By Mike Berlin
All filmmakers, queer or not, would like to stop asking everyone for money. Kickstarter is an empowering tool, sure, but it may not have the power to reform the typically impoverished creative lifestyle. The site’s model is particularly well suited for funding and making films, but getting them seen and profiting from them is another story.
“I remain highly interested and concerned on distribution and discoverability of queer cinema,” says Rielly. “We still have many problems to solve. The good news is if you make a fabulous queer movie, it will get seen if it’s at least of a certain production value and budget. I just want the ones that are a little bit more modest to still have a chance to be distributed and to be seen.”
Cooper, who is flush with potential projects in the wake of Pariah, including a new film with Rees backed by their original distributor, Focus Features, faces similar concerns. “There’s no business model that works right now, especially in the independent space,” she says. “As a producer, I’m still trying to figure out how I’m paying rent and working on these projects that all warrant my full attention.”
There’s no doubt that Cooper is entering a relatively cushier point in her producing career as a result of Pariah. Kickstarter helped her and Rees get that final push to Sundance, but ultimately, only funded a fraction of the filmmaking cost, which she estimates at half a million dollars. Before working on the film, Cooper had an apartment in New York City -- she sold it, living off the funds and investing some of them into Pariah.
Sini Anderson, director of the Kickstarter-backed documentary on Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontperson Kathleen Hanna, The Punk Singer, has mixed feelings about the crowdfunding experience. She worries that it perpetuates a fundamental problem that has long plagued artists. “This is the age-old idea that if you’re creative, you have to be an expert at every angle of it,” she says. “You’re the producer, you’re the director, you’re the writer, you’re the publicist, you’re the sales agent. You are all of these things. And that’s not how you get fantastic art. It’s spreading your efforts pretty thin.”
Then again, filmmakers -- especially those who want full creative license to make truly queer products -- have never really had much of a choice when it comes to funding. Ultimately, the film needs to be made—whatever it takes.
SLIDESHOW: view Kickstarter success stories, click here.
SLIDESHOW: View timeline of the rise of Queer Cinema, click here.