Gen Con — North America's largest convention dedicated solely to tabletop games — kicks off today. In honor of it, we decided to ask a few of the Kickstarter creators in attendance for a recommendation. Here are the games that they're excited about playing.
Mike Selinker, The Maze of Games: I’m super-excited to see some of the games from Cards Against Humanity’s Tabletop Deathmatch come to life. Last year, some other game designers and I judged some phenomenal games, and eventually chose Discount Salmon and Penny Press as our winners. And even beyond those, Deathmatch entries like The Amberden Affair and Jupiter Rescue are debuting at the con, and others like The Shadow Over Westminster and Pack the Pack are rising up through Kickstarter now. It’s great to see that our encouragement and sometimes our criticism helped make these games a reality. And of course, we’re filming another season of Deathmatch during Gen Con, so I’ll get to see even more great games.
Jordan Weisman, Harebrained Schemes: Well obviously the biggest thing for us at Gen Con is the release of Golem Arcana, the digitally enhanced miniatures game, which was funded in part by Kickstarter backers. I'm pretty stoked to see the new capital ship Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight and excited for the launch of Liz Spain's Incredible Expeditions which was [also] funded on Kickstarter.
Peter Adkison, The Devil Walks in Salem: On Wednesday I’m playing Burning Wheel with a group of guys I play with at every Origins and Gen Con. Burning Wheel is my favorite roleplaying game in the world and it was designed by Luke Crane! Another game I’m looking forward to is a 15-20 player game of Don’t Give Up the Ship! This is the other game co-designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, back in the 1960s. It’s a historical miniatures game set in the Age of Sail. Every player commands a ship of the line from the 18th or 19th century. This is how games were played before Dungeons & Dragons came along. It’s also being run by Mike Carr, the only human who’s been to every Gen Con since its inception in 1967, who also worked on the rules of this game back in the '70s.
And I have a film recommendation. Premiering at Gen Con isThe Devil Walks in Salem, a 30-minute film (a long short?) that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, directed by yours truly, and produced by my film company, Hostile Work Environment.
Jerry D. Grayson, Atlantis Theragraphica: I'm looking forward to AMP: Year One, A Modern Supers RPG from Third Eye Games, a very cool looking postmodern game of super heroics. Also, D&D 5th edition by Wizards of the Coast. This one is highly anticipated and the grandfather of them all. D&D is the mitochondrial eve of roleplaying games.
Eliot Higgins didn't start out thinking he'd become a one man intelligence agency, but once he started using his blog to track international activity through public social networks, that's exactly what happened. Now he's running a Kickstarter for Bellingcat, a platform for open source citizen journalism. We asked him to explain how he got into this field.
Al Qaeda has a Facebook Page: How I Became a One Man Intelligence Agency from the Comfort of my Own Home
In March 2012 I started a blog on Blogger, just as a place to record stuff I thought was interesting. I called it the Brown Moses Blog, after an online pseudonym taken from a Frank Zappa song that I had used for a number of years. I figured the only people who would be interested would be people who knew me from Twitter and the various forums I posted on.
I had worked in an administrative role for a company housing asylum seekers in the UK, and had spent the last ten years doing various administrative and financial roles. Within a year on the Brown Moses Blog I had exposed arms smuggling by Saudi Arabia to the Syrian rebels with the New York Times, identified and tracked the use of cluster munitions and the now notorious “barrel bombs” by the Syrian air force, and was increasingly being seen as being at the forefront of a new way to do journalism.
How did I do this? In a way it was something very simple. I took the vast amount of information being produced from Syria through social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and worked to establish what was reliable within this maelstrom of information.
I developed an understanding of how social media was being used by Syrians. The “Houla Massacre” in May 2012 led to me realize YouTube channels were being set up by groups in different areas where they regularly posted videos from their local area. So, I began collecting these channels, some belonging to local civilians groups, others to armed groups, and started checking them on a daily basis for new videos, tracking the progress of the conflict in each area through those videos.
What started as a list of 25 channels has now grown to over 1,000, with 100,000s videos posted by groups across Syria. While this information was growing in accessibility, the important question was (and still is): Can we trust it?
I started looking for answers. Using a variety of open source tools and techniques it was possible to examine and verify the content of many videos. For example, with satellite map imagery available on sites like Google Maps I was able to confirm the locations videos were filmed by comparing the landmarks in the videos with what was visible on satellite maps. Facebook pages used by groups in Syria could be used to crosscheck claims made by other groups. As time went on I refined and expanded the processes I used. The most incredible thing is that the tools and resources I was using to do these investigations were all available online to anybody, and I realized in theory anyone could do these sorts of investigations.
I began to establish myself as a unique source of reliable information about the conflict in Syria. In October 2012 I began to track the use of cluster munitions by the Syrian government for Human Rights Watch, when the Syrian government denied they were using them. At the start of 2013 I began to see four weapons appearing in videos from the south of Syria I had never seen before in the conflict. Using a variety of resources I was able to establish they were all linked to one country, Croatia, and going to moderate opposition groups, mainly in the south of Syria. I took this and the dozens of videos I had collected to the New York Times, and a team of journalists used this information in an investigation that showed that the Saudis were providing weapons they had purchased from Croatia to the Syrian opposition.
These two pieces of work, plus others, began to make it increasingly clear that these investigative tools and techniques could be used by established organizations in a variety of fields to great effect. It wasn’t until August 21st 2013 that organizations really began to take notice.
In the early hours of August 21st, 2013 reports of a chemical attack in suburbs of Damascus began to appear on social media channels. Dozens of videos from the reported attack sites began to be posted and shared. Using the tools and techniques I had developed over the past year and a half I began organizing and examining the information. I had my list of hundreds of YouTube channels from across Syria, so I found the channels posting videos from the locations attacked, and collated them into a playlist I shared with hundreds of journalists from across the world, as well as chemical weapons specialists I had contacted in relation to previous attacks.
When images of the munitions used started appearing no one was able to recognize them, but I immediately realized they were the same type I had seen used in a previous alleged chemical attack in nearby Adra, Damascus, on August 5th. I was also able to find the exact impact locations of some of the rockets recorded by the opposition in the areas involved in the attack. Locals began to send me measurements of these mysterious rockets, which were used in a later Human Rights Watch report on the attacks. In the following days and weeks, using nearly exclusively sources like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, I was able to gather detailed information on the attacks, from areas inaccessible to foreign journalists.
Much of the information I gathered would later be confirmed in the September UN/OPCW report. Then NPR journalist Andy Carvin described me as the “Nate Silver of Syrian munitions.” When the US government’s report into August 21st was published many journalists noted that they could find much more detailed information on my blog than what was being provided by the US government, something that seemed to highlight a disconnect between what people were increasingly coming to expect to see in situation like this, and what governments were providing.
What was becoming clear was that more and more groups were interested in using this open source content for gaining a greater understanding of what was happening in conflicts across the world. The issue was not many people actually knew how to do it, and not everyone who was doing was getting the recognition and support I felt they deserved.
This is where the new website I’m Kickstarting, Bellingcat, comes in. One big hurdle I’ve come across is getting people to engage with the tools and techniques that have been developed. It’s one thing to make a video, do a presentation, or write an article about the tools and techniques, but another to get them to actually use them.
With Bellingcat I’m bringing together writers who produce great work from open source information and emerging writers who want to learn about the tools and techniques themselves. Already we’re using Meedan’s Checkdesk to involve people with the investigation into the remains of flight MH17, downed in Ukraine. Collaborative investigations have also been used to verify images posted on social media of the Buk Missile Launcher linked to the downing of flight MH17, allowing us to track it’s movements on July 17th through rebel held territory.
Future projects involve working with the OCCRP and Hacks/Hackers London on tracking cross-border crime and corruption, using databases available online after the success of the OCCRP’s Investigathon, something we hope to expand to other cities across the world in the future.
What these projects demonstrate is another key aspect of investigative work and collaboration. With large sets of data, or sources that need a human being to look at them instead of a computer algorithm, being able to work collaboratively to examine the information can be hugely productive. At Bellingcat we hope to create a community from our audience and contributors of people who know how to work with this information.
It’s really not hard to do, and the biggest hurdle is getting ordinary people aware that they can do this work. I had no experience in this kind of investigative work when I started what I was doing, but was able to teach myself as I went along. People who visit Bellingcat will be able to learn from my mistakes and successes, creating a community of investigators who can use evidence and expose crime and corruption, from battlefields to boardrooms. On Bellingcat, “audience engagement” isn’t about adding comments and buttons for Facebook and Twitter, it’s about giving the power to challenge the criminal and corrupt.
St. Louis is America's 58th-largest city, and it's located almost exactly halfway down the Mississippi. It's also home to 100 parks, five major museums, and a whole bunch of creators. Since 2009, there have been 311 successfully funded projects within 30 miles of St. Louis. And even more amazingly, total pledges to St. Louis-based projects top $4 million. Read below for a roundup of projects from the Gateway to the West.
Mike McCubbins and Matt Bryan worked on Book of Da for two years, and the resulting book is one of our favorite graphic novel projects. It's the story of a lost diver and his encounter with a mysterious entity that rules over the emotions of the ocean — the eponymous, pyramid-shaped Da. The art is shadowy, the story sparse in dialogue, and the drawings are filled with mysteriously noirish sea creatures; the book (with its clothbound, gold-stamped cover) feels like a treasure.
"In the three and a half years since beginning that piece, more and more content that I've seen on the internet has filled me with an odd sense of emotional and literary inspiration," writes creator Aaron Zemach. Open-Source Poetry was an experiment in found poetry as much as in the intersection of humanity and technology. Zemach took bits of text from Craigslist, the chat site Omegle, and other places of web connection to create a book of poems for anyone who's ever used the internet.
The Luminary is an arts incubator for things that move through boundaries, and for ideas that have no single definition — their whole focus is experimentation and community. After their 2012 Kickstarter project, they successfully moved to a new space (formerly occupied by a variety store); since then, the Luminary folks have been using it to host art exhibits, music, film, and plenty more. There is tons of programming, so if you're passing through St. Louis, be sure to visit.
St. Louis also commands the 21st-largest media market of the US. This means they have many radio stations, including the wonderful KDHX, which is independent, noncommercial, and listener-supported. Last year, KDHX ran a project for a listening room that could host live performances. It's a great extension of the way a community radio station can function.
Brick City Farm is an urban farm in the middle of the city. Since the project ran in 2013, the people behind it took an empty lot and transformed it into a vibrant garden that produces heirloom veggies — cosmic purple carrots, zebra tomatoes, and other amazingly named things — and shares them with the community.
Photographer Davey Rocco's video is one of our favorites in recent memory — in it, he tells the story of serendipitously meeting and photographing Jack White in a diner while he develops the same image. It's a simple concept and a great story. The project was for 400 sheets of photo paper to print the images for Rocco's booth at Schlafly Art Outside, a St. Louis-based outdoor art fair.
Want to see even more great St. Louis projects? You can do so right here.
Cousins and directors Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo recently released Rich Hill, a beautiful, intimate documentary about three families in the town of Rich Hill, Missouri. Both filmmakers grew up visiting family in the town, and returned to document the changing scenery through the eyes of three teenage boys: Appachey, Andrew, and Harley. We spoke to Droz Tragos about what it meant for her to return to the area as a filmmaker, as well as about some films that inspired her.
What inspired you to make Rich Hill?
It was an excuse to go back to this place that I loved and missed. My grandparents died about ten years ago and that was a real loss. I hadn’t been back very much since then. When Andrew [Droz Palermo] and I started to talk about it, I immediately, selfishly, just wanted to do it for personal reasons. I also knew very quickly that it could be very important—more than just a nostalgia piece. A lot of families were struggling over the years. [There were] more and more houses and tarps on the roof, and trash piles in the front yards, and broken windows. We really wanted to knock on their doors and go inside and understand what was going on.
How did that make you feel? This is a place you have a personal history with, but you're coming back almost as an outsider.
There’s a fence that I felt like I was on. We got to go there, and many people knew us from the get-go, and knew of us because maybe they’d seen my first film and thought I’d done a decent job. But at the same time, I hadn’t been there probably in ten years. I was very much an outsider. You don’t see your kids grow up when you’re with them every day, you don’t see the changes. Or maybe you’re gaining weight and you don’t see it over time until your pants get really tight. It’s hard to see the changes in your town if you’re living there, but if you’re an outsider...I could go back and see what was different and compare it to what I’d experienced and seen as a kid. The town has experienced a decline. There were cumulatively more houses that were in disrepair, and fewer businesses.
How did you decide who to focus on?
We didn’t know at first. I’d never met Andrew, Harley and Appachey before. I’d never met their families before. We met Appachey in gym class and had a conversation with him that was so intense. It was very brief. He was so soulful and thoughtful and smart, but his skin was chapped and his clothes were torn and it was the middle of winter. There was a lot going on for him. That was something that never made it into the movie, but we wanted to go back and visit with his family. The second time we saw him was when he was being interviewed on the back of the truck in the first part of the film. We met Andrew in the park. He was playing the tough guy with a bunch of kids around some picnic tables, but then we went home with him and were so warmly welcomed. It was so striking to me how much we were welcomed into the homes and appreciated for being there. I think there was a notion of "Nobody’s knocking on our door, nobody really sees us." By the simple fact that we were wanting to bear witness and hear what they had to say... they were grateful, and I am grateful that they were so brave and welcoming.
Had you not spent time there before you started to make the documentary, do you think it would have gone the way it did?
Probably not. That doesn’t mean that it’s a requirement for every film and every filmmaker, but sometimes I do think what are the stories that I’m qualified to tell, that wouldn’t be told unless I tell them. That’s kind of a key right off the bat. Rich Hill is not unique, it’s pretty average in its circumstances but it is a place I have deep connections with, so yes, Andrew and I working together would be pretty much the two people that could have told this story. We never would have had that access and that trust initially had we not had the deep ties to that community.
It was mostly just you and Andrew filming. Did the small crew factor into the access you got?
That totally factors into it. At times we would have a sound system. For our first shoot we had to borrow a camera, and it was a lot heavier and had these crazy lenses. We also had an assistant camera person, but pretty soon we whittled it down—part of it was financial and part of it was our access. The intimate moments we wanted to have couldn't happen when it was more than just us there. Not using a boom mic also helped sometimes, for some reason even more than the camera, the boom mic was an object of distraction.
What were you watching or reading leading up to the making of Rich Hill?
We talked a lot about things that we didn’t want to do. The reality television approach of something that may be a bit more sensitive—we knew there were things we didn’t want to do [like that]. It’s always good to have a reference that way too: films you admire, and films you kind of want to do something different from. There were narrative works that we were inspired by: Ballastwas a film that we saw that really inspired us. There was a film that came out right before ours called Only the Youngwhich has such a beautiful treatment.
As a documentary, it’s hard sometimes to take a narrative approach where you don’t have outside experts and statistics, we knew we wanted to take that approach. We knew we wanted it to be really emotional and up close and intimate. There was another film called Bombay Beach that we both watched with similar subject matter and similar in its risk taking. It took risks in a different kind of way—it broke out into song and dance, which we didn’t do. Those are films specifically that come to mind. Of course, there are documentaries that both Andrew and I talked about. One of my favorite films is Grey Gardens, and Harlan County USA, these are films that I admire, I think in part because they’re not strictly vérité. We knew that we wanted to spend lot of time just in observation, but we also wanted to have conversation, so we kind of moved in and out of that. We didn’t have formal sit down interviews. We didn’t light anything. But we would talk to the kids and the families, go in and out of their lives and what they were doing. We’d have times where we were just quiet. We would be there and just hang out. With a few exceptions, we had to do a sit down interview with Harley’s mom in prison, because those were the parameters of her circumstances, but that was the one exception.
You kept things very intimate and focused on these three families.
We hoped that we could move people and have a conversation around the film. We thought, if an organization wants to use a film, we would want to make this available to them and they can bring their statistics and they can do their Powerpoint presentation, but this will be the film. This is going to be a human story. I will also say that in the process of making and researching the film we did spend time with people in and around the community. Some of that we used as information to inform our film, some of that ended up allowing for access later on. I’ll give you an example: we sat down with the principal of the school. We had a couple of interviews with him. We didn’t light it, but he was sitting at his desk because thats where he wanted to be. We had a conversation with him about kids, and these kids in particular. It was our instinct that we weren’t going to use it, but we wanted to have that conversation, and because we had had it, when Harley was having that day where he wanted to walk out [of school], he trusted us. He knew our intentions. We had a relationship—we had a dialog with him that allowed us to do that.
Now that it's so easy to find and watch most films, documentaries seem to be more popular than ever. What documentaries inspired you?
I’m not going to pull out anything terribly obscure. I do really appreciate personal documentaries. I loveStories We Tell. This year on the festival circuit I’ve been really excited about two films, in part because they just really resonate with me personally as a mother and a wife, and somebody who is also trying to make my films and do my own stuff and just balancing that. A film called Actress that Robert Greene made, and a film called 112 Weddings. I think I fall into the camp of a person who loves watching documentaries, and for the most part I really do appreciate lots of different forms of documentaries. I don’t think that documentary itself is a genre. I think that there are lots of different genres of documentaries, and that’s what I’m excited about, especially when the lines are blurred and we can just make films. I’m excited about Boyhood because it has a lot of documentary technique and roots in the way that in its very concept and premise—I love that and am so excited about that. I have an MFA in screenwriting. I started off from a narrative perspective and I loved the notion, the opportunity to blur those lines. At the same time, what I love about documentaries and what I miss in narratives that are too slick, is things being authentic.
Is that what drew you to making documentaries?
Part of it, and part of it is the accessibility—just being able to greenlight yourself. It’s a little bit harder to greenlight narrative. You can be a lean crew for a documentary. The accessibility of just picking up a camera... the barriers to entry, perhaps, are a little lower.
Your films seem to very much be a specific personal vision that takes that concept to heart.
I think it will often start from a personal place, but it doesn’t always have to. I don’t think that’s a rule—that you have to have a personal connection. I think you find it in the making of a film. I’m approaching now a couple of films that I wouldn’t necessarily—if you just looked on paper you wouldn’t understand what my personal connection might be, but there’s always something there that arouses curiosity or a connection. That’s how you can endure the lean times—when you have that personal drive to see something through.
Rich Hill is in select theaters and available on iTunes now.
This August 7-10th in Los Angeles, Sundance is hosting NEXT FEST, which celebrates the intersection of music and film. That means you'll be able to catch modern classics like Napoleon Dynamite as well as a number of other releases paired with musical performances from Father John Misty, Tinashe, and others.
Kickstarter will be in attendance as well. We're hosting three panels featuring our resident Film Community Manager George Schmalz in conversation with a number of Kickstarter alum (more info on that below). Taken as a whole, all three panels are a primer on how to run a successful Kickstarter film campaign, from creation through distribution. All panels are free and open to the public. Details and links to RSVP below:
It wasn’t the project’s ambitions that blew us away, because... well, it wasn’t very ambitious, at least at first. It was the reaction Zack got from all corners of the Internet: head-scratching, laughter, loud harrumphing, pure delight. And it was Zack’s graceful handling of a project that quickly became far too big to fit in a bowl.
The potato salad project ended Saturday with $55,492 in pledges from 6,911 backers. Here’s a look at how it got there.
Zack’s project started popping up in the press almost immediately. On July 6th, three days after it went live, Zack was on local TV news in Columbus, Ohio, expressing amazement at how the thing had blown up. At the time he had fewer than 200 backers.
Traffic to the project page quickly took off and eventually reached 4.1 million visits.
That made it the fourth-most-viewed project page in Kickstarter’s history. The top ten:
It’s funny to think that more people have seen the potato salad project than Oculus Rift, but hey, the Internet is a crazy place.
Despite all the traffic, the project received fewer pledges than anything else on that list. Here's a breakdown of pledges by day, showing a big surge at the start and then a flurry of backers getting in just before the deadline:
Hunger for potato salad knows no borders: people in 74 countries supported the project. Here are the top ten:
Among countries with more than five backers, Norway had the highest average pledge at $12, followed by South Korea and Sweden.
About two-thirds of Zack’s backers were from the US, and they pledged a total of $41,166. Here is a breakdown showing what percentage of that total came from each state:
Ohio, California, and New York pledged the most to the project. Ohio was no surprise, as it’s Zack’s home state. In fact, if we zoom in on Ohio, there’s particular strength around Columbus, Zack’s hometown, where his friends and neighbors wanted to come along for the ride. More than 62% of the money in Ohio came from Franklin County, which includes Columbus. Columbus is now gearing up to host PotatoStock 2014 next month.
As you might expect, most pledges to this project were small. Backers averaged $8.03 per pledge, compared with a Kickstarter-wide average of $77.51.
Most of the project's backers were not new to Kickstarter: 72% were repeat backers. In fact, even when you include the newcomers, potato salad backers have backed an average of 15 projects on Kickstarter! So while this was a global joke on the Internet, backing the project became an inside joke among core Kickstarter fans.
Here are the projects that people backed the most before they backed the potato salad project:
Tons of people would have watched Zack’s project video — except that he didn’t make one. Here’s our favorite of his video updates:
Zack’s project inspired some handwringing about What It All Means. Here’s one take: Kickstarter is a good place to aim high and go big, but small projects are great too. If you want to make something to share with others, maybe you just need ten or 20 or 50 people to get your idea off the ground. And if it turns out that 6,911 people share your vision for potato salad… then you’re going to need some more potatoes.
We look forward to seeing your project! And maybe we’ll see you at PotatoStock 2014.
Got ideas for other fun things we could do with all the great data we have at Kickstarter? Write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves. So every week, a couple members of the Kickstarter team will be saying hello, and picking out a few projects — past or present, successful or not — that they're especially fond of. (They will also be posing for GIFs. The GIFs are mandatory.)
Job: "I'm the Publishing and Dance Community Manager, which means that I help writers, publishers, dancers, and other creative types use Kickstarter to raise money and build community around their creative projects." (Note that Margot also has what might be my favorite of all the names in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby: Em Dash.)
Children's Performance of Tibetan Snow Lion Dance — "The Jhamtse Ghatsal Children's Community used Kickstarter to raise money to create costumes for a traditional dance. You should watch the video — it's so joyful! It made me feel welcomed into a community I knew nothing about. I would love to see one of these dances in person one day."
Amazing Capes — "Every kid understands the transformative power of the right piece of clothing. Just put on a cape and suddenly you're a superhero or a villain--whatever you want to be. Grownups sometimes forget about how powerful imagination can be. I think everyone's life would be better if they had an Amazing Cape."
Job: "I'm a writer, so ... I generally just write assorted stuff. I also make my colleagues pose for these GIFs."
Need a Huge Painted Mural in My Smog Check Station — "Nick Andrew Kosta runs a smog-check station in California. I guess at some point it occurred to him that there's no good reason a smog-check station has to be some gray despairing spot where you trudge grimly through the process of getting your car inspected, so he's hoping to add a nice mural, and send you a postcard of it. This project taught me that apparently the smog-check game is really, really competitive?"
Croissant Man: A Web Series about Depressed Pastries — "The project video has director Tulica Singh arguing with a grumpy croissant, which is really something. But mostly I'd like to direct your attention to the series preview video a little down the page, in which two human fingers do some genuinely fantastic acting. (I'm not trying to be funny — I really feel like these are straight up the Meryl Streeps of fingers.) This project taught me that finger body language is a very real thing."
Black Rabbit Dice: Brain Training Games for Kids and Adults — "McKay Anderson (who seems super-nice) is making something simple and cool — sets of wooden dice with little pictograms on each face. You roll them, then use the results to tell stories, play word games, and do other fun human-brain things that don't involve electricity. This project reminded me that I always get too excited about dice that have anything besides numbers on them, which I blame on reading this fantasy book as a kid."
punkrockpaperscissors relaunch — "Lee Loughridge spent the 80s going to a lot of east-coast punk and hardcore shows, and collecting the show flyers. The goal of this project was to collect them all in a nice big hardcover book. It turned out great. Look, it's on my desk right now!"
Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. Taking place over the month of August, it’s a showcase for performing arts as well as a place to discover new, innovative work. It's also a totally un-juried festival with no selection committee, so any type of performance can participate. Since 2009, we at Kickstarter have seen hundreds of Fringe projects come through our virtual doors. It’s been an awe-inspiring array: ensemble pieces, one-man shows, musicals, gritty drama, comedy, surrealism, and many, many works that don't fall comfortably into any category. We collected them here — take a look.
A large number of artists, collectives, and groups travel from far away to Edinburgh to attend Festival Fringe. We talked to three creators about their performances, what it was like to put them together, and how they took them to Scotland.
Would you briefly describe your piece?
Lucy Benson-Brown, Cutting Off Kate Bush: My piece is a one-woman show about a young girl called Cathy who finds a box of her Mum's Kate Bush records and starts listening to them. As she does so, she starts to remember these stories... about her childhood, about her mum. Amazed, she starts to blog her findings on YouTube by making videos. She talks to the camera, she dances to Kate Bush’s music, all in the aim to try and remember as much possible. With that, of course, comes a certain amount of consequences. Kate Bush’s music has been so central to my adolescence, I really connect with her storytelling and her musicality. In my opinion she has some of the best lyrics out there and her music lends itself so well to the theatre.
Kate Jones, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: It’s an ongoing, ever-changing and always original attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. Created by Greg Allen, written and performed by award-winning Neo-Futurists from San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, the show is never the same twice.
Ben McFarland, The Thinking Drinkers' Guide to the Legends of Liquor: With the catchphrase "Drink Less, Drink Better," we celebrate the men and women who have used alcohol to light a fire under the rocking chair of moribund ideas rather than those irresponsible imbibers who have given drink its devilish reputation.
What did you do to prepare for Fringe?
Kate Jones: We've been preparing for quite some time. After we settled the venue, we needed to cast the show, and we wanted the three companies represented. We started to curate the menu of our show, which is comprised of 30 original plays in 60 minutes, all of which are authored by a member of the Neo-Futurists, and on some level, the plays are autobiographical. We asked the three companies to put forward work that was representative of their unique ensemble. We started with almost 400 on offer, and got down to 80. Plus, we've left room for new work to be written about the experiences, giving us a different show every night. (Somewhere between one and six plays will be cut from the menu and replaced with another play every single day.) Putting the show together over the last few days has been a non-stop adrenaline rush — building props, memorizing lines, learning dances, learning blocking and cues... But it's also been really fun! We've got three new plays we're world-premiering tomorrow, all written in the last two days (including references to our apartment fire!), so we're quite excited.
Lucy Benson-Brown: I've performed at the Fringe twice before but I actually haven't been back for about nine years. I always wanted to take a solo show and at the beginning of the year I had this idea and before I knew it, I had applied and here we are. At the moment, it's just working the story and trying to tell the best version of it that I can.
Ben McFarland: We wanted to do a show as we wanted to take the "tutored tasting concept to another level – beyond just talking through how something tastes and how it’s made – and putting it into a historical and cultural context. Our whole approach is designed to urge people to “drink less but drink better.”
This is the fourth year we’ve done the Fringe, but the first year of a new show, so we’ve been preparing for it by feverishly learning lines, lyrics, dance moves, getting costumes and set together etc. It’s a fairly intense time but really good fun.
What was it like traveling with your show, and have you traveled before?
Kate Jones: Traveling was a bit difficult. The ensemble was converging on Edinburgh from all over: San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London and one performer had to fly in directly from a performance at San Diego Comic-Con, after being on tour for a month prior.
While the majority of performers were in the air, our accommodation caught fire when the landlord tried to use a bug bomb to fumigate the flat. It was uninhabitable and made you feel like you were giving yourself black lung while you were standing in it. Our managing director had to phone up friends to get extra beds until we could find a suitable replacement, though some stayed in other rooms in that flat that were in better condition. The air quality was terrible. It was really stressful — we had nowhere to rehearse and tried meeting outside, but the weather is unpredictable and we need a lot of electronics to run the show. We were quite unfocused until we got into our flat.
Lucy Benson-Brown: This piece is brand new; it will be premiering at Edinburgh so I haven't travelled with it before. I have, however, experienced some strange coincidences that I think perhaps only come with working with Kate’s music; I'm convinced it's magical or something. First of all, I already wrote the piece and had my offer and had pretty much signed the contract and then ten days later, Kate Bush announced that she would be performing again after 35 years. We finish on the 25th of August, and Kate’s first Hammersmith date is the 26th. Our opening show in Edinburgh is the 30th of July, which just so happens to be Kate’s birthday. It's all very strange and I'm sure we're to find out what it all means as we embark on our run at the Fringe.
Ben McFarland: We’ve performed the show at The Soho Theatre in London and The Cheltenham Festival and we’re going on a tour around the south east in the Autumn.
To catch Cutting Off Kate Bush, The Thinking Drinkers' Guide, or Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, see the schedule of performances here.