For the last few years, Vancouver-based Oats Studios has been home to director Neill Blomkamp and key collaborators, where they make experimental shorts when they aren’t working on his Hollywood-backed sci-fi films. This morning, the company launched a crowdfunding campaign for its first indie feature, but it’s not on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Seed & Spark. Instead, they’re using a platform built on the studio’s website, promising backers they will shoot something no matter what they raise.
Blomkamp explained the campaign isn’t simply about raising funds for “Firebase,” the feature follow-up to Oats’ popular short, but that this a first step in a multi-year journey to making Oats sustainable.
“For the average audience, crowdfunded films tend to be films that Hollywood wouldn’t make, so crowdfunding is a stepping stone toward making your film,” said Blomkamp. “This is not that. This is, ‘How do we build a studio that exists as a venue that people can always come to and get the content that we are making.’ Even though I don’t think crowdfunding should be in our model too much — we should just be making stuff for the lower price that we can sell it to keep the lights on — but I want it to be: If you want this weird sci-fi fantasy stuff, go to oatstudios.com.”
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Blomkamp, who is still working on larger studio projects, including one he believes will start production next winter, looks toward the gaming industry as a model for Oats.
“I look at games and the games industry a lot,” said Blomkamp. “It’s really fascinating that you have these self-enclosed ecosystems that are game companies that sell the entertainment they are making directly to the customers that like the stuff they are making, and they have this one-on-one relationship with them. Film is totally different. Coming out of this 100-year old model, it just behaves differently.”
Blomkamp believes the concept behind Oats is strong and worth the experiment, even if it means operating at a loss for a few years. At the heart of the indie studio is many of Blomkamp’s collaborators from his bigger movies, including producer Steven St. Arnaud and VFX supervisor Chris Harvey, who live in Vancouver when they aren’t shooting on location. A large part of Blomkamp’s vision for Oats is creating a “closed ecosystem” that’s constantly creating and working on projects.
“Is it possible to make more of a Pixar-esque approach to live action, where all of your crew that you get along with and work well with can be under one roof forever and don’t really break apart after every film,” said Blomkamp. “Everyone is freelance, everyone is contract, there is no snow globe they exist together in, you have to bring them together. I’m just very into the idea of building a very cohesive, creative thing, that is home base for us.”
The concept is for a under-one-roof creative place where everything from manufacturing costumes and prosthetics, to production, editing and visual effects is done in house. In addition to Pixar, Blomkamp again points to how the proposed model mimics how many 21st century game studios.
Blomkamp knows the first step toward these lofty goals is finding the global audience who wants Oats content. He admits that the crowdfunding campaign will likely not make as much money had he used an established platform, but that part of the motivation for the campaign is to making the Oats website a central hub.
“If you are trying to build a venue online that this kind of work comes from, you should also be crowdfunding it from that venue,” said Blomkamp.
The “Firebase” crowdfunding campaign is live here.