Howdy, filmmakers! How’d you get those funds?
I’m blogging from the SXSW Film Festival in Austin Texas, where It Came From Kuchar, directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, is premiering tonight at 5 PM. Jennifer called me back in October 2005 to ask me if I would be interested in producing her film. Being familiar with Jennifer’s work on her narrative feature, Sirens of the 23rd Century, I said yes. Sirens of the 23rd Century screened at Frameline, Sci-Fi London and Anthology Film Archives. It won Best Narrative Feature at The New Orleans LGBT festival. Jennifer takes on ambitious projects and sees them through to successful completion. I knew her documentary would finish just as strong.
It Came From Kuchar is a hilarious and touching documentary about the legendary, underground filmmaking twins, the Kuchar brothers. As kids in the 1950s, George and Mike Kuchar began making no-budget epics in their Bronx neighborhood starring friends and family with their 8mm camera. In the 1960s the Kuchars became part of Warhol’s New York, underground film scene. The Kuchar brother’s films have inspired many prominent filmmakers, including John Waters, Buck Henry, Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin and Wayne Wang (all interviewed in this film). It Came From Kuchar interweaves the brother’s lives, their admirers, a history of underground film and a ‘greatest hits’ of Kuchar clips into a hilarious and touching stream-of-consciousness tale.
As a producer on the film, I raised a substantial portion of the budget from grants from foundations. The rest of the funds came from individual donors. Getting the grants was a little like going to the dentist for a root canal. I would not like to repeat the experience. Our first big opportunity to get a significant grant came just two weeks after Jennifer hired me, when the deadline for a letter of intent to the Creative Work Fund came due on November 3, 2005. The Creative Work Fund is a special arts fund made possible by a consortium of arts foundations in San Francisco. They fund a different field of art in rotating years. At that time, film was funded every three years. Now, it’s every FOUR years. The trick to getting this grant is to have a working relationship between an artist and a nonprofit organization. The problem for us was, we did not have that partnership and the letter was due in two weeks. After barking up the wrong tree, we retrained our focus on the Legion of Graduate Students at the San Francisco Art Institute, the art school where George Kuchar has taught for over 30 years. The students, who love George like their beloved crazy uncle, were all too willing to help! With their involvement, we were able to secure a $35,000 grant for the film. That early money is like yeast! Once we had that grant and the imprimatur of the Creative Work Fund, we entered a different realm of fundraising, where people sat up and listened when we spoke and didn’t immediately slam the door in our faces. It was not a picnic from there, but it sure beat the wandering in the wilderness where the grantless walk.
I’ll be posting more about our premiere and interviewing Jennifer Kroot, George Kuchar, and others from SXSW.