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Alternative Funding

A Summer Rain – An Experiment in Crowd-Funding

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A Summer Rain (C) Ela Thier

Ela Thier is a NYC-based independent filmmaker who has been writing screenplays for 20 years (to the detriment of her school grades when she first started out because she insisted in submitting screenplays instead of essays). But Ela is still struggling to get any of her 20+ screenplays sold or made.  She’s decided to take action by sending an open letter to all her friends and acquaintances explaining her frustration.

“One enthusiastic response after another would lead me to hope and end with a bout of weeping on my husband’s shoulder. No matter how familiar and by now, routine, the disappointments would be, the tears would come each time. And after a good cry, or two, or several, I would get up, wipe my knees, and keep going.  I often tell other filmmakers who lose heart: when it comes to pass letters, you’re in great company, from Van Gogh to the Beatles to Stephen King to J.K. Rowlings.

So the million dollar question is, as one of my writing students once asked after reading two of my scripts: “Why are these scripts not made? What better scripts could people possibly be reading?” After years of learning, practicing, and teaching, after years of query letters, phone calls, meetings, film markets, panels, classes, LA trips, networking, more networking, even more networking, my scripts – those ones that this market reader liked better than the 150 scripts she read that summer – those scripts sit on a shelf. After years of trying and falling and getting up and trying, something finally dawned on me: maybe I’m not the most unlucky bastard that ever lived. Maybe I’m female.

Ela’s begun to explore whether she’s discriminated against because she’s a woman; but is taking it a step further and wonders if she discriminates against women too.

“Overall, society’s message to me as a woman born in 1971 is that sexism is a thing of the past. But if I’m ever so liberated, why is it that no matter which direction I turn, I walk into a glass pane and land on my ass? The answer, I’m convinced, is not out there; it’s inside myself.  I teach screenwriting and consistently notice the different regard that I feel for my male and female students. No matter how “enlightened” I think I am, I find myself having higher expectations of the guys in the class. I just assume they have more experience, more confidence, more intelligence…? I’ve recently noticed that when I receive quality work from a woman, I feel surprise. When I see amateur work from a man, I think “hmm… for some reason I had him pegged as an experienced writer.” For some reason.”

She decides she’s got to take control and raise the money herself. The end of her letter she asks people to donate $100 to help fund the production of  A Summer Rain, a story about two adolescent immigrant girls coming to terms with culture-shock, homesickness and growing up. In return, investors get a $150 film-making/scriptwriting workshop / credit on the finished film / a chance to work on the production.

This is interesting because Ela seems like she’s setting out on a professional and personal journey as she questions whether she’s as guilty of sexism as the next man.

Ela faces the same frustrations that many TV producers face – years of backbreaking  development work and little to show for it but rejection. Her letter should act as a reminder, that if you really believe in a project, and you can’t get anyone else to take an interest, you could start looking for other, more creative, ways to get it off the ground. Franny Armstrong did just that to raise  the full £450K production budget of eco-doc  Age of Stupid.

See  trailer for A Summer Rain  here.

Learn more about how the film is being funded here.

UPDATE:

* People have been so inspired by this letter, that it ended up at NPR and they contacted Ela to do a story about it.

* An journalist contacted Ela from Israel to run a story about this letter in Israeli newspapers

* Just yesterday, a woman she has never met wrote to tell her that she was so moved by this letter that she forwarded this letter to her contact at the White House.

I wanted to let you know that FOREIGN LETTERS is currently available in 35 million households around the country as a movie-on-demand through most cable providers.

On Time Warner, which is what I have, it’s listed under “Pre-dvd” (I believe the dvd release date is Aug 2012).

1) FACEBOOK: WE NEED LIKES. If you have a facebook account and haven’t done this yet: go to https://www.facebook.com/foreignletters and like it. We have 99 likes. that’s great. (we’re the 99!) But we need to demonstrate that there’s a real audience out there for this film that’s waiting to see it!

2) YOUTUBE: WE NEED VIEWS. Go to the film’s music video on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy-D_NYwpNM. That’s it. you don’t even have to watch it. We just need to be collecting “views”. Ask all your friends to click on it too? Imagine going to a theater on Monday and telling them that we got a few thousand views in a matter of days?

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