Nathaniel Hansen – Filmmaker Blog

More thoughts on Kickstarter

My latest documentary film project The Elders is down to 5.5 more days (as of this writing) and it’s going to be close. We’re at 55% right now, having raised just over $6k. Really close. There have been some big developments over the last week that give me faith in this as a new fundraising model. But it’s also given me pause for thought: How often can you tax your social network? My story, and the project, were featured on a couple of blogs, namely DVINFO and Planet5D:

Earlier in the week, I had learned that my project was being featured on kickstarter.com’s home page, which blew me away considering the volume of amazing projects that are submitted on a daily basis. I have seen multiple pledges come from people who have found the project there. The generosity of strangers is truly something to behold.

What made the front page even cooler, is that during the three days or so my page was near the top, kickstarter was getting crazy press about a project called *diaspora that had raised $175k in under two weeks. What? Wow, I’m still hopeful some karma comes my way from association.

A lot of people have asked me what the process has been like, and the only thing I can think to say is that it’s been totally humbling. To watch donations come in from friends, family, friends of friends, and total strangers is overwhelming. It’s a fine line, I think, pestering people for support, but I’m confident in the product I can create so their investment in me isn’t a loss. It comes down to being able to deliver, should this venture prove successful, and I’m very confident I’ll be able to do just that.

I still have 5.5 days to go, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Check out the pitch page here, if you haven’t already. More to come…

http://kck.st/dkXLSD

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Kickstarter…round two

After a lot of thought, and some discussion with my better-half, I decided to launch a different project on kickstarter.com than I had initially intended. I wanted to test the waters to get a feel for how the process worked, and to get a sense of how to best engage with an audience of potential fans/supporters. I also wanted to tackle a medium sized budget before I went after something that could buy a house in some parts of the US.

On Friday night, around 10pm, May 7th I decided I had waited long enough. I set up one key light, and I started to talk to the camera. It was really, really difficult. Pitching in person is one thing…pitching to a virtual audiences of thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of people who you couldn’t see, was unnerving. I must have done the pitch 12 times before finally settling on the last take (usually the best!). I cut the pitch video (which goes on the kickstarter.com project page) down to a couple minutes (I rambled for a while) and uploaded it to the project page.

I then spent some time crafting, re-writing and refining the project description. I had written it out in a proposal form weeks ago, but it lacked spirit (not to mention a good title), so I started to re-write.

The Elders – A Coming of Age Documentary Portrait Series

By the way in which a society behaves toward its old people it uncovers the naked, and often carefully hidden, truth about its real principles and aims.
–Simone de Beauvoir, The Coming of Age

Logline:
Through the eyes of an aging generation, The Elders examines what it really means to live, by coming of age.

**The following serves as an outline, but it is common in documentary for the story to change once production begins.

Synopsis:
A feature-length documentary, The Elders uses stylized interview portraits of elderly individuals to tell a universal story about life’s most important lessons. Thematically organized around life lessons that reflect a wide range of human emotion and experience, the film seeks to reveal a larger more complex portrait of our shared humanity.

The short film “Pat” that I shot in October of 2009 is a good example of what this film will look and feel like: http://vimeo.com/7196960

The Elders is an attempt to explore the breadth of understanding held by an aging generation. Their collective memory is fading, and while many of their more universal stories have been immortalized by literature, science, and the arts, their oral histories and unique experiences could yet yield a moving reminder of how best to live a life.

There’s more to the description, but you get the idea. The next part was really fun, and involved coming up with “rewards” for prospective donors. Part of the kickstarter philosphy is rewarding those who pledge with something tangible in exchange for their support. Some rewards are pretty zany and clever, but with a potentially somber, and often serious subject like “The Elders,” I couldn’t be too silly with the rewards. The reward had to match the quality of the project.

Here’s what I came up with:

Pledge $1 or more
Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

Pledge $15 or more
HD Digital Download of the feature film; Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

Pledge $35 or more
Limited edition DVD copy of the film; HD Digital Download of the feature film; Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

Pledge $50 or more
Digital Still from the film; Limited edition DVD copy of the film; HD Digital Download of the feature film; Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

Pledge $100 or more
Photo Book of the film’s production; Digital Still from the film; Limited edition DVD copy of the film; HD Digital Download of the feature film; Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

Pledge $500 or more
VIP Tickets to the premiere and Special Producer credit; Photo Book of the film’s production; Digital Still from the film; Limited edition DVD copy of the film; HD Digital Download of the feature film; Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

Pledge $1,000 or more
Aside from my eternal gratitude, a personal showing of the film with live running commentary (if you want it). And food. I’ll bring the film and the food… Plus: VIP Tickets to the premiere and Special Producer credit; Photo Book of the film’s production; Digital Still from the film; Limited edition DVD copy of the film; HD Digital Download of the feature film; Special Thanks on the film website and in the film credits.

I squared away my rewards, spell checked a few times…and then, early Saturday morning, after having another set of eyes look over everything, I clicked the “Launch Project” button at the bottom of the page. I have to say, I’ve never had so much apprehension about clicking a button. After-all, it’s kind of my reputation on the line!

More to come…stay tuned.

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Award-Winning Filmmaker Pitches Online to Raise Funds Independently

Nathaniel Hansen, filmmaker and media artist, turns to alternative funding sources for his latest feature film, The Elders, a documentary portrait series about aging.

Boston, MA (PRWEB) May 10, 2010 — Independent filmmaker Nathaniel Hansen is turning to the internet to raise funds for his latest feature film project, The Elders, a documentary about aging. With money all but gone for independent films with budgets less than $5-10 million, and with grant funds drying up quickly, filmmakers are having to become more innovative in their fundraising tactics. The new kickstarter.com model appears to be fruitful avenue for artists looking to go-it alone.

In line with Kickstarter.com guidelines, artists have a set number of days to raise all the funds, or the project receives nothing. Hansen’s film has an 18 day fundraising window, from start to finish. If the alloted budget ($11,000 US) isn’t raised before May 26, all pledges are cancelled and the film is not funded.

When asked about why Kickstarter was appealing, Hansen noted that “the ability to spread the word quickly online to a lot of people, and keep them updated on the status of the project is invaluable.” An added advantage for artists is Kickstarter’s merchant partner Amazon.com, which enables each project the convenience of receiving funds from anywhere in the world.

Hansen entered the online fundraising pool a little bit at a time. Another film he is co-producing about the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans was 135% funded after a 45 day fundraising effort. The project’s success gave Hansen the courage to go-it-alone with his own project, “Seeing the success of our other project gave me the courage to put my own film on the line.”

Hansen’s film The Elders, examines what it really means to live, by coming of age. A feature-length documentary, The Elders uses stylized interview portraits of elderly individuals to tell a universal story about life’s most important lessons. Thematically organized around life lessons that reflect a wide range of human emotion and experience, the film seeks to reveal a larger more complex portrait of our shared humanity.

If the film is successfully funded, Hansen expects to deliver the final cut before the end of the year. To learn more about the film, readers can visit the project’s pitch page here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nathanielhansen/the-elders-a-coming-of-age-documentary-portrait-se

About Nathaniel Hansen:
Nathaniel James Hansen is an award-winning filmmaker and media artist. His directed works include nationally broadcast commercials, short and feature-length documentaries, short narrative films, episodic television, web-based media, and ethnographic film. His documentary films have screened at festivals in the US and internationally, and most recently at the White House.

Contact:
Nathaniel Hansen
nh@nathanielhansen.com
Salmonrun Media LLC
702-513-5831

http://www.nathanielhansen.com

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Headed to the White House – Sorta.

Participatory Chinatown is a 3-D immersive game designed to be part of the master planning process for Boston’s Chinatown. Players assume the role of one of 15 virtual residents and work to complete their assigned quest – finding a job, housing, or place to socialize.

Matthew Hashiguchi and I were asked to create this short doc for a presentation to Boston’s City Council and for the White House. I shot with an EX1/Letus Extreme and a Zeiss 85mm f1.4, and Matthew was shooting on a Cavision rig with a 7D, Canon 50mm 1.8, 70-200mm 2.8, and a 20-55mm 2.8.

The development was funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

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Six Friends: A Conversation

I was asked to DP and help edit a short documentary based on six conversations with the producer’s friends. She’s an undergrad at Emerson College, so I have to first of all give her props for having the courage to seek me out and ask me – I’m not sure I would have been so bold at 20. She (Elizabeth Charles) wants to be a producer, and so far she’s on the right track.

We shot and cut the project in one day, due to schedule, and because the competition she entered it in had a deadline of the same day we were able to film. It was a bit rushed in the edit, but overall I think it turned out. I’m not crazy about the music, but it was provided by the contest organizers.

Shot in a small dorm lounge with EX1, Letus Extreme, Zeiss 85mm f1.4, a Lowel kit and my Mole Richardson tweenie kit. I enjoyed lighting this piece as it was a challenge given the space.

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Hanging Cleats 30 Second Commercial for 2010 World Cup

hangingcleats.com is a non profit organization dedicated to providing access to sports, specifically soccer, to youth who live in high risk areas around the world. Their founder contacted me after viewing some of my documentary work, and asked if I would be willing to shoot a short commercial that would air during the World Cup.

I thought a lot about what the commercial should be, and in the end came up with three strong ideas. Logistics, budget, and timing forced us to pick the third idea, but looking back, I’m of the opinion it was the better idea all along. It’s simple, direct, and invites the viewer to interpret the work.

I collaborated with Jerry Thompson on this shoot, and we decided to use his Canon 5D and his arsenal of L-series Canon lenses. We used the 50mm f1.2, 70-200mm f2.8, and the 16-35mm f2.8.

The music (to which I’m still trying to get the rights) is placeholder for now, but is the song Zeyphr by the excellent Scott Morgan (AKA Loscil) who scores for documentaries and games, as well as has several terrific albums out. Hopefully I can secure the rights.

It was great to have him there to guide me through the post production process, and a short commercial like this was a great test to get a feel for the Canon workflow. I’m really happy with the outcome, and I hope you like what we came up with. Enjoy.

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Kickstarter, Fundraising, and the Future of (truly) Independent Film

I came home Sunday afternoon to find, waiting patiently in my inbox, an email from Kickstarter.com:

Hi Nathaniel –

[your project] sounds great. Welcome to Kickstarter.

Let your community, your audience and your network know about your project. The lion’s share of your funding will come from them. Spread the word!

Rewards are just as important. Offer something of real value, and consider something more intangible, more about an experience. That will have an enormous impact. Three or four reasonably priced rewards is ideal (think of it as S, M, L, XL). Take a look around the site if you want some inspiration.

And finally, include a video. It’ll drive home that this is a real person doing this.

Good luck!

Whaaaa! This is what I had been waiting for!! I was elated for the remainder of the day. Instead of waiting around for an invite from a stranger, I decided to email the staff to see if I could get the ball rolling. I had spent all day on the Friday before building a website for the upcoming project, and had sent it off with my proposal to kickstarter at 2am.

Come Sunday afternoon, I was surprised how fast they responded. The excitement hasn’t worn off – but the sheer realization that the heavy lifting is now begining has officially pushed down on my shoulders. It’s just the beginning, and we haven’t even launched our project yet.

New Documentary Film Website - Screenshot

Kickstarter.com is an interesting model for independent filmmakers like myself who tire of competing for studio dollars or scrapping for a bad distribution contract. The key (I think anyway) to running a successful project is networking. This sounds obvious, but for me and our team, I think that it’s time to capitalize on our social networks (both on and offline) to make something we’re passionate about and make something we believe people will want to see. We also think they’ll enjoy it.

I’ll be keeping an active journal of our fundraising activities, both here and on the acutal film website. As I navigate the somewhat chartered waters of crowdsource fundraising, I hope to become something of an expert so to continue in my efforts to make interesting documentaries. Stay Tuned!!

Posted in Documentary Film, Film Fundraising | 3 Comments

World Cup Commercial

I was recently asked to direct a commercial for a non-profit that does educational outreach through football (soccer). I’m really excited about this project, not because of the exposure it will get because of the venue (the 2010 world cup!), but because if the powerful message I’ll be able to help craft for this great organization. I’ll be sure to post as things develop, but it should be an exciting month and a half, to be sure.

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Jeffrey – A Documentary Short

Jeffrey was introduced to me by my colleague and friend Nicole Prowell, who produced this piece.

BACKSTORY:
Jeffrey is a former professional boxer and a trainer at “the ring” boxing club in Boston. He has a compelling story, and an amazing life vision which anyone who views can learn from.

TECH:
I filmed this piece on a Sony EX1 with a Letus 35mm Adapter and a Zeiss Planar T* f1.4/85mm prime lens. Final Cut Pro and magic bullet looks.

Posted in Documentary Film | 5 Comments

Exposure – Documentary Filmmaker as Entrepreneur

In addition to making media for a variety of mediums, over the last 6 years I’ve been actively involved in search engine marketing both professionally as a consultant and personally with my own pet projects. While it’s true that there are some tried and true methods to achieve a particular rank in a Google search, sometimes it’s just plain dumb luck that catapults your website to the first page.

As of this morning, I have just received some of that good fortune. This website that you’re reading, www.nathanielhansen.com, now ranks on the first page of Google for the search term “documentary filmmaker,” just a few spots down from one of my favorite documentary filmmakers “Errol Morris” whose work you can view here.

I have designed this site as a space to showcase my more personal and passionate projects which consist mostly of documentary short films and two upcoming feature length projects. To be successful as an independent filmmaker you have to be entrepreneurial. It’s no longer just enough to produce a film and release it to a festival. From the very start, the web in all it’s iterations must be part of the equation, and so must the project itself – it must be able to transcend traditional media boundaries and be portable to a variety of mediums (digital and analog).

In the coming weeks, I’ll start writing more about my two feature projects (as well as my shorts) so that I have a record of sorts to look back on in a few years. each project is unique, and involves so many components that are becoming fluid and natural to me, I’m hopeful that my experiences will be of use to those just getting started.

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