Once we wrapped production on the opening scene, I sent all the footage to my editor Clint to start putting the sequence together for the upcoming Indiegogo campaign. At the same time, I started editing the pitch video that would launch the campaign. Myself, Kalen, and Rose had studied other campaign pitch videos to see what made them successful in the past. What we discovered was that most of them clearly expressed the idea, showed how passionate the team members were about it, and made a strong case for how the funds would be utilized.
My goal with the pitch was to make it as attention worthy as possible. The editing structure was simple: Discuss the my background and the experience of the first film, then talk about why this new film was going to be more about character development than mindless action scenes. I got my good friend and CineFiles co-host Eric Cohen to design an animated intro in the style of Casino Royale. Then I had a friend of one of the crew members put together a pumping techno-style music track to lay under the video while testing the waters for potentially doing the musical score for the film.
The initial pitch video clocked in close to 5 minutes. At the time, I thought it was enough to cover everything we needed to say about the project plus the extensive description on the website regarding the story, cast breakdown, and breakdown of production needs. When it came time to get the audio mixed, however, I got annoyed. At first, my initial sound recordist that I hired was willing to help out on all the sound mixing on the project. But when I sent him the files for mixing, he told me everything was fine except for one part that had to be cut. This confused me because I had sent him the reference audio from the camera and the external audio from my field recorder. The field audio was clean. I realized he had not done any mixing and instead pulls a 180 saying he stopped audio mixing projects. This called for change on the sound front.
We launched the campaign a month after the opening scene was shot and set the duration of it from then to the end of August. I had high hopes we would have the funds to shoot again in September and that at least one investor would come through. But nothing seemed to come together. I had approached two local friends about putting together a fundraiser on Staten Island. My plan was we would show the opening scene, have a comedian or musical act to bring in a crowd, give away gift baskets as part of a raffle, etc. One friend couldn’t do it because he had to answer to his partner at the restaurant he co-owned while the other was too busy with jobs and the recommended sport for the fundraiser was closed for the summer. I can’t take it personally because everyone has life to contend with. For me, however, I couldn’t catch a break.
I made my first $25 dollar contribution a day after the Indiegogo campaign launched. Though friends and family were willing to give what little they could, the campaign just couldn’t reach a wide enough audience no matter how much money I spent on Facebook ads or the amount of times I updated the page to simplify my pitch. In trying to find solutions to improve the campaign, I found that most people were confused by the animated intro (Were we raising money for a video game?), the comic book perk (Were we trying to get a comic book put into production?), or got turned off by the project needs breakdown for things like catering for the cast and crew. Now I was hoping Clint could put together a kick ass edit for the opening scene.
Clint sent a rough cut of the opening in early June. Aside from shots that needed to be tightened, I was very impressed. The tension was high, the back and forth intercuts between the agents and the drug dealers worked, and the nightmarish ending effects that he put to Miller getting wounded were creepy, yet left you wanting more. His biggest challenge was having to put together the gun effects, blood hits, and the explosion at the front door. When we put out the final version on Indiegogo, the response was very positive; however, it still was not enough to generate more funds from outside sources. Even the investor I had hopes of helping out would keep procrastinating about when he would send me feedback on it as well as my prospectus.
The final tally of the Indiegogo campaign was $782. Factoring in Indiegogo and PayPal fees, it was a lot less than that. Though I had a few summer gigs that would help support the production, it would not be enough to complete production before the holidays. I held out hope for some stable work which would be the reason why I went ahead with production anyway. But that never happened either. Crowdfunding is a serious job if you want to get something like a movie made. That in addition to marketing are crucial components in the success or failure of a project and you cannot promote it alone.
When the campaign had ended, I felt as if the weigh of the project was on my shoulders because some people I had put faith in had other things to do or felt it was not their responsibility to deal with. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way when I started and would continue to learn as we went forward into the fall. Yet, for every lesson learned, I grew a lot wiser, more mature, and came to a realization that you have to deal with every issue one step at a time. I learned who keeps it real with a difficult situation so he or she can find solutions and who does their job on the set underhanded so they can grab their paycheck. People expect me to be this creative mastermind who knows how to make their vision a reality and knows when to compromise when the budget is tight. But not every decision I’ve made has been the smartest and I’m man enough to admit that. Those personal and professional revelations would make me a better crowdfunding campaigner when I relaunched the Vendetta Games campaign on Kickstarter to even greater success than I did on Indiegogo. It also made me a smarter producer and director in how I intend to handle my production going forward.
Without going into more details, this will be my last diary for a while until we resume production soon. While last year was full of false hopes and false starts, this year will be my mission to finish the games strong going forward.