In 2009, Chicago filmmaker Marc Buhmann, frustrated with the lack of a one-stop-shop news outlet for fans of genre (horror, sci-fi, fantasy), got together with friends to do just that. Soon, they found themselves creating a web series themed around the experience.
Two years later, Buhmann has a new hope to bring "Genrefinity" into a third dimension: A full-length feature film expanding on the storyline of a FunnyOrDie.com web series, based loosely on the experience of creating a genre news website. Got it?
Because films aren't cheap to make, Buhmann has turned to the magic of the Internet, specifically to Kickstarter, to turn his film into a reality and support the costs of paying their cast and crew, renting equipment, purchasing location permits and insurance, plus promoting and distributing the film.
Continuing our brand new "Can They Kick It?" series featuring local experiments in creative crowdfunding, HuffPost Chicago spoke with Buhmann about his new film, which is set to begin production next spring.
HP: Tell me what inspired the original "Genrefinity" web series. How'd you arrive at the idea specifically to center it on a genre-focused web endeavor? It feels as though there might be at least some grain of autobiography to it.
MB: There is a very small amount of truth to the series. At the time, there were forums for horror, others for sci-fi and others for fantasy, but I never found a place that focused on all of them. So some friends and I tried to create a genre-related news site for our favorite genres. After half a year or so of not much activity, we thought it would be fun to create a web series based very loosely on our endeavors. It was to help promote the site as well as promote us as filmmakers.
(Scroll down to check out a preview of "Genrefinity: The Movie.")
And what inspired turning the series into a film?
The series was originally going to be seven episodes, and we were going to shoot it over the course of a year. But that plan fell apart as our personal lives got in the way, and then other projects came up for the actors. Everyone was really into the series but when you have only a handful of days each month when people are free, scheduling became a problem. So we wrapped up the series after episode 4 and made sure it actually ended, that we didn't leave it on any sort of cliffhanger. The characters set out to get their site up and they do just that.
When I started putting together the DVD for the series we managed to schedule time to do a commentary track. This was probably six months after we put out episode 4. While we talked for an hour it became clear we all missed working on the series, and that it had ended prematurely. The writer and I started talking about it and we decided we should do it as a feature film so that we weren't limited to 6-8 minutes per episode and could really flesh out these characters. And after working on the series I felt it was time to do something that was more challenging. My last feature film came out in 2006 and the time felt right for my feature follow-up.
What have been some of the biggest challenges of the filming process so far? How does it compare to filming the web series?
At the moment, as we're still trying to raise the money, the biggest challenge is keeping the energy up and promoting the project.
How has the Kickstarter campaign gone? I see that your goal is quite high compared to most other campaigns ($125,000). Are you optimistic you'll get to the finish line?
A lot of people said it was crazy to set the goal so high for this project. But the reason for this is very specific. My first feature was an ultra-low budget horror film. Everyone worked on it for free for 15 days, something we could afford at the time, being in our mid-twenties. That feature also felt rushed, and I want to make sure we take the time to make the film the best we can. Fifteen days is just too short a period to produce a high quality project, and it takes a toll on all those involved mentally.
One idea for raising the money was to do it in chunks: ask for money to just cover production, and then do another campaign to handle post. But what happens if we got the funding to shoot the project but nothing to complete it? I'd have either been left with sending all pledgers something that isn't finished, or not finishing the project at all. If the situation were reversed, where I'd pledged money to a feature and was promised something that never materialized, I'd be pissed. I want to make sure that everything is covered right up to replication of the DVD and Blu-ray as well as advertisement.
I see that you mention Kevin Smith in the film's description. Who are other comedians and writers that you feel inspired or influenced the film and original series?
Kevin Smith. Seth MacFarlane would be another person I'd say is our inspiration. Judd Apatow. Their sense of humor, the dialog and wit, are refreshing. They get away with a lot that was once taboo. They've all knocked down a lot of walls in what was deemed socially acceptable. Since "Genrefinity" will be self-distributed we can take that humor even farther as we don't have to worry about any other censor except ourselves.
Are most of the folks involved in the film also Chicago-based? What do you make about the reputation of Chicago's comedy scene nationally? (I'm thinking of some New York folks complaining about the news that The Onion will be moving all of its editorial team to Chicago.)
Most, if not all, the cast and crew will be from Chicago. This is where I live, and this is where the film will be shot, so from a budgetary standpoint it makes sense to hire Chicago people instead of flying people in and having to house them. And I think Chicago has a tremendous history of comedy. A lot of the SNL cast throughout the years have come from Chicago, as well as comedic actors.
Anything else you think is important for people to know about your film?
We plan on pushing the envelope of humor, something we're very excited to do. This is a great time to be a filmmaker who self-distributes because we can get away with more without the worry of censorship. Someone will always be offended or say that you, as the filmmakers, are being insensitive. If you offend easily that's not our problem. Our goal is to make you laugh, and I'm pretty sure everyone will be offended at least once during "Genrefinity." But that's okay because if we're making fun of everyone you're bound to be laughing at jokes that others find offensive.
With 17 days to go as of Friday, the "Genrefinity: The Movie" Kickstarter has raised just over $2,800 but still has some ways to go in order to make it to their fundraising goal of $125,000. Click here to help them get the rest of the way or here to learn more about the film.
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