What's Up St. Louis!

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

Tracy Droz Tragos on the Making of Rich Hill

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.

Harley
Harley

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: Ballast was a film that we saw that really inspired us. There was a film that came out right before ours called Only the Young which 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.

Appachey
Appachey

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 love Stories 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.

Andrew
Andrew

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.

Kickstarter at Sundance NEXT FEST 2014

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:

The Kickstarter Experience 101: Getting Started 

Getting Started: A primer on building a successful Kickstarter project. With Elijah Drenner (That Guy Dick Miller), Jeff Broadway (Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton), Kate Trumbull (The Ovarian Psycos)

The Kickstarter Experience 201: Your Project's Story

How to keep people engaged with your project through videos, updates, and outreach. With Nick Peterson (The Visitant), Chris Strompolos (The Raiders Guys), Kyle Rankin (Night Of The Living Deb), C.C. Boyce (Would You Woodwork?).

The Kickstarter Experience: 301: Beyond the Project

From development to distribution to running your own theater. With Jocelyn Towne (I Am I), Matt Hoyt (Antarctic...Huh?), Christine Davila (Ambulante) and Hadrian Belove (Cinefamily).

RSVP for panels and more right here.

Potato Salad: By the Numbers

When you work at Kickstarter, you come across amazing projects all the time. But in the site’s five-year history we’ve never seen anything quite like Zack Brown’s potato salad project.

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:

  1. Ouya game console
  2. Pebble watch
  3. Veronica Mars movie
  4. Potato Salad
  5. Double Fine Adventure
  6. Project Eternity
  7. Penny Arcade
  8. Reading Rainbow
  9. Mighty No. 9
  10. Oculus Rift

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:


Country Backers
United States 4,676
United Kingdom  419
Canada 363
Australia 220
Germany 179
France 107
Sweden 82
Denmark 54
Netherlands 53
Switzerland 46

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:

(We've omitted some states, including those contributing less than 0.5% of total money pledged to potato salad)
(We've omitted some states, including those contributing less than 0.5% of total money pledged to potato salad)

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:

  1. Reading Rainbow - 868 backers
  2. Double Fine Adventure - 437 backers
  3. Ouya - 343 backers
  4. Mighty No. 9 - 340 backers
  5. Torment: Tides of Numenera - 293 backers
  6. The Veronica Mars Movie Project - 276 backers
  7. Project Eternity - 262 backers
  8. Pebble - 245 backers
  9. Wasteland 2 - 239 backers
  10. Kung Fury - 230 backers

...and those they've backed since potato salad:

  1. Coolest Cooler - 101 backers
  2. Sense - 99 backers
  3. Bunch O Balloons - 95 backers
  4. Electric Objects - 39 backers
  5. Litographs Tattoos - 36 backers
  6. The Deer God - 36 backers
  7. Bibliotheca - 34 backers
  8. NudeAudio Super-M - 30 backers
  9. The Resistance - 29 backers
  10. Timespinner - 27 backers

The project also received an incredible amount of press. According to the media analytics service Meltwater, it got 2,068 media mentions in 54 countries.


Country Media Mentions
United States 1,319
Australia 272
Canada 95
United Kingdom  70
India 49
Singapore 29
Malaysia 24
Germany 20
New Zealand 20
China 18

Some of our favorite features were in The New Yorker, Good Morning America, Columbus Alive, and The Verge (and also The Verge).

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: stories@kickstarter.com.

Meet the Team: Margot and Nitsuh

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.)

This week, meet Margot and Nitsuh:

Margot Atwell (@MargotAtwell)

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.)

  • Anchored in Deep Water: The Fisherpoets Anthology — "I love this unusual project to create books of poetry by fisherpoets. The art is really stunning. Plus, Astoria, Oregon, is one of the most intriguing, haunted places I've ever been."
  • 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."
  • Bluecrowne (Arcana Project #2) — "I love the way cross-over author Kate Milford reached out directly to her fans and supporters to make two novels exactly the way she wants to make them, with high production values and gorgeous covers, using McNally Jackson's Espresso Book Machine."
  • 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."

Nitsuh Abebe (@ntabebe)

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!"

Three Creators on Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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.

Lucy Brown, Cutting Off Kate Bush
Lucy Brown, Cutting Off Kate Bush

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.

Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, The Thinking Drinkers' Guide
Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, The Thinking Drinkers' Guide

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.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

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

Kickstarter at Comic-Con: Bill Plympton in a Nutshell

This week we're at San Diego Comic-Con alongside tons of Kickstarter creators. Heading to the convention? Here's the low-down on the events, panels, and projects in attendance. In the meantime, we thought we'd profile some of the creators who are at Comic-Con, starting with legendary animator Bill Plympton, whose efforts to restore Windsor McCay's classic Flying House and his latest feature-length film Cheatin' were both Kickstarter projects.

In Bill Plympton’s now-iconic 1988 short “One of Those Days,” the main character has a terrible day. Told entirely through scratchy, frenetic colored pencils and drawn in first person POV, Plympton’s character accidentally shaves his nose off his face, drops his toast, gets beat up and, after a battery of rough moments, accidentally blows his own house up. It’s not dated, but it does feel out of time: it’s a far cry from Disney gloss, and even further from the Pixar-sheen that modern day animation has appropriated.

Plympton always existed just outside the mainstream animation world anyway. His work was often darker, weirder, and more adult than what else was out there. Watching a Plympton animation feels like you’re watching the whole process, like he’s sketching the entire thing live, right in front of your eyes.

Just the other day, we posted a guide to Kickstarter at San Diego Comic-Con. Bill Plympton will be attending and speaking at a panel. Last year, he funded his seventh feature-length animated project, Cheatin', through Kickstarter. It was, by all accounts, daunting to make. Plympton diverged from his rougher signature style, in favor of lush, hand-painted animation. It feels a lot calmer, but is still very recognizably his work. It's not without precedent, either. Though animated films are still released at a steady clip, they're often the work of large studios, which have a much wider reach than an independent production. 

Last year, to get an idea of where Plympton was coming from, we asked him about some of his favorite animated films. You can see that list here. Tellingly, it features a couple early Disney productions and will probably make you want to re-watch Dumbo.

Plympton’s back catalog is deep, and there’s a lot to explore. All of it—right down to the commercial work—is idiosyncratic, but even during the most surreal moments, it still feels so relatable, so undeniably human.

 Cheatin' Trailer (2013)

 Excerpt from feature-length The Tune (1992)

"Summer Bummer" (2012)

Series of Geico commercials  (1999)

Kanye West animated video "Heard Em Say" (2005)

"Bird is the Word" (2005)

Excerpt from Guard Dog (2004)

Kickstarter at San Diego Comic-Con International 2014

San Diego’s Comic-Con International is one of the largest conventions of its kind. Large enough, in fact, that our diligent comics team here at the office was able to pull an entire roster of projects and creators that have come through Kickstarter and will be at SDCC this week. There are panels, projects, artists, writers and even a few(!) Eisner nominees. We’ll be there, presenting a number of events with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Look below for some highlights of Kickstarter at Comic-Con International.

Thursday

How to Kickstart Your Dream Like a Pro

Want to know how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign? Join our very own Craig Engler as he moderates a panel featuring writer/producers Jane Espenson and Brad Bell (Husbands), writer/artist/inker Jimmy Palmiotti (Denver, Forager, like a million other things) and artist John Picacio. Pick up some tips!

Spotlight on Bill Finger, the Co-Creator of Batman 

Bill Finger, an artist responsible for the uncredited co-creation of Batman, as well as a host of his supporting characters would have been 100 this year. His granddaughter Athena Finger used Kickstarter to fund the documentary The Cape Creator: A Tribute to Bill Finger. Now join her, along with a host of other comics luminaries as they spotlight Finger’s important, legendary career.

Meet Bill Plympton 

Bill Plympton’s now classic hand drawn animation has been a cultural staple since the ’70s, so we were beyond excited when he used Kickstarter to fund Cheatin, his newest animated feature. Plympton will be on hand to talk about his work, show some clips and talk about how he put together his most recent works.

Friday

Spotlight on Sara Mayhew 

Kickstarter-funded Legend of the Ztarr creator Sara Mayhew will speak on promotion humanism and critical thinking through pop culture.

Free Enterprise: 15th Anniversary Reunion 

Fifteen years ago, the romantic comedy Free Enterprise was released. Now, the cast and crew reunites to discuss the cult classic and their efforts to produce a Free Enterprise TV pilot through Kickstarter.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour 

Ben Acker and Ben Blacker are the creators of the comedy variety show The Thrilling Adventure Hour, which they turned into an Eisner-nominated anthology comic. The pair will be on hand, along with a roster of contributors, to discuss what they’ve been doing, and what they plan on doing next.

Saturday

Francois Schuiten: Architects of Obscure Cities

Last year, Stephen Smith ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund his translation of Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters’ French graphic novel The Leaning Girl, the first in a series of proposed translations of the entire important Obscure Cities collection. Smith, along with Peeters and Schuiten, will be on-hand to discuss the series and subsequent translation.

Fantagraphics Forward 

Fantagraphics, one of the most important independent comics publishers in the world turned to Kickstarter last year to fund a year’s worth of their books. On their panel they’ll be previewing future projects and talking to notable creators like Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck), Drew Friedman (Heroes of the Comics), and more.

Ways to Increase Success on your Self-Published Kickstarter Project 

Paul Roman Martinez, Travis Hanson and Daniel Davis are three creators that have run ten successful crowd-funded projects between them. They’re going to offer some tips on how they did it.

Sunday

Fund My Comic 

Thanks to the internet, self-publishing your own comic isn’t as difficult as it used to be. ComiXology co-founder John D. Roberts, Jimmy Palmiotti (who has done a few Kickstarter projects himself), Jamal Igle and Kel McDonald, will walk you through the whole process, from creation through funding, and finally, to publication.

 Want to find us? Just send an email to Comics@Kickstarter.com, and we can set up a time to meet.