Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, MovieMaker‘s new blog 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 .
“Movies are our waking dreams.” I’m sure Truffaut, Herzog, Malick or some other famous director uttered a more profound version of this sentiment, but it’s still true. A movie is such a grand, seemingly insurmountable undertaking that it can certainly only begin as a fever dream. We dream that opening scene, that haunting ending. . . and then we spend the next decade trying to make that dream become a reality, so that one day an audience in a theater (or, more likely, sitting in front of their laptops and sporadically answering emails) can dream the same dream.
My wife Tiffany Bartok and I started dreaming movies a few years ago. Quick back story: We’re both actors, and my wife also works at times as a make-up artist and teacher. As for myself, I do parts in movies (SubUrbia, The Station Agent, Cop Out and the upcoming Predisposed), TV shows and commercials as a way to make a go of it. Tiffany and I began wanting to make a project with our friends, and the result was The Cake Eaters, starring the now über-famous Kristen Stewart, not to mention Bruce Dern, Aaron Stanford and myself. In retrospect, it seems like we made The Cake Eaters happen on such a wonderful level through sheer passion and luck. We had great executive producers (from 57th and Irving Productions), great producers (from The 7th Floor) and Mary Stuart Masterson directing. The Cake Eaters premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. I thought I had made it! Agents, movie deals, action figures, groupies. . . Fast forward to two years later, and the film finally gets a theatrical release (yay!) and plays on cable in heavy rotation (double yay!). But where is the next film? Where’s the money–not for me, but for our next movie?
Sure, in the meantime, Tiffany and I had made a documentary, Altered By Elvis, about people forever changed by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll (that we put on credit cards), numerous short films (fun!), a music video (“I’ll get hired to direct music videos, right honey?”) and so forth, all while spending countless dinners telling friends that “So-and-so is reading my new script.”
I’m not sure when the straw finally broke, but last summer Tiffany came to me and said “[Expletive]! Let’s make this [expletive] film ourselves!” The film was Tiny Dancer, about a famous dancer who decides she has to return to her art after the birth of her baby despite the warnings of her best friend. Over the past few years we tried entrusting Tiny Dancer to various talented directors, but it was always the same old story: Wait for someone famous to read it and say “yes,” then desperately scramble find the money to make the film.
We’d heard about crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indie GoGo from friends who’d been saying things like “I’ve made five films in the time you’ve been waiting to make one!” Hat in hand and with the fiscal sponsorship of the New York Foundation for the Arts–which basically makes your film a non-profit–we planned parties, utilized social networking, applied for grants, emailed friends and family asking for money, raffled off donated memorabilia from past projects and generally acted like we were making something happen and needed everyone’s help to do it. We formed The Independent Collective (www.theindependentcollective.net) with the goal of making low-budget artistic projects (films, theater, books, records. . . ) and giving the audience the power to make them happen by donating, after which the audience would have the chance to select the next project. TIC’s motto is “A shared dream becomes a collective reality.” We decided to use Tiny Dancer as the canary in the coal mine. It was easy since we owned it, and if the experiment worked, we’d be off and running.
It did work: We raised around $8,000 from amazing people who believe a dream can happen. Then it all trickled to a standstill. No money, I cry. Instead of hounding our circle of donors, we decided to just start making the film. A month ago we went into production on Tiny Dancer for three full days, with the notion that if we started shooting, we could get people excited by what we were doing. Then they would donate more, or we might get the attention of a producer. We also started shooting just to begin, for Chrissakes, because you have to start somewhere.
We have an amazing cast, which includes Tony and Spirit Award nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega, Martha Graham Dance Company principal dancer Katherine Crockett, the phenomenal DP Kate Phelan and a crew that I would take onto the beaches of Iwo Jima. Yes, we originally thought that this mini-shoot to would cost a mere $4,000 dollars [insert laughter then bitter, painful tears], but we are incredibly proud of what we have.
We are now embarking on the next phase of this crazy dream, and there’s still a lot to figure out. What’s next? What do we do with 30 minutes of a movie? You all will be along for the ride as I blog each week about the minutiae of our journey to get Tiny Dancer to the big screen.
Next week: How the hell do you plan a party so you can ask people to basically pay for a Manhattan studio apartment?
Still of Katherine Crockett in Tiny Dancer
Jayce Bartok is an actor and moviemaker who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. Currently, you can see him on USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature film Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo. Follow The Independent Collective at twitter.com/ticnyc to stay updated on the Tiny Dancer crowdfunding campaign.