Friday, October 26, 2012

The Shadow Cabal Interview

Greetings and welcome to another exciting Kickstarter Interview!  Today I’m joined by Kynan Griffin of Arrowstorm entertainment.  He is here to talk about his full length feature film project currently on Kickstarter entitled, “The Shadow Cabal.”  Thank you for joining us today Kynan.  The Shadow Cabal is already shot and “in the can” why do you need Kickstarter?  As an experienced filmmaker couldn’t you have found funding through traditional means?

Yes, we could have found funding through traditional means (and we do - the majority of this film was financed through private equity investors). Kickstarter is a unique development though, and we want to be part of the transition from a hierarchical to a lateral economy. We look forward to the day when films can be completely financed via crowdsourcing, and independently distributed through the same means. Right now we are still reliant on traditional distribution channels (DVD, TV, VOD, etc) for the majority of our revenue. But we look forward to that changing.

Can you give us an overview of the kind of story you’re telling?  This isn’t set in an established literary world is it?

It is loosely set in a world we developed through an online game we created, SAGA ( We had done so much work fleshing out a world and a story, it seemed a shame not to explore it further, and we hope to set a bunch of stories in this same world, as it is really rich and varied, and we have created a lot of fun storylines. You’ll notice in the trailer a dwarf holding a primitive firearm... in SAGA, there are these rudimentary, almost steampunk technologies, coupled with magic and a traditional medieval setting. So it’s possible to have a steam-powered mech giant fighting a dragon and a mage.

So as a writer and producer what was your inspiration for the world of The Shadow Cabal?  I’m sure like most writers you’ve planned or even written a lot more story than is being shown here in this film, about how many more films/shows do you have bouncing around in your heads set in this world?

Well, Jason and I just fleshed out a story arc for ten new adventures, so we are pretty excited about it!

Do you have a distribution deal/plan in place already? Is this a direct to DVD kind of production or am I going to see in in my local multiplex, where local for me is the middle of nowhere and not LA or New York.

That all depends where in the world you live. We sell our films through a sales agent (this might be interesting to anyone who makes films). So, this sales agent takes our trailer and poster and whatever other materials we have available to big film trade shows, where distributors from around the world come looking for content. So, we generally sell the film to a different company in each country, and that company buys the right to distribute it in any number of ways in their territory. So, the distributor in Scandinavia might decide “this is perfect for theatres” and do a theatrical run, whereas the Australian distributor might decide its a better fit as a TV premiere. So, once we sell the rights, we have little control over how it gets distributed in a particular place.

We have already sold several territories, so if you’re in Russia, Germany, France, UK, India, and a few other places I can’t remember, it’s definitely coming to you. There’s another big sales market coming up the first week of November (AFM) and there we’ll learn a lot more.

Wow, I never knew about sales agents, thanks for the information! Even though the film has completed shooting and editing there are plenty of production work yet to do.  How hard is it to do all of those things while running an active Kickstarter campaign on top of it all?

Kickstarter is a surprising amount of work! But it’s rewarding work. I do love to hear from backers and answer questions, and share with them the latest developments. I see Kickstarter as another important social network, especially for artists, as they have an opportunity to monetize their fan appeal. As far as keeping on top of production... post-production is a far more relaxed process than actual filming, so it requires checking in regularly with our skilled artists - the director, editor, sound mixers, composer, VFX guys, etc - but not the hectic 18 hour days managing tons of people and things.
What did you do to prepare for this Kickstarter?   Have you spoken to past Kickstarter filmmakers for some tips before you launched?  

We looked at a lot of successful Kickstarter campaigns, and have also learned from our previous two campaigns - what rewards are appealing, what rewards are difficult to deliver, etc. Mostly, we’ve learned that constant updates and contact are important. We also have a rewards philosophy that I think is important - we want our rewards to reflect fair market value and to be considered a reasonable pre-sale. So, our DVDs are $20, not $50 like others I have seen. It’s what you would expect to pay on a first day commercial release.

So with just over 49 days to go in your campaign you’ve already reached half your goal of $20,000, will that be enough money for the special effects post production?  Do you have stretch goals in mind?  Plans to keep the excitement up?  How can extra money even help your production?

$20,000 will be enough for that particular scene, but we do have a lot of other fun enhancements we can do, which we will include in our stretch goals. There are opportunities to add further creatures, or improve the existing dragon shots, or add more of them to make the scene even more seamless, etc. We also have a couple scenes we could easily reshoot with a bigger star playing that character, and maybe that’s something we will look at for a stretch goal.

Honestly I wish I had the $200 to pledge for the “Writers Pack” it seems to be the perfect kind of “higher level pledge” that makes Kickstarter unique.  How much thought did you put into the high end pledge levels?  

As filmmakers, we know there are a lot of people trying to break into the industry, make contacts, or learn more about the process. Our high-end pledges reflect those ideas. We have made 9 features now, all of them distributed around the world, and one of our chief frustrations still is that people are so guarded about their information, like its sacred. We like to share, and that’s why we love Kickstarter and hope it gets bigger and bigger until it is truly a viable distribution outlet and we can reach the millions of backers that we get through traditional distribution means. Nothing would be more satisfying than completely bypassing the establishment.
So besides a love for fantasy stories,  what possessed you to go on this filmmaking adventure?  Do you think this is a genre isn’t getting enough attention by the mainstream?  

We’ve always believed fantasy is under-represented. If you look at literature, it is the 2nd best-selling genre (behind romance) amongst adults, and with kids, over 50% of sales are fantasy  books. Same with video games - its a massive genre. And if you look at film, almost all the top 20 highest grossing films are fantasy. However, look at that as a percentage of content created - it’s tiny. Especially among independent films (the studios are catching one). And on TV - fantasy is almost non-existent. TV executives act all surprised that Game of Thrones is a major success. (Remember how New Line thought they were taking a major risk with LOTR?) For some reason, HBO execs were worried people would be less interested in watching a fantasy show than a show about undertakers... I think decision-making executives in high places have been slow to realize the massive demand for fantasy content. As fans of the genre ourselves, we know how many people are out there who just love exploring new worlds and ideas. We’re just translating our childhood love for role-playing games into stories we know people like us will enjoy.

So what are you doing to get the word out about your Kickstarter project?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+?  Are you doing interviews with popular gaming sites or putting out ads.  

We’ve relied heavily initially on our social networks - Twitter, Facebook, previous Kickstarter backers. We’ve put out a press release, and have been running ads on Facebook too. We are trying to get some interviews, and coverage from relevant websites, thus far not very successfully, but we’ll persevere and I’m sure will find some success their shortly.
So besides donating, how can supports and backers help out your project?  

This is where the social aspect of social media becomes so essential. I only have 700 friends on Facebook, but they all have 700 friends, etc, etc. We need backers to let their friends know about the project, and also to leverage their connections. Does anyone have a friend who runs a blog? Or a website? We’d love to talk to them. We got spoilt for coverage on Osombie (a previous Kickstarter project) as the major media networks picked it up. So we’re busy figuring out how to break into that again.

It has been a pleasure speaking with you Kynan.  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?  Any tips for others thinking of starting their own Kickstarters?

My father always taught me, try to make a career of your hobbies, because you’ll have to go to work the rest of your life. That was the best advice I’ve ever received, and Kickstarter is one of the ways to make that possible. Make something you love, and that you know others will love, and with copious amounts of effort, you will succeed.

Thank you for your time!  I look forward to seeing “The Shadow Cabal” in theaters soon!

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