It was spring 2010 and newly minted film producer Marina Rice Bader was inspired. "I have an amazing idea for our next film," she stated to her filmmaking (and life) partner Nicole Conn.
In and of itself such a comment made between two halves of a production company pair isn't a big deal, but in Hollywood it's about timing. Bader made this comment to Conn when their latest film, Elena Undone was at the height of its release across the film festival circuit. Their already sparse independent filmmaker resources were stretched, and Conn's response to Bader's comment came in the form of a pained groan; but she listened to Bader's idea -- and she liked it.
One week later Conn presented Bader with a package. It was a first draft of the film. Now Bader had one more little task -- getting money.
Any time an independent filmmaker wants to start a project, funding is an issue. In this case, Bader knew timing was crucial. "The film needed to happen now to take advantage of the visibility from our current success [with Elena Undone]," she said. But she also knew that going the traditional route to get such funding was likely an exercise in futility. "Generally getting money for women's films is hard anyway, and the economy was tight, which made it worse."
So she took matters into her own hand ... actually into the hands of others.
Elena Undone was the first production from Bader and Conn's production company, Soul Kiss Films. It had been receiving great attention and had begun building a passionate community. So Bader decided they would crowdsource this next project. After reviewing the platform options that were available, Bader opted to go with Kickstarter. The plan -- to raise the $50,000 necessary to take the initial script into planning and early production.
Calling on members of the Soul Kiss Tribe, Bader created a Kickstarter campaign and a video that explained what they were trying to do. After a painfully slow start, things began to take off.
Forty-five days later, Bader had raised $53,000 and A Perfect Ending got underway.
There was still, however, one little matter left to address. While Bader and Conn had secured quite a few members of the cast and were well set on the production crew, they had yet to find an actress to play Paris, one of the two lead roles. Back to social media they went, and on Facebook they found Jessica Clark, the actress they would cast to play Paris.
Of course, $53,000 may get things off the ground but any film -- even a frugally produced independent venture -- take more cash than that to happen. To the social web they went again, creating blog posts, peppering Twitter with pleas and producing an array of videos giving behind the scenes access and engaging fans to encourage their support.
In the end, around 900 people gave donations ranging from $10 to $10,000 (Bader said the average donation was around $100), ultimately resulting in a budget just south of $200,000.
Still that amount seems very little to make a film, and it is, especially in light of the myriad "artsy fartsy" aspects that Conn incorporated -- from animation to complex sound. "It's cuckoo what we were able to accomplish [with so little money]," Conn said. "People really fell on their swords and gave to get this done, and I believe that is because of the connection people have to this script and the message it delivers."
One of the film's stars, Barbara Niven, echoed this sentiment saying that after reading the character of Rebecca she knew she had to play the part. "Bringing truth to the cinema and what 'real women' are like -- that's what drew me to the project. My own concerns and feeling ... they were all in this character," she explained. "I have found that beyond our fear is our biggest gold and by facing it and going through it we find out what we are capable of ... magic happens."
A Perfect Ending premiered during the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco. Additional screenings of the film can be seen at Outfest in Los Angeles on July 15 and Philadelphia's QFest on July 21.