Twinsters follows Anaïs Bordier and Samantha Futerman, two adoptees living on opposite ends of the earth, who in 2013 discovered their strikingly similar appearances through YouTube.
After learning they were twins separated at birth, the sisters set out to document and share their unlikely story with the world. Here, Futerman, who co-directed the unusual documentary with Ryan Miyamoto, discusses their decision to seek funding through Kickstarter and how social media became such an integral part of the film’s process.
In February of 2013, Anaïs Bordier, a French fashion student living in London, stumbled upon a YouTube video featuring me, Samantha Futerman, an actress in Los Angeles, and was struck by our uncanny resemblance. After discovering we were born on the same day in Busan, Korea, and both put up for adoption, Anaïs reached out to me via Facebook. Twinsters follows our journey into sisterhood and explores a connection that would have been impossible just 10 years ago, without the creation of YouTube and Facebook.
Before Twinsters, I had never made a movie, only acted in front of the camera. With no previous experience under our belts, I, my best friend (and producer) Kanoa Goo and friend James Yi turned to Kickstarter, which turned out to be the absolute perfect crowdfunding option for us. It was so reflective of our story: Anaïs and I were reunited via social media, so what better venue than social media to raise money for the project?
Not only did our Kickstarter campaign help get the word out about the film, but it allowed us the freedom to tell the story exactly the way we envisioned it. We never had to worry about a big studio or production company searching harder for drama and less for the truth.
Going “live” on social media can be quite scary. Our original goal was to raise about $40,000 for the campaign, but out of pure fear that no one would be interested, the goal was decreased to $30,000 the night before we went live. In under two days, our project had raised over $15,000 and multiple online media outlets had picked up the story. Within five days, we had completely reached our goal, with over 1,241 people from around the world supporting our project. It felt like a community was coming together.
The first Kickstarter campaign funded the opportunity to shoot the reunion with Anaïs in London, with both of our families in tow; however, we quickly came to realize that the story didn’t end there. Our campaign had only raised enough money to shoot for about four weeks and get through minimal post-production. We knew we needed more financial power in order to tell the story as it deserved to be told, so we launched a second Kickstarter, solely for post-production. Our team gathered our best images and footage for our second campaign, but it was truly nerve-wracking. We had no idea if our backers and the community would be angry that our project needed more money, especially since our goal this time was even higher. We wanted to raise $80,000 in order to complete the remainder of the film, most of which would be used for editing and the rest for coloring, sound, etc. Although we didn’t have nearly as much traction and online media attention the second time around, a lot of our backers continued their support.
Our second Kickstarter got the attention of my childhood acquaintance, Jenna Ushkowitz (a fellow Korean American adoptee who plays Tina Cohen-Chang on Glee). She joined the project as an executive producer and used her sky-high social media presence to help boost our campaign. Jenna and I also began to mull over the idea of launching a nonprofit organization to aid the adoption community we had just begun to reach. With the help of an appearance on Good Morning America, hosted by adoptee Josh Elliott, the second campaign squeaked by during the very last week. We finally secured enough funding to start post-production and bring on an experienced and award-winning editor, Jeff Consiglio, and a few more executive producers, including Steve Brown with Ignite Channel, who eventually obtained a theatrical distribution for us.
Not only did Kickstarter provide us with the traction and funding to create a feature-length documentary, it also helped us reach an incredible amount of people in the greater adoption community. My perspective and goals in making the film shift as I began to realize that I could make an impact for a group of people with whom me and my sister could relate.
For Twinsters, social media was the best venue we could have asked for. It taught us so much about filmmaking, being part of a community and developing an online presence. Without it, none of this, down to the moment when Anaïs saw me for the very first time, would have been possible. MM
Twinsters opens in L.A. theaters starting July 24, 2015, and nationwide on July 31, 2015, courtesy of Small Package Films. To learn more, visit the film’s website here.