Monday, January 27, 2014

Get trapped in time with: NORMAN

Welcome back friends to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to be joined by Joel Guelzo to talk about his film and Kickstarter campaign for the film Norman.  Thank you for joining us today Joel!

Thanks for having me. It’s my pleasure.

Let me start off by congratulating you on surpassing your initial goal with plenty of time left to go.  Can you tell us about the film and why you think it has done so well?  

Norman is a feature-length sci-fi film I wrote and directed about a time traveler and his A.I. companion. Norman becomes trapped and isolated in the past, jeopardizing life in both the past and the future. He must invent a way back to the future before the world collapses. This story is more about who Norman is, and why he became a time traveler in the first place, and the actual time travel elements are there as a means to tell this story than anything else.
I think most film related Kickstarters do well, at least in my opinion is because of having a good video to kick your campaign off with. People who are looking to back a film project I figured would be more visual people than wanting to read information, so I worked really hard to make sure to show off my film in the best way possible first, then if that hooked them, I would have extra information in text below to explain further details. The feedback I have gotten so far from most backers has really humbled me, hearing that my trailer looks really awesome, that the story seems really interesting, and the visuals and quality looks professional. This is all so awesome to hear from somebody outside the production, because when you are knee deep into the project, it is so hard to tell what your film looks like or how well it might do from the outside.

As to be expected of a film project you’ve created a very compelling Kickstarter video.  How much do you think your videos have aided you in the success of your campaign?

I think this is a huge part honestly. Like I mentioned earlier, I think most people who look for film projects to fund, are going to be hooked quicker if the quality of the video and trailer are really well done, and also the fact that my film is 98% shot helps too I think. The hardest part about making the trailer was coming up with a way to hint at the storyline, and the main premise of the film without being able to use almost any of the scenes that are shot that have dialogue. The reason being, that because of such a low budget, I wasn’t able to have a consistent audio guy on set because of the last minute shooting dates, changing schedules, etc. I decided to just shoot this thing, and because of my brother Jonah Guelzo, who is an amazing sound designer working out of L.A., I was confident that he would be able to work with the actors to re-record the dialogue afterwards and have consistent audio quality.

When you were working on the script and setting up this project how difficult did you expect having an AI character would be not only from a filming/acting prospect, but from a post-production perspective?  

I knew right from the start that the visual effects were key to making this movie work, and before I started to film the movie, especially the scenes with A.N.I., I had asked a friend about how to go about shooting the effects scenes. I wanted to make sure that when I was done shooting, the footage I had shot would be doable for him or whoever might be doing the final effects. I knew I would have to raise some money to pay someone full time to do it, but I also didn’t let that stop me from going full steam and making the film anyway. One way or another, I would get this film done, even if I had to learn some 3D programs myself. I do know that before any of the effects are done, I want my film edited and locked down tight as much as possible before handing it over. I want to lay out the effects one by one and as smoothly and without re-doing effects or changes as much as possible, saving me money, saving artists time, and just being efficient as possible.

Time travel is a well worn concept in science fiction, what is Norman doing differently to set it apart from other time traveling tales?  How central to the plot is the time travel?  

Most time travel movies focus on a time period, or an event, or a specific need to time travel.  This film focuses more on Normans internal struggles and his relationship with his artificial intelligence companion. I would compare it less to other time travel movies and more to Castaway. Yes, there are definitely scenes with time travel of course, but what drew me to make this film is Norman and his strange and lonely friendship with this AI device called A.N.I. I hope people are interested in finding out who A.N.I. is, why Norman is alone, and how he got into the situation he finds himself in the first place. The story is also about the very first time traveler.

If 98% of the filming is already complete and edited, why do you have a projected delivery date of December 2014?  That seems very pessimistic.  

Real life gets into the way of making Norman. This is honestly why. Norman is 98% percent shot and in the can, but, because of life and my day job, doing web design at a college in my town, I am only able to work on scenes as I get the time. I wish I could take off work to work on nothing but this film, but in reality, I also film weddings for side money as well, so a constant state of juggling projects can be frustrating. This entire year will be spent in the editing room, tweaking, re editing, and trying to finalize the cut as much as possible before handing it over to the visual effect artist. Like alot of bigger films with large budgets, they can afford to have alot of the effects done and sound design being worked on even while principal photography is going on, and the edit isn’t complete. Sometimes this is helpful, but most of the time it isn’t the best way to get a really superb and polished product, the reason being, is that you have to lock in an edit before seeing finished effects and sound. Some scenes may work entirely different once sound effects are placed in and visual effects are done. A scene can become boring and long into a really awesome and interesting shot so quickly because of finished effects. Big budget films all the time have to send shots back to be fixed and tweaked, and the audio designer has to redesign whole scenes because shots or clips are deleted or taken out, which can be a huge hastle. I am hoping to get my film close to 100 percent locked in before moving onto the next step. Another reason it will take a long time to be finished, is because I will be working hand in hand with the composer recording real instruments such as piano, violin, drums, etc so this will take up quite amount of time as well. All of this will be exciting to work on and I can’t wait but it just takes time when you can’t dedicate 100 percent of your time to your project when the only funding comes from your personal bank account and waiting to get paid from freelance, work, etc.

What is the plan for the film when it’s complete?  Are you submitting it for film festival?  Distribution?  How will the rest of the world see your work?  

Right now all my power and time goes into making this as awesome as possible and just getting it done. That said, when it is finished, I would love to enter it into any festival it can get into, and I would also like to see if I can get it into theaters for at least limited release. We are planning to premiere it locally where I live in Lynchburg Va whenever it is finished. Any extra funding that comes in from the Kickstarter is going towards polishing the film, adding a few additional scenes I could never do before hand, and helping the film to be distributed, promoted, etc.

How important do you think Kickstarter has become to the independent filmmaking community?   Do you think more and more filmmakers are going to turn to crowdfunding for their projects?  Overall has it been a good thing or a bad thing for independent films?  

Kickstarter is a wonderful tool. It allows you an almost instant idea of whether or not your project is something people want to see, or something you need to toss out. It was extremely nerve wracking to press the submit button on Kickstarter, because this means everyone can see what I have been working on. I didn’t know what to expect honestly. I think Kickstarter is a great idea for indie filmmakers because it allows them to get help from friends and people from around the world in a fair way that benefits both the filmmaker and contributor. They get to help behind the scenes of a project they think is interesting, and the filmmaker gets the tools they need to finish the project. After my Kickstarter had met its goal, I was honestly worried about putting up a stretch goal, because a lot of campaigns add that as almost a cheap way of getting extra funds. I didn’t want to look like im cash grabbing for anything I can get. No amount of extra funding would force me to add a scene into my film that is irrelevant just because somebody donated a certain amount, but I also wanted to let people know that anything I do make over the goal goes into giving me more time and assets to make the film i've been dreaming and staying up till almost midnight thinking about every night for the past two years.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I can’t remember when I discovered Kickstarter, but it was probably IndieGogo that I found out first honestly, when I funded The Video Game Nerd Movie, and then after that, I saw Kickstarter, and funded the Rifftrax guys, and a few video game projects. I love how easy it is to help people out with their projects, and be able to know that I am personally helping them make their dreams come true. Yea that sounds cheesy, but it really is so true.

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?

I have already been trying to send personal messages as much as possible to each backer individually, and throughout this 30 day campaign, I have been releasing behind the scenes videos showing some scenes from the film as well as footage showing how certain scenes were done. I also will be releasing about ten really well edited Production Diaries throughout this whole year as the film gets closer to its end goal. These will be the final behind the scenes videos that I want to include in the blu-ray and dvd. Something I did early on when filming my movie, was to try and capture a piece of video showing almost every scene we shot, because I wanted to make a version of the movie where side by side you can see how we did it. I have always wanted to see a movie do that, so you can see the entire movie almost in behind the scenes video footage. I think I have enough that I can do this almost throughout the whole film. I am excited to do that for blu-ray and dvd whenever that is released.

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?  

Honestly, social media isn’t one of my favorite things to do or keep up with, but I have been diligent to respond to backers, and push articles I am featured in and videos. I personally like emailing people one on one, so people are welcome to email me about the film or anything if they are interested via the site.I am not the kind of person that likes the limelight at all. I just want to make a sweet movie and see people enjoy it and be able to tell the story I want to tell. I have been interviewed by my local news station, and I will be doing an interview on a morning local talk show as well. I have gotten a lot of great feedback from backers, and from composers across the united states wanting to help out with the film, as well as a few visual effects artists. It has been really incredible seeing people wanting to help out with a project of mine. It is really humbling. I ran across Kicktraq accidentally and found it’s a pretty neat site. I love graphs and charts so it has been fun seeing how the campaign goes from day to day. I just can’t believe I have so many extra days when the film has already completed it’s goal. Truly blessed honestly.

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

Since this is my first time, and I consider myself blessed to have such awesome friends who have contributed, and spread the word, I can’t give too much advice because maybe my project was a fluke, and wooden time travel devices are in this year, ha ha. I would suggest that you look at other peoples projects, see how they might label things, and figure out what grabs you to want to fund their project. For me, it’s all visuals. If you want me to fund your project, show me you have great cinematic skills, and the premise is enticing. Most important, and this is what I want to always do, is no matter what, be honest with people. Don’t come across douchey or like some big director wearing your achievements. I am just a guy who loves making films, and just wants a chance to finish his film, and wants people to know he will do everything it takes to make it as awesome as I possibly can. People can see through bullcrap, so be honest, don’t pretend you're something you're not, and I think people will see that and respect it.

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

For anyone out there that wants to do this, I just want to say go out there and do it. Don’t let anyone stop you. I have had people say I can’t do this and that the idea isn’t a good one, or I haven’t gotten enough money or can pull it off, and maybe in the end it won’t be amazing, but you can’t let that stop you. Film’s don’t make themselves. For me, making a film is being able to be a lot like my character Norman, he gets to be in another time, to explore and live as someone else for awhile. Working on a project like this allows me to almost be on an adventure myself.

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

Thank you for your time, and your interest in my film.

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