About this project
Update, November: I've hit my goal! Three wonderful documentaries are being made. The more funding, however, and the more flexibility the production has for travel, equipment, and emergency costs. So I've issued a challenge - if we hit $150k funding, everyone funding at the $100 level or greater gets a customized, backer-only challenge coin! Read up for details.
Hi, I'm Jason Scott - historian, archivist, and filmmaker.
While most of my days are filled with working on rescuing and exhibiting computer history, giving rousing profanity-filled speeches about digital preservation, and generally being a face of archiving and nostalgia, I also like making documentaries.
I believe the documentary medium brings a critical human aspect to what would otherwise be cold piles of artifacts, and can tell stories that these file collections, wonderful as they are, couldn't hope to bring across.As a result, I spent about 10 years making two documentaries about computer history, one called BBS: The Documentary and GET LAMP: The Text Adventure Documentary. While not for everyone, I believe these films (BBS is an 8 episode miniseries, GET LAMP is one main film and a couple accompanying shorts) fill a specific need in understanding their subjects.
When I was making those, I had a very well-paying job at a hosting company and could divert my hobby income into making these films. I'm no longer at that company, and thanks to the amazing efforts of supporters I rebooted my life into a lower salary and skyrocketing happiness and fulfillment. But that means I can't just fund making documentaries like these anymore.
So I'm turning to you, people who enjoy my work or are learning about it for the first time, and asking if you want to help me have the budget for my three films.
Allow me to answer some of the questions people might have. I intend to make myself available on video conferences and answer postings here and elsewhere, to explain the thinking behind these subjects and discuss aspects of production.
What are the three documentaries you want to make?
The three documentaries are:
- The 6502, a documentary about the MOS 6502 chip and the art of assembly language programming.
- Tape, a meditation on the medium of tape, its rapid falling out of favor, and the nature of recording our lives and loss.
- Arcade, a video podcast series about the place of arcades, these worlds we enter to have fun with machines.
These links are all to placeholder sites, where the back-end information about interviews, production, found knowledge and the rest are all kept. The first two documentaries have sites full of this sort of thing. The next three would have same.
So, why do these three documentaries together, and not fundraise/do separately?
There are two main reasons.
First, it allows me to bundle up trips and tours so that I can conduct multiple interviews for all three documentaries at once - I can go to a state or country and do all I need to do at once, which will save time compared to doing all of this consecutively. It is, basically, a cost-cutting measure as well as a way to ensure I reach the maximum number of interviewees in the shortest amount of time.
Second, conducting the kind of long-term documentaries that I do (BBS and GET LAMP took 4 years) means that I would be racing the mortality clock for many potential subjects. Already a half-dozen people who I interviewed for my films are gone, and there were another handful who had died a year or two before my filming began. And there's my clock as well - making documentaries is pretty demanding and I'd like to bring all these subjects to bear before moving on to other endeavors.
One Hundred Thousand Dollars, that seems so much.
The fact is, the previous documentaries were heavily subsidized by my day job, a job I no longer have. Production on BBS: The Documentary cost somewhere between $60,000-$80,000, and GET LAMP cost about $80,000. Why so much? Well, equipment definitely comes into it, with the HD camera setup for GET LAMP about $10,000 alone, but again, the real big cost has been travel-related. Since my documentaries do not stay in one specific place and weave in people from around the country and occasionally the world, the travel costs are simply significant, even for a single person and their film equipment. Also, there were unexpected costs along the way; during GET LAMP it turned out I had to pay fees and insurance, as well as buy a specific camera and caving equipment, to bring the audience the shots inside the cave that Adventure was based on; that and a cancellation by one of the parties involved (and the subsequent rescheduling) meant the whole process for that one set of shots was about $3000.
In other words, the budget is reflective of the number of interviews and additional costs around a standard production, raised slightly more to be able to do three at once instead of one. I consider it a solid, achievable budget with some great payoffs in terms of the final works.
How long will it take to make these?
Kickstarter wants you to be very specific about this, and so I shot it out to the furthest limit - 2015. I'm sorry, but the films I do take a very long time, as anyone who's seen them can attest - I work very hard on gathering information, research, and then recording and editing them. Like I said above, the previous films took about 4 years. While my hope is that Arcade will come out with smaller episodes quicker, I can't guarantee that it won't take as long as well. I can only point to the other works, which are licensed under Creative Commons and easily findable both on the net and at my website as products, as proof they're worth the wait.
So if I get one of those producer or executive producer slots, will I....
If you have ANY questions about what the premiums are on the $1000 and $5000 tiers, I would definitely ask you to mail me or telephone me to discuss them - I want no misunderstandings over what each one means, and it's the sort of thing that should be hashed out. My watchword this time will be availability - I will be available to discuss these choices with you. Let's be happy together.
That is a strange video, sir.
Yes, it is.
I have other questions not covered here.
I will be available to answer them below, and in a variety of other locations. I also intend to hold a few live conference calls to discuss them as well. If you're looking to invest on some of the higher-tiered sets, I am more than happy to discuss things via skype or, possibly, face to face. E-mail (jason@textfiles) works as well.
Thanks again for listening, and let's see if the next set of documentaries can live in the sun.
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