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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Crowdfunding
By Gleb Osatinski
Currently, I’m crowdfunding on Kickstarter for The Quantified Self, an experimental story about a family that records and analyzes everything about themselves. It’s my third science-fiction film mainly because where I grew up science fiction represented hope for something better. Just twenty years ago I was a humble physics student at Kharkov State Polytechnic University in the former Soviet Union. When I came to the US I had to start from scratch like every immigrant. My first job was $4.75 an hour working at a hardware store on Coney Island. It took me 15 years to get a stable job in IT on Wall Street. It also took me 15 years to realize that I was moving away from myself. I felt depressed and confused. Having a job I didn’t like eroded me from inside and made me rather passive and ignorant about the world around me. Something was missing.
Ever since I was kid I’d loved still photography, movies and science fiction books. I remember stories of lost humanoids, of faceless masses that consumed planets, of travelers bound for some better society. I felt inspired by the films of Andrey Tarkovsky. His use of light and camera movement and his idea to reflect not on the protagonist himself but on his reaction to the world around him touched me. One concept he expressed through visuals is that people are just islands that float in space. I felt like an island. So, I pushed aside everything I’d worked for over 15 years and became a filmmaker.
When I started to work on this idea, I knew I needed a team but there was no money. So I began networking to meet the kind of talent I couldn’t really afford. I met my co-writer Danielle Ellen a year ago at a collaboration event that was generously set up by The Writers Guild of America, East. She also has a science background and when we spoke it was clear that we could evolve the story together. When we got to a good point with the screenplay, we knew we were ready for a producer. Again we had no budget but I had met a talented producer, Imoto Harney, at the Atlanta Film Festival when I traveled with my last two films, The House at the Edge of the Galaxy and Pisces of an Unconscious Mind. Imoto fell in love with the concept and decided to help us figure out how to move along.
Finding actors has been a separate challenge. At the Sarasota Film Festival I got to meet Maggie Fine (Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire) when Galaxy screened last spring. I gave her the script to read. In my mind she was perfect Clare Lozinski. Maggie read it and loved it as much as we do.
Next, were the kids. At some point in the writing process, one child became two and two became twins. Finding one child actor is hard enough; twins seemed like a good challenge for someone who wants to kill himself. I reached out to my network for leads but no one was the right age for the part. Finally, I posted ads in Backstage, on Casting Networks, Mandy, Craigslist and had a lot of unsuccessful auditions before I met the Ruley Twins – Charlotte and Madeline. But when they came to read they just were Daniela1 and Daniela2. Because the girls live in Massachusetts and I live in New York, we rehearse over Skype to save money. For the lead role of Lozinski, the father, we hope to raise enough money through our Kickstarter to hire the actor I have in mind for the role.
Which brings us back to the Kickstarter. Financing a film is always the toughest part for me. And I had huge reservations about crowdfunding for the third time. I thought, “Well okay, this is my third film and by now I’ve asked everyone I know for money. Twice.” We all worked to make the Kickstarter page as compelling as possible. We looked for sponsors and were lucky enough to find people who believed in us. We teamed up with Fandor for free one-month memberships, Classic Harbor Lines offered a cruise, The Charles Aidikoff Screening room gave us a screening time, and Safeheart supplied iOximeters—it was coming together.
Still I thought the whole thing would be a failure from day one. However, a lot of my friends, despite my fears, support the idea of me going and making yet another film. They saw the last two and want me to do more. It feels amazing because it seems that over time I’ve managed to build an awesome audience that supports my work. I’m humbled to have other filmmakers on the project who also share this belief. But we’ll need more than just us and our circle of friends to reach our goal this time.
I come out of this process thinking Tarkovsky was right, people are islands. But that doesn’t mean community is impossible. The most important thing for me as a director is to connect people through film. Because of where and when I grew up, I chose science fiction as my way of doing this because the genre constantly questions reality and provides the most humane answers. Yes, according to physics we do float in space quite literally, but when we sit in a dark room, film is the experience that connects us all.
Let’s make films and let’s connect islands through them.
(with Danielle Ellen)