LaPorte, Indiana is a documentary film about a small town in Indiana told through formal portraits of the townspeople taken in the 1950s and ’60s that were later discovered (and turned into a book) by Jason Bitner, the cocreator of Found Magazine. Two years after Bitner’s photo book of 200-some images from the town was published, townspeople began idenitfying themselves in the anonymous photos, and stories began to leap from its pages.
Jason has since teamed with an Emmy-nominated This American Life producer named Joe Beshenkovsky to make a documentary about the town and its population, and their Kickstarter project is raising money for its completion. The project has done very well: in the two days between me sending Jason a handful of questions about his in-progress project and his answers’ return, LaPorte has shot right past its $7500 goal and is closing in on $10,000.
One area where this project really excels is rewards, which are all based on a “portrait” theme: backers can elect to have a song written about them, can have a professional portrait, and can even get a personal tour of LaPorte itself.
We asked Jason Bitner about his rewards and some other topics as well. Read on for his responses.
Tell us about your project and your background.
A few years ago, I came across a stash of 18,000 portrait photos in the back room of a diner in Northwestern Indiana. The photos were beautiful, and they documented thousands of townspeople from the 1950s and 60s. I ended up making a book out of these images, and after the collection was published, I ended up meeting many of the people from the photos.
The film will be a feature documentary about the town of LaPorte, Indiana. We’ve done extensive interviews with many of the people found in these photos, and we’ll be weaving their stories together to get a sense of this small Midwestern town.
How’s it going so far?
Kickstarter has been a perfect vehicle for raising money. We’d initially decided we wanted to have a community-funded approach, but I don’t have the skills to develop a good system for raising funds. As soon as I’d heard about Kickstarter, I knew it would be the perfect approach.
Our initial goal was to raise $7500; to date, we’re up to $9027, with a new goal of $12,000 by August 21st. We’re hopeful we’ll make the new number— but more than anything we’re thrilled with the community of people who are becoming active supporters of the project. We feel a ton of support and good will from everyone who donates, and we couldn’t be happier with the turnout.
What’s been your most popular reward?
People seem to gravitate toward the $100 reward. I’m not sure if there’s a preference for round numbers, or if they’re excited to receive a copy of the book, two original photos and a thank you in the film credits. We’re also surprised to have received six $500 pledges (very helpful!) as well as fifteen people who just wanted to donate funds, without asking for any reward in return. Whether it’s $3 or $1000, we’re thrilled that people are helping out in any way they can. Pretty awesome.
So far, no one’s taken us up on the $2495 reward. I’d be thrilled to provide a two-day tour of LaPorte for anyone interested, but so far, this one’s gone unclaimed.
What’s your strategy for getting your project funded?
I’m not sure that we have much of a strategy, other than giving people a chance to view a trailer of the film. Director/editor Joe Beshenkovsky (along with our cinematographer Jeremy Gould) have made a beautiful video that can describe the project much better than my words can… if people watch the teaser, they’ll come to understand what the project is all about.
What will you do with the money?
Every dollar that we receive will go directly towards the production and post-production costs for our film. Turns out that filmmaking is a pricey endeavor- but we’re enthusiastic about the film, and Joe is extremely devoted and hard-working, so we hope to have a rough cut finished in a couple months. From there, we hope to screen it in a bunch of festivals, and see what happens…
Any closing thoughts?
We’re incredibly thankful for everyone who’s donated to the project, and incredibly thankful for Kickstarter. This whole fundraising effort has put a lot of wind in our sails, and we’ll use that to help finish up our film.