Mike Cassidy of the San Jose Mercury News has written two articles recently about a local tragedy and the effects of the lives of the people involved and inadvertently touched on some important DigimediaFinance principles.
In a nutshell, a local man was murdered by his girlfriend in Pennsylvania. She was arrested and then released on bail in Canada, where she then committed suicide after killing their young son. The parents and friends naturally were devastated several times over, and have pointed out issues with the Canadian justice system as part of their grief.
Part of the “filmmaker friend” story struck me as a very important illustration of the DigimediaFinance principles, despite the underlying and ongoing tragedy of the entire situation.
Now Kuenne is out to make one last movie with his old friend. His goal is to meet the June deadline to apply for entry into the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a race and money is an object.
Kuenne decided against investors. They might want creative control. Instead, he is raising donations through a non-profit at www.dearzachary.com. Kuenne, who plans to spend about $20,000 of his own, is far short of his ideal budget, but he says he’ll do what he can with what he gets.
The movie, he says, will be ready in time to submit to the Toronto festival. And if it’s selected?
Oh yes. David and Kate Bagby have every intention of being there opening night.
So what we have here is the perfect situation for a vanity film. The film is clearly a tribute, a memorial, a mourning, and deservedly so. Kuenne is an experienced filmmaker so his readiness to write off investors so quickly strikes me as bizarre, given his stated reasons and willingness to finish by a certain date in a trade off for quality.
This situation in film making is SCREAMING for innovative finance thinking. And I am going to give you innnovation right now 🙂
Here are the motivations of the main people:
1 – Kuenne, Bagby family: Express grief in the form of a film tribute, to be completed by a certain date in order to premier at a Canadian film festival. Presumably the PR associated with a Canadian premier will generate pressure surrounding the justice issues.
2 – Kuenne – advance his reputation and career as a filmmaker
So now Kuenne writes off investors who “might want creative control” and instead seeks essentially anonymous donations in tiny amounts form people who are touched by the story. I think the real reason is that there is no business plan for this film, and the investors are being shunned not because they might care about the creative control, but because they might care about their money, and more importantly the film as an enterprise in itself. Instead of seeking investors to whom he is accountable, he is raising money to which no accountability is attached at all.
I think this is very short sighted, because this story actually meshes nicely with a current innovative investment environment that could in fact wildly benefit his cause of memorializing his friend.
As we all well know, film is changing, and so is the way people consume it. This film could be made as planned, and then presented not just as a film, but as snippets online. Were I advising him, I would suggest making the film, and then, concurrent with its release (it is unlikely there is going to be any broad distribution for this film), the raw footage could be released under some version of a Creative Commons license.
A project inviting other people to use the footage in ways to further memorialize Bagby, or make a case regarding the justice issues, or for whatever purpose they desire, could have been announced at the film festival.
If this direction had been pursued, I know there are any number of companies, large and small, making Web 2.0 technology, that may be interested in funding the project, either directly with cast, or with people and in-kind services to help work on the project.
Then there is a win-win alignment of interests, and Bagby will be sure to be remembered much longer then even this film will be likely to garner attention by itself.
Can this project be rescued and converted in time? I don’t know – time is tight, and if nothing else there are probably legal issues surrounding the releases folks have already signed to participate in the film.
But it could work for other films in the development stages. I would be interested to hear from filmmakers, attorneys, angel investors, and Web 2.0 companies in the video and syndication spaces and I can work on facilitating such a project among interested parties soon. You can reach me at or via IM skype at barry_caplan.