Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today the creator of AMERICAN UBUNTU has joined us to talk about her project. Thank you for joining us today Lenore.
You’re very welcome -- thank you for your interest in my project.
Reading how you created the story of AMERICAN UBUNTU and how it’s grown over the years it seems like Kickstarter was a perfect fit. So why do you come to Kickstarter now instead of earlier? You seemed very crowd focused from the word go.
That’s a great question. I have been backing others’ Kickstarter projects for the last couple years, since attending a 2-day seminar on crowdfunding in London in 2010. This just seemed like the perfect moment -- the funds are needed to go forward, themes in the film are in the popular consciousness, I understand how Kickstarter works -- and I’m finally ready to go more public with my project. Kickstarter really puts you out there, you know!
Would you care to give us a brief overview of the story of AMERICAN UBUNTU?
It’s a father-daughter love story. A spiritual-political thriller. A blended family drama. All rolled into one. It’s satisfyingly complex, like real life.
The story begins in the summer of 2001. The main characters are: A middle-aged white Army veteran, who now works for the FBI; his long lost, high school sweetheart, who was black, and has been dead for 20 years; their daughter, who lost her mother as a little kid, and doesn’t know her birth father -- she has been raised by her stepfather; the devoted stepfather, a Black Panther, who is guardian of hearth and home; and finally, the community of Ubuntu -- founded by the mother and stepfather and other social visionaries, twenty years ago -- where the daughter grows up.
Near the beginning of the story, September 11 takes place, and each character has a very different response to the tragedies: The daughter wants to give refuge to innocent Muslims being attacked on the street. The birth father is responsible for finding possible suspects and protecting the U.S. The stepfather is the guardian of the Ubuntu community, and doesn’t want to put it at risk by housing potential suspects. And the mother, from the Ancestral realm, has a hand in each of their lives...
The film strikes me as one of those “projects of passion” would you describe it as such?
Yes, absolutely! It is the culmination of my life’s work to date, growing out of my experiences as a filmmaker, a social activist, and a shamanic healer. The characters are very compelling to me, and so alive -- of course, they would not always make the choices I wanted them to, and what they wanted to do, and where they wanted to go, fascinated me, and pushed me. These characters are confronting real world issues, and being pressured to transform or be crushed -- as I think we all are, today. By following their respective journeys, we can learn a lot about how to live our lives in these times.
So correct me if I’m wrong but from a backer’s point of view the only thing done with this project is the script? The cast isn't set, nor the producer, or director? Merely “approached” but until the seed money of the Kickstarter comes through nothing is “set in stone” as it were?
That’s correct -- the script is complete, these seed funds are needed to complete the development stage, which is everything up until a professional producer and initial investors commit to the project. I am not raising production funds at this time.
As you know, succeeding in a Kickstarter campaign is about far more than raising funds: It’s also about building an audience, and showing prospective producers and investors that the project is viable. This is as important to me as the funds -- maybe even more important! But success in these three areas goes hand-in-hand, by fully reaching the funding goal.
One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation. How are you engaging your backers? What kinds of things do you have planned for updates? Interviews? Videos? Stories from the project?
I’m very fortunate to have backers who resonate deeply with the project. I’ve emailed each individually and thanked them for their backing. I’ve talked with some of them by phone, and met some in person who are very passionate about the project. We had a face-to-face campaign party in Portland a couple weeks ago that was very fruitful. Several backers are working, some even in teams, at recruiting other backers with deeper pockets. My spirit is buoyed by their enthusiastic teamwork!
Because of the nature of the AMERICAN UBUNTU story, I see the backers as coming into a kind of virtual Ubuntu Village together, and I call them Villagers. My first update was text and photos, welcoming everyone to the Village, and affirming the spirit of ubuntu.
This weekend we’re having a virtual Village gathering, using the Vokle platform. In that gathering I’ll be using a live video stream to talk with my backers and share more of the AMERICAN UBUNTU story. Villagers will get a chance to become acquainted through a simultaneous chat room, and also be able to ask questions and make comments via video. We will plan out the strategy for completing and winning this campaign.
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 help things along?
I have been working on multiple layers on getting the word out. I have my own large email list from 20 years as a shamanic healer, and that audience, which includes social activists, is very interested in this kind of story. Plus, I have many shamanic colleagues with large email lists who are announcing it, and that is a tremendous boon. One colleague has a radio show and is announcing it there, as well.
I certainly have posted a lot on Facebook, and many friends there have been hearing about this project for some time, and have pledged and re-posted the link multiple times.
I’ve had some possible radio interviews come up, I am hoping that one or more will yet materialize.
In addition to your wonderful blog, there is another I will appear on soon.
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?
Pledge $250 to my campaign and take the “Kickstart Me!” telecourse I’m offering as a reward -- seriously! I’m excited to share what I know.
Generally I’d say, do as much research about Kickstarter and how it works as you can, and study other campaigns -- both ones that succeeded and ones that failed. Develop contacts who will be interested in backing your project, and plan how you are going to contact and motivate them to pledge on behalf of your project. Try to line up at least one, and if possible more, major backers before you begin. Learn how to use social media, including Twitter and hashtags.
Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
While the breakdown of traditional modes of funding and distribution can be a challenge, I’m excited about artists being able to address and interact with our audiences much more directly today.
With the dwindling of arts funding, it’s not difficult to slump into cynicism. Crowdfunding offers a very important way we can turn away from that discouragement, and achieve independence and dignity as artists; a way to get fed not only materially but energetically by our fans -- as we nourish them with our creative work, in return.
AMERICAN UBUNTU now has 110 backers, and I am excited that more will join us in the next 12 days! Many learned about the project because of this Kickstarter campaign, and many will stay with AMERICAN UBUNTU for the long haul.
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!
Thank you, James!