More details about the Popular Romance Project and its funding
Jane at Dear Author posted today about the Popular Romance Project and our Kickstarter campaign. First of all, I want to thank everyone who has commented today at Dear Author for their thoughtful comments on her blog. I have read what’s been written, and the discussion has been very interesting and worthwhile. (I’ll make specific responses to the comments later)
What follows is my reply to Jane, which I left as a comment at Dear Author, also:
I appreciate the points you make in your blog, Jane, and I am very glad that you are in favor of this film (Love Between the Covers) being made. I am happy to answer the questions you have raised. I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to provide answers to your questions before you posted your blog. I would have been glad to explain my funding.
Your research about typical feature-length documentary film budgets (between $500,000 and a $1,000,00) is correct. My total budget for the production of this film is $851,000 and I am currently $235,000 short of what I need to complete the film and launch it.
I realize it’s hard for people who aren’t in the film business to evaluate a film budget since they don’t have any/many points of comparison. Most people coming to Kickstarter do not want to see explicit budgets and figures, but I’m willing to share the details. I want EVERYONE in the romance community to know just what’s up, at whatever level of detail they desire.
You’ve asked for 1) more information about my funding sources (and my reasons for doing a Kickstarter campaign) and 2) actual figures and more details about how the Kickstarter money will be spent. Here are your answers:
1) the money raised to date has been:
• A $5,000 research grant from RWA for which I am very grateful. It got this project going, allowing me to do research, contact key scholars and members of the romance community, and conceptualize the project.
• A $10,000 development grant from Mass Humanities, which allowed me to travel to conferences (where I’ve seen you, Jane, and made many valuable connections for making this film). I also used the grant to develop the team that is behind the Popular Romance Project, and to develop the ideas for the entire project (which encompasses FOUR programs: the documentary film, a symposium at the Library of Congress, a library program with the American Library Association, and a large interactive website with the Center for History and New Media). With this grant I also wrote an NEH application for development funds, a process which takes 3 months of solid work (these proposals look like PhD dissertations).
• A $2,500 research grant from the Tavris Fund at the Womens Studies Research Center at Brandeis, which allowed me to pay for the transcribing of many (not all) of the interviews I shot during the development phase of this project.
• A $48,000 DEVELOPMENT grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2010. This grant was rewarded to pay for further research, some research travel, the writing of a film treatment, the submission of a production proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities, and NEH-required, modest, per-day stipends for the humanities advisors for the project (who, by the way, I’ve always identified publicly. They are listed, and have been listed for months/years --with their photos-- at both blueberryhillproductions.com/new-projects/the-popular-romance-project.html and at PopularRomanceProject.org/about/
With the initial NEH money I did everything listed above. However, I also did much more. I stretched the NEH dollars far beyond their intended purpose and I’ve also used profits from other work I’m doing for the NIH and other clients. I shot footage at multiple romance events in 2011 (with a crew or by myself): at RWA in NYC, at the IASPR conference in NYC, at Authors After Dark, on a trip with Beverly Jenkins and her fans, at Moonlight and Magnolias conference in Atlanta, and in NYC with Eloisa James teaching in Fordham. I also shot at various conferences in 2012: the Popular Culture Association conference, several local RWA conferences, and the McDaniel College conference on romance studies.
In addition, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and my company, Blueberry Hill Productions launched PopularRomanceProject.org in February of this year, a site that has already gotten hits from more than 120 countries. Each week two new posts have been added at the site. With no pay whatsoever, I have been cutting videos from the footage shot for this project (interview excerpts for the “Interviews” section of the blogsite and behind the scenes videos for the “Behind the Scenes” section of the blogpost). Sarah Frantz and Eric Selinger have been commissioning and editing unpaid essays by scholars all over the world about popular romance (from a dazzling range of perspectives) for the section of the blogsite called “Talking About Romance”. This has been a labor of love for all of us. But it was important to do. Having the site up and running and well received has proved to the NEH that our concept is viable.
In January of this year I applied to the NEH for PRODUCTION funding (decisions were expected in August). In this day and age it is VERY VERY difficult to get NEH production grants. I was sure I was NOT going to get production funding. But it was very important for me to shoot at RWA in Anaheim at the end of July since several of the characters I’m following were up for GH and Rita awards, and I needed to shoot more interviews, and it’s very efficient shooting interviews when everyone is under the same roof. So several months ago, like most filmmakers in this decade, I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign.
The amount it has cost to get this project to the point where I can launch a Kickstarter campaign is far greater than the total of what has been received to date from the grants listed above. The extensive shooting, the launch of the website, the editing of a Kickstarter reel were, for the most part, NOT covered by those grants.
The timing of the Kickstarter campaign:
I began editing the Kickstarter reel in June with an editor whose salary came out of my savings. That took three weeks of solid work (you can see the reel at kickstarter.com/projects/1162698421/love-between-the-covers). I then had to clear the music rights which is a bear. And when RWA agreed to show the reel at the opening luncheon of the conference in Anaheim, I decided to launch the Kickstarter campaign just as the RWA conference got underway, while excitement and interest was building.
While I was at RWA, the NEH made its announcements (unexpectedly early – they were expected in August) and to my great surprise, the Popular Romance Project received a $616,000 PRODUCTION GRANT. Needless to say, I was elated! I immediately posted an update at the Kickstarter campaign page about the NEH grant. I also sent an email to all of the project’s partners and advisors telling them the news and asking if I should pull the plug on the Kickstarter campaign. They all said no. You don’t have your full budget, they said. Carry on. (FYI, I changed the front page text at the Kickstarter campaign as soon as I could, when I returned from Anaheim. It’s much easier to add a separate update page than it is to make front page edits. While in Anaheim I was too busy shooting; we were working14-16 hours days.)
2) where does the money go? (in more detail):
Our total film production budget is $851,00 which covers making the film, launching it in the world, and also keeping PopularRomanceProject.org alive and growing. This is not an overblown budget for what we will deliver. I’ve got high standards, and that’s a good thing in my book. My films have been recognized with the industry’s highest awards, and I’m not going to lower my standards on this film. I run a lean operation, but there are sizeable unavoidable expenses. My film includes characters from different continents. There is a lot of travel involved (airfare, hotels, meals, etc). I am also working with people who are keeping video diaries. I take 25-30 weeks to edit my films, and that kind of care makes a big difference. I want to get it right. In addition, I am covering much more of the romance community than the filmmaker who made the film Guilty Pleasures and my research is more comprehensive. I am also working with the Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and the Center for History and New Media as they develop their Popular Romance Project programs.
The total film production budget of $851,000 (which covers work done after the development phase) minus the $616,000 from the NEH brings us $235,000 short of the total film production budget. The more I can raise now, the more time I can spend on filmmaking and project development, rather than fundraising. I have applications in to other funding sources. I am trying every avenue I can think of. Kickstarter is a viable source.
As I wrote on the Kickstarter page, we can finish our main shooting and begin editing with the NEH production funds. If we raise $50,000 at Kickstarter those funds would be used to
• edit the film (a process that takes many months for a complex long-form film). More detailed info: an experienced editor for a documentary makes between $2000-3000 per week. To edit for 28 weeks at the bottom end of that range would cost $56,000 plus benefits. Then there is my salary working with the editor and the salary for an assistant editor. Fyi, I pay myself less than I pay my editor.
• continue to make videos for our website, to share what we are doing, take you behind the scenes, and get input from you. More detailed info: I have been spending 1-2 days per week cutting the videos for PopularRomanceProject.org myself, writing the text that goes with them, uploading them, and getting the word out each time we post a new blog. Someone at the Center for History and New Media has also been tweeting, posting at our Facebook page, etc.
• do pickup shoots (the shooting one does while editing). More detailed info: During editing, one invariably has holes to fill. With this film, events in the lives of our main characters might unfold during our editing phase. Shooting costs include travel (airfare, hotel, meals), crew salaries for a director of photography and sound person (paid at per day rates), and equipment rental (I have gotten very good deals but camera and lighting equipment per day is typically $350 or more per day, and sound equipment is typically $150 or more per day)
• pay to help keep PopularRomanceProject.org going strong (we don’t want to disappoint all of the people, from more than 120 countries, who’ve been visiting the blog!). More detailed info: $71,000 of our total budget is allotted to keeping the website alive and growing. The Center for History and New Media has to pay for development, content management, and project direction personnel for the upkeep of the website over at least 9 months, and probably longer.
I hope this answers your questions. If you want more detailed information about how we would spend larger amounts (if we are fortunate enough to raise them at Kickstarter) I can spell that out for you, too.
I would be happy to answer further questions you might have.
Producer/Writer/Director, Love Between the Covers
Executive Producer, The Popular Romance Project