Funding Films, Continued

The Gotham Gal and I have been at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend. We’ve seen a nice mix of documentaries and feature films. And in the feature film category we’ve seen mainstream crowd pleasers like Mindy Kaling’s Late Night which Amazon bought for a bundle and indie films that may struggle to find a mainstream audience.

We tend to prefer the latter and among the best of the indie variety that we’ve seen was a film called Ms Purple that we saw yesterday morning at its world premiere.

Ms Purple raised almost $75k on Kickstarter (a USV portfolio company) a few months ago which funded much of the post-production costs and licensing expenses. A total of 373 patrons invested an average of $200 each (some way more, some way less) to help this film come to life.

From my experience yesterday morning, I would say it was a fantastic investment. Ms Purple is about the challenges that immigrant families navigate in the US, and about the tensions that exist in sibling relationships, particularly when a parent is dying.

Ms Purple’s filmmaker (writer and director) Justin Chon is exactly the kind of artist that Sundance and Kickstarter exist to serve. While I hope his stories can and will go mainstream, they need to be heard even if they don’t.

And funding mechanisms outside of the studio model/system insure that they will.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    All the best to Justin Chon. I know how important Sundance and the LA Times article will be for them.Big fan of Indie movies. Wished they were more accessible.

    1. awaldstein

      I wonder with some exceptions like the one Fred is talking about whether the concept of Indie films exists any longer at all.The model of creative and where it hits the finance model outside of the traditional channel is turned on its head.As an amateur historian of Hollywood a fascinating topic.You might like this:The changing paradigm of storytelling in Hollywood and beyond

  2. Richard

    The number of people taking about Sundance – is essentaully zero (compare this post vs the one on AOC) The golden age of Hollywood sadly has passed. If 373 people want to produce a film about subject X more power to them. But let’s not conflate this with Hollywood’s mission – to entertain. It they don’t entertain – another venue willl. Only disney seems to still get it – but for a small audience. Hollywood needs (a young) Howard Hughes !

    1. Peter J. Mills

      Every new technology produces a golden age, when utility conflates with creativity. Social media’s has just passed. We shouldn’t mourn this fact, but rather enjoy the peak period while it lasts. After that, the ‘classic era’ is always there to look back on.

      1. JamesHRH

        What’s you rationale on the peak passing on social media?

        1. Peter J. Mills

          The rationale? Its ubiquity or gigantism, to the extent that it has become a monster rather than something that’s merely useful. The next stage will be a reactive return to simplicity, although I can’t foresee the form of that.

          1. JamesHRH

            Name a medium that has retracted in its production volume when costs have dropped or ease of distribution has increased.We are in a Goldien age of all media.

          2. Peter J. Mills

            Once a product becomes commoditized, volumes may remain high but the unique selling points have vanished and profits are hard to find, except for the most efficient producer. Isn’t that why we’re all looking for the next disruptor?

          3. JamesHRH

            No goes looking for a disruptor.The go looking for improvements.

      2. Richard

        Good point

    2. fredwilson

      Typical comment from the AVC curmudgeon. Wherever I see hope and promise, you see the opposite. At least you are consistent

      1. JamesHRH

        Sundance isn’t going anywhere.It’s not growing but it’s OK

      2. Richard

        Cheer up Fred. You don’t know what you want. That said, I could watch anything about anything in Provo and be happy. I’ve been going there since college. I just call them as I see them. The truth hurts sometimes, but I’ll try to be more like the AVC Pom Pom boys. Next thing i know you’ll ask to me upbeat about the KNICKS.

  3. jason wright

    The last three films i’ve watched. North by Northwest, Doctor Zhivago, and Out of Africa. It’s a high bar, but does anything being made today even begin to compare?

    1. JamesHRH

      No, but try Bad Times @ the El Royale.

      1. jason wright

        I will hunt it down.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      In art, I see a theme: Shockingly quickly after appropriate means, e.g., technology, are available, good artists exploit the means about as well as they are ever exploited.So, as soon as well-tempered tuning made keyboards reasonable and effective, from Bach we got The Well Tempered Clavier with, in particular,Bach ~ Prelude in C Major…That’s one interesting way to play it. More generally, one can look at the notes and add expression, passion, communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion with changes in phrasing, tempo, pedal, loudness. In just that one piece, can be resigned, driven, insistent, relaxed, awed, etc.Then, quickly, from Mozart we gotPiano concerto No 21in part as at…Quickly again we gotDaniel Barenboim plays Beethoven Sonata No. 8 Op. 13 (Pathetique)…and of special interestPathetique: Adagio Cantabile – L. Van Beethovenas at…AlsoBeethoven Sonata N° 14 ‘moonlight’ Daniel Barenboimas at…Again from BeethovenSviatoslav Richter, Beethoven Appassionataas at…or with less passionClaudio Arrau Beethoven “Appassionata”as at…From ChopinCHOPIN – Nocturne Op.9 No2as at…and finallyVladimir Ashkenazy, Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition…With that example from piano, for movies, it appears to me that as the technology had made good progress,, by the 1930s and 1940s Hollywood was as good as they ever got. After all, the main subject of art and movies is just humans, and they have been much the same for at least 2000 years and well known to good artists!

  4. Kirsten Lambertsen

    In the documentary, “Heart of Darkness,” about the making of “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola talks about how he dreams of the day when an 11 year old girl in Kansas (or some other mid-western state) can make a hit movie with her own video camera. He said that in 1990. We’re there!In a way, I think the proliferation of quality amateur entertainment has raised the bar for studio and independent films.Sundance must be a gas. I’ve never been.

    1. fredwilson

      We saw a doc made by an Afghani filmmaker today. He used three iPhones to document the four year journey he and his wife and two daughters made from Afghanistan to Germany. It was as riveting a film as one can make

      1. fredwilson

        It is called Midnight Traveler

        1. Kirsten Lambertsen

          That’s amazing, both story-wise and equipment-wise. I’ll have to see it.

  5. Donna Brewington White

    Love the Indie movement.Media is ripe for disruption by indie sources. Even social media as young as it is.Although one of the problems I see with social media is how it is influenced and sometimes even commandeered by mainstream and established media.

    1. JamesHRH

      The problem with indie movies? The stories.Marvel works at the massive audience because the themes are so broad.

  6. Sam K.

    Thank you for this post. I wanted to share how Kickstarter helped us fund LINSANITY, an independent documentary about a new NBA player for the New York Knicks named Jeremy Lin.I am a partner at a venture capital firm and a co-founder at a film company. We raised $167,916 from 2,102 backers on Kickstarter to make LINSANITY. The money was definitely helpful, but what was even more helpful was the passionate community that was organically built through our Kickstarter campaign. Enthusiasts would back our film and then spread the word to their friends, who would also back our film and spread the word. We were able to raise money, find/expand our audience, generate buzz, and market the film for zero dollars. Our main responsibility now was to make a worthy product. LINSANITY premiered at Sundance 2013 to a standing ovation and received both critical and commercial success.Here was our Kickstarter:

  7. Salt Shaker

    There were 14,259 film submissions this year to Sundance and only 112 selected for the festival. That’s less than 1%. Similar to the music industry, the ability to produce, shoot and edit a film these days can be done awfully cheap. That said, the probability of securing a festival showcase and/or a distribution deal, even w/ the increase in non-theatrical distribution (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc.), is still pretty slim. Film and music are excellent pursuits and should be driven by passion and creative itches, not to make money. Even start ups have higher success rates financially than film and/or music endeavors.

    1. awaldstein

      From my time in the film biz, hands down the biggest risk of any investment.That being said with more distribution, with totally new non theatrical business models comes more opportunity.Never has the storyteller been more the most powerful person in the room.

  8. Maurice Chen

    @fredwilson:disqus so glad you caught (and enjoyed) Miss Purple! I worked with Justin and team on his last Sundance movie, Gook (…, and we also used Kickstarter then to great success. If you get the chance, you should give that a watch, I believe it’s still on Netflix.