Fear, Film & Funds

Is crowdfunding the saviour of the independent moviemaker?  Horror director Mark Dossett tells me why he turned to the popular indiegogo.com website to finance his movie The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom.

First check out the attention grabbing trailer and a few words from Mark about the movie:


Funding is every filmmaker’s number one problem. On Twitter Mark Dossett asked Steven C. Miller, director of Silent Night, how he got his first movie funded. “It was actually really simple,” he said, “I just asked a friend of mine for the money and he said okay!”

“The same thing happened with Ti West,” says Mark, “I just don’t have friends that have that kind of cash flow laying around. Once I get the funding then it will just be a matter of timing and trying to make my fall deadline.” The aim is to get the movie into the film festivals, create an impact and then, with any luck, get that Holy Grail, a distribution deal. But how easy will it be for a first-time director to achieve success?

Laurie outside cropped

“This is my firm belief,” says Mark. “If you have a solid story and can present it as such…then it is very easy. It’s not about how old you are or what you are making it on. It’s about…is this an interesting story?

That’s why I know this film will get made. One way or another. If it takes longer than I hope… so be it but it will get made.”

laurie peephole

Mark’s confidence is boundless. Seven years ago he was working in retail. “I was a manager for Best Buy for ten years. I was making $60,000 and to my mom I was a success. But to me… I was miserable. I walked away from that seven years ago and it was a great feeling but it has been a tough road.”

He began work in music production, “I was mainly doing remix tracks here in Orlando than moved to Houston Texas.” All was going well but then something came along that turned his attention to movies. “I saw a video on YouTube, footage shot on a Canon T2i. I was blown away that some fifteen-year old kid made something that looked like Spielberg shot it. That’s when I said… now is the time.”

Mark wrote the script for The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom in three weeks. “I knew where I was going with it. I knew what I wanted out of it.” The script is based on a true story and Mark is desperate to avoid the horror movie clichés.

“I know what movies I like and why I like them. So I looked long and hard at how to make them better or different. Laurie will never look down a dark hallway and ask, ‘Is someone there?’ She won’t drop the knife or make stupid survival choices. This movie will not rely on cheap jump scares nor will it have a very creepy scene and then go to the next day and Laurie is acting like nothing happened. The sheriff wont be clueless and of no help whatsoever. The ending won’t be what horror fans are used to. I made sure of that. The best part is…this has happened and can happen to anyone at anytime. Not one frame of this film is unbelievable.”

Laurie on phone

Mark’s years in music production have given him the skills to score the movie himself. “I plan to use very organic sounds and instruments. Piano and cello will be the main ones. Source music too: radio, TV, and in-store music for the opening grocery store scene.”

He’ll be shooting on a Canon 5D DSLR with Zeiss lenses and editing on Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. He’s been planning the project in great detail from casting auditions to postproduction.

“This is a full length 80 minute film. This movie will not be made for $5,000. That was just the preproduction budget to bring some people onboard like SFX artist Michele Mulkey. The overall budget is $30,000.”

For that Mark is promising something more than a cheap looking thriller. “This will not be a found footage/surveillance film like Paranormal Activity. They made the first one for $15,000. I still don’t see where $15,000 was spent. My film will look like a film. Complete with a real cameraman and dolly shots…the whole nine yards.”

But first there is the thorny question of the money. First raising that initial $5,000 and then the remaining $25,000. How is the crowdfunding initiative going?

“To be perfectly honest,” says Mark, “I am at a loss on this crowdfunding. I have tried to play by the numbers and it’s not helping.”

“I have a trailer. I have thanked people asap, even on YouTube. And gone above and beyond with my thank you videos. I have made an update video as well explaining why you should trust that I can make this film. I was even running contests for people who can’t afford to donate but still want to see this. All they had to do was shoot a video on why this should be made. I didn’t care if it was shot on their phone just as long as it was in support of this film. I was gonna print up 11×17 mini posters and mail them to the ten people that entered. No one shot a video. But all day I hear how much people want to see this film made. This is the 5th interview I have done this month.”

“I can’t figure it out. I was sitting on Twitter for twelve hours a day talking with people trying to promote this film. I can’t do that anymore…..it doesn’t work. I do have a backup plan that now involves going with a traditional investor.”

Laurie kitchen

Despite Mark’s doubts, crowdfunding sites aren’t just attracting the attention of first-time filmmakers, some established names are also looking to crowdfunding to give them the artistic freedom that non-industry money provides. Projects on Kickstarter.com include animated movies from David Fincher and Charlie Kaufman, a documentary by satirical comedians The Yes Men and a movie from stop motion expert Phil (Robocop) Tippett.

Backup plans are always useful. But there is still some time to go before Mark Dossett’s indiegogo campaign ends. And you can help speed Mark on his way to those fall movie festivals, not just by contributing but also by tweeting, facebooking and spreading the word. Go on. You know you want to. Next time it might be you!


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