As young filmmakers lay siege to Hollywood and indie films gather steam against the studio system, the line between creators and consumers begins to blur. This can be a good thing, according to director/producer Kevin Hamedani and writer/director Max Borenstein. The men, both in their early 30s, have joined forces to crowdsource a short film about an Iranian widower called Prince Ali. Using Facebook and twitter, their efforts have raised over half of the $22,000 they need for a five minute short in just one week. Welcome to the New Hollywood!
Hamedani's credentials are sterling: He has made two critically acclaimed quirky feature films - Zombies of Mass Destruction and Junk. Borenstein, known for Godzilla and Seventh Son, is currently writing The Minority Report TV series for Fox, a small screen adaptation of Spielberg's 2002 hit sci-fi movie. Borenstein says he was drawn to Hamedani's Prince Ali because "I believe in Kevin's talent and voice. When I read the script that he'd written I was moved by it. I've always loved small independent movies and, in fact, that's what got me excited about making movies in the first place."
The two of them have teamed up with producers Angel Lopez, Julia Lebedev and Eric J. Feig on the short version of the feature film they hope to make. The film, set in both the U.S. and Iran, is about an Iranian-American man named Ali Abbas, who, suffering from a mid-life crisis, visits his homeland of Iran to meet and wed a young Iranian woman. It focuses on their cultural differences and, says Hamedani, "the messiness of humanity."
Crowdsourcing is, says Kevin, "our generation's new way of making films." He points to the TV show Veronica Mars and a new Miles Davis film currently in production as other projects that raised funds in a similar way. For Prince Ali, donors get a "perk" that is based on the amount of the donation. Those who give $40, for example, will receive a signed DVD of Zombies of Mass Destruction. For $2500, donors will receive an Associate Producer credit. "It seems like most of the people who are donating are people I may have had a relationship with years ago, but there are also a lot of people I've never even met who think the project is cool."
According to Borenstein, "Crowdsourcing is really a byproduct of the way in which the internet has created an easy way to communicate between the consumer of entertainment and the creator. Those lines are blurring. There is fan fiction and increasingly new ways to become part of the conversation. You no longer need to knock on the door of the big studios to get a film made."
Corporate sponsor Twitch is partnering with the team to help them reach their goal. Twitch is "the world's leading website for international and independent film, with a particular focus on genre film from around the world." Once the funding is available, a short version of Prince Ali will be made and shown at film festivals, with an ultimate goal of making the full-length feature film version.
Hamedani is convinced that a film about an Iranian American will find an audience: "There is a global fascination, now more than ever, with parts of the world that people are less familiar with. There is so much happening in the Middle East that is scary and hopeful, and there is a general interest in stories coming out of that region."