A Brief History of My Kickstarting.

Crowdfunding is an ongoing phenomenon. It has been used to advance technology, perform art, and provide charitable relief for those suffering from medical or life emergency. It is also a platform that has been capitalized upon, exploited, and broken to varying degrees. Although many examples exist of people being meaningfully supported through online crowdfunding, there are as many stories that involve people taking advantage of tragedy for commercial gain, failing to deliver promised goods or services, or remaining transparent in project goals and outcomes. For my part, I have focused my energies on Kickstarter, now a massive corporate force that has reportedly received $1.9 billion dollars in pledges. I feel it important to mention that both Kickstarter and their affiliates also profit from these donations from a 10% fee on any funded project, an additional cost that potential project managers should take into account. I cannot speak in great detail about the higher corporate functions, nor the ongoing problems associated with crowdfunding. All I can offer are my own experiences as a learning tool for artists, entrepreneurs, and creators who seek a means of funding their work.

I do this in no small part because there is a lot of bad advice on the internet, and an explosion in companies and individuals who claim to have the means of finding you backers, and getting your project funded. These services vary in cost beginning with micro transactions of less than $100 that return a certain amount of unique visits to a page and positive comments. There is a new cottage industry of companies and individuals offering individual consultation with projects which typically include the previously mentioned benefits as well as support developing and/or managing a marketing plan. One such service I looked at today cost $950 up front, and the same in the event of successful funding. While a parasitic network of social networking engineers work to suck away production capital, the quality and nature of the projects themselves have come into question. People have paid large sums of money and been left without rewards. I am owed a Sabertron, for instance, that I doubt I will ever receive. I have backed a film I may never watch. I await books that are in the process of writing. Projects themselves may claim to accomplish certain things that do not occur, particularly in game and software development. Within this system I have attempted to create a variety of things, and for your benefit I include them here, as well as the key lessons I took away from each project. If this advice is bad, or boring, then at least it is true, and free. I launched my first Kickstarter in 2013. 

Whatever it lacked in originality it more than made up for in audaciousness. Wanting to do something different than Hamlet, I had set about to retool the universe to fit within a certain sci-fi fantasy tangent that will remain nameless. The cast was massive, and the equipment was non-existent, and everyone who I was hoping to work on this project as a really massive endeavor. What I learned from this loss was that my budget was probably too large, the script too nerdy, and the overall advertising campaign unable to generate a needed critical mass. Everyone seeks out virility, but in nature such radical mutations are rare. There are only a few viruses we worry about with any regard, and for the most part we are inoculated. Nerd film needs cameras and editing equipment is not the story to sell to a large enough audience, and people also treat Shakespeare with a boring sort of reverence. Without any funding I pushed forward on my B-day this year and I have a lot of uncomfortable footage of me in a green suit, shaking around a small army of miniatures, for roughly 4 and a half hours. The most important lesson; It is better to have a funding goal abysmally low, than so high that it is entirely unattainable. 

This project, and particularly the Kickstarter, really took the wind out of my sails. It is really hard to throw your effort into an idea, and see people ignore it. Not even take the time to poop on it, like a decent art critic. But, it also started a fire that demanded a response. So, instead of taking my blanket and running away, I set out to approach Kickstarter as an experiment. The length would be a year, and for that year I would always have a project open, of some kind. It would involve thinking ahead, and as it turns out, being disregarded and ostracized from polite networking society. But, I did not think about that, at the time. At that time, I just wanted to see if I could do it, and I launched this experiment with an experimental vessel. 

What would seem like trying to buy an old houseboat for too much money was actually one of the most sustainable and forward thinking projects. I wanted a platform to test the emerging technologies of sub aquatic turbines, a passion I continue to explore to this day. The bottom line was being able to create and entirely self sustaining and experimental vessel powered by the infinitely clean forces of water, below. I am sad that this project did not get farther, but it also helped establish a benchmark for funding, somewhere around $600. Now, that amount of money is great, if you want to buy a TV, or a 20th century car, but to actually create science? Hard. Very hard. So, if you are going to fail, at least fail big? 


What could be considered a step backwards was at least getting one of my dream project available for potential angel investors. I have been fascinated with the concept of container living, for some time, but one of the main complaints has always been the stuffy feeling of being trapped in a box. This is rectified in my design by putting people up into the air. Also making them able to live next to people they want. The superstructure of the building would be modular, so you could go live elsewhere, if you wanted to? Or have different neighbors? Or buy an extra container, when you need a dog, or more space. I have seen similar designs presented by people who actually know how to design things. 

But see, I don't have these sorts of computer design skills. I do, however, have the business and political connections to develop a project like the container tower. But, I don't need to convince myself of that, I need to convince 200 or so, all with $10,000 to spend on what may seem like a crazy venture. Here, I also ran into a wall with donor levels. At this time a person could only donate $10,000, and I am unsure if that has changed. That limitation is damnable, when trying to create experimental housing, for instance. Which this is. So, people don't want to live in containers and I should probably stop trying to fund giant projects. But...

Shakespeare's Globe with a dome on it, solar panels, wind turbines, the whole deal. Updated, you dig? Insulate it, electrify it, make it a place of learning, and art, and creation. $2,000,000 may not be everything, but it would  surely get the ball rolling. When a ball is made of money, it tends to collect more money, downhill. But it never was downhill, for this project. As with the previous project I was also unable to generate a snappy video. Kickstarter really encourages you to make a clever video, like it is this easy, fun task. But it is not. I am still in the process of building this theater. There are contemporaries in my field working on similar projects, notably Angus Vail and his Container Globe. 

But, the Global Community Theater was unable to get anywhere, and things were looking discouraging, moving into the new year. At this point I was more than willing to scale back my projects, in return for a success story. 

I am still unsure why $1,050 is so hard to raise, but it is, and was, and continues to be. This seemed like an incredibly simple idea that would be sure to succeed, and yet not so. Still unable to find my audience I close the gap to 60% but still no joy. Also unable to generate a snappy video. I feel bad this project was not funded, because I truly believe it would have been good. As a one person show it also was the most likely for me to be able to somewhat compensate my efforts. That heady dream. 

Some people have spoken ill of my MS Paint skills, but it is a certain kind of art, and it is what it is. I went to college for theater, not graphic design. All of my friends who did go to school for that hated it, and transitioned into other fields. I do write, however, and the overhead for writing is much smaller, than establishing a venue in which to perform. No joy, however. The parameters of the project were not made clear, there was no snappy video, and in the end not everyone wants to be a swashbuckler. Apparently. 

Kickstarter shot down my solar dirigible. Which was hard. Really the function of these large enterprises is to summon the attention of the media and potential angel investors. I've been haranguing Sir Richard Branson online for years now, but none of that innovation trickles down. No. We've got to go parasailing with Obama or whatever. Just let the damned nazis have the largest aircraft in history. The USAS Victorious remains my ultimate dream, but Kickstarter is not a platform adequate to the task.

Success! This script was written as my senior capstone, theater is at the center of my wheelhouse, and a persistent campaign of harassment mixed with snappy videos got this project over the finish line. It took daily sharing, tweeting, and direct messaging. It took a press release that was never printed, and a blogger based web page that may still exist. Unwilling and unable to come down, although funded I lost money producing this play. It was close, and pioneered new territory. Audiences were receptive, there was a television feature made about the process. This was an amazing undertaking. Every person creating a project should establish a range of delivery dates, when questions of production are raised. I spent hours and hours pouring over the footage captured by our ad hoc array. Thousands of hours into both the play and the film. But, we move forward. 

I never actually launched the Four Garys Kickstarter. Partly from fear of failure, partly from an inability to manage it among my other responsibilities. But, it is in there. Frozen in time. Just waiting to launch. Still waiting to hear about the Pulitzer Prizes, this year. 

I will admit that I am glad that Kony 2017 was not funded, it is more or less a crowdfunded suicide mission, but something needs to be done, you know? Kony is not convincing himself to surrender to the International Criminal Court, you know?

This is my current Kickstarter, and it is not looking great. $3,000 really is a minimum to be able to stage something of this magnitude and not lose a bunch of money I do not have. It is sad, because it is a really great play, and I really want it to be produced, but the market seems to be frightened and depressed. People aren't interested in the theater, or if they are they are more interested in dead white guy theater or Disney whatever. I am hoping to leverage a snappy video into the popular consciousness. Apply a coherent marketing plan. It is all a process, is the thing, here. There is no silver bullet, no "Secret to Crowdfunding" it is all just people, scrambling for the last money held by a dying species, you know? The experiment is ongoing. If Kickstarter does not succeed with this show, I plan on branching out to other sources in hopes of a more sustainable and successful means of financing my ventures. But.

I do have a kickstarter for "The Great American Play" whatever that is. To follow this play. I have other plays, too, in various stages of production. But this one? This is the play that will break the heart of the nation. I have an outline complete, but every time I try to write the damned thing I burst into tears and am thrown into an existential vortex. No no. This will be a masterpiece. Believe you me. If a stroke/heartattack doesn't get me, first. 

I even have a Kickstarter for my church. Some day. I have seen similar success with a mobile monastery. We will see. I guess. 

So that is everything past, present, and future. Snappy video. Relentless self promotion. Infinite hubris. Crushing disappointment. Artistic degeneration. All in all interesting stuff. As I said, the experiment is very much ongoing. Results may ultimately be inconclusive. We can only hope the whole works can hold together long enough to get some crap theater put out there.


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