23-minute episodes containing 3 to 4 stories each. Each story will be 3 to 10 minutes long, with an introduction by a host. The first season will be a collection of 3 episodes.
Most individual stories will be available free online—through YouTube or Vimeo—in order to generate maximum exposure for the project. Complete episodes will be available as pay downloads and DVDs.
Each episode will contain at least one story not available for free. DVDs will contain 3 episodes, plus bonus material. The DVD and pay download versions of stories will be uncut and uncensored. Distribution through iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix, as well as our own website and live events.
One of the biggest challenges will be to narrow down which of the stories to start with. Besides a huge collection of original stories I have written over the years, I will create stories with a long list of collaborators—including published authors I have known over the years, who all share my love of the genres.
In addition, I plan to adapt stories, concepts and characters from the public domain, including the work of H. P. Lovecraft—a fitting focus, considering we are filming in his home city of Providence, Rhode Island. As it stands, I have enough material for a few seasons’ worth of episodes.
Once we are deep into production, I plan to experiment with improvisational filmmaking.
Since the individual stories are very short, the challenge is to condense the ideas into pure visual storytelling, as they will feature little or no dialog.
Recycling will be an important concept behind the project. Not just recycling whatever materials at my disposal to create props, costumes and sets as a budgetary necessity, but will also extend to reusing those elements as well as characters and situations from one story to another, connecting seemingly disparate tales of different genres.
Much of the look of the series will be influenced by the psychedelic horror and pop art sci-fi of the 60s, such as the work of Mario Bava, Roger Corman's Poe films, the original Star Trek, Doctor Who, and The Prisoner. These and many others will serve as inspiration, not only in terms of style, but also as models for making a studio-bound production as economically but visually interesting as possible.
Most of the films will be shot at my studio in front of a rear projection screen with modular set pieces (as demonstrated in the test footage). With that setup, we can create a wide variety of stylish settings as cheaply as possible. One of the main goals of this project is to make sure it will not look like anything being produced right now. I am tired of seeing the same aesthetics and color palettes among most modern horror and sci-fi films. Although I’m looking at the past as an inspiration, I am determined to make something with a totally original look.
Visual effects will be a major part of the series, but I will focusing on old-school techniques to achieve them. Miniatures, puppets and in-camera effects will be used, but I'm not afraid of digital technology to clean up and expand on the images. I want to create a balance of the best of both techniques.
Part of my passion for filmmaking comes from creating soundtracks. I'm determined to produce a unique sound design in which I can bring together the wide variety of musical talent in my artistic community. The sound will often drive the stories. Some soundtracks will be produced via the usual method of scoring after the final edit, but I will create some soundtracks before—and even during—the shoot. At least one of the stories will be a musical.
My proposed budget of $6,000 (actually closer to $5000 after fees and fulfilling rewards) is the bare minimum for which I can realistically produce the 3 episodes. Making something as ambitious as this, that cheaply, is possible for a few reasons:
• My years of experience in making visuals and sounds for little or no money.
• New leaps in digital technology that allow filmmakers to produce and manipulate amazing quality, high-definition images with off-the-shelf consumer goods.
• The ability of shooting entirely in my studio with a limitless variety of virtual sets.
• Using recycling as a concept and aesthetic as well as an economical choice.
• No cast or crew members will be paid. (This is the biggest difference between a micro-budget and a low-budget film.)
If we do raise more than the goal amount, the extra funding will be used to increase production values and expand the scope of the series. We may also get to film additional episodes for the first season and upgrade the reward packages to Blu-ray DVDs.
And if we raise enough money, we might be able to compensate for the time and talent of the cast and crew.
The Budget Breakdown
• Kickstarter and Amazon fees
• Cost of creating and shipping contributor packages
• Equipment upgrade
• Props, costumes, miniatures, sets, background footage
• Craft services
• Make up
• Practical special effects
• Hard drives / backup
Besides this Kickstarter campaign, there are ways you can help the project, especially if you live near Providence. Click here for more information.
Stay informed about the series through our official website: http://www.difficulttales.com
Risks and challenges
As stated, the biggest challenge will be to produce an ambitious project on such a small budget. I feel confident that with my skills and those of my talented collaborators, we can pull this off. I have successfully finished many short films from start to finish with no planning or money—sometimes in just 48 hours. With a bit of a budget, careful preproduction, and lots of hard work, we can make something totally unique.
The same digital revolution that has allowed filmmakers to create high-quality work with inexpensive equipment has also allowed their work to be distributed and seen worldwide, potentially by millions. Such ease of distribution has caused a glut of media. It is hard enough to get viewers to pay attention to free entertainment, let alone pay for their entertainment. This problem exists not only for independent creators, but also among major entertainment corporations. Once films are turned into digital files, they all have roughly the same value in the marketplace—whether the production cost over $100 million or was made for pennies. The biggest difference is that the $100 million movie has $100 million to spend on promotion and advertising in order to bring it into the public consciousness. I certainly will not have a budget for promotion; I will put most of the money onscreen instead. I plan on making something totally unique and special that will stand out in the glut and build an audience through positive word-of-mouth instead of empty hype. You, the backers of this project, will be an important part of getting the word out.
Giving much of the project away for free is an important part of this strategy. Today, all entertainment is exchanged for free, no matter how hard one tries to stop it. I plan to embrace this fact in order to get my work to a bigger audience. Having a way for people to support the project with paid downloads and DVDs (in addition to free distribution) seems the best option, especially if one gives an incentive to purchase the product by offering uncut and uncensored versions, bonus material, and special collectible packaging.
It should be stated that the packages that are being offered as rewards will be totally unique and collectible.
It might not be until May for funds to become available and I plan to use that month and much of June for organization, pre-production and testing. I plan to start shooting the first story near the end of June. I will release some of the first stories for free online as soon as they are finished, and continue to release them every few weeks to keep interest growing. The actual episode distribution might not happen until all three are finished and packaged as a DVD, depending on how we eventually work out dealing with the likes of iTunes, Amazon and Netflix (If you have any ideas and experience in these matters, please let us know.) The final package might not be done until late fall or early winter. Since this is a creative process, not the simple manufacturing of a product, there are factors that could delay production, including creative people who are not getting paid for their time. I will keep all backers informed of the project's progress throughout.
- (30 days)