Crowd funding in perspective


More and more South African filmmakers are using the Internet and websites to get their films financed.

Shady Valley is the latest local film to do so and is pitched as a horror comedy that centres around a geeky teenager who uses made up karate moves to slay demons.
The film’s producer is Pascal Schmitz from Amariam Pictures and the co-producer is James Adey, who is also the director of photography (DOP). Tyron Janse van Vuuren is the director.

Schmitz and his team have used Twitter, Facebook and the film’s website to generate over 6 000 views of their crowd funding site – The strategy is to encourage people to be involved in the early stages of the film’s development and to reward contribution, big or small, with “cool perks’.
“These early contributors are helping to get the project off the ground, so their perks include everything from VIP website access to special thanks in the film credits to personalised Shady Valley artwork,’ explains Schmitz. “So far the project has been supported by people like web guru Arthur Goldstuck and 5FM’s DJ Poppy Ntshongwana. We have managed to raise $5 220 (R35 287) and need to raise an additional $10 000 (R67 600) to shoot a three-minute pilot.’

The Shady Valley team chose the horror comedy genre because they consider it closest to real life. “It feels like I have been working on the script since the early 1940s but it actually it only two and a half years,’ comments Schmitz.

Tyron Janse van Vuuren explains the crowd funding concept. “It’s is not something that you launch and then sit back and watch the funds roll in. We have learned that it takes a consistent marketing push to keep it going – this includes personal messages to potential contributors, constant social media updates, Facebook and Google ads and radio and print interviews. We have had some success raising money for the pilot but it would a huge challenge to raise a feature budget in the same way.’

Schmitz adds: “Crowd funding is incredibly useful for so called seed funding. Once we have the pilot and a complete package for funders and distributors, we will look at more conventional financing models for most of the budget.

“By investing in film crowd funders, especially those who invest larger amounts, feel they have a degree of influence in seeing the kind of films they want to see on the big screen. I think it’s a kind of democratisation of the film development process.’
Janse van Vuuren maintains that in the future crowd finance for films will become more prevalent. “As media converges and everything becomes more connected, audiences naturally become more involved in the way content is developed and distributed. Crowd funding makes your project very public early on so you can immediately tell if the concept has traction and discover why people like or don’t like the idea.’

The Shady Valley feature film is scheduled to go into production in 2012.


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