Thursday, 7 August 2014

Early Bird: what to do when your crowdfunding campaign fails

How a low budget British horror film came to life - even when its Kickstarter campaign floundered...

There's a good chance that if you're reading this, you've thought about making your first film.
 And with digital equipment becoming cheaper and crowdfunding, it's never been easier.
But producer Chris Nials and screenwriter/director Andrew
Flynn's dark comedy Early Bird nearly had its wings clipped by failing to reach its funding target on Kickstarter.
However, rather than throw in the towel, Chris and Andrew went ahead with the filming.
"In hindsight, it was actually quite liberating for both of us, largely because we were both so
exhausted by the end of the campaign. The failure afforded us an opportunity to take a long
hard look at the project and ourselves, and having done so, we became more determined
than ever and agreed to push on” recalls Andrew.
Early Bird is Chris and Andrew's debut feature, telling the tale of David. An average joe
who loses both his girlfriend and flat and has to find a new domicile. However, in current
day London where even a glorified cupboard can command high rents, finding a room
cheaply and quickly is a daunting task. Until he finds a decent sized room for a very agreeable
 price. His live in landlady Sasha only has one rule: you have to be perfect.
The seeds of Early Bird's conception were sown when Andrew moved to London from
Cardiff after graduating from his MA. “I’ve been flatsharing in London for about four years
now and I’ve had my fair share of highs and lows in that time. Obviously the events in
 the movie are purely fictional but some are loosely based on actual experiences, especially the
 opening scenes!”
Early Bird's concept couldn't be any timelier, with many 20- through to 40-somethings
 having to live with others in London, supposedly the centre of all wealth. The film explores
 as it does the at times fraught relationship we have with the people we're literally forced to live with.
“For me, Early Bird is a fish-out-of-water narrative that challenges familiarity and what
 you perceive to be your 'comfort-zone'. It’s something that most of us (including myself) have
experienced at some point in our lives, especially when we’re faced with an unfamiliar environment.
” explains Andrew.
“Flatsharing forces total strangers into an unnatural living arrangement where the newest tenants
 are generally expected to conform to the living standards already in place. Initially the newbie
tends to want to make a great first-impression, but once the comfort-zone is established,
standards tend to slip.”
What brought Chris Nials on to produce was that “I'm very much a believer that horror movies
are at their most terrifying when people can really relate to the subject matter, and as the
concept of Early Bird is so commonplace to many people's everyday life, I knew we could
make something special. Andrew and I actually only met for the first time last year.
The London Horror Society was assisting in promoting a Manchester-based horror
 movie that he was co-producing. We realised that we both had very similar ambitions,
 and when Andrew started spelling out his ideas for the initial Early Bird script,
I leapt at the chance to be part of it.”
It was this determination that carried both Andrew and Chris through after the
 initial knockback of failing to reach its target of £13,000. A drop in the ocean for
summer blockbusters but vital for an independent production. Chris remains philosophical
about the initial failure. “I've always had a love/hate relationship with crowdfunding. It can
provide a fantastic way for film makers to obtain valuable funding that would otherwise
be impossibleto find. But like so many things, it's open to abuse. And now you find
people seeking funding
that they could easily provide themselves, but don't want to shoulder the risk.”
Now Early Bird has completed post production, the last stretch of a long journey.
Andrew completed the first draft in two-weeks back in September 2013.
“After the kickstarter failed. I basically stripped it down to its bare bones and rewrote it several
 times with a zero-budget in mind. It was challenging but fun. We went into production at the end
of January, and the shoot itself lasted 10 days. It was already a mammoth task and we wouldn’t
have the luxury of re-shoots. So, I cut any unnecessary locations and characters from the story and combined scenes . I basically re-wrote the entire script from start to finish. It was a great opportunity
 to refine the story and really clarify the focus. If the Kickstarter succeeded, I’m honestly not sure
that I would have been as critical of my own work as I ultimately was.”
Indeed, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter were set up to provide a new avenue of funding for
creatives and inventors. Unburdened from having to appease potential investors, now
 they could pitch to the public directly and get them to cough up. However in recent years,
established names such as Zach Braff have begun to exploit people's goodwill. Not to
mention the Internet's inexhaustible desire for overworked horror concepts. A small scale
, darkly comic film without zombies would have a hard time getting the attention of an audience
 that wants to fund more 'brony' documentaries. The lukewarm reception afforded to
kickstarted features such as Lust For Love and Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here seem to
confirm that all that glitters isn't gold.
It's a sentiment that's shared by Chris. “Budgets really aren't everything. I'd hate to think that
good projects aren’t being made because people think that they need a huge supply of cash.
” And Andrew is also full of encouragement for wannabe film makers.
 “Go for it! You can spend years thinking about wanting to make your first feature
 but chances are you’ll talk yourself out of it.
That said, don’t underestimate how much work is involved every step of the way.
Make sure you are extremely well prepared, realistic about what you want to achieve
and have total belief in your own project. If you can’t convince people that it’s
worth making, who will?”
There's a small word of warning from Chris as well. “We had to work even harder
to secure even the most basic equipment! And we're eternally grateful to everyone
that helped us out here. Not to mention the cast and crew who worked insanely long
and gruelling hours to make sure we got what we needed each day.”
Looking ahead, Andrew and Chris are hoping to secure distribution for Early Bird
 with hopefully a few screenings at upcoming festivals to generate some interest.
As for dream projects, Andrew is hoping he can someday helm a reboot of
 Disney's Gargoyles. But for now, he's working on another horror script with
Chris entitled Ask Me Anything and hopes to tackle other genres such as
superheroes, zombies and football. And Chris is hoping to continue to offer
students their first work in film. “We've been blown away by the amount of
 talent out there that can't get a job in the industry, simply because of lack of experience.
And if we can provide that platform to help launch people's careers, then all the better!”

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