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Jess Heugel works on post-production of "Linotype: The Film," a documentary produced in the Ozarks. He and his partners are funding the film through fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter.com.
Jess Heugel works on post-production of "Linotype: The Film," a documentary produced in the Ozarks. He and his partners are funding the film through fundraising campaigns on Kickstarter.com.

Filmmakers search for new funding

Posted online
Area filmmakers say they can use all the help they can get with funding their projects, but amid changes in the way filmmakers access production tax credits, their best chances to score financial incentives might come from nontraditional sources.

As a result of state budget cuts, the Missouri Film Office in Jefferson City, a key coordinator of the state’s film production tax credits, closed July 1. Though tax credits are still available, Missouri State University film professor Mark Biggs said the move is a death knell.

“Without a film office, we’re not going to have a film industry in Missouri. It’s just that simple,” said Biggs, former chairman of the Missouri Film Commission and head of MSU’s media, journalism and film department. “The small projects aren’t going to build an industry. They’ll support individuals, and they’ll keep the passion for the art form and for the business going, but unless you’ve got a certain amount of business happening, you can’t get other businesses to locate in the state.”

Kicked into gear
Budding filmmakers such as Jess Heugel are trending toward online fundraising efforts. Those fronting creative projects can make their pitches on sites such as Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com, and hopefully, impress potential backers.

Heugel, a Springfield freelance photographer, has partnered with friends Douglas Wilson, a designer and art director, and Brandon Goodwin, owner of Springfield-based Goodwin Films, to produce a documentary film on the Linotype printing process, wholly funded by investors on Kickstarter.

The project, “Linotype: The Film,” more than tripled its initial request for funds on the site, raking in more than $24,000 in 30 days from 279 backers late last year. “Linotype” met its $8,000 goal just four days into the campaign.

On Kickstarter, creators of for-profit projects start a campaign with a funding goal and deadline, post a video pitch and establish incentives for various donation levels. If the goal isn’t reached, the pledges are discarded, but if the campaign is successful, the investors are obligated.

The Kickstarter funds have allowed the three-man crew to travel the country for interviews with experts on the subject. Heugel said the group did not pursue state tax credits because the bulk of filming was scheduled outside of Missouri.

He said preparation for the online investment request was key. The group filmed a trailer and posted it on Vimeo.com, where it received positive reviews and led to the filming of a few scenes, manufacturing of incentives – those pledging $10 or more got a letter-pressed thank-you card – and production of a high-quality trailer on Linotypefilm.com.

“We worked for probably four months on materials to go out with our (campaign) so that people could immediately go to see sources of information about the movie. There’s no trickle. They can go to the project and see the quality off the bat,” Heugel said.

The three filmmakers have returned to Kickstarter to cover their post-production costs. On Aug. 25, with 15 days left on their second request, the filmmakers had raised more than $17,000 of their $20,000 goal.

But not all online fundraising stories have a happy ending.

Caleb Allen, a 20-year-old hoping to break into the film industry, missed the funding boat on his current project: “Operation RV.” The campaign raised $1,562, well short of its $30,000 goal, according to Kickstarter.

Allen, founder of Allen Family Films and singer in his family’s 10-member gospel group, is hoping to produce his feature film in Branson.

“I have a mentor of mine who has suggested relaunching the campaign with a different look and a different way of doing things. We may be looking into that,” Allen said, adding that competition with a similar film that had better marketing may be the reason for the failed campaign.

Now, he is researching alternatives such as Indiegogo, which allows fundraisers to keep investments even if the goal isn’t reached, and talking to investors directly. “We’re not losing hope,” he said.

Biggs of MSU said he was familiar with the “Linotype” effort on Kickstarter.

“It has proven to be a really useful site to put together small donors with lots of independent filmmakers,” said Biggs, who also pointed to the fundraising success of “South of Black Drink Crier” on Piryx.com.

Up in the air
Without a film office in place, Biggs said the state might miss out on attracting large out-of-state film productions, such as Academy Award-nominated films “Winter’s Bone” and “Up in the Air,” both shot in Missouri.

“If there is no organization and oversight … it’s just impossible to build a sustained industry. It’s a shame because the last couple of years have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that quality films can be made in Missouri and have an impact worldwide,” Biggs said.

John Fougere, director of communications for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said tax credits for film production are still available through the DED.

The Film Tax Credit Program has an annual cap of $4.5 million, and filmmakers can apply for credits covering up to 35 percent of the amount expended for production or production-related activities in the state.

He said the film office, which had been in place since 1983 and operated on a $178,000 budget last year, lost its funding due to budgetary concerns.

Biggs sees the recent cut as a first step to ridding the credit altogether.

“That’s a way to kill the whole film incentive program,” he said.

Christopher Johnson, co-producer of “180,” a feature film recently produced in the Springfield area, said southwest Missouri was a great place to film even though its Springfield production company failed to secure tax credits. He said the cap, which is relatively low compared to other states that offer the credits, had been reached by the time Easy Water Films LLC applied in 2009.

Johnson said private backers for the drama “180” were secured by promoting the role of lead actor and former “Survivor” star Benjamin “Coach” Wade among screenwriters and industry contacts.

“We put together an attractive package with the script, with the cast and the crew, and then started shopping it out as an investment opportunity,” Johnson said. “It kind of snowballs, which is kind of what (sites) like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are trying to mimic.”

Johnson isn’t confident tax credits do much to stimulate the economy, and he said those who want to film in Missouri will find a way.

“The whole jury is still out on tax credits,” Johnson said. “They are nice from a filmmaker’s standpoint though. We’ll take all the help we can get.”[[In-content Ad]]

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