"Show business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long dark plastic hallway where thieves, pimps and whores run free and most good men die like dogs! There is also a negative side."
This colorful quote (often attributed to Hunter S. Thompson) sums up the feelings of many creative writers, producers, and directors when describing their experience with the "closed shop" of the entertainment industry.
A new generation of creators has decided to bypass the gatekeepers of Hollywood by going directly to the people. Collectively, they intend on making their own path, and share a strong desire to win big, or die trying, by their own hand.
Enter 20-year-old Robert Kouba. Swiss born and educated, hungry, focused and ready to compete with the big boys. His first large project was The Rift, in 2012. Kouba raised $20,000 and set about demonstrating that "much can be accomplished with very little, if the timeless ingredients of story, character, plot, and respect for your audience are clear and present on the screen."
The Rift, a sci-fi rollercoaster ride mixing fiction and fact, tells the story of radar anomalies masking the movements of aliens with evil intent for earth. It immediately became a popular and critical success with more than 15 million downloads from the Internet, and became a huge hit in Japan. It gave Kouba the confidence to start work on his next venture.
This time Kouba has chosen Kickstarter, the world's largest crowdfunding platform for creative projects, as his source of capital. Motivated by positive feedback and press, Kouba said, "I think Kickstarter is the perfect platform for creative projects to find its audience."
There has been some controversy from recent crowdfunding efforts by well-known artist Zach Braff, as well as those for a Veronica Mars project. Connected and well-represented artists were never the intended beneficiary of Kickstarter. It was originally designed to help the small and independent artist.
Realistically, in today's environment, Kickstarter seems to be very democratic and its immediate market feedback is hard to ignore, when compared to the conventional pathway -- shopping your project from door to door -- down the dark plastic hallway of Hollywood.
What set Kouba's projects apart has been his ability to achieve enormous production value to advance his storytelling with the same sound and special effects that younger audiences demand and previously were only possible on massive production budgets.
To put this in perspective, Michael Bay is quoted as saying the cost of the original Transformers was "$150 million." Kouba wrote, produced and directed a Transformers fan trailer for $200, replicating very similar special effects and CGI.
So to the question: Will Kouba kickass with Kickstarter? He just might. In only four days he has already received pledges for half of his projected budget. (You can track the project by clicking here.) He has already secured financing to cover his post-production budget.
His new film is titled Aurora, a twisted robot love story where a young man awakens after 60 years of a coma, only to discover he is lost in a world, run by machines where the conditions of life are extremely bad from deprivation, oppression, and terror.
His intent is to make Auroa both character-driven as well as riveting visually, while using special effects and sound to compliment, vice replace the story telling like so many large studio productions.
So, between Kickstarter and the rapid advances in technology, the playing field has been leveled, and I predict we will soon see a blockbuster movie, conceived, produced and distributed by a new age of independent film professionals, untainted by the Hollywood experience, and creatively unfiltered by the studio and network experts of Hollywood.
This fresh and new competition may well set the conditions for more diversity, quality, and innovation in your entertainment choices -- coming soon to a theater near you.
Ken Robinson is a Terrorism and National Security expert, as well as a writer, and Producer in Beverly Hills, California.
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