The Chicago Tribune on my first crowdfunding efforts, 1999

Reviving Dial 9 to Get Out – Via Kickstarter

I think it's safe to finally tell you all that I am embarking on a Kickstarter campaign very soon, in hopes of raising the $100,000+ that I need to shoot my long-gestating third feature, the darkly comic thriller Dial 9 to Get Out. The only thing left to do is shoot my intro video, and I'm currently waiting for the resources to fall in place for that. If all goes well, the shoot could happen next week. Then as soon as I have the video edited, we'll go live with the campaign.

Why did I take so long to embrace the idea of crowdfunding Dial 9 - especially since I basically invented film crowdfunding (back in late 1997, when I launched my site for Foreign Correspondents)? Well, the thing is, I simply didn't consider this option until a few months ago.

Looking back at the smattering of media attention I received in 1999 over how I raised money for ForCor, I did wonder why crowdfunding - and of course, the term hadn't been invented yet - didn't take off right after that. According to Wikipedia (more reputable accounts of other early crowdfunding efforts are scarce), it would be five more years before another filmmaker dared to raise money online. My guess as to how this fallow period came about? The dot-com crash of early 2000. After that fiasco, all the people who had once insisted that their stock would make them millionaires went off to lick their wounds while the economy recovered. Meanwhile, no filmmaker would dream of asking for money from total strangers online. And so the concept would lay dormant for a while.

The funniest thing is that, because ForCor's financial adventures were so long ago, I actually overlooked my own role in the history of crowdfunding, once the term began being used in earnest. I didn't make the connection until about a year ago.

That said, I'm excited about my upcoming Kickstarter campaign. Whether or not it's successful, it should at least be a memorable experience.

As for A Trophy and its film festival fortunes, I have no good news to share. I entered it into 17 festivals, with my final submission going out on December 31st. I decided I wouldn't waste any more time or money on this in 2014. Since then, I've gotten the first round of rejection form letters. The ones from foreign festivals weren't very painful, as they were all free or cheap to enter, and have a prejudice against American films anyway. (Don't believe me? Check this out: Barcelona's Mecal short film festival accepted 350 entries for 2014; only 2 were from the US. Tampere, Finland's highly-regarded festival? 61 shorts total, only 1 of them American. And so on.)

Even if I get nowhere with the festivals, it's been educational. Mostly, I've learned how it's like playing the lottery. I looked at the stats for the 2014 festivals who have announced their lineups. In many cases, these fests received over 4,000 short film submissions - for fewer than 100 final slots. Typically, only about 1.5% of the submitted shorts get accepted. A refreshingly candid festival director I spoke with confessed that while a third of the films he gets each year are simply terrible, perhaps a tenth are truly great films, all worthy of his festival (one of the major ones in the US) - and yet he has to reject 75% of those great films!

So as you can see, it's almost the luck of the draw: whether the interns randomly assigned to your film take a fancy to it, whether the highly argumentative selection committee can come to an agreement on it, whether your subject matter fits the festival's various agendas for that year, and of course whether favors are owed to other filmmakers, who can gobble up a healthy portion of those coveted slots.

Long blog post short: At this point, I'm not counting on any festival love for A Trophy (especially as its main character, a film festival winner, is not a particularly sympathetic person). But I'm glad I tried. And it is a good film, dammit.