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Crowd-funding: The Future of Indie Film?

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Aspiring filmmakers have always struggled to find a way to get their projects made, from racking-up credit card bills to persuading investors that their film is the next Paranormal Activity. When that film is only 10 minutes long, it's especially hard. Just ask NYC-based filmmaker Jim McMahon:

"I'm a filmmaker at heart, but there are days when I wish I'd been born with a passion for writing instead. All I'd need is my laptop and a table at Starbucks," he said, perhaps only half-joking.

Jim didn't initially set out to be a filmmaker. He enrolled at the University of Montana thinking he'd be a veterinarian, but instead spent the winter snowboarding and the summer hanging at the local river. It wasn't long before his grades suffered and he was forced to leave school. Unsure of what to do, he joined the Army National Guard. "Basic training was every bit as hard as it looks, and I regretted my enlistment immediately. But, I must admit, the structured regiment made me get my life together. Also, I learned how to survive the apocalypse."

After 16 weeks of basic training, he re-enrolled in school, changing his major to journalism, with an emphasis in radio/TV production. It was in his senior TV production class that a classmate told him about a film called Fight Club that had just opened at the local theater. He went to see it, and had an epiphany: "My mind was blown. I remember telling my classmate the next day 'Someone made that movie!' I guess I just hadn't ever thought about the fact that I could do that for a living. From that moment on, I was hooked."

Over the years, he's had a fair amount of success directing and producing. He wrote, directed and produced a horror flick in 2005 called Bloodshed and produced a gay-themed drama in 2008 called Ciao. He is now working on his next film, a short dramatic-comedy called Perfectly Normal. Says McMahon, "It's always insanely difficult to raise money for a film, but the short comedy genre is especially tough. If I were making a feature about over-sexed teen-aged vampires, I'd probably have more luck. Maybe."

So why make it? McMahon explained "I've already made a few small features on a shoestring budget. While those experiences were very rewarding, at this point in my career I want to make a small story that feels really big. I want to take people on a cinematic adventure, but I don't have a million bucks to do it!"

To help him organize and find funders, McMahon is raising money for his film using Kickstarter.com, a crowd-funding website designed for arts-driven projects. Crowd-funding is used for smaller passion projects for which it is typically difficult or impossible to acquire private investment.

Crowd-sourcing through Kickstarter, however, is not without its risks. A goal must be set prior to starting the campaign, and cannot be changed while it is under way. If the filmmaker fails to raise the targeted amount, they don't receive anything.

"I'm able to raise more money than if I hadn't used Kickstarter, but the stakes are high. It's all or nothing. If crowd-funding is the future of independent film, filmmakers should prepare themselves for non-stop waves of anxiety and glee." says McMahon.

The fundraising campaign ends April 1st, and McMahon is still seeking additional supporters. "We need all the help we can get, and no donation is too small when it comes to crowd-funding. If each person reading this gave $10, we'd hit our goal in no time."

To find out more about the project, visit Jim's Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/z4Kike

Also, here is a fundraising video produced by Jim and his producing partner: