A Tale of Many Meetings

In a triumph of optimism and ideology over observation and common sense, I’ve just hung out my laundry to dry in the cold, dank, near-freezing San Francisco fog.  There is a reason I love this place—and there’s another reason I generally do my big travels in the summer, which I’m preparing to do now, today—assuming my laundry dries by then, which is doubtful.

Preparing to go, I’ve been reflecting on the last few weeks, which have been jammed with meetings of various sorts.  Not the meetings as in we all get together and decide how to block the road kind of meetings, but Meetings as in “take a meeting with _____”, mostly centered around The Fifth Sacred Thing movie project.  So, we went to L.A.  By ‘we’ I mean me, Mouse aka Philip Wood, and Paradox Pollack, the three of us being the core team of producers.   “Producer”, in movie-land, means many things, but at this point, for us, it’s like being the organizer of an event or an action—a big event.  Pulling together the details, the plan, the look and feel of the thing, and eventually, we hope, the money.  Never have three people with such funny names and so little money set out to make a major feature film!

Fortunately, I enjoy meetings, first because I’m fascinated by human interactions and power dynamics, secondly, because it’s easier to sit and talk than to sit and write or to carry heavy buckets of compost tea and slosh it about.  We met with financial people and green business people (‘green’ as in ‘ecologically conscious’ not as in ‘alien invaders’) and some producers and other people involved in varied aspects of the film business.  Then we came back to the Bay Area and met with the San Francisco Film Commission and other producers and potential finance people and our friend in the Office of Economic Development who wants to help us realize our plan of creating legacy projects.  We connected with the Burning Man Project which is going to be working with the city to help revive the Market Street corridor with art, and with friends involved with creating games and music and urban agriculture, and looked at some sites for possible sets we could build that could remain as legacy gardens for the community.  Really exciting!

In all of this, we’ve found that many people are deeply excited by the project and eager to be a part of it.  While my image of Hollywood is of cutthroat, ruthless, cold-eyed greedy business people staring you down and plotting how to do you in—and they do exist!—we’ve found a lot of amazing, creative people hungry to do something with meaning and extremely generous with their time and support.

And our next steps have become clear.  We will look for a director—someone who shares our vision and who has the credits and the experience to make investors feel comfortable.  To get a director at that level to talk with us, we need to put together the financial package that ultimately we’ll use to attract investors.  Films, these days, are sometimes financed by big studios, and we could go try to go that route but if we do, we will give up much control.  More often, independents are financed by a complex combination of investors who come in at different times and different levels—who, in fact, must wade through complicated mixed metaphors that somehow combine natural features with the architecture of a hotel, so as to be coming in on the mezzanine level while the waterfall flows, or getting in on the ground floor while not getting left out in the cold—I found myself distracted by wondering what it might mean, say, to come in the lobby of the cloud forest or scale the alpine heights of the balcony or perhaps dive into the swimming pool of the maelstrom or weather the storm of the Grand Ballroom?

Fortunately, I’ve learned in life that often one good phrase can make you sound knowledgeable even if in truth you have no idea what’s going on.  To sound knowledgeable about wine, for example, nod wisely and say thoughtfully, “Yes, a great wine is a great interpretation of the soil.”

About film finance, a more rapid, definite nod, perhaps a wink, and say, “We’re getting the guy who makes the waterfall happen.”

Translated, that means a big, big chunk of our Kickstarter money will go to the financial package.  An experienced line producer will cost out the movie from the screenplay—in a low-budget and a dream-budget version.  A professional agency will project a Return On Investment (I could do that myself for free with Tarot cards but it doesn’t carry the same weight),  The Guy/Gal Who Makes The Waterfall Happen will figure out exactly what to offer people who invest, when each tier of financing comes in and when each gets paid out—the waterfall—and the lawyers and accountants who can put it into watertight contracts.  In the end, at least half of the $65,000 we’ve raised so far will go into the packaging, plus other fees for lawyers and contracts.  Not very sexy, but it’s got to be done, and done by those horrendously expensive entertainment lawyers who do it all the time, know the slippery rocks and the treacherous rapids—otherwise we risk drowning in the torrent as our vision gets swept away.

As for the rest of the money, about twenty per cent goes to Kickstarter fees and money they require us to set aside to fulfill our rewards.  Some will go to getting an assistants for Mouse and Paradox who will work a few hours each week, and to enough of a pittance of a stipend that they can—if not quit their day jobs—at least make the movie their prime time occupation.  I’ll get an option payment, which will allow me to:

Choose One Only:

A) Fix the leaky roof.

B) Replace the rotting deck.

C) Set aside 3-4 months in the winter and spring to write the sequel.

Reader, which would you do?  Here’s a hint—the roof only leaks when it rains, no one forces you to walk out on the rotting deck, but if a sequel is ever to be written, sooner rather than later is the time to do it.

The rest will go to pay for more art.  We want to include a few storyboard illustrations of key scenes in the movie, and before we go to investors, we’ll update our video.

When we crunched the numbers, we realized that our original Kickstarter goal was too low.  We’re grateful to have reached it, and it’s probably just enough to let us squeak by, but in reality we need more to keep the project moving forward in a way that’s sustainable.  That’s why we’ve upped it to our real goal of $100,000.  And we are deeply grateful for anything you can contribute to that end.

Because we are committed to openness and transparency, we want you to know how the money will be spent.  When people hear “film” they think “big money”, and in time, if we’re successful, that will come.  But that time is still far away.  We’ll be crammed into the cab of my ’95 pickup (running on 99% recalled veggie oil biodiesel!) for a long time before we get into the limos—and in truth, we don’t really aspire to the limos.  We aspire to change consciousness and  to make the world itself more resemble our vision of what it could be.  To have many sorts of resources to pour into those efforts will be really, really wonderful!

I feel this Kickstarter money, that so many people have given to us in good faith, is a sacred trust.  It comes from the community, and it should eventually go back to the community, to help us leave a legacy of jobs, internships, training, gardens and the infrastructure that will be needed to sustain the gardens.  If and when the big bucks come, I commit to seeing that at least as much money as we’ve raised here—and hopefully, even more—goes back to social, environmental and community projects.

Thanks to all of you who have given us your trust.  That means a lot!  We now have a short time left and a big goal to reach, so please do continue to help us spread the word.  We need to rebuild momentum after the relief of reaching our funding point.  For those of you who’ve thought—‘sure, I want to give them something’ and haven’t yet, now is a very good time!

Miracles do happen.  The laundry is dry—time to pack it up and get on the road!

Again, huge gratitude to all of you.  The adventure continues…

5 comments to A Tale of Many Meetings

  • John

    Dear Starhawk and readers. For an alternative activist view on the events happening across the UK see http://britishriots.blogspot.com/2011/08/normal-0-false-false-false-en-au-x-none.html

  • Dear Starhawk & readers, first I’ll take a sec to mention that I would love to see this movie happen. The book was one of the most powerful reads I’ve done in a long time (just read about a month ago). I’m an LA based designer/builder & permaculturist with a newly dubbed venture “Vertecology” (www.vertecology.com). I’ve declared my commitment there to donating 10% of any profit to food forestry projects and programs so that one day we don’t have to worry so much about money and can live in a truly free society; perhaps this movie could be considered one of those projects… should I actually start making money I will at some point be making a donation. Thanks…

  • Ann C

    The sequel! The sequel!

    Good luck as you negotiate these waters.

  • Lisa B-L

    Very exciting and very ambitious! I am a close friend of Robin Rose Bennett of Wise Woman Healing Ways and a doc and feature producer. You should ask her for my number and perhaps we can talk, as I have many thoughts about your approach. (I’m not trolling for work, by the way, just wanting to share from my experience if you are interested.)

    • Thanks, Lisa. I’ll get your number from Robin Rose. I’m in Europe and then Jordan until around October 1, so it may be a bit difficult to call but possibly we could Skype? I’ll be in contact, Starhawk

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