A fresh, fun look - as seen by the eyes of a young engineer - at the big dreams, and bigger egos, of the startups of Silicon Valley!
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the startup is a planned full-length feature film, written by David Hockaday, directed by Jared Cohn, set in present-day San Francisco. A comedy-drama, the startup shows the many, ever-changing sides—from the absurd to the sublime, but mostly the hilarious—of life inside an early-stage startup.
The ideal runtime of 90 mins. will vary in proportion to our funding on Kickstarter. The 25K minimum would allow for a production of only 30-45 min.
So, we're boot-strapping. Our ideal budget of 95k or above would allow us to make a full-length feature of 90 mins. set on-location in San Francisco!
Your backing will help bring this collaborative, creative product to life!
Our demo above only gives a hint of what we would like to do. Like any good startup, we produced it for next-to-nothing, in a single day, on a moment's notice, gathering the entire team fast as possible.
Imagine how we would scale with a 100k budget—just 1/2000 of the Dark Knight's—and a month to film!
the startup will be produced as an independent film, by Traplight Media, working in concert with the creative team.
Lead Writer/Project Creator - David has worked at multiple Bay Area startups, in roles stretching from engineer to founder, in areas varying from business development to content, experiences which informed the creation of the startup. A graduate of Caltech, with a degree in physics, he lives in San Francisco.
Director - Jared is an award-winning director, writer, and actor, with experience in every stage of the production, not to mention screenwriting, process.
Producer/Co-Writer - Jourdan Lee is a Playhouse West-trained actor, who has starred in multiple movies, including The Great Raid, and television series, including a lead role in the popular action/drama series “Point of Entry” in Singapore. Prior to arriving in the U.S., Jourdan studied at Actors Center Australia.
Executive Producer - Demetrius Stear, influenced by the likes of Paul Newman, Denzel Washington, and Ridley Scott, journeyed from his home in Kentucky to LA in pursuit of his long-held dream to become an actor. At the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio, he learned the acting as a craft, using the Meisner technique. After work in film financing, he returned to his true love, beginning study at Playhouse West Studio, and producing independent films.
What makes the startup special is the story focuses on the unsung heroes of Silicon Valley—its engineers. The original concept—and the script itself—are the creation of an engineer—the one before you.
Studios can’t understand how a young educated man, or woman, in good health and of sound mind, could be most driven, not by acquisitiveness, but instead, a relentless need to create, build something, begin something, start something, beautiful and new.
Instead, Silicon Valley is most often portrayed as a game of high-stakes poker, winner-take-all. The hero, invariably, is the bold founder or visionary investor.
We want to lay bare the actual day-to-day struggles of startup life. The comedy is inherent, sometimes outright funny, sometimes laughter through tears, drawn quick by derailed careers, incompetent management, years lost.
Uncertainty throws the drama and the comedy in high-relief. There is something bittersweet about believing you’re the next preternaturally young billionaire and arriving the next morning chipper, energized, ready to take on the world, only to find the door barred and your desk overturned, curbside.
We have no five-year plans, no marketing guru, no tastemaker, nor celebrity backer. What we offer, instead, is our passion.
The actors who joined this project, with all due speed, the artists who selflessly contributed sketches, the musicians of San Francisco who allowed us to add our own creative layer to their creations—all of these—and so many other kind strangers and close friends—are each part of the startup. Without their aid a collaborative, creative project of this type would be impossible, even inconceivable.
The script—originally drafted one night when, faced with an unfinished novel and a mathematical labyrinth I dare not enter, I instead took flight into my imagination—that script—somehow found its way to visiting friend, an actor, who just so happened to be interested in startups.
The fact that from those fleet-footed thoughts, we now have a cast of talented and passionate actors, a crew ready and able, and a director, a consummate professional—that I’m now working alongside my best friend who, like me, ventured from the hardscrabble lands of the South, and my brother, and all kinds of new, fresh, smiling faces—that amazes me.
That’s the magic of collaboration, of creation, of San Francisco, and like-minded souls who exist everywhere—and given the opportunity—open their doors to the traveler passing strange and uncertain lands. The crucial part of building anything new is the start—when you're most vulnerable and there is always the temptation to turn back. Only with mutual support, which Kickstarter and a vanishing few make possible, can that initial, fatal, hurdle be overcome.
We want to build something wholly new. We run a real, immediate risk of absurdity—like anything truly new—but the slightest hope of chancing upon the sublime. Let’s start something, beautiful and new, let’s start the startup!
Every dollar we raise will go to bringing the film to life. I firmly believe in transparency, and we’ll provide the actual breakdown to all our backers, as well as the course of our progress.
The precise schedule will depend on the amount we can raise. If all goes well, we’ll launch into development as soon as the Kickstarter phase finishes. We hope to complete development by the end of October. From there, we’ll move into production—the actual filming—followed predictably enough, by post-production, the process of editing and distributing.
We’ll be refining the script and casting for additional characters during development. I want to encourage contributors to audition. This is a collaborative project. If you can, contribute, whatever the talent. Backing us, you’re giving us the opportunity to use our particular talents. We hope to return that opportunity to you, to let your talents shine.
Anyone who lives in the Bay Area. But also anyone curious about startups who has thought there’s something more than what’s ladled out by yesterday’s paper: that is, the startup as savior to the American economy or signpost of cultural decline. I’d like to provide an element missing from such a spot check or even documentary. Each has its place, but I’d like to dramatize the inner struggles of these particular characters in this particular setting, which happens to be now, at a startup in San Francisco.
What do you hope that viewers will take away from this screenplay? What do you hope they will (or think they might) identify with? Is there any ounce of truth in the farce? Any hints about where?
For one, the absurd is a normal part of life and a central part of life in the Bay Area. So saying there are elements of farce is not to say it’s hyperbole. On the contrary, the situations come from my or my friends’ experience. Of course, these have been transformed into fiction. But that allows for a deeper, more enduring understanding of experience. It’s not just a welter of undifferentiated sensation.
They’re the bright young things of our time. Like the cast, they come from all over. Like San Francisco itself, they’re diverse. But they’re also ambitious. They come to San Francisco, a city of transplants, of immigrants, of seekers. A sizable portion are women. There’s an array of characters: so I’ll just mention my favorites.
The main character Josh hails from New York City. He’s the son of hardworking Jewish parents who can’t understand his decision to leave his job at a white-shoe Manhattan law firm for a nameless startup in San Francisco. They don’t even know what a startup is.
There’s also Mila, a young, attractive Latina who works as the office manager. She’s from a very different background than the founders. But though she didn’t study at Stanford or Oxford, she has a sense of how things really work and a much deeper understanding of self than any of the others. She’s the one who holds it all together, who runs things, and—secretly—is brilliant...though you’d never hear her say or even think that.
If this project is successful, where else might you like to take the story arc? Might we expect to see an IPO, hiring, pitching to VCs, certain types of character development?
Well, the arc will depend fundamentally on how much we raise. The hard fact is recreating each scene requires wherewithal. If the script says ping-pong table, you have to either acquire or simulate one, or revise the script.
All of the scenarios you mention are plausible and would expand the film’s setting beyond the workplace...something which I’d love to do. In the script—at least, in the current draft—I include other elements of life in the Bay Area, the supporting cast of old money, activists, yogis, homeless, ex-hippies etc., which taken together, form the cultural backdrop.
My experiences—direct and indirect—have inspired it, but they’ve been reborn in the work. I don’t think you could, or should try to, retrace those paths. Indirectly, the experiences of my friends at various startups shaped the script. The experience rendered on the screen is a collective experience, kaleidoscopic, like the vision of a honey bee. So, it is my story, but it is also the story of my friends, and the stories of their friends, and so on.
I’ve long thought of myself as both a scientist and a writer. A strange combination, I know, but to me it didn’t seem so odd. I attempted to explain myself in my essay for admission to Caltech. The essay happened to win a cash prize. As for me, though, I ended up studying both literature and physics. Since then, I’ve been torn between these two poles: for want of a better word, between the technical and the artistic. To use Chekhov’s phrase, I’m married to science, but literature’s my mistress.
More than anything, for me, this project’s an opportunity to write. And as much as I love literature—and like Bolaño, I’d be happy living under a desk reading Borges—owing to personal commitments, I couldn’t justify—financially—writing full-time.
It came as a breath of fresh of air. I was locked in mortal combat with a novel and a collection of essays, mainly dealing with the shock of technology—when I took a break from both and began the script. Though I wrote it with whatever skill I have, as honestly as I could, I wasn’t thinking of posterity...of not making Proust proud or leaving Joyce disappointed. And that freed me to actually finish the piece: it allowed me to take the chance of looking like a fool. Sad to say, I can’t say the same for the novel or book of essays. But writing this script left me immensely happy.
I simply find writing more natural. And not to launch into a diatribe, but there’s so much spectacle nowadays, I’m extremely reluctant to take on that role...as a vaudeville act. I’ve never been one to seek that kind of attention, but rather one who, in middle-school, instantly sympathized with Emily Dickinson. I’d much rather my readers or viewers have a private, intimate conversation with me. And of course, most artists would like the work to speak for itself. But sometimes you have to raise your voice to be heard above the chatter. So I’ll stay open-minded.
To see ideas I’d only thought of realized before me, to have an actor ask how a character should act and try painstakingly to become that character, to have the cast one-by-one say how refreshing it was to work with this script, to work alongside friends and make new ones. That’s to say, the collaboration, the skilled artists and technicians coming together, each bringing his or her contribution to create the composite whole.
Every one of my collaborators takes the artistic aspect as seriously as I do...which I wager is not true for the vast majority of actors...or writers for that matter. At the same time, they’re all genuinely curious about startups. They want to learn about the subject and make the best film we can about that subject.
I find it fertile ground for art. At least the type of startup I have in mind. Not the old guard of Silicon Valley proper, but the newborn startups bubbling up in Soma, Palo Alto perhaps, and a few other places around the Bay.
They’re another class of company, an altogether new way to work, utterly unlike large corporations. You find movement, mixing...sometimes a collision of cultures, but also intellectual ferment...which can’t be replicated just anywhere. For many young, ambitious people these startups represent a chance to do something creative as well as technical without working for Disney or Madison Avenue.
I came to all this later than most. So my perspective’s somewhat different...maybe I have what you’d call the zeal of the convert. Certainly, there’s a romantic streak in startups that appeals to me. I’ve never been one to do things by halves. I wouldn’t have studied physics at Caltech if that were the case.
But really there’s a special characteristic about startups—when they work, and even when they don’t—this spark that makes them so different from large companies. Not just camaraderie, but a genuine joy in working together, holding each other up, awaking one another, challenging each other, and laughing at the absurd situations you find yourself thrown into along the way. It’s what made my time at Caltech—painful as it was—so special.
From another angle, it’s banal to speak of the digital revolution. But it’s banal, in part, because it actually has changed the texture of our work and lives. Yet, I happen to believe, with Faulkner, there are certain aspects of human life that transcend time, at least the time since humans stepped on the scene. And the struggle a startup faces finding its identity—especially a startup peopled with twenty- to thirty- year-olds—reflects the struggle each person faces reaching maturity. With this script, I’ve had a chance to broach both subjects...technological flux, but also those constants of the human heart in conflict with itself.
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