N.H.'s Film Office Takes Lead In Promoting Crowdfunding Filmmakers

May 10, 2013

Rae Dawn Chong is using IndieGoGo to raise $25,000 to produce a TV pilot called "The Celebrant."
Credit NHPR / Michael Brindley

Crowdfunding is providing a new avenue of fundraising for New Hampshire’s independent filmmakers looking to make their projects a reality.

The state’s film and television office has taken a lead role in helping to promote film projects based in the Granite State using the online model of raising money.

It’s crunch time for Rae Dawn Chong.

We’re at a café in downtown Portsmouth, and she’s talking about meeting her fundraising goal of $25,000.

“We started the fundraising approximately two weeks ago, and we have another week left, so about eight days. I have a lot of people who haven’t donated yet, who say they’re going to because they want to wait until the end when it’s really crucial. So this is the most scary week of my life.”

She’ll use the money to produce “The Celebrant,” a television pilot she wrote and will star in, playing a woman bringing spirituality to the people of the Seacoast.

Chong is no stranger to the screen – she’s appeared in dozens of films and TV shows over the past 30 years.

But like many independent filmmakers in New Hampshire, she turned to crowdfunding to make her project a reality.

She says the online fundraising model lets them to stay true to their artistic vision.

“Usually when you get financing, you’re in partnership with the financiers. And in this case, I get to make the show for the art, for the craft, for the love of it, and not necessarily feel beholden to my investors.”

She launched her campaign on a website called IndieGoGo about a month ago. And as of the end of this week, she was about halfway to her goal.

Either way, Chong says the project will get made. Unlike Kickstarter, another popular crowdfunding site, she gets the money she raised even if she doesn’t meet her goal.

But there’s one big challenge – getting the word out to film lovers who want to donate to your project.

That’s where New Hampshire’s film and television office steps in.

Matt Newton heads the state office and says a little more than a year ago, he launched a crowd funding page on the department’s website.

It lists film projects using the fundraising model in the Granite State.

He says he’s listed 33 projects, and roughly half have reached their goals.

“The total of funds that have been sought have been over $300,000. And I think they’ve collectively raised about $118,000. So they’ve done very well.”

And it’s no coincidence that Newton has latched onto the crowdfunding as a way to promote film.

He says the state has been carving out a niche for indie filmmakers and that’s the market he hopes this will attract.

“Any way we can drive the traffic of independent film to New Hampshire, that’s fantastic. And I think using crowd funding kind of taps into where it all begins for indie filmmakers, especially the lower budgeted ones.”

“The Celebrant” is one of about half a dozen projects listed on the site right now.

Rae Dawn Chong shot a two-scene trailer in New Hampshire this past winter.

But the state’s list of films is pretty broad.

Steve Hooper of Keene wants to raise $15,000 to produce a documentary about Mount Monadnock.

And “The Power of Place,” a documentary by Jerry Monkman, takes a critical look at the Northern Pass project.

His goal – raise $35,000 by next week. He’s about halfway there.

Monkman’s documentary touches on a controversial topic, but Newton says the state is not taking sides.

“We’re providing everybody equal opportunity and we’re not saying we endorse this project, but saying, take a look at what’s going out there as far as our indie filmmakers.”

One indie filmmaker who found success is Kyle Turgeon.

Last year, he used Kickstarter to raise $10,000 he needed to produce his short film, ­­­­“Figments of a Father.”

The film screened at the Monadnock Film Festival last month and Turgeon says he’s eyeing several larger festivals for later this year.

He says filmmakers considering crowdfunding should be prepared for a lot of leg work.

“You can’t put it online and just expect people to find your campaign. You have to do a major, major grassroots effort to get people to the site and to get them excited about it.”

And that’s what Rae Dawn Chong is doing right now.

And who knows - maybe she’ll hit her goal, and “The Celebrant” will be that next big show.