April 21, 2014

The Most Expensive Kickstarter Video Ever

After years of re-writes, concept art creation, script breakdowns and budgeting for our upcoming feature film LARP, my team and I needed one last piece of the puzzle before we could confidently place our film on Kickstarter.

Several ideas were discussed, including recycling proof of concept footage we had already shot in addition to some talking heads of ourselves asking nicely for money. After seeing the amazing video for Kung Fury however, we knew that our Kickstarter campaign would live or die based on our ability to make an amazing film. We needed to show the world that we were capable of handling a budget as large as the one we're asking for.

The goals of the video were three-fold: introduce our potential audience to the film's main concept, let them know how we would use their money, and demonstrate our cinematic skills. The script came to us from a writer/comedian friend of ours and was adapted by Nicholas Dunn, the writer of LARP, to better fit our newly outlined goals. Soon, several decisions were made that upped the production value of the project considerably. What resulted was most likely the most expensive Kickstarter video ever made.

We originally planned to shoot the entire video at a local elementary school auditorium because we had access to the space for free. However, that space did not have a grid and we would therefore need to bring in our own lighting gear. For the ease of lighting the video, we changed our location from the elementary school to a sound stage at Redman Movies, the local rental house. This space included pre-rigged DMX controlled Kino Flo's and LED lights as well as a green screen and the benefits of a sound-proof room.

Because all 3 members of our small company were written into the script of the film, we needed a crew besides ourselves. We immediately attached Margaret King, who has worked on Mad Men, 24, and Nip Tuck, as our Director of Photography. We had always assumed we would shoot on our own DSLR's but Margaret upgraded the camera package to include 2 Arri Alexas, a 12-lens set of Leica Summilux-C primes and an Angenieux Optimo zoom. She also rented a small grip and lighting package from Redman Movies.

Due to the green screen in our new location, our climactic shot, which originally required our actor to cut a table in half, was changed to a huge VFX shot with animated fabric, a fantasy background plate, a wind machine and a sword lighting on fire. To achieve this, we used a combination of Adobe After Effects and Blender.

Here is the final product:

So now you're thinking, what was the final cost for The Most Expensive Kickstarter Video Ever? Truthfully, pretty close to zero. Nearly all of our props and costumes were sourced from things we already owned. Our craft services was donated by Margaret's parents and the software was already purchased for use on our corporate projects.

What then of the cost of 2 Alexas and a sound stage? We paid for none of it. Redman Movies so graciously donated the use of all their equipment to us on the condition that when we raise our $80K budget through Kickstarter, we rent all the gear from them.

Therefore it's safe to say that The Most Expensive Kickstarter Video Ever is likely one of the cheapest thanks to the courtesy of people willing to help struggling artists find their budget and make their film. We managed to get this amazing amount of equipment and talent simply because we asked. This is the best example of the collaborative spirit of the film community I've ever witnessed and the reason most of us stay in the film industry today despite its challenges.

I'm eternally grateful to everyone who helped make this video for LARP and get it this far. Now, on to $80,000!

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