Kenny Hargrove wants to raise money — fast. A week before his January 21 deadline on IndieGoGo’s crowdfunding platform, he has 80 plus contributors donate approximately $7000 for the pre-production phase of his first feature film project, Snow.
Unlike Kickstarter’s “all or nothing” policy," IndieGoGo lets you keep all the money you raise (minus the 5% platform fee and 3-5% transaction fees) whether you make the funding goal or not if the flexible funding option is chosen. Hargrove’s pressure is that an anonymous British angel backer promised to match $10,000 of the intial $25,000 funding goal, but only if $15,000 is raised. His campaign page is on: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/snow--4#/
The campaign’s press release pitches the film as “Male Filmmaker Crowdfunds to Break Hollywood’s Glass Ceiling for Female Dramas.” The tagline is “Snow: A Woman’s Journey Toward Love and Destiny,” and is compared to Madame Bovary, and Under the Tuscan Sun. “What would you do?” asks Rose, the protagnist when presented with a female’s complex choices, in the campaign’s pitch video on YouTube.
A former financial journalist in Asia and now a screenwriter and playwright living in Los Angeles, Hargrove has had experience writing press releases and marketing that is his advantage. Pre-launch, he had cultivated 10,000 plus followers on Twitter and more recently on Facebook beforehand, retweeting a refined cultural mix of art, indie films, and dance.
Hargrove also networks consistently in Los Angeles film and theater circles, well groomed in his Ivy League style, seen photographed with upcoming actors at industry events. Experts say that only 1% of followers will be core supporters, and that only 10% may donate. A filmmaker would need to have a considerable following or contact list before considering crowdfunding.
The campaign’s launch, with the help of his “campaign ambassador” team of nine females and one male, was announced not only with emailing contacts but maintained in social media. A steady stream of pretty photos of the film’s heroine and classic movie actresses are posted daily, and Hargrove also cleverly links current news involving women to his campaign plea.
He splashily thanks donors by name on his social media, and provides video updates in his personable manner, strolling by a romantic foggy coastline. His Twitter handle is: @peaseblossom7. His Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thesnowmovie
Using IndieGoGo’s self-help platform, he tweaks his campaign’s messaging and perks, upping the levels from hand-written poetry about you from Danish poet, Ulrikka Gernes, to free room and board as an extra or intern in Tuscany. You have to admire Kenny Hargrove’s charming persistence.
Hargrove (right) further elaborates on his campaign for Snow in the following interview.
[All photos in this story by Lindsey Ricker]
Q: What is the meaning of the title Snow?
KH: As I mentioned in today’s campaign update, it’s a metaphor for trying new things, exploring new challenges. I’d never experienced a snowfall until I left California for New Jersey when I went to Princeton. So, it’s about experiencing the new. The protagonist Rose has similarly never had the experience of having a snowflake fall on her.
Q: Do you want to open up and talk about the LGBT affair?
KH: Sure. It’s actually featured in one of the promo videos, the scene with the two women at the pool. I tend to shy away from it because it’s the dominant subplot but it’s really not what the story is about. I’m happy if people see Snow as a love story but it’s really a change your life story. That said, the poetess that the painter Rose falls for does help to move the story along and makes it more of an art film.
Q: Why Is the real life poet so important to this film?
KH: She’s a dear friend and I’m eager to help get the word out globally about her wonderful poems. That said, it’s not really critical which country the poet is from or that she is a poet necessarily. I just thought since Danish actresses had originally asked me to write something for them, why not use the work of my real life Danish poet friend Ulrikka Gernes? I’m really happy she’s a part of the project. She’s very encouraging and an incredible human being.
Q: Is she donating to the film?
KH: Yes. She is donating the use of her work in the actual screenplay. She is donating perks in the form of handwritten poems that will be mailed from Denmark for crowdfunding donors. Through her, her publisher has also donated 25 copies of her latest poetry collection to the campaign as well as a perk. Additionally, she did make a contribution to the crowdfunding campaign, which was a nice surprise. She’s given so much in other ways, it seemed unnecessary. That said, we need every cent that we can get.
Q: Are you the anonymous matching donor?
KH: No. I’m a starving artist. If I had $10,000 extra to donate to the project I’d probably not pursue a crowdfunding campaign. It’s too much work and I would have preferred to have remained a private person.
Q: Have you written the script yet?
KH: Yes. This is my first screenplay and everything I’ve learned about writing as well as directing has gone into it. That’s why it’s so personal. The first draft was completed in 2005. I began to shop it around in 2007 after table readings in New York and Los Angeles and also staging some scenes through my directing workshop but it wasn’t until 2009 that it was really good.
Q: Have you cast the film?
KH: No. Some “name” actors had been verbally attached but as their careers take off they’ve tended to forget about little indie films. That said, the script is out to a few Oscar Nominees at the moment whom I don’t want to mention.
Q: Is the swimming pool promo a sample of what to expect?
KH: Yes and no. There is no swimming pool scene in the movie. However, we shot the promos during the summer at the Hollywood Hills home of the cinematographer so it seemed like a fun thing to do. But, as I mentioned earlier, the relationship with the Danish poetess Oona does help to drive the story.
Q: This is your first crowdfunding campaign. Why was the campaign time extended?
KH: The basic problem is that most people that I want to reach still don’t know about the campaign. I should have contacted several hundred people before the campaign but I’m doing it as I go along on a one-on-one basis. That’s very time consuming. We’re just beginning to move into mass contacting of groups of people.
It’s not really what I prefer but we don’t have time. Hopefully that will speed things up. It does seem to take several days between when I contact someone and when they actually donate so an extension could make sense. Lots of people said that they would donate. Hopefully they will. The question is when and how much.
Q: What do you plan to do concretely with the first round of funding?
KH: This seed money is for the lawyers to draft private placement memoranda and talent attachment letters (formal offers to “name” talent), a casting director to help find “name” talent”, and a line producer to help revise the budget, which hasn’t been updated in 8 years.
Q: What do you think the real cost of the film will be in the end?
KH: The current pie-in-the-sky budget from 2007 is $2.8 million not including salaries of “name” talent. However, it can be revised downward significantly by using the low budget agreements of the various guilds, deferring as much salary as possible, and making use of state-level incentives programs that can easily cut costs by 20% or more. Unless we can attach a “name” actor or two, it would be wise to get the budget down towards $1 million so that investors have some hope of recouping their investment.
Q: What is this SEC stock investment about?
KH: President Obama’s 2012 Jobs Act offers new financing tools for smaller and newer businesses and investors in the form of equity crowdfunding. This is done at least partly online like donation -based crowdfunding but the funds involved are much larger and the process requires SEC scrutiny. Instead of receiving t-shirts and mugs, investors get equity. If a film makes money, they make money.
The part that interests me is Title III, which the SEC just approved October 30. It allows new companies to raise as much as $1 million using as many as 99 investors and relatively minimal documentation. It’s basically a poor man’s version of an initial public offering of stock. While it sounds perfect for indie filmmakers, some lawyers caution about potential lawsuits from less sophisticated smaller investors (who were previously barred from buying securities).
Most film projects don’t get made. Most that do get made lose money. You have to find investors who understand that basic statistic and are still comfortable joining the project for reasons other than return on investment. Hopefully I won’t have to go that route. Hopefully, having higher visibility through the donation-based crowdfunding will attract funds from friendly investors and film production companies in a more private way. I feel that it may be already happening. The universe is now aware of my project and is beginning to push it towards fruition. At least that’s how things have felt over the past few weeks.
If you would like to donate, head over to his IndieGoGo page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/snow--4#/