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By Mark Bell | August 16, 2010

I’ve been a fan of animator Bill Plympton’s work for a very long time. I can remember a certain evening during my college stint where I unleashed an advanced VHS copy of I Married a Strange Person on my unsuspecting housemates only to watch their stunned and confused faces while I smiled and laughed like a madman. Before that, of course, there were the MTV spots, the various Plymptoons and The Tune and… if you’re reading this and still have no idea who I’m talking about, I can only say that you DO know who I’m talking about, you just don’t know that you know.

Bill Plympton and Film Threat\’s own Mark Bell at Slamdance 2003

One year at Sundance, I and Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish snuck into a Sundance party where I got to meet Bill Plympton for the first time (I think he had films at Sundance and Slamdance that year). I’d love to tell you some awkward story of Bill being gruff or dismissive, of Bill being some eccentric genius with the social skills of a rattlesnake but… he was gracious. He listened when I spoke, and he even remembered me when we met a couple more times over the course of the festivals (which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but spend time at enough film festivals and you know that you meet the same people over and over again, “for the first time”). When it comes to the field of animation, make mine Plympton (and Hertzfeldt).

I tell you all this so that understand that, when deciding what film to showcase this week, I absolutely had to go with this documentary project by Alexia Anastasio, Adventures in Plymptoons! because, as a fan, I want to see a documentary about Plympton done right (and, honestly, I’d like to just see a documentary about Plympton). Alexia was nice enough to answer my questions, so please enjoy this week’s “Certified Film Threat in Progress,” Adventures in Plymptoons!.

To start us off, Alexia, what background do you have in filmmaking?
I started experimenting in film about 11 years ago while attending SUNY Purchase. I made many short films some experimental narratives and documentaries. I started my own art, music and film festival, CAMP Festival. I have worked for other directors, festivals, distribution companies and even an independent cinema. I am a total film snob. I love going to film festivals and conventions. After working behind the scenes on many independent shorts and features, I edited a feature documentary, Vampira: The Movie and helped promote and sell the movie at horror conventions. I also sold my short films. I discovered that their was a profound connection between fan and filmmaker. I ended up making lots of friends. I have acted in many films including the most recent Supernaturalz, featured in HBO’s Bored to Death, VH1 “If you like…” commerical and Vetiver “Everyday” music video.

Have you tried crowdfunding before?
No, only sold my films through the usual channels. I feel like crowdfunding is for the fans. A chance to find something before it is even finished and become a part that process. I have heard from some of my backers that it is a great sense to be involved in a project and get stuff at the same time. It is about a community.

Bill Plympton in his studio…

While I can’t imagine that any Film Threat readers haven’t heard of Bill Plympton, pretend we don’t and let us know who he is and why you chose to make a documentary about him?
Bill Plympton is an independent artist. He doesn’t have to answer to any big studios. He is totally free to do his art anyway he likes. This is extremely rare. He is truly an independent spirit in every sense of the word. I chose to make a documentary about Bill Plympton because I admire that quality, passion and persistence. It is a very Peter Pan story. We all don’t want to grow up and we see that Bill didn’t have too. He decided, Nope. I am going to draw all day instead and travel the world and have people admire my films and laugh with me.

Beyond being a subject, has Bill Plympton been involved with the project in other ways? I noticed one of the crowdfunding incentives is an original drawing from Plympton, how jazzed is he to have this film made?
Yes, Bill is very involved in the project. I could have never made a documentary without his cooperation. We collaborated on many ideas. He really trusted me with the project.

Why did you decide to use crowdfunding for this project?
This film is really for the fans of his art and for people who are not fans yet and hopefully will be after they see the film. So it was a perfect way to be creative and have fun while promoting the project at the same time.

How did you come to select $10,000 as the goal for this project? What does this amount of money pay for?
Choosing the amount for a goal was probably the hardest part as that is not the priority of the film. The priority of the film is to have fun making it, promoting it, screening it and make people laugh. The money helps pay for the final stages of post production and the world tour so we can take the film to as many places as possible and encourage others that they can make art independently.

Why go with Kickstarter over IndieGoGo or other crowdsourcing options?
We are using both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. We raised some money and collected some friends with Indiegogo and each person that becomes a backer also becomes part of the team. It is a very family feel. We did a couple of fundraising events in NY which helped press wise and were a good excuse to celebrate the beginning of the film making process.

Why should people see, let alone fund, a documentary about Bill Plympton?
Inspiration is contagious. It is a good way to get involved and get your name in the credits of movie. In addition you can get some cool exclusive things which includes the DVD of film, Free Hugs T-shirt with infamous dog on it, an original drawing or even dinner with Bill Plympton for your die hard fans.

Are you still in production?
We are in post production, editing the film.

What horror stories have you and your production faced so far? Any major mishaps? Did Bill ever snap and slam a drawing pad over your head for being too nosey?

Bill Plympton and Alexia Anastasio on set…

The horror stories have been mostly from Bank of America, American Express and TD Bank. My biggest supporters. (chuckles)

Bill has been pretty patient and would really like to see the film done. Sometimes I think we might have gone too far but Bill would always have fun with us and he answered a lot of questions that I think most journalists in interviews don’t have time to ask nor are interested in. We had a session at the Woodstock Film Festival in the graveyard across the street where I had a whole bunch of existential questions. He was pretty open but it was tough to get him to break away from the answers he usually supplies.

If you do not hit your financial crowdfunding goal, what then?
We plan to hit our goal. There is no doubt that we won’t. I have been visualizing actually going over the goal. Just like I visualize a parking spot right in front of the cinema at the opening to the distribution deal that is going to come my way. There is no what then. This is what needs to happen for the next phase to go into effect and we will make friends and fans every step of the way.

What’s next for you and Adventures in Plymptoons!? What’s the plan for the rest of the year?
Next is I am going all narrative as I am working on a feature length script on faerie live action role-players entitled, “I Believe.”

For “Adventures in Plymptoons!” we send it to festivals, Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, SXSW, Cannes, Toronto and cross our fingers and toes. Then after it gets it big premiere some where we send it to independent cinemas. If we don’t get a deal, we book it ourselves. Many cinemas will show the film if Bill makes personal appearances.

What advice would you give to other filmmakers thinking of crowdfunding a documentary?
Do your homework. Create a Plan of Attack just like Peter Pan and just like Tinkerbell, Just Believe.

Before I launched my project I asked many of the people who had Kickstarter projects advice and tips. You need to give, give, give to receive.

Get your mailing list together, work on your YouTube content, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, what have you.

Don’t stay home and grumble. Go out and sparkle, but not like a vampire. Seriously, go out and have fun. Fund raising should be FUN! Don’t make it a drag.

Be as creative as possible with your perks and the ways you promote your project.

With mine, I want to hit my goal before my deadline so I put up a video that promises that if I make my goal by August 31st, 2010 I will GO HAWK!, Yes, I will shave my hair like Mr. T in a mohawk. I have never done this before. Stay tuned to my page as I will be making other important announcements along the way.

It’s simple. It is about having fun, which is my priority in life, if you are, it will shine through, no effort required.

Carpe Diem.

If you’d like to know more about Adventures in Plymptoons!, or we didn’t ask all the questions you’ve got, go ahead and comment below or head over to the Adventures in Plymptoons! Kickstarter page or IndieGoGo page and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at Alexia Anastasio’s Adventures in Plymptoons!.

DISCLAIMER: Donating or investing in a film is always a risky endeavor, so it is important to keep that in mind before deciding to get financially involved with any film project. Film Threat, and our parent company, Hamster Stampede, LLC hold no liability or responsibility regarding any of the projects showcased on our site, their content or performance or the content or performance of any of the sites linked to in this article. Our involvement with the featured project is strictly what you see here: we find a work-in-progress project that sounds interesting to us, we ask all the questions we’d like to know the answers to and then we share that information with you, the audience. This should not be considered as personalized investment advice. What happens after you read this is your decision, and, again, before parting with any money for any film, think it through and BE CAREFUL.

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