Usually when filmmakers turn to crowdfunding, they're looking for backing to make a film, but in the case of veteran indie director Alexandre Rockwell ("In The Soup"), he turned to Kickstarter after his latest film "Little Feet" premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Vimeo as part of its deal with the TFF. When it screened at The Museum of the Moving Image's "First Look" screening series, our chief film critic Eric Kohn reviewed the one hour black and white film, dubbing it "the first great movie of 2014." Indie distributor Factory 25 then stepped up to distribute the film theatrically (it's unclear when and if the film will be available on Vimeo).
The catch is that the distribution deal is contingent on Rockwell being able to pay for music rights as well as other post-production expenses such as final sound mix, color correction, art work and title design and legal fees and insurance.
Through his recently launched Kickstarter campaign, Rockwell is looking to raise $35,000. On the film's Kickstarter page, Rockwell explains: "If the film does not make its goal, it will not be seen. It is as simple as that. The film has been shot, edited, gone to top festivals and benefited from strong support in the press. Still, even with all the positive response it will be a challenge. We have a distribution deal but we still need to deliver the goods. That includes clearing the music, color correction and all the dialogue lists and things necessary for those outside the U.S. to see it. I have been making films for most of my life and sunk my last pennies into this project. Now, it's just the home stretch."
Rockwell told Indiewire that the film cost about $11,000 to make and post-production will probably add up to $30,000. "The post-production of the film is more expensive on this film. We're not looking for a lot of money, but in terms of what it costs to shoot, it's three times as much," said Rockwell, who co-wrote the script to "Little Feet" with his then 8-year-old daughter Lana, who also stars in the film alongside her little brother Nico. Reminiscent of Morris Engel's classic "The Little Fugitive," "Little Feet" is a sweetly soulful look at childhood -- as an escape from the harsher realities in life.
"I financed the film myself, literally breaking open my kids' piggy banks. It never dawned on me to do crowdfunding," said Rockwell. That is until his graduate students at NYU, where he teaches, encouraged him to give it a shot. "When I finally finished the film and got it out to festivals and got some good reviews, I realized the film had a resonance and was resounding with people. It's a simple film, but it seems to be making friends. I never imagined it would have a theatrical possibility or any kind of real distribution."
Theatrical distributors generally avoid films that are only an hour in length, but Factory 25 plans to pair "Little Feet" with Frances Bodomo's "Boneshaker," the Sundance short which stars Quvenzhané Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild."
Making "Little Feet" was a return to basics for Rockwell, who was a major figure in the indie film community in New York in the 80s and 90s, who collaborated with Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino on "Four Rooms."
"I wanted to make a really simple first film -- almost do a film with no ambition whatsoever in terms of industry or career or anything like that. I just wanted to get back to the most simple joy of film. I always had a soft spot for the early "Our Gang" stuff, so I just thought let me put on a show. That was the essence of the thing," said Rockwell who described "Little Feet" as "'The Little Rascals' meets 'Killer of Sheep.'"
When it came time to crowdfund, Rockwell called in favors from his longtime collaborators, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, Peter Dinklage, Fisher Stevens, Alison Anders and Sam Rockwell. "There's nobody known in my movie and little kids don't usually have a lot of money. I couldn't play that angle, so I had to basically look - I've been around for a while and have a lot of close friends who are really well known and have been collaborators and they love the movie and they support it. I'm very touched that they support me and see the value in my making a film and getting it out there," said Rockwell.
Kickstarter rewards for the film include a voicemail from Perez, Face Time with Anders and a coffee Skype session with Dinklage.
"I really do believe if my mentor John Cassavetes were around today, he would have been doing crowdfunding," said Rockwell. "He used to make his films by acting in movies. He financed them himself. I think crowdfunding would have been the way he would gone. I think it's exciting. If it works, it's great."
Check out the campaign video for "Little Feet" below: