Clicking through crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter is like peering into people's dreams. Artists, inventors and activists present their projects online and hope friends in their social networks donate. If a stranger pitches in, even better. With that in mind, here's a list of 10 San Diego crowdfunding projects we think you should get to know. If they haven't yet reached their goals, maybe you'll even consider pitching in.
Mark Bunker knew his documentary project, Knowledge Report, couldn't be funded through traditional means—no one, aside from maybe Trey Parker and Matt Stone from South Park, wants to touch the topic of Scientology.
“The media through the last—well, probably since the '90s, has been very frightened about taking on Scientology because of the Time magazine cover story that got Time sued and tied up in court for 10 years,” Bunker, a San Diego-based investigative journalist, says. Representatives from one film company did express interest, only to pull the plug after they realized it could ruin them.
Bunker's raised more than $40,000 from hundreds of donors in six separate crowdfunding campaigns on IndieGoGo. While he doesn't have the resources he would with a large production company, the crowdfunding route also provides him wider latitude in his filmmaking style. In Bunker's words, the documentary will expose the controversial religion, which was founded by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, in the style of Morgan Spurlock or Michael Moore.
“I can make the film that I want to make, and I'm not reporting to a board,” he says. “I don't have people who will say, ‘No, no, no, you can't possibly say that or do that,' or [ask] to include them in the film.”
A mustard must
Zach Negin and James Magnatta just wanted to make mustard without weird ingredients like Xanthum gum. They gathered fresh, mostly organic ingredients, came up with about a dozen different flavors and started selling SoNo Trading Company's “The Mustard” at farmers markets in 2010.
To get their mustard on grocery shelves, though, they knew they needed to mass-produce it. They pared their mustards down to two flavors—Champagne Garlic and Hong Kong Habanero—made a funny, charming video and posted their project on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $4,000 in 30 days.
It worked. It more than worked. The two raised $15,589 from people who were essentially pre-ordering jars.
“The video, without a doubt, won a lot of people,” Magnatta says. “It was about selling ourselves, obviously. But I think the misconception people have with sites like Kickstarter is that you can just throw something up there and it'll work. It was a month-long campaign for us, and that was our only job for that month.”
Their project happened to be on the front page of Kickstarter when CNN broadcast a story about the site, and they were written about in the Washington Post a few weeks later.
“Now we have all this other work to do because we have to fulfill all the orders,” Magnatta says.
Unlike most creators on Kickstarter, John Ecker isn't an artist. He's serving in the Marines as a jet-engine mechanic and loves to build things.
He was inspired when he read about a DIY 3-D printer that, for $1,300, could create all the pieces it takes to a build another 3-D printer. The device is essentially a home printer that can create objects, layer by layer, by printing with melted plastic instead of ink. It meant he could build something that would build other things.
“The machine has such far-reaching implications,” he says. “Like in the '60s or '70s, when we had computers and we didn't know what they would do one day, we have no idea what these printers can do. We're just in the infancy stage.”
Ecker's 3-D printer is part of the RepRap.org project, an open-source endeavor focused on making self-replicating 3-D printers more easily available. The collective philosophy of open-source, Ecker figured, would fit perfectly with the ethos of crowdfunding.
He was right. Ecker raised almost $4,000, nearly four times his goal, from 48 donors around the world. After six months of building it, he's now printing out the rewards for his donors, including at least one second printer replicated by the original.
“The RepRap motto is ‘Wealth Without Money,'” he says. “You can have everything you want without spending a lot.”
When Cathedral X performed at The Casbah in early September, the new local group didn't put on the usual music show. Dressed in burka-style veils and adorned with chains, Jessica Jeffery danced seductively while Amanda Schoepflin sung melismatic vocal parts through a pitch-shifter and Paul Remund pounded out convulsive tribal beats over harsh drum loops. Calling the piece “Night of the Anti-Woman,” they wanted to explore the bounds of feminine beauty, showcasing a woman's self-oppression but also her strength.
Cathedral X is not a band. Rather, Schoepflin says, “Cathedral X is an open forum of ideas, events, displays, sounds and interpretation—all operating from one studio.”
Lately, they've had a particular fascination with human intimacy and dependency, inspired in part by their own experiences: This summer, Jeffery's boyfriend left California to take a temporary job and Schoepflin went through an intense band and relationship breakup.
For their next project, “Spaces in Solitude,” they plan to stage 12 “experiences” that will represent humans in states of intimacy. The performances will incorporate music, costumes and special lighting and staging, and the group plans to make a film of the project for release on DVD. They've launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000.
Local filmmaker Michael Poole may still be trying to raise money, but according to the website for his production company, Timescape Entertainment, that hasn't stopped the cameras from rolling. Poole's a big fan of Grendel, Matt Wagner's 1980s comic-book series that evolved into an intense examination of the human condition through crime, anger and violence.
The title character first took the form of Hunter Rose, a young writer who spent his evenings as a ruthless criminal mastermind whose face was always covered by a mask. In Poole's edition, Mick Towers will play Grendel and Rodsyl Vega will take on the role of Christine Spar, an integral part of Wagner's comics. Poole's page says the production needs a little more than $1,200 to help rent a roof and to pay for insurance for the stunt work, as well as costumes, makeup and masks—the standard super-villain work-up. If you're following along, that's stunt work on a rooftop for a serious fan film.
If you donate $84, you get listed as an associate producer in the credits, and if you can hit the Devil Him/Herself level of funding ($666, natch), you'll be listed as an executive producer.
Lady of Libertad
Artist Omar Pimienta has built a monument for Colonia Libertad, the Tijuana neighborhood where he grew up. Based on Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi's initial sketches of the Statue of Liberty, which included a pedestal shaped like a Mesoamerican pyramid, Pimienta's 10-foot-tall portable sculpture depicts an inflatable Lady Liberty floating atop a pyramid.
Bartholdi wanted to reference the influences of pre- Columbian cultures on the United States by including the pyramid. Pimienta found a more immediate reference for his Lady Liberty: Colonia Libertad, located next to the Tijuana/San Diego border, a hotbed of migratory action and where Pimienta has a studio.
“It's a neighborhood that has always been influenced by weird dynamics,” Pimienta says, noting that the most recent trend has been the influx of U.S. residents settling in Colonia Libertad to save money while staying close to San Diego.
Pimienta wants to activate his sculpture through a series of 10 public installations in the neighborhood. Each presentation will include artists, writers and educators discussing things like immigration and narco culture. He was invited to post his project on unitedstatesartists.org, which will match his funding as soon as he reaches 25 percent of his goal. He has until Nov. 1 to raise $10,000.
“It sounds possible,” he says, “but it's going to take a lot of work on my part.”
Ask anyone who's ever organized a film festival, and they'll tell you it ain't easy. Or cheap. But that hasn't stopped local horror-film fan Miguel Rodriguez from putting on the second iteration of Horrible Imaginings, San Diego's horror-flick festival, this November at the 10th Avenue Theater, Downtown.
Rodriguez has turned to the masses to help cover the cost of venue rental, licensing the rights to films and other expenses. He's not the only one with the idea—FilmOut, San Diego's LGBT film fest, has turned to crowdfunding for assistance with Thrill- O-Rama, its own Halloween spectacular, which will consist of a half-dozen horror movies from the '70s on Oct. 8 at the Birch North Park Theatre.
My advice? Give $10 to each of them. For that amount, you'll get into all six films of Thrill-O-Rama (and you'll save $10 by doing so; an all-access pass is $20). Ten bucks will get your name mentioned in the “Horrible Imaginings” program, and if you up the ante to $25, you'll get access to the movies, the associated art gallery and the rooftop after-party, where something horrible is bound to happen.
They single you out because you march to the beat of a different drum. They believe that you deserve no mercy and sweep your leg during the big tournament or elect you prom queen just to douse you in pig's blood. They're bullies, and if you listen to cable-news shows, they're part of a national “epidemic.”
For 28-year-old parent Eric Marchuk, a plausible solution to the rampant bullying problem manifested itself during a recent meditation session.
“I started thinking about violence in schools, and I was, like, ‘Whoa, how cool would it be to have a meditation program in my daughter's school?'” he says. “And one thing led to another.”
Armed with his experience as a classically trained guitarist and a composer at local music-production company SonikGravity, Marchuk took to Kickstarter to raise $5,000 by Oct. 13 for the production and distribution of a non-religious musical meditation CD series for children. It's a project that, judging by similar initiatives in maximum-security prisons, he thinks could be the key to eliminating schoolyard bullying.
“The long-term goal would be creating and establishing meditation programs in all public schools in the United States,” he says.
It'd be silly of me not to give $10 to help fund Josh Damigo's new album. He's proved to be a force in the music scene, having won two San Diego Music Awards and averaging a show per week. He has a voice that's as smooth as silk, and I suspect that he'll one day play sold-out shows in large theaters.
Did mention I hate his music? Yes, I hate it. It's that cheesy, sentimental, heart-on-your-sleeve acoustic drivel whose target audience is women who watch The View and fantasize about running off with John Mayer, leaving the three kids behind.
But you know what? I gave Damigo $10 on his Kickstarter page because I need his music just as much as he needs my money. He and I have developed quite a friendship, and my criticisms of him get me more attention while also helping him earn new fans. The animal kingdom is filled with symbiotic relationships, and I respect Damigo in that he has taken my criticisms and used them to his advantage. On his Kickstarter page, he claims he'll get a “tattoo of your choice” for anyone who donates $5,000. I don't have that kind of bread, but if I did, I'd donate it. The tattoo? It would read “J+S Forever.”
Facebook activism isn't easy. After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in March, Doug Deacom began updating his friends and family about the accident via posts on the social-media site, but no one paid attention.
“I could hear echoes,” Deacom says. “Nobody was listening. At the same time, my wife and I just had a child, and I would post photos and get, like, 35 likes.”
Frustrated, Deacom and his wife, Yukiko Honda, turned to a more in-person and family-friendly method of communicating the potential post-Fukushima dangers. They taught themselves the art of Kamishibai, a traditional Japanese form of paper-theater storytelling, and they plan to take their miniature theater on the road, using a bike. By the anniversary of the disaster, they hope to have completed 50 performances in a 50-mile radius surrounding the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
The couple needed money for materials and a new bike, so they created a few Kamishibai stories, made a video and turned to Kickstarter. On Sept. 11, they exceeded their $1,100 goal by $50.
“I was going to do this project either way,” Deacom says. “This was the difference between getting a fancy new bike and going without.”