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MFA students find new and alternative ways to fund their projects

The Lower 9

The Lower 9 by Matthew Hashiguchi MFA '11

Film

Carrie Sheffield
May 14, 2010

Some entrepreneurial Emerson Visual and Media Arts students are finding new and creative ways to raise funds to produce their work. Graduate students Nathaniel Hansen, MFA '11, Matthew Hashiguchi, MFA '11, and Geoffrey Tarulli, MFA '11, have all turned to alternative funding source Kickstarter.com to help produce their films and documentaries.

Kickstarter.com is an online funding platform for artists based on the concept of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a concept by which an individual or organization uses their existing networks to leverage a crowd (friends, family, general public) to donate money to their venture in return for a reward. Often the reward is directly related to the venture being funded—a batch of cupcakes from a cupcake shop or a credit at the end of someone's film. But equally, it could be a simple "thank you for your contribution."

To post a project on Kickstarter.com, artists must pitch their idea to the Kickstarter team. If a project is accepted, Kickstarter.com sends the artist an invitation to post his or her work on the website. Every project has a funding goal (any dollar amount) and a time limit (from 1 to 90 days) set by the project creator. When the deadline is reached, there are two results: one, the funding goal is met or surpassed and all backers' credit cards are charged, with funds going directly to the project creator, or, two, the funding goal is not met and all pledges are canceled.

"We talk about convergence in the media and this is a perfect example," said Visual And Media Arts Associate Professor Jan Roberts-Breslin. "Fundraising can be the hardest part of producing an independent media project. Traditional funding sources such as grants have become so competitive and time-consuming. Plus many grants exclude student projects. The beauty of this approach is that no one has to contribute a lot of money. The Internet allows a huge number of people of just contribute a little bit."

"Filmmakers have to become more innovative in their fundraising tactics," said Nathaniel Hansen, "and the independent filmmaking community has embraced sites like Kickstarter.com."

Hansen's film The Elders is currently on Kickstarter.com and has a 12-day fundraising window. "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," Hansen said.

Matthew Hashiguchi's film The Lower 9 raised $10,540 after a 45-day period on Kickstarter.com. Hashiguchi said he will use the funds to travel to New Orleans for the summer to finish the film, cover living expenses, and pay for film equipment.

"I had a lot of friends send [the Kickstarter link] around to help me raise the money," Hashiguchi said. "The Ohio State Alumni Department [his undergraduate alma mater] and my high school both did a write-up on my film and Kickstarter as well."

Hashiguchi said the crowdsourcing concept is not a new one; it's just the mode which people do it in that's changed. "Many filmmakers used to conduct individual letter writing campaigns, and still do to some extent, but Kickstarter has given us the ability to show everyone what we're working on all at once."

Geoff Tarulli is currently raising funds for his film Movies of the Future With Lloyd Kaufman through Kickstarter and has 35 days remaining on the site.

"One of the strengths of this model for fundraising is that you're simultaneously doing a marketing blitz as well as raising money," said Tarulli. "You're relying on not just your website, Facebook group, or Twitter account, but you're asking others to get the word out as well. Hopefully, by the end, you've funded your project and simultaneously started a kind of viral marketing all at once."

"I have to admit to being a bit sheepish about it when I started," he continued. "Being a musician and just knowing a lot of artists in general, it's very hard to ask people to donate when they themselves most likely are struggling and can't even fund their own projects. But what Kickstarter does is allow you to present your project in the best way possible and ask people, 'Does this interest you? Would you like to see this get made? Because if so, you can help!'"

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