We open our weekly focus on films currently in the trenches of film production with TILT, a film written by Julie Keck and Jessica King, to be directed by Phil Holbrook. TILT is currently raising money via a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign that ends August 6, 2010. The filmmakers’ innovation with said campaign, as well as their passion for their creative endeavor, convinced us here at Film Threat that they deserved a closer look. Director Phil and writers Julie and Jessica took the time to answer a battery of questions about their project, and here’s what they had to say…
Tell me about yourself: who are you, how long have you been making films?
JESSICA: Julie and I are Chicago-based writers/filmmakers, and we’ve been writing, directing, and producing our own films since 2001. Our early films (The GirlRods Series) were about a group of lovable but demented porn stars. We made those movies with and for our friends, and it wasn’t until 2008 that we decided to use the skills we’d honed to make films that we could actually show outside of our circle of pals. TILT director Phil Holbrook and cinematographer Jeremy Doyle (TILT’s Brainerd contingent) have made several shorts together, including Honest Work, which tickled us so much that we jumped at the chance to work with them.
JULIE: Ours is a filmmaking love story born on Twitter. About a year ago, Jessica and I started tweeting as @Kingisafink to see what all the fuss was about. Soon after we bumped into Phil in the Film Snobbery LIVE chat room. We immediately clicked and began a playful Twitter banter. By the Fall we’d submitted a couple of our short films to Phil’s EgoFest Film Festival, and in December, because Phil liked our shorts, he contacted us about writing TILT. We finally met Phil and Jeremy in person at EgoFest in February, and they were just as clever and fun as they’d seemed online, only taller.
What is TILT about?
JULIE: TILT explores what happens when a teeny, tiny town runs out of hiding places for its deep, dark secrets. The primary relationship is between an estranged father and daughter who never healed from the death of the wife/mother many years ago. After an extreme trauma, they discover what lengths they’ll go to to protect one another.
Where did the idea for TILT come from?
PHIL: About three years ago, I woke up panting from a nightmare, and I haven’t shaken it since. In December, I shared my idea with Julie and Jessica and asked them if they could write the script. They proceeded to created a whole universe populated with characters who seem at once familiar and surprising.
What is going to set TILT aside from other films in the thriller genre?
JESSICA: The aliens, mostly. Just kidding. I’ve always loved thrillers, but there’s a tendency nowadays for thrillers to rely too much on surprise and action over suspense and tension. Julie and I wanted to counter that trend by creating a thriller rich in character development and relationship issues, but this is no namby-pamby family drama. When Phil presented his nightmare to us, we immediately honed in on the basic, primal fear that frightened him awake, that terror associated with not being able to protect your children (or those you love) from harm. In this paranoid and over-protective state, everyone becomes the enemy and all relationships are suspect. This becomes a truly unique problem when you live in a very small town where you think you know everyone but start to wonder if you don’t.
Where are you filming?
PHIL: My hometown: Brainerd, MN. I’m extremely excited to be able to use both local businesses and landmarks in the making of this film. So far, people have been both open and generous. They got a little taste of notoriety when FARGO was set here in the ’90s, and I think Brainerd’s ready for a Hollywood comeback.
When do you start filming? How long do you intend to shoot?
PHIL: Primary shooting is scheduled for 9 days in September 2010.
Has the film already been cast? If so, who’s in it? If not, are you going for unknown actors, a big name, etc?
PHIL: Yes, the film is 99% cast, with most of the talent coming from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. You can visit our site and read all about them here: http://tiltthemovie.wordpress.com/tilt-the-cast.
In a perfect world, who would you cast given no limitations?
JULIE: Mark Ruffalo as Paul (the dad), Mia Wasikowska as Liz (the daughter), Annette Bening /Julianne Moore as the dead mom…no, wait…
JESSICA: I’d want a real father-daughter acting team, like Bruce and Laura Dern (circa a long time ago), or maybe Bruce and Rumer Willis.
PHIL: I have exactly the people I want to play these roles. I couldn’t picture anyone else.
What format/type of camera are you using for this film? Why’d you choose the one you did?
PHIL: We will be primarily using the Canon T2i. I have been really impressed by the look created by these new DSLRs, and we will have several to use. We also realize they have some limitations, so we do have another camera on standby for a couple scenes.
What problems/concerns do you already have or potentially foresee for the film?
PHIL: Obscurity. We want as many people to see our film as possible. Unfortunately, for an ultra-low budget film it can be difficult to get onto people’s movie radar. That’s why we have been doing everything we can to build an audience during all stages of the development and pre-production process and will continue to well after the release of the film. I really feel fortunate to be able to work with some highly creative people like Julie Keck and Jessica King to come up with ideas that spark interest in our film. They have been doing a tremendous job with not only screenwriting but in the role of Producers of Marketing and Distribution, a role originally developed by Jon Reiss and written about in his book, Think Outside The Box Office.
Why did you decide to crowdfund your film?
JULIE: The first time I went to London, a good friend of my father’s sent me a check for $30 with a note that said: “I’ve been to Europe both with money and without; I prefer with.” We’ve all made films with no budgets, and while we know it’s possible, it’s not ideal. We’re raising money so that, for once, we make choices based on quality rather than on thrift. Our budget for TILT is still extremely small, but meeting our fund-raising goal will give us $15,000 worth of freedom that, to us, will feel like a million bucks.
JESSICA: As for why we chose crowdfunding over a traditional investor model, we wanted to use the unique nature of crowdfunding to create a community around the film and build an audience. Under the traditional model, replicating the kind of exposure we’ve gotten over the course of our Kickstarter campaign could have doubled (or tripled) our budget. We know we still have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us in terms of marketing and promotion, but this gives us a great head start.
Do you have other financial resources or investors in place beyond the crowdfunding?
PHIL: At the moment, the only other investors are ourselves.
Why did you choose Kickstarter and not IndieGoGo or another crowdfunding solution?
PHIL: We’ve seen friends and colleagues use both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, and each one has great things to offer. We’d definitely consider using IndieGoGo for future projects, but what drew us to Kickstarter during this go-around was the great sense of community developed through Kickstarter projects. This concept has been discussed by successful filmmakers/film-funders like Gregory Bayne, Gary King, and David Branin. People really band together as a result of the All-or-Nothing concept: if you don’t meet your Kickstarter goal by your Kickstarter deadline, it’s over. You get nothing, nada, zip. We’ve seen some great projects fall short of their goal, so having our August 6th deadline looming has definitely lit a fire under us, pushed us out of our comfort zones, and impelled us to develop new and invaluable skills that will serve us not only in our current project but throughout our careers.
By the way, it’s not just the filmmakers who feel the pressure. We’ve seen firsthand that once people pledge to TILT, they get invested in the success of the campaign and start spreading the word and prodding their friends to contribute. Our friends and fans are our greatest asset, and we could not do this without them.
The other good thing about having a Kickstarter deadline: after a little over 6 weeks of constant fundraising for TILT, our families, friends, fans, and followers will get a break. It’s just like the PBS or NPR pledge drives – we’re humping to reach our goal, and after the deadline is over, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming. No endless pleas for money. No overstaying our welcome. We’ll get to focus our energies on making our movie and supporting our friends the way they’ve supported us through this campaign.
Where is the crowdfunded money going: production budget, travel expenses, post-production, etc?
PHIL: A large portion of our budget is going towards the food, travel, and lodging of the cast and crew. Most of them are not from Brainerd, so we want to be sure they are fed well and have a comfortable place to lay their heads at the end of each long shooting day. Some of this money is going towards lighting equipment, digital storage, costumes & props. The rest will go towards DVD production and marketing materials.
One of the coolest components of crowdfunding campaigns, for the investors/donators, is the list of different incentives that the investors/donators get depending on their investment/donation. What are some of your incentives? Specifically, what is TILTtheTown?
JESSICA: Depending on your level of contribution to TILT, you can get a more traditional incentive (copy of the DVD, walk-on role in the film, copy of the poster) OR you can opt for one of our more exciting and unique incentives.
Our favorite backer incentive is becoming a member of TILTtheTown. Backers who pledge $15 or more get a personal, fantastical biography lovingly crafted by Julie and myself. Backer bios mingle on the TILTtheTown map with TILT character bios and hints about the content of the film. One of the most exciting things is that the bios in TILTtheTown overlap with one another. For example: TILT Backer #43 Justin Hedges is the Home Owners Association president in TILTtheTown and a known garden gnome hater. His nemesis (TILTtheTown Mayor and Backer #22 Paul Barrett) loves garden gnomes and constantly thwarts Justin’s efforts to rid the town of them. To complicate things even further, we have two gnome manufacturers in TILTtheTown (Backer #56 Roko Belic & Backer #57 Tiffany Tate), as well as a romance brewing between Justin Hedges and Mayor Barrett’s TILTtheTown sister (Backer #71 Sarah Elizabeth Kath).
Yes – it gets a little complicated, and our brains are cramping from thinking about all of the possible character collisions, but this exercise has really gotten our creative juices flowing and created some great buzz about TILT. To catch up on the stories in TILTtheTown, you can explore the map we’ve created with Google Maps OR you can peruse our TILTtheTown storybook, a pdf with hyperlinks that highlight the connections between the backers’ characters. Both can be found here: (http://tiltthemovie.wordpress.com/tilt-the-town).
In real life, most of our TILT backers don’t know each other; however, since we’ve gotten TILTtheTown up and running, we’ve seen an amazing amount of playful interaction and networking as a result. It’s worth noting that each backer bio contains links to the backer’s twitter feed and/or website, creating opportunities for exploration outside of the fictional universe of TILTtheTown.
We’d also like to mention one other fun incentive we’re offering: at the $250+ level members of the TILT creative team will re-enact a scene from your favorite movie. Phil started us off with an amazing send-up of OFFICE SPACE; last week Julie and I did a scene from the most recent STAR TREK movie. Are they good? Hmmm… a better question would be, “Are they hilarious?” The answer to that is a resounding “Yes”.
If you do not hit your financial crowdfunding goal, what then? Do you still film the movie?
PHIL: What then? I hustle. My main concern is that the cast and crew are fed and taken care of while they are here. They are the people who are going to bring this thing to life. However, I don’t believe this will be an issue. The TILT backers are hands down the best supporters of any film project. Ever. So I know this Kickstarter campaign won’t be going down without a fight.
JESSICA: A realistic and desirable scenario would involve some film festival screenings both at home and abroad, though we are not counting on festival screenings for distribution. Instead we will make our own distribution efforts though places like The Film Courage Interactive, CineFist, The Annapolis Pretentious Film Society, and any other local film organizations that screen independent films. These are all groups that we’d like to screen with because they care deeply about micro-budget independent film and have made tremendous inroads in terms of cultivating dedicated and discerning film audiences. Further, we’re keeping our eye on filmmakers Zak Forsman, Gary King, and Gregory Bayne to see how they handle distributing their recent features. In addition to this sort of limited theatrical release, we will sell DVDs and there will be VOD and iTunes options as well.
Further, Phil will be working on his next film and Julie and I will be promoting our screen adaptation of Kevin Keck’s naughty memoir and working with the next independent filmmaker who wants to place his/her bets with us.
Why should someone give your production money? Why does TILT need to be made?
JESSICA: The ideal TILT contributor is someone who wants a little intelligence with their movie theater popcorn, someone who is tired of run-of-the-mill, formulaic movies, someone who likes our attitude and wants to see what it would look like splashed all over the big screen.
We’re making TILT first and foremost because we believe the story is worth telling. Isn’t that where every quality movie has to start? As far as the subject matter goes, everyone has a family, and we have yet to meet anyone who couldn’t go on ad nauseam about their kooky dad or insane cousin. The characters in TILT are wounded, complicated, and hopeful, people who remind you of yourself, your friends, your co-workers. We certainly aren’t putting TILT out there as a how-to guide on how to handle family stress – instead we want to share it in the hopes that you’ll watch it and say “Oh, yeah, I’ve felt like that” or “Whoa – I’d never have the nerve to do that but I like it.”
Much to our delight, TILT has slowly and sneakily become not only a true collaboration between some talented writers and filmmakers but a total interactive package. Right now we’re showing our creativity and dedication through the genesis (and upkeep) of TILTtheTown. We’re also interacting with our supporters in an up-close and personal way. Soon we’ll share a few shorts based on TILT side characters to give you a better idea of what we’re going to do in the feature. We’ve already started sharing our production journey through blog posts and behind the scenes videos; expect even more of that as production gets under way. After the movie’s shot, we’ll continue to promote and interact with audiences in the same personal and playful way we have all along whether it’s during screenings or online. There’s just something special about non-industry types making films. There’s no attitude – only the sincerest desire to make a film, which, we hope will provoke and excite audiences and create dialogue.
If you’d like to know more about TILT, or we didn’t ask all the questions you’ve got, go ahead and comment below or head over to the TILT Kickstarter 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 TILT.
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, FilmThreat.com 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.