Aug 6 2012
Monday News: Why I am not in love with the romance documentary; Amazing scientific advancement improving life of children
I wasn’t going to post any news about the Popular Romance organizations’ Kickstarter for $50,000 because a) I am not a fan of Kickstarters in general and b) because I have concerns about the Popular Romance one and did not feel comfortable giving it more publicity at this time. That said, I’ve received emails and tweets asking if I knew about the project; whether it was legitimate; whether I would be posting about it on the site. I’m certainly not against a documentary that is supposed to be a positive portrayal of romance novels and their readers, but what concerns me is the lack of transparency about how much money the project has received and where the money is going — essentially all the same issues I have with most Kickstarters.
Wanting more transparency does not imply that the people behind the project are untrustworthy. Instead, the concern over the lack of transparency is that individuals with limited resources for giving do not have enough information at this time to discern whether this project deserves our charitable donation instead of the many other worthy causes that exist.
Laurie Kahn, the documentarian, has received over $650,000 in grant money from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Popular Romance documentary, an initial grant of $48,000 in 2010 and an additional grant of $614,000 just last month (p. 21 of the PDF). A comparable documentary like “Guilty Pleasures” likely cost about $500,000, and this included international travel, according to some film individuals. Documentary Tech quotes documentary filmmaker Kevin Knoblock as setting the range for his films between $300,000 and a little over a million. The Popular Romance project has received over or close to $700,000 in funding from NEH, the State of Massachusetts, Brandeis, and RWA, not including whatever Kickstarter money has already been contributed.
Because these grants are from organizations, they will have their own requirements for reporting, accounting, and where and how the moeny is used. It is up to the person accepting the grant to abide by these requirements. With Kickstarter there is no accounting, no required disclosure on how the money is being used, and no reporting requirement. Consequently, a donor depends on the information given for the project in deciding whether or not to contribute.
Without transparency, donors lack information to reach two important conclusions: first, that the money requested is necessary to the completion of the project as envisioned, and second, that this cause is more worthy than others to which she would otherwise donate. Because Kahn’s documentary is about the Romance community, in a sense we are partners in the project, and if we are being asked to give money to the production of a project, whether it is the documentary, the website, or some other entity, I think it’s only fair that we have the most information possible when deciding whether to contribute.
However, on the Project Romance Kickstarter front page, I can find no mention of the amount of money already received. As of last Friday, when the Kickstarter first came to my attention, there was no mention of the amount. When I shared with some people the amount of money already in the PR coffers, people were very surprised. Some had no idea that there was other funding, and had contributed or thought of contributing on that basis. As of Sunday, there is still no disclosure of the funding raised only that a “substantial” grant was received.
The kickstarter says that the $50,000 initial funding will be used to
- edit the film (a process that takes many months for a complex long-form film)
- continue to make videos for our website, to share what we are doing, take you behind the scenes, and get input from you
- do pickup shoots (the shooting one does while editing)
- pay to help keep PopularRomanceProject.org going strong (we don’t want to disappoint all of the people, from more than 120 countries, who’ve been visiting the blog!)
How much of the money will be used for editing? How much for the maintenance of the website? How much does it cost to produce a video or keep the site “going strong?” Where else will the money go? There is a line item in the grant proposal, for example, for academic advisors. Who are they and how much are they receiving or will receive from the Kickstarter money?
This isn’t about whether I believe in the documentarian, nor is it about not wanting to support romance. Obviously I am a big supporter of romance. Instead, I think the community should not just have to go on blind trust that this is a project we want to support. Nor do I think we should be contributing our own money to it without knowing how much money it has already received. As I said before, if the Romance community has any stake in this project beyond the stake we have in every project that aims to represent us (and we know there have been very mixed results with that), I think we need as much information as possible before claiming that stake with our own funds.
Science is amazing.
Before any one gets excited about this ruling, Posner is regularly overturned by the US Supreme Court and legal scholars are already questioning the scholarship underpinning this decision. The decision is being widely touted by tech blogs and tech enthusiasts but it’s a decision that I would be hesitant to rely upon.
Slate’s article is on the culture of niceness that is being fostered by online closeness through social media. The tearing down of boundaries between author and reader can result in readers or critics not voicing the criticisms necessary “for a vibrant, useful literary culture.” Ed Champion follows up with a little etymology lesson for the word nice and suggest that kind should be the adjective to strive for:
But if you’re “being kind” to someone, you are legitimately trying to understand where another person is coming from and you are willing to change your mind. You are also willing to persuade the person who is so determined to hate.
- Five eBooks from a variety of genres
- Pay-what-you-want for the eBooks
- The eBooks are DRM free and can be read on virtually any device
- A portion of the revenue made goes directly to a charity Book Aid International
Someone put together this list of tattoo related romances and I would love to read a good female tattoo artist story. Anyone have any recommendations in that regard?