Crowdfunder Pick: Ned Rifle

Hal Hartley, American independent impresario, is bringing Ned Rifle, the third film in his award-winning Grim family trilogy (Henry Fool, 1998 and Fay Grim, 2007), to life via a Kickstarter campaign that’s already made close to $150,000.

Henry Fool and Fay Grim are unabashedly weird little tragicomedies, darkly absurd poems that delighted some and frustrated others. This installment will likely follow in its parents’ footsteps. So titled after the Henry and Fay’s son, it comes a full fifteen years after the original and will feature the same cast: Parker Posey, Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak and Liam Aiken (who plays the eponymous Ned—now 18 and leaving a witness protection program).  “Oddly, I suspect I’ve written a hit,” writes the director (roguishly, we imagine) in the film’s description, describing Ned Rifle as “the most accessible and rollicking film I’ve ever written while concerning things I care about deeply.”

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A still from 1998’s Henry Fool

Has it been established as a rule of thumb yet that second- or third-time crowdfunding campaigners are on average much more successful than first-time campaigners? That’s MovieMaker’s theory, anyway, and the probable reason is that a campaign earns its producer valuable data about its audience. Hartley, reflecting on his previous Kickstarter effort Meanwhile, effectively notes this: “I established this direct connection to you. After 25 years of making films I now feel… that I have a much better idea of who my audience actually is. You’re all over the map, literally and figuratively.” We’d go one step further and say the data collected isn’t just geographic, but monetary: Five people have already maxed out the top donation amount of $10,000 to be named Executive Producers on Ned Rifle. That’s at least five people who think a Hal Hartley producing credit is worth $10,000. Must be nice to know!

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Hartley in 2007

With a goal of $384,000, Hartley is asking for a somewhat hefty sum by independent film standards (it’s not quite Spike Lee, but still). We wish that his campaign would indicate a little more clearly where exactly this sum is being allocated, instead of leaving us to speculate (crew salaries? Equipment rentals? Anti-aging make-up for returning actors?). What the campaign is doing admirably is releasing a slew of funny, personal video updates from the cast and crew every 48 hours (both on Kickstarter and on possiblefilms.com, Hartley’s production company site). Many of these were filmed before the campaign launched (some in Hartley’s kitchen), and others comment on the campaign’s progress itself; a great way to keep fans engaged.

At any rate, Hartley’s small but devoted following has so far proven that their affection is generous. Perhaps new audiences will, too.

Synopsis: “In this swiftly paced conclusion, Henry and Fay’s son, Ned, played by Liam Aiken, turns 18 and leaves a witness protection program. (“Rifle” is his maternal grandmother’s maiden name—he’s incognito). His mom has spent the last four years in military custody for alleged terrorist activities (see Fay Grim, 2007) and is transferred to a federal penitentiary to serve a life sentence. Ned, who has absorbed the Christianity of the well adjusted and devout family he has been living with, nevertheless sets out to find and kill his dad, Henry Fool, for the mess the man has made of Fay’s life. But his aims are frustrated by the brilliant, sexy, and troubled Susan, whose connection to Henry predates even the great man’s arrival in the lives of the Grim family.”

Campaigners: Hal Hartley

Target Amount: $384,000

Amount Currently Raised: $149,648

Campaign Opening Date: Nov. 4, 2013

Campaign Closing Date: Dec. 4, 2013 (30 days)

Funding Goes Toward: Not specified

Donor Reward Highlights:

$200 or more: (plus previous rewards) “FROM HERE TO THE STATION: a hard cover book of Hal’s drawings from his teenage years till recently with brief notes. It has photos of his theater productions as well, and sketches, diagrams, and storyboards from many of his films. 7 x 7 inches, full color. Never available anywhere else.”

$1,000: (plus previous rewards) “FILMMAKER’S FRIEND – invitation for you and a guest to the NYC premiere of NED RIFLE, the pre-screening “meet and greet”AND the after party. You will also be credited at the end of the film as “Filmmaker’s Friend.” (NOTE: you have to get yourself to NYC on your own, though, and find a place to stay!)”

$2,500 or more: (plus previous rewards) “Lunch with Parker Posey and Hal Hartley – In New York, within a year of the success of the campaign (December 4, 2013). (Or, if you just want to talk to Parker, I’ll go sit in the bar!)”

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