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Tue, Aug. 20

Kickstarter 3: Big-budget restaurant bombs, horror movie hopes to scare up money

Courtesy photo<br>Local actors Cason Murphy (in zombie makeup) and Sean Jeralds were featured in “Dead Votes Society.”

Courtesy photo<br>Local actors Cason Murphy (in zombie makeup) and Sean Jeralds were featured in “Dead Votes Society.”

Editor's note - This is the third installment in a series on crowdfunding.

Coming soon, to a computer or smartphone near you: "Kickstarter, the Movie."

Undaunted by what could be called a crowdfunding "big-budget bomb," Prescott filmmakers plan to use a Kickstarter campaign to fund a scary movie.

The Kickstarter campaign to make a feature film in Yavapai County is being mounted by a group of local filmmakers called the Burns Unit (named in honor of low-budget film guru Ed Burns). Filmmakers include Forrest Sandefer, Robyn Bryce, Matt Jackson, Steve Hollingsworth,  Ryker Wells, Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Sean Souva, Rachel Soumokil, Dave Chantos, Christian H. Smith, Angie Johnson-Schmit and Andrew Johnson-Schmit.

They hope to have more success than The Local, a would-be restaurant that asked the crowd for $175,000 - yet didn't raise one-tenth of that goal.

The Burns Unit takes the mound in the spring, when the Prescott movie team will pitch the public to finance "Witch Child."

"We're going to use this opportunity to do the special effects, stunts, scary makeup, creepy sound effects, sweeping soundtrack, big-screen camera moves and other fun we normally don't get to do because of the budget," Andrew Johnson-Schmit said. "Kickstarter will give us a chance to let a lot of people into the big-screen movie making process."

Though he noted the local filmmakers have dozens of film and TV credits, Andrew Johnson-Schmit acknowledged this won't be easy.

"I think anyone would admit," he said, "that a locally made ghost story feature-length film is a very ambitious new project."

Whether you're into making movies ("Veronica Mars" was Kickstarted by $5.7 million), making burgers (Earth Burger flipped $43,000), making video games ("Torment: Tides of Numenera" raised $4.5 million), making politics (the Mayday Super PAC - dedicated, ironically enough, to campaign finance reform - raised $6 million) or making technology (backers pledged $10 million for the Pebble smartwatch), you may want to follow the strategy of the local filmmakers if you hope for crowdfunding.

"All of the Burns Unit members have previously backed Kickstarter campaigns and we spent the fall studying what we thought worked and didn't work with these projects," Johnson-Schmit said.

He said they analyzed "presentation, getting the word out on social media, advertising, the rewards offered to backers, etc."

Though you probably won't bust your knuckles launching a crowdfunding campaign, Warren Tracy said it's hard work.

"A lot of people are misled," said Tracy, owner of Prescott's Busted Knuckle Garage, "they think you just put something on Kickstarter and the money flows in.

"The heavy lifting has to be done via every contact you have cultivated via social media and must be treated as a full-time job."

Using that strategy, Prescott resident Tracy raised $2,071 on Kickstarter for Car Guy Hot Sauce.

The key to crowdfunding success, Johnson-Schmit and his Burns Unit cohorts decided, is a combination of the intangible and tangible - and giving ("rewards" for pledges) as well as getting (money from the public).

"We want people to not only know how cool this project is and how much it will benefit our local creative community," Johnson-Schmit said, "but also to feel like they are getting value back from backing us."

Johnson-Schmit has experience in crowfunding, as he led a successful Indiegogo campaign to bring the six-member troupe Clan Tynker to teach at Circus Camp three years ago.

"Crowdfunding, especially crowdfunding on Kickstarter - where you either raise your full goal or you get nothing - is deceptively simple looking from the outside," the Prescott filmmaker said. "It looks like you just come up with a 'Great Idea,' send out a few emails and mention it on Facebook and the funds roll in from ... somewhere.

"The fact is, crowdfunding - especially on Kickstarter - requires all the strategy, pre-planning, team building, daily outreach and follow up that the Great Idea it's funding will eventually require."

For Busted Knuckle, video game maker Joe Aragon ($15,115), Granite Mountain Brewing ($18,012), singer Belinda Gail ($13,007), ecological group Viva la Verde ($16,665) and two dozen other groups and businesses around the quad-city area, Kickstarter was a win.

The Local was hardly the only local failure on Kickstarter. Musicians, authors, artists and businesses like Nastee Dogs (goal, $15,000; raised, $0) also sputtered.

Tracy and Johnson-Schmit agree a successful crowdfunding campaign requires takes hard work and savvy social-media strategizing.

As Johnson-Schmit says, "This ain't your grandma's bake sale."


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