Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!: The Benefits of a Benefit


Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, where indie moviemaker Jayce Bartok talks about the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding from the trenches of his own crowdfunding campaign. Have a question for Jayce about his movie, Tiny Dancer, or just crowdfunding in general? Ask away at .

It was a rainy night in New York City this past Wednesday, and again, Tiffany and I were loading and unloading equipment, Tiny Dancer postcards and limes in and out of our car into the ultra-pink and fun Benefit Cosmetics store in Soho for a “thank you” evening of makeovers for our Tiny Dancer donors. As I mentioned last week, we had an overwhelming amount of RSVPs sent by non-donors, so come Wednesday night, there I was: Stationed at the door with my clipboard. Watching. Waiting. I even had one of those Squares that you plug into your iPhone, ready to collect donations from gate-crashers.

Alas, maybe it was the rain, but no gate-crashers showed. We had a nice evening with 30 or so friends and donors who came down to support us. Much to our dismay, many donated yet again—we really wanted to give back for once! Tiffany and I were in a bit of a haze since this event came about so quickly; we feel we are a tad scattered on the Tiny Dancer front. But talking to the crowd about what we’ve filmed so far really reinvigorated us. I think that, because we’ve been away from the actual footage for a little bit, we have some distance now. It was great to hear our donors comment on what they loved about our trailer and what we’ve put together.

Because crowdfunding a project takes so long, it feels like you are constantly evaluating what you’ve shot and getting feedback, which can be a blessing (Listen to the comments that keep reoccurring!) and a curse (Don’t second-guess your instincts!). We set out last spring on three days of shooting to create a trailer and test our actors and team, and what we discovered is that we have not only a feature in Tiny Dancer, but also a documentary of sorts. For those who haven’t seen any of our project yet, click here to see how we’ve merged faux documentary material with narrative scenes from the script. We created a hybrid, discovering a style through the process.

This hybrid has fascinated many, pissed off others and is a constant source of conversation between Tiffany and I. Do we continue with the faux documentary style of Tiny Dancer, interviewing our lead actors and intercutting that footage with the story? At the Benefit it was great to hear people comment on how much they loved the hybrid style, and it occurred to me that—whether we continue with it or not—we have gained the trust of our supporters by “going there,” so to speak. And maybe that’s what it was meant to be.

I couldn’t help but notice a recent review of This Is Not a Film, directed by Iranian writer-director Jafar Panahi with the help of documentarian Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. Panahi, director of such renowned films as The Mirror and Offside, was given a six-year prison sentence and banned from making films for 20 years by the Ahmadinejad regime. With the help of Mirtahmasb, Panahi shot in his own apartment a secret film that documents his wait to be sentenced. It appears to be a day-in-the-life kind of documentary: Panahi talks to his lawyer, feeds his pet iguana and acts out scenes from scripts he is no longer able to film. But soon, the viewer senses that this is more than a doc; in fact, it’s a hybrid of fact and fiction, which makes Panahi’s inability to direct films of his own anymore all the more poignant. In effect, he can now only make films about himself.

I guess I’m seeing similarities between our own explorations with fact and fiction, but I’m also humbled by what one can achieve even while under house arrest! Apparently, the finished film had to be smuggled out of Iran on a storage drive hidden in a birthday cake so it could be screened at Cannes. I feel rather silly complaining about getting our film made when someone has been imprisoned for making films… and yet they still prevail!

Jayce Bartok is an actor/producer/writer/director who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. He wrote, co-produced and starred in The Cake Eaters and can currently be seen in USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature films Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo, and Price Check, both of which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. To stay updated on his Tiny Dancer progress, follow @JayceBartok and @TICNYC on Twitter.

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