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    Dennis Widmyer - a Los Angeles-based film writer and director who successfully launched one of his movies with the help of his fans.

    Crowdfunding in Hollywood: the New Landscape of Tinseltown

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    Sputnik spoke to Dennis Widmyer - a Los Angeles-based film writer and director who successfully launched one of his movies with the help of his fans.

    What is the impact of crowdfunding on the movie industry, and what are the changes that Tinseltown has been going through with the appearance of public crowdfunding platforms — Kickstarter and IndieGoGo? 

    "Starry Eyes", a 2014 Hollywood tale of paranoia and possession, probably wouldn't have made it to the silver screen without the help of the online community. To make their idea a reality, the film's authors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch launched a crowdfunding campaign. 

    Since Dennis Widmyer was also working on Chuck Palahniuk's online projects, he asked the acclaimed author of "Fight Club" for help in promoting the "Starry Eyes" Kickstarter campaign.

    Almost 400 people donated more than $52,000 to the project on Kickstarter, but launching wasn't easy. Kickstarter requires a financial goal to be met by all applicants within certain time limit.

    "Basically what we did — we did the Kickstarter. It was very difficult. Chuck helped out. As you know, we utilized his services and it was still difficult. I think our goal was $50,000 and we raised $53,000. So even with Chuck helping out, with his 600 thousand Twitter followers — we barely made it."

    With all the publicity gained on Kickstarter and with the support of "Cheap Thrills" producer Travis Stevens, Starry Eyes was made into a full-length feature that had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival with following releases on DVD, Blu-ray and video-on-demand platforms, reaching top spots in the horror movie sections of Netflix and iTunes.

    ​Just like with all other Kickstarter projects, backers of "Starry Eyes" received rewards from filmmakers, ranging from a simple "thank you" on the project's website to celebrity status and being credited as the film's executive producer.

    With the new approach, bringing together movie fans and filmmakers, and providing an alternative approach to film production, Internet crowdfunding has not gone unnoticed by Hollywood. 

    ​"It's definitely changed the landscape. We've seen examples of films where Hollywood has a project that they can't get the money for, and they actually turn to Kickstarter… Kevin [Kolsch] and I have gone on tons of meetings at big studios where they would hear that we "kickstarted" "Starry Eyes" — it's not a bad thing, they like it, they would go "Oh my god, that's amazing!" — they almost had more respect for the film, because they see it came through this grassroots format. So everybody in Hollywood is definitely aware of this."

    Kickstarter is famous for its movie crowdfunding campaigns. Some of the most talked-about flicks include "The Veronica Mars Movie Project" with its $5.7 million budget, "Wish I Was Here" launched by "Scrubs" star Zach Braff and "The Newest Spike Lee Joint" that raised 1.4 million dollars from 6 thousand backers. All of the abovementioned projects were surrounded by media controversy, with critics saying that big Hollywood names only hurt the idea of crowdfunding because they steal attention away from smaller independent filmmakers. Kickstarter staff argued that the effect is the opposite and famous filmmakers help the crowdfunding ecosystem to grow.

    If you'd like to know more about "Starry Eyes", the "pro's" and "con's" of different crowdfunding platforms and get more advice on the "do's" and "don'ts" of Kickstarter campaigns, then listen to Dennis Widmyer's full audio interview on Radio Sputnik.

    crowdfunding, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Hollywood
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