For three years now, Kickstarter has drawn from the thousands upon thousands of film projects funded through the site to host one of Brooklyn's most reliable, hugely varied one-night-only free film festivals. And with 13 of the site's best and most anticipated new projects, live performances, and a new home in the freshly opened Havemeyer Park, this year's festival is poised to be the best one yet. Really, there's no excuse not to go. Ahead of Saturday night's screenings (doors open at 7pm), we talked to Liz Holm, Kickstarter's film program director, about which projects to keep an eye out for and what else to expect from the whole thing, including more live theremin than you might have expected.
Obviously, a lot of films have come out of Kickstarter in the past year. Do you have a rough number of how many there have been? And with such a large pool, how did you approach narrowing the festival down to the projects that are screening on Saturday?
Over the past four years we've seen more than 10,000 successfully-funded film & video projects raise over $150M to help bring their work to life. That includes features, documentaries, shorts, music videos, and web series raising funds at various stages from development through distribution. And some older films — like Portrait of Jason and Style Wars, both of which are featured in this year's festival — have used Kickstarter to raise restoration funds. Kickstarter-funded projects are in various stages of progress, but for sure, loads of completed films are out in the wild — playing festivals, being released theatrically, on DVD, and available to rent or stream on digital platforms. Just yesterday I got a project update from one of my favorites, OUR NIXON, letting me know they'll be broadcast on CNN on August 1st. (Peep it!)
This year's selection focuses on projects that were completed and released in the past year, plus a few rad sneak peeks at works-in-progress. We spend our days watching and backing projects, so we're always sharing our favorites and keeping up with them long after funding ends. How does any festival narrow down? We watched a lot of great stuff; I mean, a lot. We selected a handful of work that inspires us — to see and make things differently, to be passionate and curious, to be silly, bold and honest, to challenge, to appreciate, and maybe most of all, to create. There's way too much I wish we could have included. I'd love to program a month-long fest! But we've got just the one evening on the grass for now.
The selections that did make the cut are pretty hugely varied, arguably geared towards different target audiences (animated short versus theraminist documentary, etc.) Was this an intentional choice, or just how things shake down when the range of given projects is so wide?
For sure, what I love most about the festival is what I love about Kickstarter — it's a diverse universe of dynamic work, all coming to life side by side. What other night would you spend watching a 2D video game-inspired web series, a 1967 documentary about a black gay hustler, a hip Sundance short about a kids whose parents literally threw her to the wolves, Bill Plympton's new silent watercolor animation, a lost Jim Morrison interview, and an energetic thereminist from Mississippi, and John C. Reilly in a cowboy hat not playing Dewey Cox? I don't think there's something for everyone; I think there's a lot of stuff for a lot of people, and the best will be the one you didn't know you'd love most. In my dream of dreams, the festival ends with Biggie blaring, "if you don't know now you know." But perhaps that is production idea best left on the cutting room floor.
Anything on the program that you're particularly excited about, or think will be an audience favorite?
The two restorations, Portrait of Jason and Style Wars, are two landmark documentaries set in a long lost New York with which we'll be forever fascinated, and I'm especially proud we've been able to play a part in sharing those films with new audiences; on the newer side of things, Emily Carmichael was just rightfully listed as one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film, and her "Ledo & Ix" series is exceptionally witty and adorable; there will be live theremin...I could go on, but, you really should just come see for yourself.
Three years can be a really long time in the life span of a new festival. Have you guys made any major changes over the years? How'd you decide on the new Havemeyer Park as a venue?
We're really proud and honored to be a part of these projects' histories and to be a home for their communities, and the film fest is an opportunity to invite everybody to come out and see the awesome work that inspires us to keep doing what we do everyday. The festival has always been a one-night-only event that features not only Kickstarter-funded film and video projects, but live performances, installations, and food and drink from local vendors, all funded on Kickstarter. The quality, diversity, and spirit of the work will always be at the heart of the projects we highlight, but we're thrilled to be holding this year's fest in a new venue, under the stars at the brand new Havemeyer Park. We're always looking for unique community spaces for our events and wanted to be outside since summer in the city is one of those things you can't help but miss before it's even over. With the glorious Williamsburg Bridge an the Domino Sugar Factory as our backdrop, the former concrete lot is now home to a beautiful garden, bike course, art installations, the greenest of green grass, and — for one glorious night — us!
Beer and snacks—they'll be there, right?
Bigtime. There'll be eats from delicious local folks like Snap, Brewla, Pop Karma, and wine and beer for sale courtesy of the Havemeyer Park crew. Don't forget to bring your cash and your belly.
What else can people expect from the format of this— will there be multiple screens that you can wander between, or is there a more specific trajectory to the program? Anything else people should know (besides to bring a blanket)?
The festival is a roughly two and-a-half hour program that's split into two acts with a short intermission to stretch, snack, and gab. Admission is free. Doors at 7PM, live performance by Jherek Bischoff at 8PM, screenings at sundown, and a fun surprise or two that you just gotta be there to know about. Expect to head home (or wherever you may roam) before midnight. Think of it like your favorite mix(video)tape. Or like your second favorite mix(video)tape because I don't know you and maybe you have a really good mix(video)tape we can't top. But we just might.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.