I’m glad to introduce a new guest contributor to the blog, Jason Stefaniak! I met Jason about two years ago when were both mentors for The Future Project, which is a national movement to reimagine education, one dream at a time. We both shared an interest in being involved in the community and kept in touch after the mentorship program ended.
As you know from reading this blog, I enjoy supporting people who are aspiring to get projects off the ground and Jason is one person who I have been supporting.
Jason is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for a film called But Not for Me, a philosophical hip-hop musical love story. What is impressive about this campaign is that since last week, they have raised $16,916! Check out this one minute video that samples the hip-hop an socio-politcal themes that will be featured in the film.
Jason’s first couple of blog posts will be about his current crowdfunding efforts. Fundraising is not an easy task and it will be interesting and informative to see the ins and outs of crowdfunding from a firsthand account.
Please join me in welcoming Jason to the blog and check out the Q&A.
Thank you for joining the blog Jason. Please introduce yourself to the readers.
My name is Jason Stefaniak, I’m a thesis student in the NYU Graduate Film program, and I’m a filmmaker (writer, director, producer). I used to think I wanted to be the people I saw in the movies – then I realized I wanted to make the movies I was seeing. Over the past decade, I’ve made over 20 short films (fiction, nonfiction, ads, etc.) and now I’m embarking on my first feature film as a producer.
Why did you decide to become a guest contributor on this website?
I love your perspective on the world, your tone, your generosity. I also love to write, so I figured: why not write for a wonderful woman’s wonderful blog if she’ll have me?
In the age of Youtube, Vine, and Instagram where everyone thinks they are a filmmaker, why should a person pursue a career in making long film versus shorts?
Filmmaking is storytelling. Vine and Instagram, they enable storytelling, but in a miniature way. It allows people to capture moments, honest interactions, real emotions. That’s great, and it’s storytelling. But long form storytelling in film and on TV allows you to tell more complex stories, stories that take longer to build, unfold, and resolve. Big and small stories, stories that take us away from our everyday lives and wake us up to our everyday lives. Creating a short video on YouTube could do the same thing, and streaming internet video has enabled so many filmmakers to tell their stories. Maybe there is no future for filmmaking in 90 minute chunks, but I think the recent renaissance of high quality TV tells us that people yearn for quality, long form, engaging storytelling. That could come in the form of a webseries of TV show or film, or even a bunch of Vines. Filmmaking is storytelling. I’m not attached to any one medium, but I want to tell stories – sometimes long ones, sometimes short ones, sometimes in-between ones. It all depends on what the content demands.
You have completed many successful fundraising campaigns without the use of Kickstarter or Indiegogo, why utilize these platforms now?
This is actually the first time I’m running a campaign on Kickstarter. I’ve supported many on the platform, but never run one myself. I’ve fundraised for films through letter writing and through soliciting donations via Facebook, email, etc. that came in through Pay Pal, cash, and check. I’ve also promoted my films online to great success, but this is the first time I’m using a crowdfunding platform. It’s a ton of work, and I think you need to do research and figure out if one of these platforms is right for you and your project. We decided, based on the needs of our project, the time we had to put into it, our shared experiences and skills, that using this platform was right for us. But it shouldn’t be the default decision for everyone. They need to be honest with themselves about how big their network is, how much work they’re going to put into reaching outside their network, and how realistic their fundraising goal is.
You have made several film shorts that have won awards, What are your strategies for success? (See two of my favorites below)
I wish I knew. If I did, I would be more successful than I currently am! All I can say is I love telling stories visually. It’s become a part of who I am and I can’t imagine living without doing it. So I do it, and I do it bad, and I learn, and I do it bad again, but slightly better, and I learn, and I do it again. I stay honest to myself, my experiences, and my interests. I keep learning and improving and slowly people are starting to connect with the work I’m doing. I think all of us have to offer is our unique emotional perspective on the world. Once you learn how to tap into that, into your instincts, and then apply the form and craft, then I think you start to connect with people and find success.
How have you been able to use film as a tool for social activism?
I think it all comes down to empathy. If we increase empathy (which you can do through storytelling), then you can make people more compassionate, and you can more easily change the world. It’s hard to hate (discriminate against, ignore, cutting funding for, etc.) someone whose story you know. Maybe it’s naive, but I think at the core of all social change is people learning other people’s stories, coming to empathize with them, and then changing their beliefs and actions.
Why should people donate to this campaign?
We’re young, up and coming, middle class filmmakers with a whole lot of student loan debt. We bleed for our projects and put everything we have into them, but it’s often not enough. We see all art as serving the people who view it or read it or touch it. So we’re asking people to support however they can (via a contribution or by sharing the campaign) to help us create a piece of art, with an independent perspective, without any ties to industry or corporate money, that eventually a lot of people will be able to enjoy. For as little as $10, a backer gets a copy of the film. And we will definitely be finding ways to get this film seen by as many people as possible once it’s finished and released, even if someone can’t donate now. Additionally, we think the themes we’re exploring – inequality, student loan debt, lack of affordable housing, waning economic opportunities – are important and pertinent right now and things that need to be talked about. This film could be a way into those issues from a different angle.
What topics do you plan on blogging on for the next couple of weeks?
I want to talk about our experiences running the campaign, interacting with people about the content, describing what’s working and what’s not working. I see it being a bit of a living diary, a way for us to share our lessons with others and also work through what we’re doing, as we’re doing it, so we can alter our strategies.
Where can people find you on the web?
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Facebook – Instagram – Pinterest – Twitter – YouTube
Photo Credit: But Not for Me