Soon to have its world premiere at Hot Docs, director Paul Devlin’s science and adventure doc Blast is the first film to use ArtistShare – an online community where people have traditionally donated funds to musicians. Devlin shares his experience of finding and building an audience using this alternative for cash-strapped filmmakers:
What are some of the challenges in finding support through this model?
We haven’t quite figured out how to get to the people who want to [sign up]; part of the challenge is that my films are so diverse. If I did another film on slam poetry or something like Power Trip [Devlin's 2003 doc on the electricity crisis in Georgia], ArtistShare would blow up – people would be all over this thing. With Blast we’ve had to dig up a completely new demographic from scratch, so our challenge is to overcome that hurdle.
What are you learning about your ArtistShare audience as you go?
People have started to email about the production updates [behind-the-scenes videos to which only ArtistShare contributors have access], writing ‘That update was really fun.’ We posted a very casual update when we were accepted into Hot Docs, and that got a lot of feedback. The other updates were maybe too formal and stiff; so we’re developing what might work as we go. And we did an interview on a live Internet radio show, and got sign-ups from that. So we’re getting better at figuring out how to get people to sign up.
How do you hope things will change once the film is in festivals?
We couldn’t show the film during the production updates, so it was hard to get people excited about something that was so abstract. Once the film comes out, it’s less abstract and if we do get a community that jumps on, then I’m not so invisible. I don’t appear in my films, but I do appear in the production updates, so once people sign up after the release, then we can bring this community from film to film. Even though the subjectmatter may be different, they’d become invested in our process rather than the subject. We hope that will be the breakthrough.