1. Creator Q&A: The Scott and Kris Show

    Kris and Scott’s Scott and Kris Show by Vantage Point Productions

    Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz are no strangers to comedy. They’ve worked together on animated web series like PVP: The Series and Penny Arcade’s Blamimations, and they’re both veterans in the world of web comics. But in all this time, they’ve never created a show that was all about Kris and Scott. Naturally, they’ve remedied this by creating the Scott and Kris Show, a new comedic web series where they’ll be in front of the camera and taking their fans behind-the-scenes in what may or may not be their real lives.

    With 1,200+ backers and counting, Kris and Scott’s latest adventure is proof again that internet fan communities are a force to be reckoned with. Below, Kris, Scott, and Vantage Point Productions (a.k.a. VPP) answer a few semi-invasive questions about the show, and Scott has the last word on a little Kickstarter controversy he sparked way back in ‘09.

    What made you decide to bring this project to Kickstarter?

    VPP: We all really wanted to do a show, but none of us had the means to fund it ourselves. Robert Khoo [of Penny Arcade] had suggested we try Kickstarting it, and so we looked into it more and agreed it was worth a shot. The worst that could happen was we wouldn’t receive any funding and then we just wouldn’t do the show.

    You hit over 50% of your goal within 24 hours of launching — crazy! Did you expect this sort of reaction?

    Kris Straub: I never would have believed it. I still barely can. I kept imagining some asymptotic tapering-off of pledges where we never actually got anywhere near the goal. But we will land on it sometime in the next six hours (note: they’re actually way over that now), with 26 days left! The response from our audience has been profoundly humbling. Now the discussion shifts from “do we get to even do this” to “what can we do to make it incredible?”

    Absolutely loved the pilot episode! Was the idea all along that the pilot would also double as a pitch video for Kickstarter? How scripted was it vs. how much is this really just what happens when you follow Scott and Kris with cameras? 

    VPP: We specifically wanted to have a great pilot that would show the fans what an episode would look like and inspire them to give. As far as what is real and what is scripted….that is part of the fun of making the show. Keeping the audience guessing which parts are real and which are planned. Except Scott’s acupuncture boner. That was very real.

    Is Robert Khoo awesome or what?

    VPP: He is pretty Khool.

    A little over a year ago, Scott was a pretty outspoken skeptic of Kickstarter as a funding platform for comics projects. Now that he’s involved in a project himself, would he be willing to talk a little about what the experience has been like? Does he view Kickstarter differently now?

    Scott Kurtz: My concern was that webcomic creators were going to flood Kickstarter and abuse a system designed for helping independent creatives without any kind of reach at all. A comic author with an audience large enough to support book sales could take pre-orders via paypal. My concern was that a flood of webcomic creators asking for handouts was going to ruin some goodwill. 

    But since then I’ve learned that you can’t take pre-orders through paypal that don’t ship within 30 days. Which makes using pre-order money to print a book pretty much impossible. Given that, websites like Kickstarter really are the only place to raise money to fund any project more than 30 days out. So yes, my opinion on using Kickstarter to fund comics projects has changed.

    Also, I’m a known hypocrite.

  2. Creator Q&A: Kill Screen

    Journalist Jamin Brophy-Warren is the man behind Kill Screen, a new gaming publication recently funded on Kickstarter. Kill Screen aims to be more Paris Review than Game Pro by approaching video game writing as more than just a buyer’s guide. Jamin and his partners see gaming for what it is: a cultural phenomenon that’s genuinely unmatched in the entertainment space, where games can generate $3 billion worth of sales in just days, and an incredibly fertile ground for interactive art and new kinds of storytelling.

    Kill Screen has been getting some attention — Wired ran a very complimentary profile today in fact. Jamin’s background as a reporter for both the Wall Street Journal and Pitchfork — the only man alive who can make that claim — certainly helps, as does the fact that Kill Screen is tapping into something that’s been genuinely overlooked.

    Last week we sent Jamin some questions about his project. Read his responses below.

    So let’s start off with the biggie: I heard you quit a job as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal so you could run Kill Screen fulltime. Is this for real?

    Ha!  Well, sort of.  Earlier this year, I had dinner with Chris Dahlen and some other videogame writers and we all complained that something like Kill Screen (then a nameless, amorphous blob) didn’t exist.  We talked about doing something over the next few months, gathered the writers, convinced Tony Smyrski (our design guy) to jump on board, and put together a working draft.  But I couldn’t run something like this as a reporter for the Journal and I had been commuting back and forth from New Haven where my wife is a grad student.  The travel was killing me, so it seemed like a good time to launch something new personally and creatively.  I think about Kill Screen full-time, but since I have yet to monetize a penny for my thoughts, the venture only pays me in smug self-satisfaction.

    What’s been lacking in video game writing to date?

    There’s a big focus on immediacy.  Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with that, but writing on the web works best with speed and volume.  That’s not always conducive to thoughtful writing and reporting and larger publications are still skittish about videogame content on their pages.  They’ll do their one big game story a year (or two years) and then never return to the subject.  That’s pushed a lot of game writing in a similar direction.  To be clear, there’s plenty of good writing around the web and our hope is to combine some of the homegrown talent with folks with traditional print experience (like me).  But really, there’s a need for longer, exegetical, and confesional work on videogames, but not from a solely academic background.  So we’re treating this like a book and less like a magazine.  People will read things at length, provided it’s presented to them in a seductive manner.

    Can you cite some articles for us to check out that you feel handle writing about gaming well?

    Sure — here’s three. Tom Bissell (who wrote a piece for us) did an excellent profile on Cliff Bleszinski, the lead designer for the “Gears of War” franchise.  Daniel Radosh’s New York Times Magazine piece on Beatles Rock Band is phenomenal as well the Jason Fagone’s profile of Jason Rohrer.

    What role — if any — do you think Kickstarter should play in these worlds going forward?

    Well, to launch projects like ours!  But I think there are a wide variety of intersections between other mediums and videogames that have yet to be tapped.  Offworld had this great link to the work of a group called the Alaskan Miliary School.  They distill videogame sequences down a set of monochromatic squares, so the games are still recognizable, but only in the simplest fashion.  Projects like that could work well.  Videogame translation projects, such as the massive one for Mother 3/Earthbound 2 for NES, could find new life (and funding!) on Kickstarter.

    What are you playing now? And can you recommend a couple great iPhone games?

    Well, I started Borderlands with my little brother since I’m home for Thanksgiving.  Actually, my whole family is going to be going through the New Super Mario Bros. Wii.  It’s a yearly tradition — last year, it was Call of Duty: World at War.  My father is surprisingly adept at videogames which I discovered recently was intentional.  He called it “PlayStation Parenting.” 

    I hate to admit it, but I don’t have an iPhone.  I have a Touch that my wife uses, but I got hooked on the Blackberry while I was at the Journal.  I definitely think there’s some residual videogame bias for me.  I like the contour of buttons.  Sadly, Steve Jobs does not.

  3. Creator Q&A: 50 Characters

    We’ve all wanted to be somebody else for a day — who hasn’t?  — but the difference between us and actor Brent Rose is that he is actually doing it. In fact, Rose is being 50 other people as part of his creative project to make 50 short films based around 50 different characters (all played by himself) in as many weeks. It’s a marathon of creative energy, innovation and personal reinvention. How could we NOT be into this?

    Check out our Q&A with Brent below. Support his project here.

    Where did you come up with this idea?

    It was really born out of my frustration with being type-cast.  I got so tired of agents and casting directors telling me what they thought my “type” was.  If they saw me do one thing, then they would assume that that one thing is all I can do.  So partly it was to prove (to myself, and to them) that I have a wider range than I was being given credit for.  So, that’s where the concept came from.  It wasn’t until I was in a job that didn’t allow for any auditioning, though, that I finally decided to do it.  I get really depressed when I’m not working on my craft (acting and writing), so I had to give myself an outlet or I would have lost it.

    Any favorite characters that you’ve conceived so far? All-time favorite episode?

    There have been a lot of characters that I’d consider favorites.  Al Griffin (Al Griffin Goes Outside), Lon Zelig (the New Freedomland Dancers), Mike Pritchard (Classic), Ed Byron (Ed Byron’s Last Words), Geoff Boyle (Geoff Boyle’s Apology), and of course, my first character Brian Baumleiber.  I’ve got a bunch of favorite episodes, too, but my top three would probably be Al Griffin Goes OutsideClassic, and The New Freedomland Dancers

    What are you some upcoming characters you had in mind?

    I’ve got some ideas I’m really excited about, and I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll tell you that I’ve got a nose fetishist, a guy who had his larynx removed but has handled it in a very unique way, and a Christmas music video that’s going to be really funny.

    How have people’s responses to your use of Kickstarter been so far?

    Overall, really positive.  I’ve had a lot of emails from artists who didn’t know about it yet saying “What a great site!”, and I think a lot of them are starting to plot their own projects.  Truth be told, though, I have run into some people who are really leery of signing up at yet another website, and giving someone their credit card info, etc.  Some have hesitated, and even outright refused because they were so nervous about it, despite my assuring them that Kickstarter is 100% legit.  What can ya do?

    Your rewards are really wide-ranging and creative (presiding over people’s weddings! giving character-acting classes!) How did you come up with them? Any advice for other people looking to set-up creative/interesting rewards?

    I came up with them in a brainstorming session that lasted over a few days.  I just opened a blank document and wrote down everything I could think of that people might be interested in (in no particular order).  Then I went and looked at some successful projects and looked at their goals, to see if there were any ideas worth borrowing (which I’d highly recommend).  Once I had a lot of stuff in the list, then I started putting them in order, combining them, and assigning values to them.  It simplified the whole thing for me.

    Any closing thoughts?

    Well, of course, number one would be PLEASE PLEDGE!  I’ve only got until Friday night, and I’ve still got a looooooong way to go.  I would really appreciate your help.  After that, I’d just say be careful/realistic when setting your goal and timeline.  $10,000 in six weeks may have not been realistic, ultimately (though I know it’s still possible!), but I chose $10,000 because I think that’s what it will take to make the project as good as it can be, and I chose six weeks because I didn’t want to pause it for so long.  Hindsight being 20/20, I wish I’d given myself another few weeks, but that’s life, so this week I’m dedicating myself to finding creative solutions.  As of this writing my project is 42% funded, and has four days to go.  It’s an underdog affair, but it’s possible, and that’s what I need to focus on.  Fingers crossed, and thanks in advance to anyone who pledges!

  4. Creator Q&A: Blip Festival 2009

    Chipmusic has had a wildly successful history with Kickstarter. First there was Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis that received 432% of its goal and became one of the first Kickstarter success stories. Then there was Soundbytes 5, an ongoing project supporting the Melbourne-based Soundbytes chipmusic festival that has been equally as victorious. Both received the kind of momentous support from their backers that is representative of the ideal Kickstarter model in action: turning a community of dedicated fans and followers into patrons.

    Now it’s Mike Rosenthal’s turn to take up the Chipmusic crown with his project to fund New York’s Blip Festival 2009. The event, featuring live music, workshops, and video installations, has quickly become a focal point for the international chipmusic scene, with acts coming from all over the world to participate.  A third of the way to their goal — and with thirty days to go — Mike talked to us a bit about the festival, the music behind it, and how his project is going.

    You can stream live recordings of last year’s Blip Festival here and watch video footage here. To support the project, head over to their page

    Tell me about the festival! Where did the idea come from?

    Well, the idea for the festival came from a series of chiptune shows we were doing at my performance space The Tank (in New York) in late 2003-2005. I was the experimental music curator at that space and had become friends with Bit Shifter (Josh Davis) and Nullsleep (Jeremiah Johnson), who introduced me to this music they made with Gameboys that they called Chiptune music. We booked a lot of shows together and one day they said there were gonna be these 8 amazing Japanese chiptune performers coming to NYC for vacation and could we book a show? I said if they are all gonna be here, lets do a festival! So we did. It has taken off from there. 

    I’m personally interested in this re-appropriation of hardware for musical expression. It’s weirdly subversive and creative…these amazing composers, who could make awesome music on any instrumentation, are choosing to limit themselves in this unique way and really push boundries that they set for themselves…the endless variety of work that comes from that basic restriction I find fascinating. Plus the music is catchy and fun to dance to!

    Are you particularly excited for anything happening in this year’s festival?

    I’m excited to see Little-Scale (all the way from Australia) and to finally attend a Blip Festival after-party for the first time, mostly to see Random and Covox (two amazing Scandanavian chiptune artists) perform. We have an (informal/occasionally broken) rule to not repeat out-of-town performers year to year, just as a way to keep the line-up fresh and new. Having these two amazing guys play the after party is our way of getting to see them perform again without breaking our own rules (sneaky). 

    What’s been your most popular project reward so far?

    The cheapest ones of course! Though the $50 custom made visualist designed T-shirt is neck and neck with the $10 mp3 collection…

    How have people’s responses been to the use of Kickstarter as a funding tool for the festival?

    Actually, people have been pretty excited about it. This is a community in which everyone really supports each other. It’s a fringe art in a lot of ways, and sticking together has been an amazing way to make close friends. People see Blip Festival as THEIR festival, so people are rallying, which is awesome. 

    Any closing thoughts?

    I just wanted to say that Kickstarter is a fantastic idea for niche markets and independent artists and I think you will find a lot of great success with tapping into these types of communities. Good luck!

  5. Creator Q&A: The Masters

    Photography projects have been very successful on Kickstarter thus far — from Laura Kicey’s trip to Iceland to a Colorado ghost town to a cross-country road trip we’ve seen backers respond strongly. Their success supports a point we tout as being so important on Kickstarter: interesting rewards with a built-in story element. With a photography project, these rewards are just layers of stories: the story of the project, the story of the photographer capturing the image, and the story of the image itself. Many possibilities.

    It should be little surprise, then, that the highest-grossing Kickstarter project so far is a photography project. Masters, by George Del Barrio and the Vanderbilt Republic Foundation, has raised $38,000 of its $50,000 goal to date, with five days to go. If funding is successful, the creators will use the money to fly a team to Cambodia and take portraits of the Cambodian “Masters” — the elderly Cambodian musicians whose knowledge, traditions, and history is dying off with them.

    "Masters" seeks to preserve that history and those men by preserving and documenting their legacy. We sent George some questions about his project, and our exchange is below. To support this project, follow this link.

    Tell us about your project and your background.

    Happily. “Masters" is the maiden voyage of the Vanderbilt Republic Foundation, —a pro-bono creative agency that partners with Arts/Culture/Human Justice non-profits to spur the realization of their mission. Right now, we’re allied with Cambodian Living Arts. They work to foster the contemporary expression of traditional Khmer performing arts, repairing the profound cultural damage wrought during the brutal Khmer Rouge years. The CLA connects the few performing arts Masters that survived the genocide with the next generation of students, and this work is crucial: in Cambodia, all arts teaching is done orally, as in ancient times. When a Master dies, their knowledge goes with them, and that knowledge can itself extend backwards in time by centuries.

    The CLA has the vision that by the year 2020, the arts can become Cambodia’s international identity (not the killing fields), and this is what really caught our attention. We want to get them there, and in the process, construct a new iconography. One radiant with hope.

    We’ll spend a month in Cambodia, shooting the Masters, their students, their art form and the incredible world they inhabit, all using a large-format film-based process and commercial thinking/standards. This approach, partnered with the planned life-sized traveling exhibition, will allow us to fully communicate the vibrancy of their individual stories and the universal truth of the renewal each Master/student embodies. The goal is nothing less than the creation a body of work so powerful that it can contribute to the assembly a new Cambodian reality, and this work will be given to the CLA to further their efforts for the next *decade.*

    As for me, I’m a Queens-born portrait photographer by profession, and have a 3.5 year-old son, Benjamin Más. The boy is my power source.

    How’s it going so far?

    We’ve so far raised more than any project in Kickstarter history. I don’t expect to hold that crown long (especially not with Obama’s designer hanging around here), and Kickstarter is itself still quite young, but it’s a hell of a thing. When we put “Masters” up, back in the beginning of August, the place was mainly a collection of music projects and individual efforts/adventures. A project that sought to effect international change and needed an eye-popping $50,000 to do it was a bit different. Still is, I suppose. But there’s simply no other way we could be in this excellent position, at this point, without Kickstarter. Traditional non-profit fundraising takes too long and is almost wholly reliant on pre-existing contacts. Being able to offer a compelling return on investment while appealing to a broad audience is, in 2009, the only way. And once we clear the lengthy process of obtaining 501(c)(3) status, we’ll be able to offer backers tax breaks in addition to rewards, next time—that’s when things will get very interesting.

    What’s been your most popular reward?

    That’s a tough one to answer, only because I look at the ratio of rewards reserved against the funding they’ve brought in. We’ve sold 25% of our $1,250+ reward, for example, for serious gain, but that’s only 5 pledges. 43 backers pledged at $75+ to attend our fundraiser, and that was a serious, serious success. But then I look at our brand-new $100 reward — the Fujiroid signed by both myself and the photograph’s subject (guaranteed to be one the Masters) — and we moved *seven* of those in a day without doing a thing to advertise them. My suspicion/hope is that we’ll sell those out. Once folks hear about what’s being offered at that level, they’ll see that the value presented is just off the charts.

    What’s your strategy for getting your project funded?

    We’ve been keeping our mailing list of 1,200+ informed and involved and been maintaining a steady stream of information throughout all the expected social networking spaces. In addition, we printed up some Kickstarter-specific promo cards, and have been leaving them everywhere. I’ve been posting updates to our backers as frequently as I can manage; they’re practically family. For all the VRF principals, it’s not been possible to have a conversation with any of us that didn’t circle back to the project, and Kickstarter, for two months. And the power of personal relationships is strong. When people look in your eyes and see conviction, they take that belief and spread it confidently on your behalf. We hosted a fundraiser that had all ticket sales go through Kickstarter, and at the event, had booths available for any additional on-site pledges. There’s our advisor, John Gruber, a quiet young man with a penchant for letters. He’s been periodically advocating and directing his audience to us, with great effect.

    And, finally there’s the “Friends of Cambodian Living Arts”. They’re so excited by the potential of our project that they’ve recently created a $20,000 challenge grant that’s working *right now* and doubles every dollar pledged on Kickstarter. They’ll match every pledge, and donate up to $20,000 towards the project *only* if we reach $50,000.
    But even with all this, there’s no room to let up. We’ve only gotten this far by making a full-time job of Kickstarting.

    What will you do with the money?

    Every penny goes towards the production expenses for the shoot, in Cambodia. $50,000 represents the unavoidable costs; the total cost of the production is higher, but we’ve secured strategic partnerships that will save us significant sums. Root Brooklyn, for example, is donating *all* the equipment needed for the shoot, for the entire month. That’s a gift worth about $63,000. In this fashion, we’re avoiding every expense we can. But to take a full crew to Cambodia, for a month, prepared to go anywhere required in-country for the shoot, with a full-time translator and local production crew involves some level of inevitable cost. A comparable commercial shoot, for the same length of time, with equivalent deliverables, would be a seven digit production. I say this with no exaggeration. Only a truly cohesive, creative, effective team could pull this off, and I can tell you that the past year has been the most profound team-building exercise of our lives. These days, I tend to think that Matthew, Dwayne and I can do anything.

    We’ll use the money to pour our hearts into effecting a lasting change for an entire country.

    Any closing thoughts?

    This place that we find ourselves in is a testament to the remarkable goodwill, support, advice, attention, and love we’ve received. We’re a miracle of collective creation, and as much as I want us to reach our goal for all the stated reasons, I often find myself thinking about what this project can mean to the people that truly believe in us. 2009 has been rough for everyone, and has hollowed out too many people I adore. Each instance weighs on me. To create something lasting for them amidst the wreckage…it would be a good fate.

  6. Creator Q&A: Borut

    The Unconcerned is the working title for the subject of this post, a video game set in Iran during the protests following the recent election. Quite the weighty subject matter. In the game, you play a couple looking for their daughter who has disappeared during the rioting.

    As Borut, the game’s developer, explains both in his pitch video and in our Q&A below, he is well-aware of the needed delicacy in making a game like this one. He is approaching this with complete earnestness, both in terms of the subject matter and the Kickstarter project itself.

    The project launched over the weekend and has raised over $1,200 so far, with a goal of $15,000 and 84 days to go. Rewards include the game itself, original artwork, and even having an in-game character modeled after a backer.

    We emailed with Borut about his project, its politics, and how indie game development can fit in with Kickstarter. To check out the project, click here. Here is our conversation:

    Can you tell us about your project?

    It’s a small game that’s set in Iran, during the riots and protests that followed the election this June. You play two characters, a husband and wife who are looking for their lost daughter.

    The gameplay will be a combination of solving puzzles and action. You’ll come across different types of people on the street while looking for your daughter, and they’ll react to you differently depending on what character you are at that moment (the father or the mother). You have to use these differences to get past obstacles like police or crowds, and get information from people that will help you find your daughter.

    A lot of people don’t think games can address such serious topics, but I think that not only can they address them, games can sometimes be the best way do so. Games can make people feel like in they’re in another place and another moment in time, to give them perspective on serious events like these.

    What was your thinking in *how* you decided to take on the task of creating a game around the Iranian elections? How are you handling the delicacy of the subject matter?

    That’s a great question - how I approach such a volatile and sensitive topic is definitely at the forefront of my mind as I’m working on the game. I think one of the keys to creating a successful story about such a serious topic (in any medium) is that the core of the work should deal with emotions that translate to any place and time. I think anyone who is a parent or whose friends are parents can at least in some way relate to the pain a parent would feel losing their child.

    There are a number of political issues I’d like to deal with in the game, but I think these will work best as subtext. By that I mean that your explicit goals as the player at any given moment don’t have to relate to the political situation. Instead, they will indirectly expose you to situations that encourage you to think about it more. For instance, one of the characters in the story is a police officer, and you will come across moments where police are being unnecessarily violent against protesters, as well as moments where they are the victims of violence (based on real events). By asking you as the player to deal with and resolve such situations, my hope is that you’ll ask yourself more about how such situations are created and what causes us to do such awful things to each other in such times.

    How I approach these topics is especially important early on in the game’s development, so I’ve been taking time to do research and am trying to be very careful designing the game’s mechanics. I’m a very strong believer that everything you decide to put in a game says something explicitly, whether you realize it or not. I’ve recently been designing the gameplay differences between the father and mother characters and I’ve been trying to avoid making those differences based on the physical nature of the two characters (like the father being capable of taking more damage during a fight). Differences like that play up the unequal nature of the sexes, and downplay what role society has in controlling that inequality. So I’m trying to make those gameplay differences consist more of how other characters *react* to you, based on which character you are. For instance, the types of actions that would cause a nearby police officer to become suspicious of you and stop you would be different if you’re playing the father or mother. Everything in the game has to go through that kind of analysis and thought process.

    I realize it is perhaps audacious for someone (especially, say, a white, middle class, U.S. citizen like me) to make a game, or any other piece of media, about such a different place and culture. But I also feel like this game really needs to be made, and I don’t see any else doing it - understanding people and trying to help them relate has always been a passion for me.

    What is your background? And what about your collaborators?

    I’ve been working in game development for about 9 years, doing programming and some game design.  After graduating from Georgia Tech in 1998, I did regular software programming for a little while and then eventually tried to create my own startup studio with a couple partners. That didn’t work out at the time, but it was an amazing learning experience. From there I went to work for Radical Entertainment, on a game based on the movie Scarface. Then I worked at Sony Online Entertainment on a PS3 launch title (Untold Legends). I’ve been at EA the past two and a half years, until I finally decided I had to get back to making my own games (while doing contract work on the side to help pay the bills). I’ve also taught game design at the Vancouver Film School, and have written about game development for a variety of books and websites.

    I’ve started working with a couple artists, Amanda Williams, who did some of the art for the popular iPhone game Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, and Alex Drummond, who also does concept art for the game Edge of Twilight (which is currently in production). I’ve got a friend who’s offered to help me with sound effects, but I haven’t reached the stage in the project where that’s necessary yet. I still have a lot to determine about the music for the game though, as to what kind of music and how much there will be.

    How does Kickstarter fit as an indie game funding model?

    I think it has the potential to work very well for certain size games. A small downloadable game’s budget can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand. I think at the moment it probably works best for games in the $1-25k range, but hopefully that amount will increase both as Kickstarter’s audience grows, and as the audience for indie games grows.

    What has your experience been so far?

    It’s been great - in the first day alone I raised $836 and after three days I’m at 8% of my goal, $1211 out of $15k. Even if the project doesn’t meet its funding goal, it’s incredibly empowering to know there’s people out there who believe in you and want to see the project succeed.

    How will you be keeping backers informed?

    I plan on doing regular updates on the game’s development process. I still have to figure just how much I’ll publish publicly, and what information I’ll keep for those backers who have pledged for exclusive behind the scenes access. To start, I will probably only do detailed development updates every 2-3 weeks, with smaller updates here and there. As the development ramps up, detailed updates will probably become more frequent, maybe once a week or so. I’ll probably include in-progress art as well as insight into what problems and approaches I’m taking in the game’s design and programming.

    How and where will the game be released?

    The game will be available for download on PC, and ideally for download on the Xbox as well. The Xbox has two channels for downloadable games, Xbox Live Arcade and Xbox Live Indie. It’s easier to publish something on the Indie channel, but it also restricts the price you can charge to $5 (whereas I think the typical price for a game of this size and depth is about $10). The Indie channel also doesn’t have as broad a market as the Arcade channel. As I get closer to finishing the game, I’ll have to figure out if it’s worth the effort to go through the longer approval process for the Xbox Live Arcade, which also depends on Microsoft’s interest in publishing it on that channel. Because of the political nature of the game, they may want to keep it on the Indie channel.

    As for the timeline of the game’s development, that’s still up in the air. Realistically, it’ll be at least 6 months of work, but it may take longer, even over a year. It depends partly on how successful the funding is via Kickstarter and how much of my time I can devote solely to developing the game.

    Are you consulting any Iranians or anyone who was in Tehran as you develop this?

    Absolutely - Right now I’m starting by just reaching out through my personal network. For instance I have a friend and ex-coworker whose parents are Iranian citizens and whose mother was actually in Iran this summer during some of the protests. I’m also hoping to make more contacts for additional interviews/research through the attention the project gets on Kickstarter - in fact while answering your questions I’ve already gotten an email from someone whose family is from Iran and who offered their support.

    Aside from that I’m doing a lot of other research, reading about both the politics and culture of Iran. I would like to travel to Tehran myself, but I’m not yet sure how feasible that is.

    Any closing thoughts?

    I’m hopeful that indie game-playing community is open to both this kind of game and this kind of method of funding games. Part of the challenge is definitely figuring out how to get the word out there yourself, but Kickstarter is a really cool service and it has a lot of potential for indie game development. I’m excited to have my project on the site and to see how the site develops and grows over time as you open it up to more people. Thanks to you, and thanks to all my backers!

  7. Creator Q&A: April Smith

    Last night, one of our most popular projects for quite a while now came to a close: April Smith’s quest to make a new record. Led by an excellent pitch video that several projects have imitated, the project racked up over $13,000 during its run.

    April was very creative with her project. She set several mini-goals: help me hit this threshold by Friday and everyone gets a free song, that kind of thing. And it always worked for her. Perhaps most inventively, recently April tweeted that the next three pledges would automatically get bumped up a reward tier: even if you only dropped $50, the $100 tier would be yours. Smart.

    While her Kickstarter project was ongoing, April had an incredible run of big shows and attention. She played Lollapallooza this year (and Rolling Stone loved it). Billboard did a video interview with her. She’s played some big headlining shows in New York. The timing of Kickstarter’s launch and April’s ascendancy couldn’t have been synchronized better.

    We sent April a few questions last night about her project. We’d like to congratulate her on her success

    Please tell us about your project and background.

    My Kickstarter project was a fundraiser to make my next album. Basically, I wanted to make a really great album without a label. I knew I’d have to pay for the production, studios and musicians myself. So I figured out a reasonable goal that would help me make the album I wanted to, the way I wanted to. I set my goal at $10K, and then I launched. When my project was over, I raised $13,100! So I guess 13 is my new lucky number.

    Did you have a strategy with your project?

    I handed out flyers at every show we played, tweeted about my Kickstarter project a bunch and I posted updates on Kickstarter too. I would blog on my website and always mention my project on radio and in interviews. I just tried to get the word out to as many people possible. My fans and friends were really instrumental too. I’d tweet about it and then they’d all retweet… I could never have done it on my own.

    What was your most popular reward?

    The $50 level was my most popular. My fans get a signed physical copy of the album a week before it’s released, an April Smith T-shirt, a digital copy of the album before it comes out, their name and link on my website, a free download of “Terrible Things,” and exclusive video updates from the studio.

    Did anything surprise you?

    Even though I know, and have always known, how wonderful my fans and supporters are, I was overwhelmed by their generosity. They were always retweeting about my project, telling their friends and spreading the word any way they could. Giving their time and helping me promote was just as valuable as a pledge.

    What advice would you give a new project creator?

    Use all of your social networking tools! Twitter, Facebook and Myspace were great for me. Send emails to your fans and keep them updated.

    Any closing thoughts?

    Kickstarter was truly a blast… I realized that I have the best fans I could hope for! I’m definitely going to donate to other Kickstarter projects too. I promised my invites to some other talented people so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with their projects.

  8. Emily Richmond’s Solo Circumnavigation

    From the moment we first laid eyes on it, Emily Richmond’s Let’s Sail Around the World has captured our imagination. It’s pure adventure, it’s whimsical, and it has a fairy tale quality to it, too. Here is Emily, this 24-year-old girl from LA, planning a two-year solo voyage around the world that will take her to six continents and three oceans. As Emily points out below, “more people have, in fact, been into space than have sailed around the world alone.” Incredible.

    Emily needs help to make her trip. She has six days to raise about $5,000 — a tight squeeze. We asked Emily to tell us more about her and her project, and she responded with a delightful series of ancedotes that includes just randomly chilling with the King and Queen of Spain on one of her previous journeys. When Emily sets out to do something, she comes back with a story to tell.

    And it’s the story of this project that’s hooked us. I was Emily’s very first backer ($15 for a Polaroid taken at some point during the trip; I cannot wait to open the creased, world-traveled envelope!), and I’ve been following along through projects updates and her website ever since. If her project is successful, I can’t imagine what the next two years of her tale will have in store. Something amazing, to be sure.

    To support Emily’s project, visit it here.

    Tell us about you and your project.

    Well, simply, I’m trying to sail a little boat all the way around the planet. LA to LA, via 6 continents and 3 oceans. Me - I’m just trying to live a life a little less ordinary. I really like meeting people, discovering new places, and having my insides good and stirred up. Sailing Around The World is all of that.

    When did you first decide you wanted to sail around the world?

    I’ve been harboring the ambition for just over 4 years now - long before I really knew much about sailing at all. I had just moved aboard my first houseboat and a neighbor/friend of mine made the mistake of giving me Tania Aebi’s book Maiden Voyage, an account of her circumnavigation aboard a 26 ft boat in the ’80s. When Tania embarked on her voyage she was just an 18-year-old street punk who worked as a bicycle messenger. She hadn’t spent a lifetime preparing for the journey and even admitted she didn’t really know how to sail before she left. That said, the fact that she accomplished something so phenomenal (more people have, in fact, been into space than have sailed around the world alone) is a huge testament to how far a dream can take you. I guess, the spirit and iconography of that book have never really left me.

    What’s the longest you’ve sailed before?

    The longest distance I’ve sailed was a trip I did a couple years ago from Los Angeles down to southern Costa Rica. I spent about 9 months in and out of the Pacific ports of Central America. The longest consecutive amount of time I’ve ever spent - as in one leg - was 8 days. It was one of the hardest passages I’ve ever done and I did that one alone. I had to cross through the Gulf of Tehuantepec (famous for it’s brutality) in a boat really much too small and light for the sort of seas and winds experienced. I was doing that trip with no real electronic aids (save for a small handheld GPS) so I really never slept more than a handful of minutes at a time. It really felt like I had reached some new level of exhaustion I didn’t even know existed.

    But somehow the universe always seems to pay you back; the next port was one of the most interesting experiences of the trip: my and another sailor/friend’s arrival serendipitously coincided with a visit by some foreign dignitaries who were keen on our wacky adventures aboard our boats. We were personally invited by the ex-President of El Salvador to join him and his guests, the King and Queen of Spain (!!), for a private concert by a 16 piece mariachi band he had flown in especially for the evening. It was surreal to say the least — me, a friend, and a few world political figures all gathered together at river’s edge in a tucked away corner of the planet, chatting about how great it is to take the unbeaten path.

    What are you most excited about?

    WHAT AM I NOT EXCITED ABOUT!?! I want to paint my face and do tribal dances, I wanna roam forests and learn about natural healing. I wanna snap photos and swim with fish. I want to learn and give, grow wiser and kinder.

    How will you be keeping backers updated?

    I’ll be blogging, podcasting, and shooting video updates. I have a site up now at www.bobbieroundstheworld.com where you can begin following the trip even in the prep stages. Once at sea, I’ll have email connections via SSB radio and will be sending in my blog updates while underway. At each port stopover I’ll be doing the larger, more multi-media updating. Everything you could want to know will be online!

    What’s been your most popular reward so far?

    The most popular so far has definitely been the $15 dollar level — get a polaroid picture from the trip. It makes sense, it’s relatively affordable but gives you a real sense of connectedness to the trip. Because they’re going to be one-of-a-kind, it’s a way to essentially sponsor a specific time and place… it’s like you get to say, “What was happening when this photo was taken is mine, I made this happen.”

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    Oh, just how in love with Kickstarter I am… I really can’t say enough good things about it! To me it’s like a little dream machine, a platform for you to express your ideas and see them nourished by peers. It’s an example of all that’s right and good about technology. It’s a place where you can cast your vote with usable dollars, stand in solidarity with creatives and innovators and say, “I think what you’re doing is good.” And to me that’s just really cool.

  9. Creator Q&A: Mr. Dream

    Mr. Dream are a band from Brooklyn who are raising money for a new EP. The band’s good rewards and strong effort have not only made their $3,000 goal reachable (they’ve raised $2,600 with a week to go), but it’s made their project more interesting as well. Take a look at these:

    Not the normal rewards you see for a music project: an essay by a New Yorker cartoonist, a reward from the Colbert Report writer, and a lifetime show pass that’s way cheaper than a Rocket From the Crypt tattoo. These media rewards are helped by Nick Sylvester, a well-known Colbert Report writer and music journalist who is also the band’s drummer. (The project’s excellent pitch video hints at Colbert’s “The Word” segment.)

    Of course not every project has the connections for rewards like these. But what these offers illustrate — and I should include Earl’s gumbo, Emily’s postcard, and LaPorte’s song here too — is that rewards can have only a cursory relationship to the actual project, especially if they highlight another part of the story.

    Because project creators get to sculpt their own offer from top to bottom, there’s the option to commodify whatever you choose: you can be a painter and offer cookies, you can be an explorer and hand-knit scarves, anything that someone might want. And in many cases, there’s a real benefit to moving outside of the natural wheelhouse: it broadens the appeal and can add to the story element, too.

    We sent Mr. Dream a few questions about their project and their rewards, and here is their response. You can visit their Kickstarter project here.

    Tell us about your project and your background.

    Our project is fairly straightforward: We are a punk-rock band, and we have it in our punk-rock-band heads that the first release should be a four-song seven-inch vinyl EP. The corollary to that is we don’t have the kind of money to put that one out ourselves. The catch-22 is we won’t find a label to back us without a legitimate recording. Outside of extreme maneuvering on next year’s tax returns, or outright theft, Kickstarter is the only way we’ll be able to put this record together.

    How’s it going so far?

    We’re thrilled. Shocked, really. Our friends have been generous in a way we never expected. A large part of this — not to sell ourselves short but still — part of this is that people want to see something like a Kickstarter campaign *work*. The campaign runs on optimism, and optimism runs on positive feedback. It’s been heartwarming to see the number and level of contribution increase as our campaign faces down its last few days.

    What’s been your most popular reward?

    The $100 incentive has been popular. You get the seven-inch record, the MP3s, the digital bonus track, the exclusive liner notes written by New Yorker cartoonist Zach Kanin, and an 8x10 photo print by cover artist Rob Dubbin, who daylights as a writer for the Colbert Report. Additionally — and I admit this is probably only interesting if you have a lot of time and/or our band gets massively popular and inspires cult-like devotion — you also get every single one-mic demo recording of the five final songs. So you can hear the evolution of the songs — some of them over the course of a year — which parts were added, how the melodies and rhythms changed, and so on.

    What’s your strategy for getting your project funded?

    There were a few emails to friends, some twittering (mrdreamnyc), some posts on my blog Riffmarket. Matt, Adam, and I aren’t the greatest self-promoters, so we came up with roundabout ways to point people to the  campaign: a vanity URL that we left as our gchat away messages (http://mrdream.goestojail.com), a set of mini-moo business cards that we handed out at concerts. In what strikes me only now as a move reminiscent of the burglars in Home Alone, I left the cards at restaurants and in bathrooms on my way out too. Our most important and successful strategy though was playing really good live shows, and getting people to actually see us and like our music. “The only way you’ll be able to hear these songs is if you help us record them,” is the implication.

    What will you do with the money?

    The money pays for a 300-copy vinyl run of Mr. Dream Goes To Jail. A short version of what that entails is: In early August, we recorded the songs ourselves in our practice space in Brooklyn. Those songs, once mixed, we took to Joe Lambert for mastering. We’re thrilled we got to work with Joe. This year alone, he’s mastered Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, Black Dice’s Repo, Obits’ I Blame You, Deerhunter’s Microcastle, Yacht’s See Mystery Lights… Joe cuts the master lacquers of our record too, which, from what I understand, means he turns our sounds into a spiral of grooves that
    turntables read to re-produce our songs. The master lacquers are brittle though, which is why a company called Mastercraft plates them, and then these plates are sent down to A&R Records in Texas, who use them to press the vinyl copies of the record. This is to say nothing of packaging and artwork costs and, if there’s any money left over, a music video for “No Pressure.”

  10. Creator Q&A: Crossword Puzzles!

    Eric Berlin’s Crossword Puzzles! was an early Kickstarter success. And how could it not be? Berlin makes crosswords and puzzles for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among other esteemed establishments, and for a paltry $100 he offered to make people a completely custom crossword puzzle. As Berlin notes in our Q&A below, that’s quite the bargain. And we almost forgot about all-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings blogging about the project.

    Crossword Puzzles! ended on June 30, and on August 31 Berlin will be presenting the nine promised puzzles for the very first time. There’s even a grand prize!

    Nine crosswords, including a couple of nifty variety puzzles, all based on board games you know and love. Solve them all, figure out the final answer, and maybe you’ll win yourself a juicy little prize.

    We’re thrilled that Berlin was able to put Kickstarter to good use and was able to create a non-traditional vehicle for his work in the process. Read on for some thoughts from Eric Berlin.

    Tell us about your project.

    It is a suite of nine interelated crossword puzzles. There is almost no market for such a thing — I can sell individual puzzles to newspapers, and I can make a whole book of crosswords and try to sell it to a publisher, but there is no way to sell a set of nine crosswords to any media outlet. Kickstarter let me market the product directly to crossword-loving consumers.

    How did you decide on your rewards?

    Impulsively. I have a couple of puzzle-filled mysteries for kids, so it seemed a natural to offer those as rewards. And what else could I offer big spenders but a custom made crossword? So that’s the direction I went.

    How many of your backers do you know personally?

    I’d guess about 20%, maybe a little more.

    Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

    I confirmed something that I suspected, which is that there is a good-sized audience out there seeking high-quality crosswords. I’m already trying to think of a new product to sell to this audience.

    What was unanticipated about the experience?

    I set the price of my topmost tier too low — I should have made it $150 instead of $100. I honestly didn’t think anybody would donate that much money, and six people did. I had to close out that tier.

    What, if anything, would you change about your project?

    Besides charging more for the top tier, nothing.

  11. Creator Q&A: LaPorte Indiana

    LaPorte, Indiana is a documentary film about a small town in Indiana told through formal portraits of the townspeople taken in the 1950s and ’60s that were later discovered (and turned into a book) by Jason Bitner, the cocreator of Found Magazine. Two years after Bitner’s photo book of 200-some images from the town was published, townspeople began idenitfying themselves in the anonymous photos, and stories began to leap from its pages.

    Jason has since teamed with an Emmy-nominated This American Life producer named Joe Beshenkovsky to make a documentary about the town and its population, and their Kickstarter project is raising money for its completion. The project has done very well: in the two days between me sending Jason a handful of questions about his in-progress project and his answers’ return, LaPorte has shot right past its $7500 goal and is closing in on $10,000.

    One area where this project really excels is rewards, which are all based on a “portrait” theme: backers can elect to have a song written about them, can have a professional portrait, and can even get a personal tour of LaPorte itself.

    We asked Jason Bitner about his rewards and some other topics as well. Read on for his responses.

    Tell us about your project and your background.

    A few years ago, I came across a stash of 18,000 portrait photos in the back room of a diner in Northwestern Indiana.  The photos were beautiful, and they documented thousands of townspeople from the 1950s and 60s.  I ended up making a book out of these images, and after the collection was published, I ended up meeting many of the people from the photos.

    The film will be a feature documentary about the town of LaPorte, Indiana.  We’ve done extensive interviews with many of the people found in these photos, and we’ll be weaving their stories together to get a sense of this small Midwestern town.

    How’s it going so far?

    Kickstarter has been a perfect vehicle for raising money.  We’d initially decided we wanted to have a community-funded approach, but I don’t have the skills to develop a good system for raising funds.  As soon as I’d heard about Kickstarter, I knew it would be the perfect approach.

    Our initial goal was to raise $7500; to date, we’re up to $9027, with a new goal of $12,000 by August 21st.  We’re hopeful we’ll make the new number— but more than anything we’re thrilled with the community of people who are becoming active supporters of the project.  We feel a ton of support and good will from everyone who donates, and we couldn’t be happier with the turnout.

    What’s been your most popular reward?

    People seem to gravitate toward the $100 reward.  I’m not sure if there’s a preference for round numbers, or if they’re excited to receive a copy of the book, two original photos and a thank you in the film credits.  We’re also surprised to have received six $500 pledges (very helpful!) as well as fifteen people who just wanted to donate funds, without asking for any reward in return.  Whether it’s $3 or $1000, we’re thrilled that people are helping out in any way they can.  Pretty awesome.

    So far, no one’s taken us up on the $2495 reward.  I’d be thrilled to provide a two-day tour of LaPorte for anyone interested, but so far, this one’s gone unclaimed.

    What’s your strategy for getting your project funded?

    I’m not sure that we have much of a strategy, other than giving people a chance to view a trailer of the film.  Director/editor Joe Beshenkovsky (along with our cinematographer Jeremy Gould) have made a beautiful video that can describe the project much better than my words can… if people watch the teaser, they’ll come to understand what the project is all about.

    What will you do with the money?

    Every dollar that we receive will go directly towards the production and post-production costs for our film.  Turns out that filmmaking is a pricey endeavor- but we’re enthusiastic about the film, and Joe is extremely devoted and hard-working, so we hope to have a rough cut finished in a couple months.  From there, we hope to screen it in a bunch of festivals, and see what happens…

    Any closing thoughts?

    We’re incredibly thankful for everyone who’s donated to the project, and incredibly thankful for Kickstarter.  This whole fundraising effort has put a lot of wind in our sails, and we’ll use that to help finish up our film.

  12. Creator Q&A: 365 Postcards

    (Note: That is not a drawing of Christian Bale. We asked.)

    We were charmed by Emily Grenader’s 365 Postcards from the second it hit Kickstarter. While the majority of the projects at the time originated from a place of need, Emily’s had more of a sense of whimsy. She wasn’t doing this because she had to, she was doing this because she could.

    The proposition is simple: for $5 get a homemade postcard in the mail at some point over the course of the next year. If you pay a little more, you can schedule your postcard’s arrival. The highest tier offered one postcard per day for a month (an option that I very nearly picked, and kinda wish that I had).

    It’s hard to quantify what’s so disarming about this project. Is it the simplicity? Is there some aura contained in a postcard, which is essentially a text message sent via post? Whatever it is, we often see eyes light up when we mention 365 Postcards in conversation, a little bit of childlike glee at its modest audacity.

    We’re looking forward to more projects like Emily’s (we’d put New York Makes a Book in the category of interactive art project, too). We’ve always viewed Kickstarter as an opportunity to flex those creative and passionate muscles that the nine-to-five seems custom built to atrophy.

    We sent Emily a few questions about her project, and here are her responses.

    Tell us about your project.

    I am creating and sending a postcard every day for a year to a backer, friend, or stranger.

    How did you decide on your rewards?

    I wanted to pay for the physical costs of my project. I did not include my time, but estimated how much I would need for supplies.

    How many of your backers do you know personally?

    I know 12 out of 53.

    How are you going to be updating people as you go along?

    I’ve been posting pictures once a week of the cards. [LINK]

    Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

    I was pleased to see that people from all over the world stumbled on my project.

  13. The Comeback Kids: Rvng’s Frkwys 12” Project

    Frkwys’ Excepter 12” project has been a personal favorite of ours because it combines three things that we love: deluxe vinyl, Excepter (a Brooklyn noise/psych band), and Throbbing Gristle (one of the most legendary industrial bands ever). The project’s first two backers were both Kickstarter staff, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting our copies ever since.

    There was only one problem, though: the project seemed like it was headed for failure. In its first six weeks, the project had mustered only about $600 in pledges — far short of its $2400 goal.

    But then yesterday happened.

    Out of nowhere, the project started gaining traction, getting more and more backers. By the end of the day, the project had surpassed its goal. After six weeks of very little action, how in the world did this project get funded in one measly day?

    We emailed Matt, the head of Rvng (the small Brooklyn label doing this release), and asked him what had happened. Here’s his response.

    How much money had you raised three days ago?

    We were a little over $600 and only 23 days out.

    How much money has your project raised now?

    We are at $2661 thanks to forty generous backers. Still taking pledges and thinking of offering an MP3 series subscription to the incentives.

    Can you tell us what happened in between?
    Simply put, we hit up our list of Rvng friends and fiends that have supported the label in the past with purchases through our web site. It’s not a massive list mostly because the same thousand loyalists buy out our limited pressings. A couple bloggers within that base helped champion the message and voila!

    How had you funded your records in the past?

    RVNG was founded with personal investments. The label is self-sufficient now, we just go out on an ambitious limb from time-to-time and realize we don’t have the proper cash to see a project through. Our eyes are bigger than our bank account.

    Anything else you wanna share?
    The Kickstarter experience has been interesting. Definitely learned fast it takes your own support base to really make a project take off. I can’t wait to launch another project that doesn’t necessarily promise a tangible trade off. Or at least one ambitious/far out enough that it absolutely depends on fundraising to become real/tangible.

    Well done, Rvng! And just for reference, here’s the email they sent to their mailing list:

    Rvng Friends & Fiends.

    While we’re still amidst the purple haze of the Purple Brain, we’re incredibly excited to announce Rvng’s first original release, the Excepter edition of our new FRKWYS 12” series.

    In typical Rvng fashion, add an E and a couple As to those consonants and you’ll see a play on the name of the legendary Folkways record label founded by Moses Asch in the late 40s to document sound and movement in music from around the world.

    Our FRKWYS (FREAKWAYS) 12” series pairs contemporary artists and their progenitors by way of remix, reinterpretation, and original collaboration. Like the Folkways releases, each installment in the FRKWYS series lives under a thematic banner (albeit sometimes loose) and explores a different facet of electronic music.

    The first release in the series features collaborations from NYC’s industrial pranksters Excepter with Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti of Throbbing Gristle and Chris & Cosey, JG Thirwell of Foetus and his many alter egos, and Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto. We’ve set the bar pretty high.

    Like the Rvng of the Nrds series, the devil is in the detail. We are housing these limited edition 12”s (900 / pressing) in seemingly simple but financially devastating package using classic tip-on style jackets wrapped in black leatherette and overlayed with Frkwys “family portraits”, creating a truly substantial and archival feel.

    We thought we’d try something a little different by championing Frkwys through Kickstarter, a fund raising platform for the arts. If you can’t afford the slightly higher 12” retail price offered at the $18.00 pledge (including shipping within the US, prices vary internationally), you can still offer a minimum pledge of $1.00. Pledge $5.00 and you’ll get the 320 kbps mp3s of the 12” + a pin and sticker. Whatever you contribute ensures the record will be released certainly and gloriously.

    Here’s the kicker (pun intended?), we’re offering a “one shot only” 100 subscriptions to the series through Kickstarter. This will get you the entire 10 part series + many bonuses along the way at an extremely discounted price. Once the subscriptions are sold and the Kickstarter project complete, we won’t offer them again.

    Btw, all 12”s + digital downloads pledged / purchased through Kickstarter will ship August 15th from our Brooklyn offices.

    We only have 24 days to hit our goal and we’re just seeing momentum, so please check out our project landing page here:


    There’s quite a bit more info about the series, so feel free to spread the word to your blogosphere, friends and family. As always, we appreciate your support dearly.

  14. Creator Q&A: Chris Schlarb

    Though politics somehow turned it into the worst word in the world last week, we’re big subscribers to empathy — especially when it comes to the projects that we love. We want to know who the person is, why they’re on their particular quest, what keeps them going, how we can help. As backers, it’s not so much that we’re looking for the right project as it is the right person. We want to support someone that we like.

    Sometimes you get lucky, though, and you get an awesome person and an awesome project in one fell swoop. And that’s certainly the case with We Scream: Voices From The Ice Cream Underground, a project by Chris Schlarb. This was the first time we had knowingly come across Chris, but after learning that his primary occupation was as a musician, his discography revealed a bunch of great records that have graced our iPods: stuff from the Castanets, My Brightest Diamond, Nels Cline, Sufjan Stevens, and I Heart Lung, among many others.

    Chris’ involvement with those records was primarily as an engineer and musician — the consummate background guy. (I Heart Lung is his band, but we’re conveniently forgetting that for the sake of good storytelling.) And so it’s even more exciting to see Chris and his wife Adriana step out with We Scream, a short documentary on ice cream truck drivers in Los Angeles. (For a great line about ice cream truck drivers go here.)

    The project is whimsical, a playful examination of an odd topic: just what is it really like to drive an ice cream truck all day? The project sought $2,000 and raised it with ease ($2,400), which is fortunate, as the fate of this project depended entirely on how it fared on Kickstarter, as Chris explained to us:

    I’ve had the idea for We Scream bouncing around in my brain for years. With all the composing and producing I do it was just something that I have been unable to devote more time to. I told myself, if we don’t raise the money, the project is not worth doing. Thankfully, we raised the money and, perhaps of equal importance, we began to get positive feedback on something that usually exists in a vacuum.

    We’re thrilled to have been of service.

    Tell us about your project.
    We Scream: Voices From The Ice Cream Underground is a documentary film project about ice cream truck drivers and paleteros (pedal cart drivers). Very simply, I wanted to learn more about this profession and its place in our neighborhoods. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard anything describing a day in the life of an ice cream truck driver. That is the short film that I want to make.

    How did you decide on your rewards?

    I checked out a few of the other Kickstarter projects and tried to set rewards that would encourage a large number of small donations rather than the other way around. Thankfully with this project there won’t be too much in the way of manufacturing and mailing. We will press up a limited edition of DVD’s and everyone else will receive a download of the film in HD or SD quality with a soundtrack.

    The larger donation slots were reserved for personal “Thank You’s” at the end of the film, invitations to our film premiere/ice cream social and four executive producer slots.

    How many of your backers do you know personally?
    I would say that just under two-thirds of the backers are people my wife and I know personally. The other one-third I have never had any previous contact with at all. Two of the four executive producers (who pledged the most) were people I had never been in touch with before.

    There is a parallel to playing music and touring: you are always thankful that friends and family come out to see you perform but when people outside that circle begin to support you, it adds a bit of electricity.

    How are you going to be updating people as you go along?
    I wanted to keep the update process free for anyone to see, not just backers. As we progress, we will be posting video, music and photos from the film. So far we have posted updates with photos and specific anecdotes about the process. This is my first directorial project and I am really learning about the ice cream underground as I go. I am just trying to communicate as much of that as possible.

    Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

    Definitely. The entire project is a learning process. I taught myself Final Cut in a few hours just to put the trailer together. Kickstarter was the perfect impetus to get this idea up and out. Once my wife and I shot the first few hours of footage and uploaded the trailer we started getting feedback immediately. Everything from subtitle suggestions (which we will be implementing) to aspect ratio schooling. You can literally see us learning as we go.

    What was unanticipated about the experience?
    I was surprised by the sincere enthusiasm for the project. I’ve had the idea for We Scream bouncing around in my brain for years. With all the composing and producing I do it was just something that I have been unable to devote more time to. I told myself, if we don’t raise the money, the project is not worth doing. Thankfully, we raised the money and, perhaps of equal importance, we began to get positive feedback on something that usually exists in a vacuum.

    What, if anything, would you change about your project?

    I wouldn’t change anything. So far it has been a little dream come true.

  15. Creator Q&A: Language Room

    There’s a Steve Martin quote that has been running through my mind the past couple of days, and it’s particularly applicable when it comes to Language Room, an Austin band who sought $10,000 to buy a RV so they could tour without “killing each other,” to quote the band itself. Steve Martin was talking about the art of comedy, and he said that it’s not the idea, it’s the commitment to the idea that matters.

    It’s really true. Every now and then we’ll have someone ask how they can protect themselves from someone else stealing their idea, and the answer is that you can’t, but it’s irrelevant. It’s rarely the idea itself that matters, it’s the execution of it, the devotion to it, the myopic commitment to its realization. People have been institutionalized for less, but it’s often what it takes.

    Which brings us back to Language Room. Over the course of their project, the band posted 25 project updates, the vast majority being exclusive to their backers. They have embraced the backer-only functionality more than any other project currently running, and it’s seemed to work well for them, especially as many of their updates are informal and spontaneous. You really get a feel for their lives as both musicians and people, and you can feel their story developing in front of you, from the claustrophobia of the road to a video of their mom playing an impromptu piano recital.

    There’s a Flickerstick quality to their story. (And +5 music nerd points if you got the reference.) And as you read our Q&A with the band below, you’ll be quickly struck by the same thing that nicely surprised us: they started out as total skeptics that Kickstarter would ever work for them. They just didn’t see how it could possibly happen. Ten large later, they have a different story to share. Here it is:

    Tell us about your project.
    I’m in a band here in Austin and all we’ve ever wanted to do is tour 
extensively and work our butts off to become a self-sustaining band. To 
this point we’ve never been able to stay out on the road longer than a 
couple weeks because four guys in a 4-Runner will kill each other if contained 
longer than that. We needed an RV. A friend of mine forwarded me a link to 
Kickstarter and I checked out the FAQ thinking, “What’s the catch?” I saw 
no catch and only amazing, goal-oriented people working to connect with 
those who wanted to help others. It was amazing. After my project idea was 
approved I was honestly still very skeptical but willing to try anything 
because that is what you do in an indie band, anything and everything. 
Well, it worked! I never would have thought we would have raised $10,000 on 
pledges in just over 3 weeks but we did and everyone who found the site for 
the first time raved about it to us. Great idea!

    How did you decide on your rewards?

    I looked at a couple other projects and the rewards they were offering and 
decided to try a few that pertained to our goal (the RV/copy of our album), 
a few funny ones (a rap by our drummer) and a few only we could offer 
(writing a song). I tried to keep it pretty simple but made sure people 
would feel it might be worth going to the next level of support for the 
higher incentive.

    How many of your backers do you know personally?

    I would guess about 1/2, give or take a couple. This number might actually 
be high though. It feels like there is a Kickstarter community that surfs 
the site looking for good causes to support. One guy in San Diego pledged 
$1000 to send us over our goal so that we would go out and play for him and 
his son. No idea who he is but we’re best friends now! :)

    How are you going to be updating people as you go along?

    I’m going to keep posting updates on our Kickstarter profile as long as I 
can. It’s so easy to do that it was fun for me. I usually do all the 
updating on all our sites for video, pics and things and it’s a pain dealing 
with formats and things but these guys got it down.

    Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

    I’ve learned that we really can do anything if we set our minds to it. I 
know it sounds cliche but if someone would have told me we would raise over 
$10,000 in less than four weeks I would have laughed but we did it. It has 
been so great to find such a wonderful community of people who are honestly 
and whole-heartedly working towards their goals and a surrounding community 
who want to help and be a part of those goals. I can’t wait to support 
another project myself now just to give back a little.

    What was unanticipated about the experience?
    The ease of use of the web site. It literally felt like everything I 
needed to get this goal reached and to contact my backers was right there at 
my fingertips. From charts to formatted emails I could customize for each 
level of backing to email notifications of new backers, comments and 
correspondence. It was just so well set up and easy to use.

    What, if anything, would you change about your project?
    I might have made each incentive level independent of the ones below it 
instead of including everything beneath each of the higher ones. It’s 
just a bit daunting now to combine them all and figure out what to send who, 
etc. That’s it.