From Kickstarter to the Academy Awards: Three Questions for the Creators of ‘Loving Vincent’

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“This will be the world’s first feature-length painted animation,” animator Dorota Kobiela and director Hugh Welchman wrote on the project page for Loving Vincent in early 2014.

Nearly 800 backers supported their project to make a animated film exploring the life of Vincent Van Gogh, and over the next three years Kobiela and Welchman set about bringing their vision to life. They filmed live actors on a green screen, and recruited 125 painters to meticulously animate some 65,000 film frames in the artist’s trademark gestural style.

After winning acclaim on the festival circuit, Loving Vincent was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature — making this the eighth consecutive year a Kickstarter-funded film has been nominated for an Oscar. 

Read on to hear from Kobiela and Welchman about how they used Kickstarter to connect with their audience, as well as their advice for emerging filmmakers. And join us in cheering on the filmmakers this Sunday, March 4, at the Oscars.

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Sew Your Soul: Lucy Sparrow’s Felt-Art Installations

Inside “The Felt Cave,” a workshop on a farm in Essex, a few dozen miles north of London, Lucy Sparrow fashions boxes of candy, jars of peanut butter, bottles of grape juice, cans of Coca-Cola, and just about anything else you can imagine out of colorful felt. She’s been working with felt since she was about eight years old — “but now I just take it to extremes,” she says with a laugh.

In January 2014, Sparrow raised over £10,000 (over $13,500) on Kickstarter to create The Cornershop, transforming an abandoned London newsstand into a quaint corner store where everything — from the newspapers to the chewing gum at the cash register to the register itself — was made of felt. And in 2016, she did it again with 8 Till Late, an all-felt convenience store in New York City. It was a sensation, selling out all 9,000 felt objects Sparrow had made by hand for the installation.

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New: Find Creators in Search Results

Some Kickstarter creators have built up quite a following over time. The writer and publisher Elly Blue, for example, has launched 25 projects, with new fans discovering her work all along the way. So we thought, why not make it easier for people to find specific creators on Kickstarter and check out their latest projects?

Now, when you use the search tool on our site, you’ll see the names of some of our 320,000 creators included in the results when relevant. This feature rolled out to all users today.

Once you find the creator you’re looking for, you can hit the “Follow” button to be notified when they launch a new project.

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A Snapshot of Industrial Design's Bright Future

15 student projects from University of Illinois at Chicago School of Design

Every year, we look forward to seeing students from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Design launch Kickstarter campaigns as the final project for their Entrepreneurial Product Development class. For most, it’s their first experience with designing and offering an original product, and we love seeing Kickstarter used as part of this learning process. This year, UIC Professor Ted Burdett is leading the class. As the co-owner of Strand Design, he has created many products of his own, including the Kickstarter-funded Fourneau Bread Oven. Here, he shares a bit of the philosophy behind the class and introduces his students’ work.

When you graduate from design school, you often wind up working for an agency or as an in-house designer at a company. But I’ve noticed that a lot of my students dream of being independent — starting a studio, making things for a living, or pursuing a venture based on a social or environmental mission. Most don’t take that road and it is no mystery why; they’re saddled with debt, have limited experience, and are short on resources. Yet, In many ways there’s no better time to pursue independent creativity than when you’re full of youthful energy, bountiful creativity and optimism, and haven’t got a whole lot to lose.

Blazing an independent path is far more feasible now for young designers than it was in the past, given the abundance of digital platforms that facilitate community building, prototyping, manufacturing, marketing, and selling. When I think about these new possibilities, paired with my students’ desire to make a positive impact on the world, I see a very bright future.

We created the year-long Entrepreneurial Product Development (EPD) course at UIC to give students the chance to try out entrepreneurship firsthand, within the confines of school, and at a small scale. We help them learn a user-centered approach that embraces validation through prototyping and iteration. Through developing a self-directed project, running a Kickstarter campaign, and coordinating production, students are better equipped to decide whether they want to pursue an independent practice when they graduate.

And that is where we are now: the beginning of our Spring semester marks the launch of our Kickstarter campaigns! You can check them all out below — please share your feedback and help spread the word.

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Welcoming Kickstarter Fellow Fabrice Nadjari

Today, I’m happy to announce the appointment of Fabrice Nadjari as our newest Kickstarter Fellow.

Originally from Paris, Fabrice trained as an engineer and a sociologist, specializing in innovation. He then pursued a globe-spanning career as an independent creator and entrepreneur — with his work taking him to places like Bolivia, Bhutan, and the Central African Republic. In 2011, he and a childhood friend set off for Afghanistan, where they shot a photography project documenting the lives of a nomadic tribe in the country’s remote Wakhan corridor. The work caught the attention of the United Nations, earned Fabrice an Emmy nomination, and won accolades from National Geographic.

Residents of Sarhad-e-Broghil, a remote village in Afghanistan's Wakhan region.
Residents of Sarhad-e-Broghil, a remote village in Afghanistan's Wakhan region.
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A Round of Applause for the 2018 Grammy-nominated Kickstarter Creators

What do a reggae legend, a nine-piece vocal ensemble, a Cajun songwriter, and a MacArthur Genius all have in common? They’ve all funded Grammy-nominated albums on Kickstarter. These creators — Lee “Scratch” Perry, Roomful of Teeth, Jo-El Sonnier, and Miguel Zenón, respectively — are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Kickstarter talent acknowledged by the Recording Academy.

Over the years, we’ve amassed a list of Kickstarter musicians, orchestras, and record labels that have racked up Grammy nods and even a few wins. With the 60th Annual Grammy Awards less than a week away— they air on CBS this Sunday, January 28 — join us in celebrating two Kickstarter creators up for golden gramophones this year.

(And tune in to a playlist featuring tunes by Grammy-nominated Kickstarter creators after the jump.)

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Our Latest Kickstarter Fellow: Fred Benenson

Fred Benenson was Kickstarter’s second employee and ran our data team before leaving in 2016 to explore new things. Today, we're happy to announce that he’s coming back for a bit as a Kickstarter Fellow

Fred’s wide-ranging curiosity about technology and culture has taken him down some surprising paths. In fact, before he joined Kickstarter, Fred was already a Kickstarter creator. Emoji Dick, his crowdsourced translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was the first emoji work to be added to the Library of Congress. More recently, he co-created Pitch Deck, a tabletop game that’s a great parody of startup mania. And Fred has three other Kickstarter projects under his belt, so he’s intimately familiar with creators’ needs. 

Over the next several months, Fred will be helping us build the next version of the Creator Dashboard, which is where creators go for data on a live project: its funding progress, the latest pledges, top referrals, and so forth. He’ll be looking at how we can give creators the insights they need to run the most effective campaigns and build their communities on Kickstarter. We’re looking forward to working with him again!

Welcoming Back Andy Baio as a Kickstarter Fellow

Today we’re excited to welcome Andy Baio back to Kickstarter. Andy’s a longtime member of the Kickstarter family. He advised us early on, helping us build Kickstarter before we even launched! And we even convinced him to serve as our very first CTO afterwards.

Andy’s a creator, full-stop. He embodies the spirit of independence that Kickstarter is proud to stand for, and he’s brought several great Kickstarter projects of his own to life over the years. “Kind of Bloop” was a chiptune jazz tribute to Miles Davis. More than 1,700 backers got behind his project to revive Upcoming — the events community Andy originally started many moons ago. And, most recently, he co-founded XOXO, an experimental festival celebrating independent artists who work on the internet.

This time around Andy’s joining us a Kickstarter Fellow. The Kickstarter Fellows idea is still taking shape, but it’s kinda like a visiting scholars program at a university — we identify really talented people whose work we admire and invite them in to collaborate with our team for a focused period of time. In the long term, we see the Fellows program as a great opportunity to work alongside extraordinary individuals who want to conspire with us to push our mission forward. But in the meantime we’re just excited to have a chance to work with Andy again. Please join us in welcoming him back. :)