Yesterday I launched a campaign on IndieGoGo, asking the public to donate towards the $25,000 costs of making a film. When I pressed the ‘Go Live!’ button, the soul-crushing fear of the last 5 years of developing the film flashed before my eyes.
Let me rewind for you a little, 5 years ago I was working as part-time barman, part-time musician. I made bits of music for videogames and films. Nothing you have ever heard of nor should ever hear. I had a couple of hours spare before one of my bar shifts and I was watching a documentary on Duran Duran. It was a hilariously bad piece of television, however it sparked an idea in my mind of making an 80’s album by a fictitious band. I called in sick for my bar shift and by the end of the night I had come up with a 5 demo tracks and the band name ‘The Hit Squad‘.
Over the next few weeks, I started writing little stories that the band had been involved with, I even fired up Microsoft Paint and drew low-resolution pictures of the characters. It was a fun side project that distracted me from what I should’ve been doing, which was finding more paid gigs to play.
The characters took shape, stories turned into scripts and The Hit Squad started to take over from my music. I began to love the Microsoft Paint characters that I’d made and realised that it gave the whole thing a very unique style that could work in my favour. I contacted hundreds of film and television production companies, asking if it’d be something they’d be interested in. I had a lot of feedback, mainly on the pixel-art style of the characters. The companies that replied all said the same thing: ‘Just go out there and do it yourself. I saw this as a rejection, and it was a rejection of sorts. They dealt with live-action, I was talking animation, they didn’t want to waste both of our times.
Let me just clarify one thing, people in the movie industry never ‘reject’ you per se. They will say ‘yes’ forever. But they will stop calling and writing. Whenever you check back in with them, all wide-eyed and eager, they’ll say ‘We need to get your movie made! Lets have a think of how we can get it off the ground’. This is the point where I learned to ask questions. If you find out what they think needs improving, then you’ll have a better idea of how to sell it to the next person.
So I asked questions ‘What can I do to make The Hit Squad better?’, ‘more pixels’ one said, ‘more variety in the characters’ said another, ‘at least 3 jokes per page’… I turned every rejection into a checklist of changes I had to consider.
I knew I had something, but I also knew I was very inexperienced and needed to catch up. So, I spent the next year reading everything I could about screenwriting, filmmaking, animation, video editing and comedy. Absorbing everything I could to make the film better. I bought a load of software in order to get more experience with the whole process. Throughout the year I threw all of the old bits of script out of the window and wrote an entirely new feature-length script from scratch, I sat down and worked on a self-animated promo in order to help people visualise The Hit Squad more clearly.
A new script and animation was sent out to more companies and it got an amazing response. Meetings were arranged to discuss The Hit Squad. The ridiculous details of each of these meetings is an article in itself, so I’ll just give you the result: they all fell through. Although one company actually gave it the green-light as a live-action film, a technicality meant that it fell through. There are a million reasons for a film to not get picked up, I didn’t take any offence, nor did I send bags of poop to each and every one of their offices. I didn’t do that and you can’t prove it.
Although it was heartbreaking to hear the ‘soft rejection voice’ that they all use to break bad news. Bad news, of course, doesn’t exist in the movie industry, it’s always merely ‘a delay’ or ‘they’ll get back to us once they’ve finished their current project’, or ‘I think they may have fallen out of a helicopter’. When will people put proper doors on helicopters?
So I did what I did to all the companies in the past, I spoke to them and said ‘What can I do to make it better?’. One company replied ‘Why don’t you just go and do it yourself?’. There was that phrase again. Then it clicked into place. I had produced a two minute animation by myself, with a small group of other people I could surely produce a 90 minute feature. What I hadn’t realised is that over time, I had given myself the tools to produce the whole thing, so why would I go and hand the whole thing over to some other company?
With all this in tow, I looked at the project and worked out who I would need to make the best version of The Hit Squad with, using the smallest amount of money possible. I asked the rejectioneers for help to work out a budget. Some even put me in contact with people who may be able to help. Always accept introductions with people in the industry, no matter how irrelevant they may seem. You never know what they may be able to do for you.
After months of more reading, planning, Twittering, Facbooking and such, I have the masterplan. 5 years of work and rejection has taken the project from a ‘nice idea, needs work’ (actual quote) to ‘could be the next South Park’ (also an actual quote from an industry bigwig).
So that brings us up to now, The Hit Squad pitch video is done, the IndieGoGo page lives (http://indiegogo.com/TheHitSquad) and the next 49 days will be getting the word out, talking to people and trying to raise $25,0000 to make the movie I’ve been wanting to make for years.
Its ‘do or die’ time and quite honestly… I’m ready for it.
Chris Blundell is an ex-musician and now moviemaker. He produces animated shorts on YouTube The Hit Squad is his first feature, you can donate towards the movie here, in fact one of the perks is to actually be IN the movie.