Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Great JuntoBox Experiment

When you have a feature film in development, one of the hardest things to do is to find the financing.  Raising money for a short film is no easy feat--when you multiply the running time by a factor of five, the budget can easily balloon to a six or seven figure amount.

Even in this day and age of digital filmmaking, the cost to shoot a feature film of professional quality can get very expensive.  The shooting schedule for a feature is several weeks, and Post Production can also be a lengthy process.  Were it not for the fact that we all have bills to pay, we might be able to pull a feature off with a mirco budget, or for free.  The last time I was able to do that, I was a teenager living at home and didn't have to worry about rent or other expenses that us adults deal with every month.

Conventional wisdom has become topsy-turvy.  In the "old days", if you wanted to make a feature film, you had to approach studios or banks for the financing.  Without being a Hollywood Insider, you had very little chance of getting your movie made.  If you had a talent for writing, you might have been able to sell or option your script to a studio, who would then package it with big name stars, and if you were lucky, the movie would be made.  If you were very lucky, the film might even have become a hit.  But chances are, you would have been bought out by the studio.

Nowadays, it is entirely possible to use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise 100% of the funding for your film.  Assuming that your budget is low enough, and that you've calculated the cost of providing rewards to your backers, this could be the way to bring your dreams to reality.  But there's a downside...and that's the whole "asking for money" part.  Many film budgets are in the $200K to $2M range, which is very difficult to raise using crowdfunding sources.  Even now, it appears that only production companies and studios have the capital to make a feature film worthy of your local multiplex.

Until now.  Enter JuntoBox Films, a Santa Monica based indie studio started by actor/director Forest Whitaker, with the goal of supporting independent film.  Their method is through their website,  Here, users can register and post their film projects.  In order to be considered by the studio, they need to progress through 4 levels of social interaction and milestones to get to the coveted Level 5, where the JuntoBox chiefs review your project and decide whether or not to option it and try to have it become one of their greenlit films.

There's no asking folks for money.  Instead, you network with other filmmakers on the site, following and supporting each others' projects to rack up the required number of followers and star ratings that help you advance.  In addition, you need to provide the treatment, script, conceptual art, and pitch video to assist in drumming up your supporters.

To me, this is a win-win situation.  Of course, there might be sticking points in the option agreement, and even after reaching Level 5, there are still enough real obstacles that can still prevent your film from being greenlit, but I believe that the only way to really lose, is not to try.

So here's where I'm putting my "money" where my mouth is.  Check out our project "Cyber Fighter" here:  

 Our goal is to get 100 followers and 4-5 star ratings by August 1, 2013.  Unlike many of the other projects featured on JuntoBox Films, "Cyber Fighter" already has a complete script, treatment, and preliminary budget.  This film is further along than a lot of the other films featured on the site, so our goal is entirely realistic.

We've managed to get to Level 2 at the time of this posting, partially by following other projects and getting their creators' support.  But to reach the goal, we need to reach out to all our networks in order to attract followers.  100 followers and 4-5 star ratings will put us well over the minimum requirements set by the site designers and studio chiefs.  Here's where you can help.  We're asking you to do the following:

1. Click on the link above.

2. Register for free on JuntoBox Films.  For those of you in the entertainment industry, it's a great way for you to also network with other filmmakers.  Many projects are actively seeking casts and crew, and by completing your profile, you'll be able to also apply for various positions on other films.

3. Give us at least a 4 star rating.   One of the requirements for Level 4 is to have at least 80 4 star ratings.  I make it my policy to rate other projects I like with 4 stars, that way I'm also supporting my other fellow filmmakers.  I also reciprocate the support given to me by other members with projects.  We're not in competition against each other; ultimately it's JuntoBox that will decide what projects they want to option.  There's no race to the top--I believe that if you have a great concept, an awesome script, and a commercial project, they'll most likely want to option it.

4. Don't forget to also click on the "follow" button.   That way you will become a follower and will be able to track the progress.   We intend on opening up some cast and crew positions for you to be able to apply to in the near future as we refine the project on the site.  Stay tuned as we'll also be shooting a pitch video and perhaps a teaser trailer that will show proof of concept.

So that's it!  Our great JuntoBox Experiment.  Could this be the new paradigm for independent film?  I'm hoping so as it brings a kind of democratic process to the indie film industry.  Hope to see you there!

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