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Welcome to my post-production fundraiser for "Sage Country," a feature documentary film about rediscovering the American cowboy.
Welcome to my post-production fundraiser for "Sage Country," a feature documentary film about rediscovering the American cowboy.
323 backers pledged $31,221 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$31,221

323

STRETCH GOAL: $33,333!

It's a great feeling: We've reached our goal! Thank you for an incredible campaign. And now, with four days remaining, will you please help me imagine an even more successful campaign? 

And why, you might wonder, didn't he ask for $33,333 in the first place, if that's how much he needed? Good question. Remember that with Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing, and there's a fine balance between asking too much and too little. I felt that initially $25,000 was a very ambitious goal, even though it wouldn't cover all the costs of making this film, not by a long shot. Post-production isn't the final step in making a film. After the film is done, there are still festival submissions to pay for, airfare, distribution costs, promotional costs. Beyond Kickstarter, the rest of the budget will come from grants and other sources, which above all take a lot of time to pursue. If I can achieve a higher goal in this campaign right now, that just means a finished movie sooner from a movie-maker with less gray in his hair.

There are four days left in this Kickstarter project,and there's still a lot of work left to do on the fundraiser before I get on the trail to "Sage Country." I see this final week days as a huge opportunity for this project to reach hundreds more people, a few of whom might stop and give it a good hard look. I'm convinced by the positive response to the video that there is something important about this story.Between now and Friday at 1:11 p.m., I want to continue sharing the story of the sheep people far and wide. Will you join me?

$33,333. Stretch goal. Giddyup!

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More about the Sheep People

Felix Villard first stepped foot on his vast ranch in northwest Colorado in 1928. The spread stretched from high summer grazing grounds at the head of Fortification Creek, all the way into the low lush(er) lambing grounds in the Fortification Valley, with good transition grounds between.   It would be a good country for the flock. His wife, Marie, soon accompanied him with their two small boys, Clair and Bert. Soon after that, they brought the sheep

                                                             "The Home Place"

And then Felix dropped dead. He died on his horse, or beside it. A neighbor saw the horse grazing alone, out by the sheep, and that was that.

I often wonder, what would it be like today on the Villard Ranch if Marie hadn't taken over, hadn't gritted it out, hadn't become a county legend? If Felix hadn't died, she would just have been a ranch wife, right? And the Villard story would have been different, more typical. 

                                                  "Shipping to the Winter Range"

This morning, Albert is driving out across the windblown, frozen desert, to the winter range, to re-stock José and check on the sheep. Mel and the kids are back home in Craig, busy as summer bees with their myriad projects. Two old photographs, stately and yellowing, are hung there in prominence. They are Felix and Marie, unsmiling, resolute. 

Melody is Albert's wife, and she has had more jobs than you could shake a stick at since the kids were born. One of the first things I remember Melody saying to me is, "For every successful rancher, there's a wife who works in town." The more sheep people I meet, the more I agree with that statement. But even amongst strong women, Mel is exceptional.

Today, the Villard Ranch is in its third generation. Albert has kept the ranch running through some pretty tough times, as did his father and his grandmother before him. But perhaps the most critical juncture in the ranch's long history is looming. Will any of the kids choose to be a sheep rancher? It's not an easy life. Albert hasn't had a vacation in years. A sheep man is bound to the herd and the land.

                                                                "Bound"

The Villard Ranch is a study in stick-to-itiveness and community participation. Albert and José do about twenty people's work about 300 days a year. When big jobs come along, like shipping, shearing, lambing and docking, friends and family are always there to lend a hand. There is simply no way an operation like the Villard Ranch, which practices a simple, culturally-rich brand of ranching, could survive without a supportive community, an industrious woman back home, and a whole lot of grit.

Who is José Huaman Benito?

José is a shepherd. He lives with the sheep. In these parts, men of his line of work are called "sheepherders," one word. Anyway, he came from Perú four years ago on an H2A agricultural visa to work on the Villard Ranch. He lives a remarkably solitary life, finding shelter in a crude but warm sheep wagon, eating a sparse diet which seems to suit him, living the shepherd's life through and through. 

His story is powerful. He even worked in one of those treacherous gold mines in South America they've featured in National Geographic. The man has seen a thing or two. 

                                                                   "José"

What is "Post-Production?"

Post-production is everything that happens after the film has been recorded. "Post" includes editing, color correction, sound design, and film scoring, and more.

With documentary, editing is the big one. And here's why: There's no script. In my opinion, documentary is all about not knowing the story beforehand. During the production phase, the documentarist gathers material by pointing his camera and microphone at what seems poetic, beautiful, poignant, incredible, etc, going on instinct alone. The result is a lot of disparate material, with the gems far and few between. But they are authentic, unplanned, and inquisitive, which is the whole point of documentary.

All that unscripted material means that post-production requires time, focus, and lots of creative energy directed at sculpting a unified vision from a complex array of possibilities. In my case, I gathered more than one-hundred hours of footage over four years. Fortunately, I know the clips like the back of my hand, and I'm ready to dive in, a months-long descent into the unknown, but I won't take the plunge until I have my finances in order.

And the Budget is…

...whatever I raise here! My goal of $25K would allow me to continue operating on a frayed but ample shoestring. Later on in the edit I could afford to hire someone like Christopher Smith, who has offered me a discounted rate for fine-tuning and other functions which require a nuanced understanding of Final Cut Pro, the editing software. I would expect to pay an editor $7K-$10K in the latter stages of post.

Sound design is another big one. There's a saying I've heard in the doc world that goes something like, "A good film is 50% cinematography, and the other 75% is sound." Or maybe Yogi Berra said that. You could go back through the video you just watched and pick out dozens of moments where the sound is totally unacceptable for a theater screening. I don't have the first clue how to fix it, but a good sound design guy or girl would. My budget for sound design is $3K.

Other costs include graphics, menus, DVD design and reproduction, soundtrack recording, website design, and more. If I raise enough money, I'll be able to hire some pros to accomplish the above tasks. Otherwise, I'll do it all myself, and things will just take a little longer. For a buffer, I'll also be applying for grants from sources such as the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and the Colorado Sheep and Wool Authority.

Final Thoughts on Financing

On average, it costs $300,000 to make a low-budget documentary. I have raised just over $12,000, and that was three years ago, in another kickstarter.com campaign. While that figure afforded me much of the equipment I needed to record the film, the hidden costs, such as paying my bills over the thirty-five-month span, and finding another chunk to tide me over for months of editing and post-production, have required me to plod along patiently, playing the part of a construction worker by day and a tortured artist by night. Oh, but it's all been perfectly worth it.

Finally, I have gotten to the next step; tt just so happens that the next step is the one that may have no ground beneath it. I feel like I might certainly fall. But the time has come to take the leap. Here I go, leaping! Will the community grant me my wings?

This will be a January of butterflies.

P.S. Sage Country has a distributor! I recently signed a contract for educational distribution with a wonderful company in the Bay Area called Green Planet Films. That means the film is assured of a long life beyond the big screen! It will be shown in classrooms, museums and homes. The little kiddos will get to watch it!

                                                 "The Horse and the Hay Truck" 

Risks and challenges

As far as the risks go, I'd say I've already taken enough of them to prove that there "aint no mountain high enough." The project has enough steam behind now to push it through to the end, no matter what. My goal is to finish the film in 2014 and have it to you by December, and I made that goal after taking all sorts of possible hiccups into account.

As for challenges: I guess financial matters are the most immediate and real. Cost will generally balloon as the project gets further along, and as its potential increases. I've based my budget on good research, though. And besides, I've always found a way in the past, and will continue to do so happily.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Digital download of the film, plus a special thank you in the credits.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Copy of the DVD, plus a digital download of the film.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    SAGE COUNTRY SAGE BUNDLE:
    You'll receive a handmade smudge stick of sustainably-harvested dried sage from the Villard lambing grounds, for burning in ceremony and special occasion. You'll also receive a copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    SIGNED COPY OF SOUNDTRACK:
    You'll receive a CD full of songs and motífs, composed especially for the film by Yuri Chicovsky and friends. I'll also send you a sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    PHOTOGRAPHIC NOTE CARDS:
    Note cards for corresponding with your grandmother or lover, featuring original photographs from the "Sage Country" collection (photographs at left). I'll also send you the soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    SIGNED, HANDWRITTEN SHEET FROM THE ORIGINAL MUSICAL SCORE:
    I will send you a signed page from the handwritten film score + the photographic note cards + the soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINT:
    You'll receive a signed 11" x 14" print from the "Sage Country" collection of photographs (choose from images on left). I'll also send a page from the score + photographic note cards + the soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    PHOTO SESSION:
    You'll receive a three-hour photo shoot at a location of your choosing (travel included within Colorado). You choose the subject: A portrait of you or your family, a pet, your home, an old car, anything. I'll also send you a photo print from the options on the left + a page from the score + photographic note cards + the soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    PERSONAL SCREENING OF THE FILM + Q&A WITH THE FILMMAKER:
    I’ll bring the movie, you bring the popcorn. Invite a few (or several dozen) of your favorite friends over for a personal screening of the film in your own living room, or other non-commercial venue of your choosing (travel included within Colorado). Q&A and merriment with the filmmaker to follow. You’ll also get a photo session + a photographic print + a page from the score + note cards + soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + special thanks film credit.

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    Pledge $3,500 or more About $3,500

    SPECIAL EDITION PRINT IN HANDMADE FRAME:
    You'll receive a special edition photographic print, and I'll hand-build a beetle kill pine frame for it from local wood. You'll also receive a personal screening of the film in your home + photo session + photo print from the options on the left + a page from the score + photographic note cards + the soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    WHOLE LAMB + PRODUCER CREDIT:
    For your freezer and your belly, you'll receive a processed whole Colorado lamb, donated generously by the Villard Ranch, AND be listed as an Executive Producer in the film credits. You'll also get special-edition photograph framed in a handmade beetle kill pine frame + a personal screening of the film in your home + photo session + photo print from the options on the left + a page from the score + photographic note cards + the soundtrack + sage bundle + copy of the DVD + digital download + film credit.

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Funding period

- (29 days)