Saturday, January 29, 2011

Art, Film, Philosophy and Kickstarter

One of the issues that arises for small non-profits like ourselves, working to provide interesting arts programs for small towns, is that the cost of showing films is prohibitive for the small groups we are able to attract. To restate that: many non-profits break copyright law by renting a DVD and then projecting it to the public. The alternative is to pay hundreds of dollars for a single showing. If you can get 50 people to show up and pay between $5 and $10 each, you might cover the cost of the film, but you have to pay either way, and for many of those 50 they could probably just add the movie to their Netflix queue and not pay extra for it. It's an issue for us.

Luckily we've found an incredible alternative: Kickstarter. Dubbed "a new way to fund and follow creativity," Kickstarter helps artists of all kinds, but particularly filmmakers, authors and musicians, find the money they need to finish and distribute projects. I won't go into the details of how it works, since Kickstarter is a fairly popular deal now and you can learn all you want by visiting their site.

What we love about it, though, is not readily apparent from the basic funding explanation. It's this: when we become a backer of a film, we also open a conversation with the producers and directors of that film. In many cases (not all, but plenty) either permission for public showings is given as part of the backing, or a few emails back and forth are all it takes to negotiate some basic terms. Most of these movies don't have major distributors yet, so not only can we get a great deal on them, we are also showing fresh new films from talented emerging filmmakers to our small community. Win. win. win. win.

So this year we'll be showing a few films that you probably haven't seen before and won't find on Netflix quite yet. They are:

February 16: The Vanishing of the Bees, a full-length documentary narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page, follows two commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film also features organic beekeepers Gunther Hauk, Dee Lusby, food activist and author Michael Pollan and leading scientists on the case such as Dennis van Engelsdorp. Covering the global scope of this story in America, Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and Mother Earth.

February 23: The Farmer and the Horse, a feature-length documentary film that tells the story of young farmers in New Jersey with an anachronistic passion: farming with draft horses. Follow filmmaker Jared Flesher as he follows farmers Tom, Matt, and Aubrey out of the suburbs and back to the land. Way back.

Along with this, we're already planning for next year. We hope you can help back a currently active Kickstarter project focused on Haida Gwaii, "the islands at the edge of the world." This documentary focuses on the intersections of craft, myth and ecology. Fans of Robert Bringhurst will recognize the Haida as one of the great oral literatures of the world. $30 gets you a DVD and helps bring their world to ours.

Also, there are just three days left to get the final funding for Run Across Ethiopia, a documentary about the experience of musicians and runners as they sought to raise funds for a school in the impoverished coffee growing regions of Ethiopia. Last time I checked these guys only needed about $350 to meet their goal! We hope to show both of these films next winter, but they need your support to make that happen.

Happy Kickstarting!

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