About this project
UPDATE: Final Day Of Funding!
We're now fully funded with hours to spare, and we couldn't be more grateful! Work begins tomorrow – no rest for the wicked!
Additional funds over and above the target, though no longer essential, will be really useful to us. These have already been allocated by priority:
- If we raise an extra £1,000, we can pay for a dedicated audio mix for both films (potentially a huge jump in quality for a relatively small amount of money)
- If we raise an extra £2,000, that gets us three days with a specialist in motion graphics and colour grading (making our films look even slicker)
- For £3,000 more we can pay for additional music licenses, removing our reliance on online creative commons tracks.
- And £4,000 extra means we can retire to the Caribbean! (Just kidding – if we get this we’ll hire a composer to write a bespoke score for the Santa Cruz film.)
So don't think your last-minute pledge will go to waste at this late stage – it really won't!
We're adventure filmmakers Tom Allen and Leon McCarron. With your help, this campaign will fund two exciting new films for release this year.
Each of these films will go beyond the journey itself, telling unique and compelling stories of the places we visited and the people we found there.
Because adventure isn't just about adrenaline, heroics and stunning landscapes in far-flung lands. In truth, adventurous journeys have the ability to dig much deeper, unearthing untold stories about the world we all share.
We're raring to go – we've made the journeys and shot the footage. This campaign is about raising funds for post-production.
But first, here's a bit more about the films themselves and the stories we want to tell.
Source To Sea Along Iran's Longest River
Last spring we set out to explore a broad slice of culture and geography of Iran by following the country's longest river, the Karun, from source to sea.
What we found was a country markedly different to the one so often portrayed in Western media. It's vital that we seek to understand each other and to fight the growing amount of bigotry and hatred towards the cultures of this part of the world. That's what had drawn us to the country in the first place.
Yet we also discovered that filming and travelling in Iran presented its own challenges, causing us to question many of the values we took for granted. This, in many ways, represented the biggest lesson of the journey, and one of the central themes of the story we found in this stunning, misunderstood nation.
Following Darwin Along The Rio Santa Cruz
Then we set out on a second river-based journey, this time on horseback. Once again we had a clear aim in mind: to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin's failed 1834 expedition up the River Santa Cruz in southern Patagonia.
And, once again our expectations were foiled. We already knew that the river was in imminent peril, with two mega-dams slated to be built in the coming years. But we hadn't understood the political complexities of what was happening. The plot thickened, and the story became one of power, money and corruption – and of what natural wonders stand to be lost as a result.
These two journeys resulted in two totally different stories.
We're both adventurers at heart. So you won't be surprised to hear that we approached these journeys in a rough and ready fashion, with all the unexpected challenges and dramas that self-sufficient outdoor travel entails. If you're an adventure lover, you'll be pleased to hear that there'll be plenty of that in both films.
But these stories will also go beyond adventure for its own sake, and probe some the biggest questions of today's global society – cross-cultural understanding, environment versus progress, and the very nature of freedom itself.
These films can’t wait – they'll be powerful because they're relevant right now.
A taste of what's to come
We've already invested our own time and money into producing one short film, KARUN, which tells the enjoyable but simplified story of our journey in Iran. If you're wondering what our films actually look like (i.e. if they're any good) – and we won't blame you for being skeptical – grab a cuppa and enjoy the next 15 minutes of fun:
Yet this is just a fragment of the tale of our 6-week journey. If our project succeeds, we'll go back into the cutting room and tell you the whole story of what happened in the Islamic Republic...
Our job now is to condense 50 hours of raw footage into two feature-length films.
What happens now – and where you come in – is that we raise the funds to assemble a team and find a space to work full-time on the films for the next 2-3 months.
We've both won awards for our previous films, Janapar and Into The Empty Quarter, so we know what's involved in making them. Everything's lined up to begin the day after the campaign ends – as long as we successfully raise the funds.
If we meet our target, then by the end of this summer we'll have not one but two feature-length films to share with you – and then with the world.
How we've calculated the project's target – and what happens if we exceed it
Our target of £23,500 is as minimal as we can make it. It covers the barebones costs of making two feature-length documentaries.
Specifically, it'll pay for:
- a working space for 8 weeks,
- two professional film editors and editing facilities,
- a co-director/edit producer,
- a meagre stipend for us to exist on, and
- the overheads of delivering your rewards.
Our team of five will be working together full-time for at least two months. We're used to living an absurdly frugal life on the road, and can keep our personal costs down if we have to, but we want to pay a fair wage to the professionals we collaborate with.
It will be fun. And we'll get the films done.
If we go over and above our target, however, these stories will become not only more powerful, but also more widely heard.
Let's get specific:
If we can raise an additional £11,500, for a total of £35,000, we'll also be able to pay for:
- additional editing time,
- an original musical score for both films,
- professional sound editing, foley and voiceover recording,
- dedicated colour correction and grading, and
- final mixdown for each individual format (DVD, digital, theatrical)
(Oh, and occasionally being able to eat.)
If we can exceed our target and reach £35,000, we'll not only be able to make the films – we'll also be able to make them the best and most effective films they can possibly be.
This is who we are.
We're both well-established adventure filmmakers, having won various awards for our previous work. So it'd be easy to bang on about that. But we thought it would be more amusing to make fun of each other instead...
"Tom Allen is the only person I know who actually enjoys eating instant noodles when not on an expedition", says Leon. "I first met him in 2012, when I’d just got back from walking across China. We immediately decided to do something adventurous together in London as a taster for whether we’d fare well together on a long expedition.
"Tom suggested a half-day paddle down Regent’s Canal in London. I recall that Tom brought a head-torch for passing through the tunnels, which struck me as particularly resourceful. It might even be this single act that led to our joining forces in Iran and Patagonia.
"Previous to making my acquaintance, Tom seems to have lived most of his life on a bicycle. Setting off from England at the age of 23, he made a complete balls-up of trying to ride round the world, and instead found himself getting married in the Middle East. Luckily, Tom proved very adept at filming his own misadventures and captured everything on camera. The end result was the award-winning, genre-redefining bicycle love story Janapar which, despite all my sarcasm, I have to admit is an incredible film. His book of the same journey is equally (annoyingly) good.
"Tom now makes a living by claiming association to me, and using his penchant for solitude to write blogs, e-books and articles for all manner of audiences."
"Leon's existence came to my attention in 2009," says Tom, "when he blatantly tried to rip off my failed round-the-world bike trip by cycling from New York to Hong Kong before running out of money and going home. It was this dismal failure to cycle round the world that resonated most strongly with me, and I knew right then that we would get on really well together.
"Leon then almost immediately received a commission from the National Geographic channel, making him the envy of adventure filmmakers everywhere. He spent 7 months of absolute misery walking from Mongolia to Hong Kong and single-handedly shot an entire TV series, whereupon he again ran out of money and had to go home.
"This absurd level of determination to take on adventures clearly fated to fail in spectacular and unpredictable ways, all of which seem to end up with him running out of money in Hong Kong and going home, sealed the deal. I invited Leon to join me on my next expedition – to fail to achieve anything remarkable whatsoever in Iran.
"Surprisingly enough, we didn't fail too badly this time. We didn't end up in Hong Kong either. I hope this hasn't undermined our Unique Selling Point too much."
Here's the (ambitious yet realistic) schedule
We'll be making both films concurrently, working with two editors and one additional director to craft our stories from April to June this year. Our rough timeline for production is as follows:
- 5th April: Successfully raise £35,000 (right?)
- 6th April: Begin editing!
- 1st May: Complete rough cut
- 15th May: Complete fine cut 1
- 22nd May: Complete fine cut 2
- 29th May: Picture lock / complete final cut
- June/July: Finishing, festival submissions and pledge preparations
- August/September: Pledge deliveries
- Autumn: Launch party, celebrations and festivities all round!
Last but not least, here's what you'll get for your pledge...
First things first – even if you just drop us some small change, you'll receive something priceless in return: a warm and fuzzy feeling inside because you've helped create something meaningful.
This is generally the most awesome thing about Kickstarter and crowdfunding model. We've both backed lots of campaigns ourselves, for no other reason than because it's great to be able to chip in and see cool stuff happen.
But you'd probably like something tangible or experiential in return, right? Fear not – we've made a variety of rewards available for whatever level of contribution you'd like to make.
For individuals, there are rewards from the obvious (a copy of the two films) to the not-so-obvious (a bespoke, weekend-long adventure filmmaking course with us!). Depending on your pledge, a variety of credits in the film are available too. Everyone loves having their name in the credits, right?
For groups, societies or businesses, there are motivational adventure lectures from Leon (who does this for a living), and community screening events of the finished films (including getting us along for a Q&A and to meet your audience). We know these are significant investments, so we'd welcome and encourage any and all questions about these rewards if they catch your interest.
And whatever level you pledge at, you'll get regular behind-the-scenes updates from us as we work through the project.
So please do make a pledge at whatever level is appropriate to you. You'll be helping tell important stories that won't get a platform in any other way – and you'll be well rewarded for your support.
Risks and challenges
Both of these films are serious undertakings in and of themselves. They will demand at least 8 weeks of full time work, and each will require a number of other professionals to be involved. We'll be paying each of these people a fair rate for their involvement to ensure the best job possible is done and our stories are communicated effectively, within our budget.
Our biggest challenge will be getting the three biggest technical jobs – editing, sound mixing and colour grading – finished in the time we are budgeting for. It will be tight, but we are confident it’s possible – we've been in tighter spots before!
To help ensure this, we’ve watched, logged and made detailed notes on all our footage from the Santa Cruz journey, and created a ‘paper edit’ (for non-film folks, it is what it sounds like – a plan for which shots should go where to create the backbone of the film.) For Karun, we have a completed 15-minute short film as a basis, and a paper edit for how to expand on the major themes of the piece.
Our biggest challenge will be keeping to the schedule we’ve mapped out, but we plan to post regular updates and video blogs to keep you in the loop and hold ourselves accountable. We're stubborn and determined blokes (sometimes too stubborn), though, and we've been up against it plenty of times in the past. If we work as hard as we are capable of, then we’ll make this a success.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
You’ll like these films if:
- You enjoyed either Janapar or Into The Empty Quarter (my and Leon’s last two films)
- You were pleasantly surprised at how much fun the short version of Karun was (watch it here)
- You enjoy hearing tales of adventure in far-flung lands as much as the next person…
- …but you’re wise enough to know there’s more to adventure than people doing cool stuff in epic landscapes
- You suspect that there’s more to Iran than its media-fuelled representation and wouldn’t mind seeing it, actually
- You like the idea of being instrumental in bringing to the world’s attention an environmental scandal in the Patagonian wilderness that nobody else is talking about (quite a big deal, right?)
- You’d like to see a couple of quality adventure films get made that don’t have Red Bull plastered all over them (high five if this is you!)
- You think that either Leon or I (or both) are moderately handsome and would perhaps like to see more of us.
Sure we could! We could take one film each and sit in our bedrooms/tents with our laptops for a few months and do everything ourselves, like real filmmaking professionals do.
Only joking. Trust me, there’s a good reason why you’ll never see the credits “Written, Directed, Produced & Edited by (& Starring) Joe Bloggs” at the end of any professionally-made and recognisably good film.
Editing in particular takes real skill, and a talented editor brings much needed objectivity to the footage. Particularly when you’re on screen as well as behind the camera, having someone else’s perspective is absolutely critical.
You don’t want to watch a sub-standard film, do you? And we don’t want to make a sub-standard film.
So the simplest answer is that yes, we could, but the films we ended up with wouldn’t actually have been worth making. (And we’d have to sit in our bedrooms/tents with our laptops for a few months. Not fun.)
While the budget might sound high, it’s really rather minimal for a film project, relatively speaking. (Tom's last film, Janapar, cost more to make than we’re asking for BOTH of these together.)
The bulk of it is simply so we can pay a fair wage to the talented folk who are going to help us tell these two stories effectively. And that’ll mean that the films we deliver to you this summer will be as entertaining, enlightening and inspiring as possible.
Fair enough question. Precisely £1,000 will go towards each of our living costs. That’s basically a salary of £500 a month while working and living full-time in central London. We’ll be lucky if that even covers food, drink and transport (let alone rent)!
Why not write in a bit more? Well, consider it a show of faith that we’re putting everything we can into these films, including money out of our own pockets.
(And let’s not mention the cost of the trips and filming them in the first place, which we’ve written off completely.)
We want to keep the goal as low as possible so we’re in with a realistic chance of meeting it – but we do need to be able to make the films the way they deserve to be made. You’ll thank us when you get your copy. I promise.
Firstly, nobody who backs the project now pays a penny until the campaign ends at 11:59pm on Monday 6th April.
At that point, IF we’ve reached the goal, everyone’s credit/debit card gets charged. We get to make these films, and you get to watch it happen (and delight in being the first recipients of the end result!).
If we DON’T reach the goal? Nothing happens, and nobody pays anything. The project quietly fails, and we get the luxury of two unexpectedly empty months in our calendars. We won’t even have jobs to distract us from the fact that we now have absolutely nothing to do for several weeks. It’ll be awesome.
There’s no Plan B here. Without wanting to play the sympathy card too early, these films won’t happen at all without the support of the adventure community.
So if you care about the causes we talk about in the 4-minute campaign video, please pledge now and help us make this project happen!
We all contribute in our own way to society. This is our way.
We’re ‘adventurers’, apparently. But we’re also idealists. We want to make the world a better place. Just a tiny bit.
I know it’s a bit whimsical. And I’m fully aware that a lot of adventure is self-indulgent (even though there’s nothing particularly wrong with that).
But sharing these broader stories beyond the adventures, and doing so through film, arguably the most powerful medium of all, has become our justification for even going on these journeys at all.
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