By Mike Berlin
Thanks to Kickstarter, a slew of queer films--with varying levels of marketability--will see the light of day this year. The current class of 2012 includes documentaries with topics ranging from a black, lesbian strip club in L.A. (Shakedown) to a portrait of gay life in Uganda and murder of activist David Kato (Call Me Kuchu) and narratives like The Thing, a Sundance-accepted short in which “a woman, a transgendered man, and their cat travel towards a mysterious roadside attraction.”
Although a handful of crowdfunding sites, like IndieGoGo, have recently sprouted up, Kickstarter breaks away from the herd with its diabolical mechanism for ensuring results and delivery: all-or-nothing funding. Once the clock runs out on a project, creators must have raised their goal amount, or else they get nothing, even if they’re $1 short.
“It makes me, and probably other filmmakers who are not natural fundraisers, become that horrible person who writes everybody they know and every press outlet they can find, and harasses them,” says Stabile. “It made me do horrible things!”
Through its popularity, Kickstarter is thrusting a transparency onto the indie film biz, often glamorized in the public’s consciousness. On the site, you won’t find the next big mumblecore flick raising money to cast Greta Gerwig; instead, you’ll see truly independent filmmakers trying to cover post-production sessions, archival footage and music rights, and other infinitely tedious expenses.
Alternatively, Kickstarter is now allowing artists to bypass traditional producers while building fan bases and securing capital needed for their films. According to Adam Baran, who used the site to raise money for Jackpot, a semi-autobiographical short about a closeted teenage boy who desperately pursues a gay porn stash tossed in a dumpster, this isn’t a new strategy; it’s just been made infinitely easy through social networking.
“You find your audience,” he says. “That’s how someone like Tyler Perry did something on a scale that wasn’t mainstream. It wasn’t anything that was considered good entertainment, but once you’ve got thousands and thousands of people coming to see you no matter what city you come to, you become an inevitable force for someone to want to back you.”