Would making your feature film or episodic series be easier if you got incentives from the likes of AbelCine and Hive Lighting, as well as mentorship, crowdfunding, and distribution opportunities?
That's what Big Vision Empty Wallet co-founders Dani Faith Leonard and Alex Cirillo are banking on in their newly launched Kickstart Diversity program aimed at the work of women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals. No Film School sat down with Dani and Alex who gave us information about the program, as well as tips on how best to apply for it yourself.
NFS: Why did you guys start the Kickstart Diversity program?
Alex: We started this program because we were tired of complaining about gender and racial inequality in Hollywood; it was time to DO something about it. Working as producers over the years, we've developed relationships with both major and boutique vendors and distributors, and we were confident that many of them would be willing to do everything in their power to promote diversity in film and TV.
Dani: In an ideal world, the most talented creators would be able to get the financing and other support needed to create their work. And although crowdfunding has helped to level the playing field, we saw that projects created by women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community needed an extra push. As creators ourselves who are actively working on projects, this is the assistance we would love. There are major efforts being made to make changes in Hollywood regarding diversity and that's fantastic, but while they work to make those changes from the top-down, we'll work to meet them in the middle by making big strides on the independent level.
Tips on Applying from Dani & Alex
- When to submit: The best time to submit is when you’re in development or early pre-production, but projects can benefit from the program in any stage of production.
- What you want to see in a project: A project is only as good as the team assembled. Although we ask for bios, I'm the most concerned with what unique experience and skill each of those people are bringing to this project, so that should be reflected in the submission materials. I want to know what makes this project unique and why I should want to support you. You can learn a lot about a person based on the effort they put into filling out a brief application!
- Budget: Clearly show where your money is going, why you are spending so much/so little, and how you can use the discounts our program provides to offset your costs. And show us that you've allocated money for audience building and marketing -- always.
- Marketing and Distribution: Audience building. I'll say it again: Audience building. Show us that you know who your audience is, and where & how to reach them. Have an appropriate plan to build your audience and keep them engaged throughout the entire process of this production, and ultimately throughout your career. If your ideal audience is 60-70yr old women, I don't want to hear about a plan to promote via a Snapchat campaign. Know your audience, where they find out about new things, and how they consume content. I also want to know your goals. We can't help you achieve your goals if you don't know what they are.
- Work Sample: We want to see originality, high production value, and quality writing & acting. But ultimately we're looking for unique voices that are relatable and can build audiences that will follow the creators throughout their careers. It's important for us to promote diverse view points and stories, and foster storytelling that is reflective of the diverse world that we live in.
The Kickstart Diversity program is open year round, and films are announced periodically. Check out this list of recently selected films:
The Bang Bang Girls -- Lauren Schacher: Writer, Director, Producer
Born That Way -- Michal Sinnott: Producer, Lead, Deborah Goodwin: Director, Michal Sinnott & Mary M. Parr, with Rob Travalino:
Screenplay, Katherin Machalek: Co-director, Cinematography for Sophie’s films, Jordan Bruner: Animation Director and Animator, Stephanie Ann Whited: Digital Media Director
Carbon -- Claire McClanahan: Writer, Producer, Lead, Andreas von Scheele: Director, Producer
Her Side of the Bed - Bryn Woznicki: Director, Producer, Co-writer, Lead Chelsea Morgan: Co-writer, Lead, Bailee Schreyer-Bragassa: Producer
Department of Paranoia -- Malik Isasis: Creator, Director, Writer, Lina Cherfas: Creator, Writer, Producer, Edward Nisanov: Writer, Producer
Expecto Patron -- Rachel Puchkoff: Writer, Director, Lead, Emily Iason: Producer, Stephanie Holbrook: Casting Director, Jacqueline Dow: Assistant Director, Lara Sfire: Co-Producer
The Hitters -- Paolo "Fiction" Bitanga: Showrunner, Co-creator, Royce Dunmore: Co-creator, Tara Edwards: Writer, James "Cricket" Colter: Lead Actor, Creative Consultant, "Floatmaster" John Rich: Supporting Actor, Hip-hop Consultant
Life Coach: Hot Mess -- Sam Garland: Writer, Director
Timber -- Kelly Wallace-Barnhill: Creator, Writer, Producer, Editor, Lindsey Gentile: Creator, Writer, Producer, Editor, Natasha Charles Parker: Creator, Writer, Producer, Editor, Alex Chu: Director, Rachel Dunn: Director of Photography
For more info on the Kickstart Diversity program, read all the details at Big Vision Empty Wallet. If you or your team meets the criteria for the program, definitely consider applying. Best of luck!