Monday, April 1, 2013

When the fantasy world invades our world, what do you get? Orc Wars!

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be talking to director Kohl Glass about his latest Arrowstorm Entertainment Kickstarter, Orc Wars.  Thank you for joining us today Kohl.  

Thanks! It’s a privilege to be able to talk with you.

With a title of “Orc Wars” it conjures up a certain film idea, yet looking at the trailer you get a completely different idea.  Can you tell us a bit about the film?  

Basically, “Orc Wars” is a twisted or inverted Narnia.  Instead of characters from our world being transported to a fantasy world, in Orc Wars the fantasy elements come to our world.

Where did you get the idea of a modern day guardian against essentially fantasy Orcs?  

The concept is all Arrowstorm founders Jason Faller’s and Kynan Griffin’s.   They made a movie titled Orcs! which I edited. Orcs! had basically the same concept (modern warfare vs fantasy orcs) but it evolved into a comedic horror film about two park rangers (played by Adam Johnson and Maclain Nelson - both of whom, incidentally, play major roles in Orc Wars . . . Adam actually plays two, a Redneck and an Orc General) taking on a horde of orcs that emerge in their national park. In the intervening years after the release of Orcs! Arrowstorm felt that they wanted to revisit the concept of orcs in our world, only this time have it be a straightforward action/fantasy film. It was February of last year when Jason called me, asking me if I’d be interested in writing and directing Arrowstorm’s new Orc movie, and I said yes.

Arrowstorm Entertainment has been down this Kickstarter road a few times, have you Kohl?  How did you get involved with Arrowstorm?  

To date, I’ve backed 21 Kickstarter projects (and only one didn’t reach its goal).  That said, I’ve never launched a Kickstarter my own.  The Orc Wars Kickstarter is the closest I’ve come.  As for the story of how I got involved with Arrowstorm, that starts long before Arrowstorm existed. Saying that makes it sound like there’s going to be a long and interesting story behind it . . .  but there isn’t.  I met Jason and Kynan at Brigham Young University where we were all studying film. We’ve worked together on various projects over the years.  So far, I’ve edited four feature films for Arrowstorm (Orcs!, Paladin, Crown & The Dragon, Orc Wars), but Orc Wars is the first I’ve directed.   

How long have you been directing?  What got you into the field?

The first thing I ever directed was a little soundless short about a firefighter that I shot on Super8 as my creative sample to get into the BYU Media Arts program.  That was in late 1998/early 1999, I think.  My next major turn as a director was in 2002 when I made my award winning short film The Promethean, a modern adaptation of the myth of Prometheus. That film was very instrumental in helping people see me as a director, I think.  It went its rounds on the festival circuit and ultimately opened the door for me to make my next film Der Ostwind, a short about a WWI German Ace and his search for a worthy opponent, which played in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. After that time I went on to direct various and sundry projects, from commercials to audio only adventure stories for language learning software. As for how I got into filmmaking, I’ve always been an artist and daydreamer.  I drew a lot of airplanes, and people would tell me that I should be an aeronautical engineer.  Because I loved (and still love) aviation, I was down with aeronautical engineering.  However, what people didn’t tell me, is that aeronautical engineering has less to do with drawing dogfights, and more to do with math.  Math, I was not down with.  For a long while I wanted to be a comic book artist, but I wasn’t that great, and deep down I knew that I would never be that great. It wasn’t long after that that I boiled down what exactly drew me to comics: the visual storytelling. That’s all I really wanted to do. Knowing that, all it took was an Intro to Film class at Mesa Community College, and I was on my career path as a filmmaker.    

Here is a link to my Vimeo channel with my other stuff, including commercials and PSAs:

As with previous Arrowstorm films the make-up and cinematography seem top notch.  How do you folks keep putting out such high quality film on seemingly shoestring budgets?  

Thank you for the kind words. I’m going to say the answer to that question, for the most part, is Utah. What we are able to do here, in my opinion, is nothing short of amazing. It is my opinion that as the film industry becomes more and more decentralized, Utah is going to emerge as one of the biggest filmmaking hot spots in the country. The state itself has a competitive tax incentive of 25%, and it has such a diverse landscape that it can handle shooting any number of genres (including fantasy). One of the reasons this is all possible, is because the LDS Church is based here, and they are constantly churning out a massive amount of media. Even if we in UT are not all directly involved in this, the work the LDS Church provides is the bedrock on which a thriving and permanent film workforce survives. Whenever I talk about budgets with LA folk, they very often balk at the feasibility at our price point, but time and again UT filmmakers pull it off, because of the filmmaking community and resources so readily at hand here.

That sounds a lot like how New Mexico’s film industry has been growing. Speaking of budgets this Kickstarter is asking for $20,000 to help finalize the visual effects.  What kind of effects are you using the money to build?  

Obviously, there’s a lot of VFX in this movie. We have a lot of replication, some sky and background replacement, and a whole lot of muzzle flashes and bullet hits. But the biggest effect is the dragon. I think if we didn’t have a dragon in this movie we would have been done months ago.  That thing is . . . well, a beast. That’s where the Kickstarter funds are going.

Everything is happening so fast now that the challenge for me, at least, is to keep myself inserted into the process.  If I’m not careful, I can easily fall by the wayside as the entire post-production team is going full bore. But we are turning the corner on finishing very quickly.

What kind of distribution are you looking for on this film?  Will I see it in my local movie theater or on the Sci-Fi channel anytime soon?  

As with the other Arrowstorm projects, we are primarily aiming for TV markets around the world. Foreign sales are a huge part of the profit of any film, and that’s where our budget will be recouped.  As for domestic, that’s a little more unforeseen.  The SyFy channel would be an absolutely wonderful avenue to get the film shown, for sure. Personally, I hope to take this film back to some of the festivals and comic-cons my other films have played at.  That’s where you really get to interface with your audience.  Though it is still up in the air, I’m sure Orc Wars will ultimately be available via vendors like Redbox, Netflix, and other VOD companies.

What’s next on your plate?  

Other than finishing up Orc Wars, my big next project is titled Redcoat, a military sci-fi war movie about marines stationed on Mars.  We are hoping to shoot later this year down in Southern Utah . . . where it looks like Mars. I’m also planning on making a super, ultra-low-budget psychological thriller feature (set in a cave) with some friends this summer. I believe we’re going to do a Kickstarter to pay for actors with that one.

Now now don’t go making people think all my work with the Mars Rovers was fake.  Southern Utah is pretty desolate but not Mars. (Laughs) How did you discover Kickstarter?

My buddy Jake Parker, who did a very successful Kickstarter for his graphic novel “Antler Boy and Other Stories”, was the one who first clued me in to Kickstarter.  I instantly thought it was the greatest thing ever.  It’s been amazing to be able to witness so many incredible projects see the light of day, thanks to Kickstarter.  

I have interviewed several filmmakers, including Kynan Griffin from last year’s Arrowstorm production, and there seems to be a growing trend of films being produced in part or in total with Kickstarter.  Do you think this trend will continue?  Is Kickstarter becoming the new normal for funding independent films?  

I absolutely think it’s going to continue, and in fact, I think it’ll eventually become a standard in project funding. With the wildly successful Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter, I think crowdsourcing has recently won a legitimacy in the minds of the wider public, including Hollywood Studios. I think it’s only going to get better from here.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

That’s the real question right there. How do you run a successful Kickstarter? I wish I had that answer, but I suspect it lies somewhere in engaging your network both outside and inside Kickstarter, in a way that drives them to support your project.  We’ve had great success getting the word out on FaceBook and Twitter; a lot of people are sharing the links, the cast videos, the finished VFX shots, and Interviews we are doing as updates, but a very small portion of those people are actually donating. There’s a huge gap there between the Sharers and the Backers, a gap I’d love to know the secret of how to close.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

I did an interview for Filmmaker Magazine about Orc Wars a couple weeks ago, and I definitely use Kicktraq to follow how the campaign is going.  It’s a great site.  As for how we are spreading the word, we have an Orc Wars FaceBook page where we are posting the updates, as well as all our own personal FaceBook pages where we share those.  Most of us (Arrowstorm and me) have twitter accounts where we have been promoting the Kickstarter campaign daily.  We have also enlisted other Kickstarter projects, either completed or still running, to spread the word though one of their updates.  For instance, my aforementioned friend Jake Parker designed our dragon, so we did an update about him and his process, and then he in turn did an update through his Antler Boy Kickstarter about Orc Wars.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

I’ve talked with a number of others who have run successful Kickstarters, and I think one key to Kickstarter success, especially for media projects, is establishing an online presence, then with that presence consistently post new content, whatever that may be, and interface with your followers.  Then when you are ready to launch your Kickstarter, your backers are in place and eager to support you. These are all theories, theories we’re trying to put into practice with the Orc Wars Kickstarter.  But in the end I think it takes a lot more than just launching a Kickstarter.  You need a network in place and a strategy as to how to use it.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

The pleasure was all mine.  In parting, I’d just like to thank Kickstarter Conversations for this opportunity to talk about our project.  I also need to thank Kickstarter and all our Backers, both past and future, for supporting us.  Thank you!  

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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