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Students go online to fund films

Des Delgadillo
Copy Chief

The world of film is one of unbridled creativity and unlimited opportunity, with financial resources remaining the only finite piece to the cinematic puzzle.

But with the advent of crowd funding platforms, ambitious student filmmakers find themselves on a more level playing field than ever before.

“This is the best time to get into this industry that we’ve ever had,” said Scott Essman, adjunct professor of communications and content contributor for Visionary Media. “Yes, it’s still hard; yes, it’s still competitive; yes, it still requires money to do things well. But you have all these options now.”

Spurred on by the crowd funded success of their contemporaries, as well as several well-known indie success stories, senior broadcast TV majors Mckinley Pollock and Serena Ghazzawi saw website as a means to fund their coming-of-age comedy, “The Transformation.”

At the end of their 13-day funding period, the film had exceeded its goal of $1,500. But not before some anxiety.

“We only got, probably, a hundred dollars of donations within the first five days, which was scary because we had $1,500 to raise,” producer Ghazzawi said.

Senior broadcast TV major Kaitlin Hollingsworth saw a different trend of backing while funding her psychological thriller, “Hunting Shadows,” with more donor activity at the start and end of the 28-day funding period.

Hollingsworth and crew raised more than $2,000, a budget conducive to college filmmaking.

“College filmmaking is essentially teaching you how to make movies with the littlest amount of everything that you can,” said Hollingsworth, the film’s writer, director and co-producer. “We do try to keep everything as practical as possible.”

DIY ethics aside, the film students were also cognizant of Kickstarter’s industry-wide acceptance in recent years, a phenomenon that with every project bridges the gap between Hollywood and independent filmmakers.

“I know people like Zach Braff and Spike Lee have used Kickstarter,” Ghazzawi said. “It’s pretty cool how bigger Hollywood people are trying to infiltrate that independent scene.”

Kickstarter’s 2009 arrival on the scene has been a boon not just for filmmakers, but also for a flourishing community of film enthusiasts eager to push the next crop of artists to greener pastures.

“It’s just an interesting community of people you meet through a Kickstarter campaign,” Hollingsworth said. “You never thought you would meet these people, but they’re so supportive and helpful, donating money and giving insight.”

This camaraderie between filmmaker and film advocate underscores crowd funding’s positive impact on the arts.

“The power of the community is so strong,” said Pollock, writer and director for “The Transformation.” “Having something that people can rally for and be a part of is, I think, a really genius idea.”

But every promising avenue is bound to get overcrowded sooner or later. Essman, who previously launched a crowd funding campaign himself, offered some advice to young filmmakers for dealing with the increasingly saturated scene.

“You have to distinguish yourself somehow,” he said. “You need to be on Facebook actively. You need to have a presence on YouTube. That could really help propel a Kickstarter campaign.”

Des Delgadillo can be reached at

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