Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cities in the Sky: Science-Fiction's Forgotten Visionaries

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  I am pleased to be joined by the creator of the documentary  Cities in the Sky: Science Fictions Forgotten Visionaries creator Marisa.  Thank you for joining us!

Thank you for having me James!  I’ve really been finding all of your interviews quite informative, and it’s an honor to join you.

Flattery will get you everywhere, so would you care to give us a brief rundown of your project?  Are there really that many forgotten science fiction writers out there for you to do a documentary on them?

Cities in the Sky covers science fiction writers from 100 and even 1000 years ago who wrote about things people will find absolutely astounding.  The envisioned many technological advancements as well as themes we see in today’s sci-fi!  My partner Issac has been researching this topic for years and he has found a ton of fascinating information.  There really are a lot of interesting writers that have been forgotten over time.  We want to bring their work to light so that viewers can appreciate it!

So why Kickstarter?  You seem like you already have a well established community through HDFEST® couldn’t you have produced this film through your own site?

Well, yes, we’ve been running the HDFEST film festival for 12 years now, so we do have a good community built up.  We selected Kickstarter because we wanted to get the word about this project out to people beyond just the filmmakers and artists we already know.  

Now I started my Sci-fi fandom with one of the old school masters of science fiction with Isaac Asimov, how much older than him are we talking about in your documentary?  

Yes. Asimov was writing a long time ago, but some of the authors we are covering are FAR older.  For example, one of the writers we cover is Lucian, who lived in the 2nd century AD! So we are talking very, very old.

Old indeed! I love the sample pieces of art you have on your Kickstarter page that do such a great job of showing off a vision from the past for technology we either have in the works or are using regularly today.  How were they created by giving the artist the original description and letting them run with it or did you and Isaac have a more direct role in their creation?  

Thanks for your positive words about the artwork we’ve put together for the movie so far.  Art and animation are a very important part of this film, as we are looking to really bring these stories to life for the viewers to appreciate!  Issac and I took some creative liberty with the ideas and so we gave the artist new creative ideas to play off the stories.  We worked together hand in hand to create this original artwork.

So how detailed were some of these future visions of old?  Were they as simple as saying, “hey lets put a TV on a watch and talk through it” like Dick Tracy or did these writers actually try and fully describe how their visions would work?  The one I’m curious about is the “Un-Meat-Oh-Matic” (I feel there needs an exclamation mark at the end of that title)  as it seems very much like the In Vitro Meat, or “vat meat” as I’ve called it before in the past, that is still in development.  I mean how “on the mark” are we talking about in these predictions?  

Some of the writers we cover in the documentary looked forward hundreds of years to the invention of the fake meat we see today.  Some of these predictions are amazingly on the mark.  For example, Odoevsky’s The Year 4338: Petersburg Letters was written in 1835 describes a process that sounds just like what we consider blogging today.  How he could have envisioned that back in the 1800’s is really rather remarkable.

He talked about folks like me in 1835?  That’s hard to imagine! So what’s your favorite “future vision” that you’ve discovered in all of this research?  What’s the funniest?  Which one would you most like to see happen?

I was pretty amazed at some of the content written by Edward Page Mitchell. For example, he wrote about a time machine before H.G. Wells!  He also wrote about themes like invisibility.  While these things aren’t actually around today, who knows?  Maybe we will see invisibility and time machines in the not so distant future!

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?

We’ve already posted 7 updates which inform our backers of the progress we are making.  While we are running our Kickstarter, we are also gaining momentum on the film itself.  For example, we just informed our backers of a bunch of amazing people we lined up to interview in the documentary including directors, producers and VFX people on some of today’s hottest movies and television shows!  We also are keeping our backers informed of the various press coverage we are getting for our campaign.  We really want the people supporting us to be part of the process.

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?

So far we’ve gotten articles on a variety of film and science fiction blogs.  We’ve also gotten some really nice support throughout the Steampunk community’s blogs and websites.  We have a pretty active Facebook fan page at and we use several Twitter accounts to promote the project including HDFEST’s (@ HDFEST), mine (@MisforMarisa) and the film’s (@CitiesintheSky.)  We also have been doing a lot of mailing list work to our HDFEST supporters.

Do you think launching your Kickstarter in December during the holiday season was a good thing?  I know you set a nice long timetable but how much time is lost due to the general public being distracted?

Well, we were hoping that there would be less projects to compete with in December. And we were hoping people would be surfing Kickstarter since during their time off from work!  However, it really did turn out to be a slow month.  We’ve picked up some major momentum now that it is January.

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

I would say to make sure that you have a firm marketing strategy in place before you start.  Prepare all emails and correspondence that you plan to send. Get very proactive and organize in advance.  You won’t want to spend time doing all of these things once your campaign is running.  

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

Thanks again so much for having us!  We really do believe that we are putting together a documentary that is unlike anything anyone has really seen before.  Not only is the content extremely original and even mindblowing, but also we will be working with many talented artists and animators as well.  The audience will not only discover the work from these visionary writers, but also see amazing work from talented artists at the same time.  So watching this film really will be a very cool experience.  We hope we can get the word out to all the people out there who will help us make that happen.

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

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