Baltimoreans have mixed feelings about our city’s dirt bike culture (“total menace!” a commenter opined here at the Fishbowl last summer; “both intimidating and thrilling,” a New York Times reporter weighed in last weekend). Local filmmaker Lotfy Nathan has been documenting the city’s 12 O’Clock Boys for years, and his documentary film about a West Baltimore kid who joins up with the Boys, has just been selected to have its world premier at the South By Southwest film festival — one of only 8 films selected out of 905 submissions.
A panhandler asks you for some change outside the 7-Eleven, and you don’t give. If he offered you a walk-on role in a film he’s making, or if he promised to tattoo your initials on his arm, would you be more likely to donate to the cause? Or what if he’s trying to raise $6 for a sandwich, and you pledge $1, with the caveat that if he doesn’t meet his goal in an hour you get your money back?
It might be not be a viable strategy for the homeless and hungry, but on Kickstarter, a website for artists seeking to fund their projects, the incentive and money-back guarantee model has been working. Higher pledge amounts bring more exciting incentives, and potential donors know that if the entire amount is not raised (which would imply that the project cannot be completed) they are not charged.
Baltimore’s own Matt Porterfield is using the fundraising website to partially finance his upcoming film (set entirely in Maryland) I Used to Be Darker. The Sondheim Prize winner is asking for $40k, 40 percent of the film’s total budget. Over $27,000 has already been pledged, but if he doesn’t make the difference by Saturday, then it’s all a bust.
For I Used to Be Darker, incentives range from a thank you credit in the film ($5 pledge) to a thank you credit tattooed on the writer-director’s arm ($10,000 pledge). Learn more about the film at the Kickstarter page.
I seriously believe that Amazon can chalk up at least 25 percent of its profits to the ease of the online impulse buy — you know, the way clicking on a button is so easy it doesn’t feel like you’re actually spending money.
Instead of feeling guilty about online spending sprees, why not balance them out with a little bit of impulsive online philanthropy via Kickstarter? It feels better, and it’s sometimes tax deductible!
If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s basically a funding platform that helps musicians, artists, filmmakers, and other creative types collect small (or large) donations. The creators set a funding goal — say, one or three or five thousand dollars — and try their hardest to raise that amount of money in a set amount of time. If they do, all is well; if they can’t get enough pledges, however, the money goes back to the donors — so you don’t need to worry about donating money for a project that never goes anywhere.
Plenty of Baltimore artists have used the site to make things happen in recent months. The Copycat Theatre’s Rooms Play, one of the highlights of this year’s Transmodern Festival, raised $5,343 from 103 different backers. Some local projects that haven’t reached their goals yet include:
- Matt Porterfield’s new film, I Used to Be Darker, needs $40,000 by August 13. They’re 40 percent of the way there. If you donate at least $5, you get thanked in the film’s closing credits!
- The Pleasure Collective plans to support young writers by printing a monthly lit mag and quarterly books