Thursday, April 4, 2013

Advice from Seattle Filmmaker Aviva Peltin on Indiegogo, Making a Short Film, and More

Aviva Peltin
Recently I did a Q&A with 19-year old Seattle filmmaker Aviva Peltin, who co-produced and directed the wonderful short film Canna along with 22-year old Erin Bosetti

Aviva talked about her successful fundraising campaign on Indiegogo; what she'll do differently next time she makes a film, and how she managed to make a 20-minute movie for only $2500.

Q: What did you do to prepare for the Indiegogo campaign?
A: Before starting our Indiegogo campaign, Erin and I wanted to make sure we had a solid concept to pitch to our family and friends.

We made sure our script was complete and that the audition process was underway before we launched the campaign.We also had most of our crew lined up to assure potential sponsors that we were serious and passionate about this project.

Q: Your promo video is great! How long did it take to shoot and produce it?
A: Thank you!  Walter Dalton, my screenwriting teacher from Northwest Film Forum, was a huge motivator to turn Canna into a short, and I am so grateful for his guidance. He was the first actor to agree to be part of our short and having him be in our promotional video was exciting for us.

I think the most effective campaigns have a clip or trailer from the actual film, but since we were in pre-production when launching our campaign, we thought a promotional video explaining why we needed the money would suffice.

We spent a weekend making the promotional video, one day to shoot and one day to edit. Since we didn’t really expect strangers to donate to our campaign, we wanted to show our friends and family that we meant business.

I think the only way to get strangers to donate would be to release a clip of the film or release something visual that shows what the film will look like with enough financial backing.

Q: Why did you choose Indiegogo over Kickstarter?
A: Erin and I were totally new to filmmaking and had never made a short before, so we really had no idea if we’d get the financial support we needed.

Kickstarter is all or nothing --  filmmakers only get to keep all the money donated if they reach their original goal. Indiegogo allowed us to set a financial goal, but wouldn’t take away all the money if we didn’t reach our target.

However, in the future, I might consider doing a Kickstarter campaign instead.  I think people trust Kickstarter more and are more willing to donate on that platform.  Kickstarter is better known, and I’ve donated to more Kickstarter campaigns than Indiegogo.

Q: What kind of publicity did you do for your fundraising campaign?
A: Erin and I sent out emails to all our friends and family, asking them for support. We also posted regularly on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure people got so sick of us.

Q: Throughout the campaign, what did you do to keep interest going and encourage backers?
A: We continued to bother people throughout the campaign.  Once we finished casting and started rehearsing with our actors, we posted photos of our actors on Indiegogo to show that we were serious about this project.  We asked the actors and crew to help promote our campaign, too.

Q: Your budget was only $2500, is that right? How did you get so many talented cast and crew to volunteer?
A: Yes, that’s correct.  We were surprised and delighted to connect with so many enthusiastic actors and crew members. Erin and I didn’t know how many actors would show up to audition.

We auditioned over thirty people! We were absolutely shocked. We posted casting calls on filmmaking Facebook pages such as Seattle Filmmakers and Actors and The Filmmakers Matrix. We also posted casting calls on the Northwest Film Forum Callboard.

Additionally, we emailed local children theaters to find child actors. Holding auditions was extremely nerve-racking and difficult for us. I did not enjoy rejecting people – especially children. I felt so cruel, but came to realize that selecting the best talent is necessary to make a good short.  We chose actors who felt authentic to the characters we had created, and we’re so pleased with the casting.

Erin and I went to high school together, so we recruited some alumni to be crew members such as Johnny Valencia, our talented cinematographer and editor and Elizabeth Schiffler, our music director.  Scott Bowen, our sound engineer, contacted us through Craigslist and he turned out to be a great asset to our team.

Our crew came together so seamlessly.  People were so kind and just wanted to help, and we were incredibly appreciative and humbled.  I think Seattle is a really great city for filmmakers – people are down to earth, creative, and talented.

Q: How long did the whole process take you, from the moment you conceived of the film until the day you finished production?
A: I never would have imagined how many hours go into making a short.  Erin and I thought we’d meet once a week or so to write and start producing.  We were so wrong.  We met almost every day at various coffee shops throughout Seattle.  It felt like we were in filmmaking boot camp.

We started meeting regularly in September, held auditions in November, filmed in December, and completed editing and sound mixing by January 31st.  We’re still not done with the process, though.  We have to send all our sponsors the incentive gifts we promised them on Indiegogo.

Q: What was the best part about the filmmaking process?
A: Making this film was truly a dream come true for me.  I’ve always written short stories, but what’s amazing about filmmaking is that it’s collaborative. Creative writing is isolating.

I loved co-writing with Erin and then seeing the words we had written being performed by the actors and actresses we had chosen.  It was magical to see our concept evolve into a script and then seeing the footage for the first time.  I’ve never been more proud of a project.

Q: Will you do anything differently next time you make a film?
A: Yes, definitely.  Making Canna was such a learning experience. Although I’m happy we were able to create a longer film (Canna is almost twenty minutes), next time I would limit the short to five minutes.

Festivals have a much more difficult time programming longer shorts, and we didn’t realize that the length of Canna might hold us back from being accepted into festivals.

Q: Will you do anything differently next time you run a crowd funding campaign?
A:If I use Indiegogo or Kickstarter in the future, I want to try to attract not only family and friends to the campaign, but strangers as well.  Like I said before, I think releasing something to show sponsors what the short would look like would potentially attract new donors.

I also want to look into grants. I can’t keep bothering my friends and family for money.  I need to figure out other ways to finance my film projects. Any benefactors out there?

Q: You’re only 19 and your partner Erin is 22. Where did you learn the skills to be a director/producer at such a young age?
A: Before making this film, I had taken a screenwriting class and interned for a feature film called One Square Mile, but only had limited understanding of how to make a film.

Back in September, when Erin and I started this project, I started reading a helpful book called, How Not to Make a Short Film by Roberta Marie Munroe. Erin and I used to refer to it as “The Red Book That We Choose to Ignore,” but in the end, we took a lot of the advice Munroe offered.

 Honestly, we learned how to produce and write and direct as we moved forward with our project.  “Fake it ‘til you make it” was my motto.

Q:What’s next for the film Canna?
A:We’ve submitted it to a few film festivals, so we’re waiting to hear back from them.  Unfortunately, we weren’t accepted to NFFTY, the National Film Festival for Talented Youth under 22, which was our ultimate goal.

They received way too many longer films this year; perhaps, if Canna were shorter, we would have been accepted.  I’m still so proud of Canna, though, and I think it’s a great representation of the kind of work I want to pursue.

Canna is now on Youtube, so please check it out!  Here’s the link:

Q:What’s next for you as a filmmaker?
I just finished another internship for a feature film called Lucky Them, which was directed by local director Megan Griffiths.  I was the Product Placement Intern and had a really great experience.  I got to meet the writer who also helped produce Lucky Them, and meeting someone who has my dream job was thrilling for me.

I’m trying to set up my next film internship now.  I’m also currently working with a production company to try to sell a reality show concept I pitched to them last year.  They just completed a sizzle reel and will try to tell it to networks in the next couple of months. I really hope it sells.

I’m also working with some friends right now on another short.  We’re at the very beginning stages of planning, but I’m excited about that. I want to continue to write and produce shorts and I’d love to get into NFFTY. I’m also currently writing my first feature screenplay about an 18 year-old who skips higher education and joins a temp agency instead.

After taking two years off after high school to pursue film, I’ll be continuing my education in the fall.  I was just accepted to University of Washington and Seattle University!

My ultimate goal is to write and produce television shows and feature films, but I’m aware this industry is so difficult to break into.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Every artist was first an amateur.”  This quote is now my desktop background, and I read it every day. I can’t expect to make it professionally unless I work at it.  Think about it, even Spielberg was once an amateur.