited.

We don’t have signed mousepads available anymore since that was a special perk, but you can still support the film and get a lot of cool items by donating through the webpage here. Every single bit helps, especially right now when we’re at a critical phase of post production.

Wrapping?

In narrative films, it’s easy to declare “that’s a wrap.” Even if you end up doing some reshoots, there’s a very specific amount of time that is principle photography.

Documentaries aren’t really that way. They can be, but for the most part everything can be a bit nebulous. But the real danger is that you never stop shooting. You see, there’s always one more thing. There’s something else going on, there’s some other story line that you think you can capture. It’s very easy to shoot forever.

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Website Update

We’ve been so busy finishing up principle photography on the film that we’ve let the website get neglected. No more! We’ve got a great webmaster helping out, Tim Chow. I’ll start updating the blog more often, and in general we’ll have more information, photos, and fun stuff for you as we go into post production!

Recent changes:
-The addition of a “press” page that links to all of the interviews and videos about the film from other websites
-All donors who get a text only link have been added to the supporters page. Donors that get a banner graphic will be added very soon, we’ve just fallen behind on making the graphics.
-A slightly new look for the “about” and “media” pages
-I’ve deleted all the spam comments and taken off the comment feature for now. I’ll try to add that back eventually but it was only being used by spammers anyway.

I’m going to try to keep myself to an updating schedule from now on to keep you informed, so look for my next post about wrapping up production in the next week!

-Mary

Kickstarter: Debriefing

Okay, so. I’m not particularly used to being completely out there about financial matters so this is a bit hard for me to write. Obviously we’ve been open about our need for funding to complete the film, and I’ve written before about why the film has been so expensive to make.

In my interview with ESFI World, I mentioned that I’ve been paying for the film on my credit card up until now. I chose to invest my own money in the project before looking for financing for several reasons. Largely because I wanted to be able to prove to potential donors/investors that I could deliver on what I promised before asking them to help me with their money.

We started our Kickstarter campaign at the end of September. I made the goal only one third of our production budget, specifically because I wanted it to be a goal that we could reach (Kickstarter requires you to reach your goal or you receive nothing). I also didn’t want to ask for more than I had already been willing to give myself.

Almost exactly a week into our campaign, we reached our goal. I was ecstatic. I saw a dream coming true. One person had pledged our top amount, $5,000, and I thought it meant that somebody else believed in my dream just as much as I did.

It turned out that I was incorrect.

Today, one week from the end of our campaign, Kickstarter notified me that three donors had errors with their payments that were not corrected. They notified those backers multiple times and ask them to fix the errors. One of these people was the $5k pledge. I personally emailed him twice and received no response.

I didn’t know that this was even possible. I have been completely blindsided by this entire situation, and I have absolutely no recourse to do anything but consider that money lost (or more accurately never gained to begin with).

I’ll be clear, I don’t know the full story. Two other donors also had errors which were not cleared, though for far smaller amounts. I can assume that they had some sort of financial or personal emergency, though I do think that in that case they might have responded to my queries.

What I do know at this point is that by pledging an amount that they either could not or would not provide, this person has not just hurt the project but also hurt me. If that was their goal, well, they can celebrate now that they achieved it.

I have no doubt that this pledge actually cost us money. I cannot know how many people saw that we had achieved our goal and decided not to donate. People who could have actually delivered on their pledges chose not to give. In addition, we had over $500 in cancelled or decreased pledges over the course of the month. How many of those people thought that it was okay to cancel or lower their pledge because we had reached our goal so we would be okay?

So the question you probably have is: are we going to be okay?

In a word, yes. I have invested over ten thousand dollars of my own personal money in this project. I’ve also invested a year of my life. I did this because I know how good this film can be, I can see it. That’s my job as a director, to be able to see the finished product and make it happen. And I will. I’ve come this far, and for me to quit or change course now would be a waste of the time and money I’ve put into it. It also would be an insult to the 182 people who DID believe in the film and backed us on Kickstarter. It would be an insult to the team, who has supported me so far. I will not let those people down.

Stopping is not on the table. It never has been.

What is on the table?

Well, filmmaking is problem solving. I have to employ my creativity and I have to fall back on my experience and skills. I’m a professional, this is what I do. My crew is made up of professionals, and we are used to making our art in difficult circumstances.

We are going to go ahead and continue with our plans. What this means for the film is that instead of having the funds I needed to finish production, I merely have the funds I need to pay off the outstanding debts I have from October and cover the expenses we will incur for November.

This means that in order to finish the film I’m going to have to do more fundraising, and I’m going to be looking even harder for new and different ways to find the financing I need to make this the great film that I know it can be. In the next day or so we’ll be putting out a set of perks that will be available for Paypal donations.

I have a few ideas, and I’ll be keeping people informed as things go on. I’m also open to suggestions, if anyone has an idea to help me finish production, pay for a trip to Korea, and then pay for post production.

This film will be made. And it will be amazing. It will be a great celebration of esports and the people who love it. I will do whatever it takes to accomplish that. But I do know that I can’t do it alone, and so I hope that if you want to see this amazing film, you will stand with me.

Kickstarter Perks!

These are the perks for our Kickstarter campaign, laid out in an easier to understand format!

Kickstarter Campaign Perks
$1
-our love and adoration

$5
-A shoutout and link on our twitter, @ninehourfilms
-One promotional item, an “awareness” wristband, a sticker, or a lanyard branded with “GG” and the film’s website.

$25
-Twitter shoutout
-A shoutout and link on the Good Game Facebook Fanpage
-Your name and a link of your choice on goodgamemovie.com, listed as a supporter of the film. * A copy of the finished film on DVD
-“gg” promo kit including wristband, sticker, and lanyard so you can show your support of the film and love of Starcraft everywhere you go.
-Access to donor only video previews of the project (roughly one per month).

$50
-Twitter & facebook shoutout
-Link on the webpage
-Donor only videos
-“gg” promo kit
-Your own DVD of the film
-An 11×17 print of the poster for the film
(DVD and poster delivered when the film is finished in 2012)

$100
-Twitter and Facebook shoutout
-Link on the webpage (with a graphic to make it really stand out!)
-Donor only videos
-TWO “gg” promo kits
-Special Collector’s Edition of the DVD with extra bonus features
-A full size copy of the poster for the film
-An Evil Geniuses Mousepad signed by your favorite member of the team

$250 (only 250 available)
-Twitter and Facebook shoutout
-Link on the webpage (with graphic!)
-Donor only videos * TWO “gg” promo kits
-Collector’s Edition DVD
-A full size poster
-An EG mousepad signed by your favorite member of the team
-A 30 minute coaching session with a member of Evil Geniuses
-One case of Monster Energy Drink
-Access to a special “test audience” online screening of an early cut of the film in order to provide input on the finished product!

$500 (only 100 available)
-Twitter and Facebook shoutout
-Donor only videos
-Link on goodgamemovie.com with graphic
-Two promo kits
-Access to the online test screening
-full sized poster
-collector’s edition DVD
-30 minute of coaching with a member of EG
-One case of Monster Energy Drink
-A personal mention on the @EvilGeniuses twitter account!
-An EG Mousepad signed by the entire Starcraft 2 team

$1,000 (only 50 available)
-Twitter and Facebook Shoutout
-Link on the front page of the webpage
-Donor only videos
-TEN “gg” promo kits
-access to an online test screening
-Collector’s Editions DVD
-full size poster SIGNED by all the members of Evil Geniuses SC2
-30 minutes of coaching with a member of EG
-Personal mention on the @evilgeniuses twitter account
-EG Mousepad signed by all the members of the team
-TWO cases of Monster Energy
-A Kingston HyperX 128GB SSD
-$25 at SplitReason.com
-An InWin 750W Power Supply

$5,000 (10 available)
-Twitter and Facebook Shoutout
-Link on the front of the webpage (with graphic)!
-Donor only videos
-As many “gg” promo kits as your heart desires
-Access to a special “test audience” online screening , as well as online access to a final cut of the film before anybody else outside of the production.
-TWO Special Collector’s Editions of the DVD with extra bonus features
-full size copy of the poster signed by EG
-EG mousepad signed by the team
-A personal mention on the @evilgeniuses twitter account
-TEN cases of Monster Energy
-A Kingston HyperX 256GB SSD
-Fifty dollars at SplitReason.com
-An InWin Dragon Rider chassis
-A two hour personal coaching session with the EG member of your choice
-A visit to the EG Lair in Phoenix to game with the team and see a special screening of the film.
-Credit as a producer of the film.

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.