Independent filmmaking is hard. Independent documentary filmmaking is even harder; many indy docs—either self-produced or produced collaboratively with a small (also independent) production company—struggle just to brake even. The struggles faced by independent documentary filmmakers in Canada is even more arduous. In two recent articles on documentary filmmaking in Canada—one from the Globe & Mail, the other from the Ryerson Review of Journalism—one word is consistently used to describe the current state of funding for Canadian-made docs: dire. From the RJJ article:
Anne Pick, vice president of Real to Reel Productions Inc., a small, independent film company, has seen the decline over the last 20 years. “There’s money in the system, but it’s triggered by broadcasters. And broadcasters are bailing on one-off docs because mainstream television wants light and fluffy entertainment.”
For those of us who like to work on feature projects covering important social issues, this is a serious problem. In conversations with a few producers, my film has been described as “controversial”, “a powder keg” and as a “hot button topic” one producer didn’t want to “touch with a ten foot pole.” When I pitched “A Past, Denied: The Invisible History of Slavery in Canada” to a Canadian broadcasting company (I’m refraining from naming names), the creative head of their digital channels replied:
I did read your proposal and while ”A Past, Denied: The Invisible History of Slavery in Canada” sounds very worthwhile, I’m afraid it does not fit into our current programming strategy for XXXXXXXXXXX – too much history I’m afraid.
Really? A discourse on the absence of Canada’s 200+ year history of slavery from history textbooks and classrooms, and how this absence has had a real impact on social issues in our contemporary time period is “too much history”, eh? (If you’ve read this site’s home page—the text for which is taken directly from the proposal document—you may have noticed that the phrase “explores how a false sense of history…impinges on the present” in the opening paragraph.)
So those of us who endeavour to tell stories that those in power are too scared to tell have to resort to alternative means of production, which includes alternative means of financing. It doesn’t mater how (relatively) cheaper technology has become, how democratized the means of production is as a result, or how D.I.Y. you are—making a documentary film is still an expensive process. Getting over this obstacle is where the alternative means of financing comes in to play.
In addition to filmmakers going into debt themselves trying to fund their project with their own bank accounts and credit card(s), crowdfunding is rapidly becoming a method of financing for indy filmmakers. It basically works like this: instead of trying to get large chunks of money from a few corporate/governmental sources, a project raises funds in smaller varying amounts in the form of donations from many private sources… specifically ordinary people who want to lend their support to a project they believe in and want to see get made.
This is where you come in. I have been thus far getting by on my own wallet and the kindness/cooperation of others, but at that rate this movie will likely never see the light of day. In order to complete production it needs an injection of cash in order to finish shooting all the interviews and pay for other archival and artistic additional work that needs to be done. To that end, I am asking you to visit the “A Past, Denied” crowdfunding page at indiegogo.com. Here you can see what various donation levels (as low as $5) and perks/incentives are being offered by me. There is a secure form for processing payments. Indiegogo is a well respected crowdfunding resource and I wouldn’t be using them if I didn’t trust their service.
If you believe in the mission of this film—to speak the truth about Canada’s past as well as its present, to illuminate the roots of racism and privilege in our society—then I ask you to please seriously consider donating to this project. Please help me make 2011 a good year in the fight for truth.
Thank you and Happy New Year.