Haiti Film Thrives in Independent Film’s New Financial Ecosystem

New York, NY, November 09, 2011 --(PR.com)-- When veteran documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow’s latest film When The Drum is Beating (Two Tone Productions, 2011) premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last April to a standing ovation, he thought his problems were over. After five years of work on the film, (http://www.whenthedrumisbeating.com/) an epic musical odyssey through Haiti’s tortured history with the legendary Haitian big band Septentrional, he had achieved what all filmmakers hope for: a premiere at a prestigious film festival, an offer for theatrical distribution from the respected First Run Features, and a commitment from PBS to air the film nationally. So why was he still so anxious?

For Dow, like so many filmmakers today, the economics of making independent film have gone from bad to atrocious. A Peabody and duPont Award winner who’s films have screened at the most prestigious festivals in the world, Dow now finds that a having a good film and track record, and even guaranteed distribution, are not enough. He, like many filmmakers, had completed his film in deficit, and in order to take advantage of the distribution opportunities offered to him, he still has to pay for the rights to use the archival footage and music used in the film. Without these rights, the film cannot be distributed.

"The economics of filmmaking have shifted dramatically from the front end to the back end," Dow said. "It used to be that if you got a chunk of your budget in place, you could do enough presales to cover the rest of your production costs. Now broadcasters and distributors shop the festivals paying acquisition fees for the films they want that are typically much lower than the co-production and presale fees that come earlier in the project."

So Dow, has done what more and more filmmakers are doing once they have a finished film, he turned to Kickstarter.com to raise the funds he needed to ensure distribution. Kickstarter.com is a crowd source funding website that functions like an online pledge drive. There is a set period of time a project has to achieve its funding goal - in Dow’s case $65,000.00 in 60 days, and it only gets the money if the entire number is raised. "Kickstarter should really be called Kickfinisher," Dow said. “I know a number of people who have upwards of $100,000 in just a few short weeks by taking the case for their films directly to the web. It is an extremely nerve wracking process, but there is no place else in the fundraising world were you are so much in control of your own destiny.”

Dow’s campaign expires on December 5th, and to date he has raised a little over 20% of his goal. The project is being featured by Sundance Institute as part of their alumni collaboration with Kickstarter and is featured on the Sundance curated page (http://www.kickstarter.com/pages/sundanceinstitute) To help things along, Septentrional (http://www.orchestreseptentrional.org/) is in the US touring behind their new album “Pi Douvan.” They will be playing dates in Florida, New York and Canada during November and December and asking their audiences to contribute to the campaign.

Two-Tone Productions
Whitney Dow