By: Mohamed Imane Chahdi
Crowdfunding is an alternative way to fund your project by drawing support from your close network and fan base. But does it actually work and how well? In this interview, Valerie Laurie, producer of the feature film “Drowning,” shares some insights on the film’s Indiegogo campaign.
What is your opinion about crowdfunding as a way to fund films?
Every single campaign is almost entirely dependent on personal networks – friends, family, colleagues, old high school teachers, whomever… but I’d say 99% of any campaign’s donations come exclusively from people who know you and want you to succeed. This is a way for them to support you in your dreams and for the most part, the warm fuzzies they get from helping you is what they’re “getting” out of the deal (no matter what perks you have).
The above being said, this means you can probably only play the crowdfunding “card” once. You will not get a second successful campaign from your network so you have to decide which film you are going to invest that kind of personal equity in. It makes the project very personal to you because you are accountable to everyone in your life for completing your film. This goes for everyone who is involved in your film as of crowdfund time – DOP, editor, actors, etc. It’s not just about the director and/or producers, but everyone whose personal contacts are drawn upon to contribute.
How was your experience with crowdfunding on your project?
My experience specifically was that it was super hard. Asking for money is the most demeaning thing. You’re not some famous star with fans (that) will totally give you two million dollars to make a movie. You’re not Zach Braff or Stephen Amell. You’re just you and you want to make your micro budget film. Hundreds or thousands of strangers are not going to discover your project and think it’s worth propelling to the stratosphere. Know that. Live it. Prepare yourself for how hard it’s going to be to keep up the enthusiasm and interaction with your networks over the length of the campaign. Have some big “donations” lined up right at the beginning. Maybe it’s “your” investment, or your parents are lovely and give you a cheque. Showing a strong start on that status bar is super important.
Does it change the way you relate to the project as a producer?
As timing goes, it becomes a tricky guessing game as to when you actually do your crowdfund. Too early in the development process and you don’t have enough people on board yet that could really bring in funds. Too late and you are muddling through to pre-production without having a clue how much money you have to work with. How do you plan or bring people on board if you have no idea what your financing looks like? It’s a chicken and egg thing for sure. Having your lead actor is probably the most important element, but absolutely everyone who is a part of your film will be contributing their networks and it’s important they know that expectation before signing on.
It doesn’t hurt for your story to have a built-in audience that could actually mean some attention from outside of your network. An audience could come from your star actor who has 30,000 Twitter followers or a theme or underlying social issue that could get the backing of any number of social justice groups. It’s one of the reasons documentaries do better from crowdfunds than fiction. Documentaries are often telling a story that the public needs or wants to hear, so it’s easier to get buy-in from strangers who don’t know you, but your topic is close to their hearts.
Do you think it’s a viable way to raise money for films in Canada?
Yes, it’s a viable way to raise some of your budget on the right kind of project. It will never be all of it. But it’ll be enough to get something off the ground – or through post (lots of films will run a campaign for finishing funds). It takes a tremendous amount of work and planning and hustling. You have to be realistic with the goal you set and make sure it’s achievable. $10,000 is about the norm, I think. We got to $11,000 and many people we’ve spoken to have been very impressed by that, though it doesn’t feel like that much knowing how much effort went into it! It’s also definitely not enough to make a feature!
By Nicole Royle
One of the biggest setbacks to counselling services is the time it demands. The sessions themselves average one hour, but a patient needs to take more time than that out of their schedules to accommodate travel time.
As a commuter school, Centennial is a representation of inconvenience negatively affecting counselling services. One of the reasons Centennial had to stop group therapy sessions was that students could not find the time in their class and work schedules to travel to campus for an hour-long therapy group. Organizations in the United States and Canada have come up with a proposed solution to the inconvenience of face-to-face therapy: online therapy. But does convenience mean benefit in this regard?
Following trends of online convenience, mental health aid is transforming. Talkspace, an American online therapy organization, is growing popular worldwide due to its convenience. The process, based mainly on instant messaging, is similar to that of acquiring a personal therapist from a practice. Immediately after signing up, the patient is sent an instant message by a Talkspace therapist asking for personal details and goals of therapy. Based on the patient’s answer, the initial therapist then uses the Talkspace database to match the patient with a suitable, permanent therapist, which is assigned after the patient pays for their desired subscription.
Once matched, a patient has unlimited instant messaging allowances, and the ability to send a message to their therapist directly after a thought, emotion or situation comes up. Talkspace saw a need for this instantaneity, feeling that waiting for a scheduled session and having to recall thoughts, emotions or situations leave something to be desired.
“I’m a therapist here in Chicago as well (as on Talkspace). While I do find this format a bit different, I do see it as extremely helpful,” said Matthew Lawson, a therapist with Talkspace. “I feel that I do just as much good online as I do in person.”
The price for Talkspace subscriptions are similar to that of paying for face-to-face counselling services. Depending on the subscription, Talkspace is not limited to instant messaging, known on their website as “Messaging Therapy.” According to a Talkspace therapist, for $172 USD per month, the patient will be allowed unlimited Messaging Therapy and one 30-minute video conference each month. For additional video calling, the patient must pay $49 USD per 30-minute call. Keep in mind these are American prices, and as most psychiatric therapy is not covered by OHIP, these prices would be converted to the Canadian dollar and likely fall heavily on the customer.
“The subscription plan we offer is priced in a way to make this service accessible to as many people as possible,” Lawson said.
While Lawson sees the benefits of Messaging Therapy, he said that mental health is an extremely personal issue and can really only be tended to by needs of each specific patient. It is possible that when it comes to matters of mental health, convenience is not the top priority.
Alexa Battler, a Centennial student, experienced the setback of finding the perfect therapy program two hours from the campus on which she spent most of her days. Every Tuesday, after four hours of classes at the Story Arts Campus, Battler would find herself rushing to travel from downtown Toronto to Whitby, taking a bus to the subway, then walking to the nearest GO train, which she would ride until getting off to use Durham Region buses to arrive at her therapist’s office.
“I would rush to leave class and end up overwhelmed by the same anxiety I was there to try and manage,” Battler said. “The steep cost of transit, travel delays, early or late buses at transfer points, everything was very precariously organized, and one small misstep meant I would miss something crucial to my wellbeing. But this program and my therapist were right for me, and that’s not something you give up on.”
Battler sees the process of finding a therapist with a trusting and comfortable connection not only difficult, but crucial. Battler is unsure of the degree of trust she can extend to someone she has never met in person and can only see for 30 minutes every month. Without trust and comfort, Battler can’t get everything possible from her therapy.
“I absolutely appreciate and often thought of the convenience that online therapy would bring while travelling to my own therapy, but I am a very interpersonal learner, and at the end of the day therapy is about learning,” said Battler. “I find the environment of a therapist’s office can also help shift me into the right mindset for a session. When I need to step away from the world and think about my mental health, I find it helps me to do so physically.”
Mental health aid is changing in ways to adapt to our extremely convenient, modern way of life. Online and Messaging Therapy is a concept initiated in the last decade and one that continues to evolve. While online has its obvious benefits, fitting perfectly into our new age society, some patients still feel they need live, human interaction. No matter how compelling, educated and helpful the words of a therapist are, hearing them directly from the mouth of an individual holds something that reading print from a screen can’t provide.
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