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.
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Science is amazing.
Amazon Attacked Over Sex Tourism EBook – “The book’s listing was removed by Amazon on Thursday evening. According to Amazon’s website, it had been on sale since October 2011, and had received 15 one-star reviews, all of which complained about its subject matter. The book was also available for free in the Kindle Lending Library, which according to the terms and conditions of Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform, one of the largest self-publishing platforms in the world, meant that it was exclusively available on the Kindle.” Huffington Post
Embedding copyrighted video is not infringement, rules Posner – “Embedding copyright-infringing videos on your website isn’t in itself copyright infringement, ruled 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner. The defendant in the case, the unfortunately-named myVidster, lets its users bookmark videos on other sites which they can then view through video embeds on myVidster. The bookmarking function works in much the same way as many other sites, like content curation site Pinterest, for instance. A year ago the company was hit with a preliminary injunction against linking to porn company Flava Works’s copyrighted videos, but Posner overturned the ruling on Thursday, saying that because “myVidster doesn’t touch the data stream” (i.e., it doesn’t host the infringing videos, just links to files elsewhere on the internet) it isn’t infringing Flava Works’s copyrights, or even “encouraging or assisting” whatever infringement is occurring.” The Verge
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.
I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too) | Sarah Houghton – “Yes–our residents want eBooks. But does that mean that we trade away our core values and ethics to provide anything, under any terms? Does it mean that we spend our residents’ limited tax dollars on sub-par products with sub-par usage terms and no ownership or longevity guarantees? Or is the fact that people want eBooks from their libraries and we can’t get them going to turn out to be enough reason to stop the madness and engage in a massive national boycott of the societal conflagration that we are faced with for the future of digital information?” Librarian In Black
Writers and readers on Twitter and Tumblr: We need more criticism, less Liking. – Slate Magazine – “But let’s say you’re part of this web of writers, fiction-lovers, literary editors, and readers in the social-media world, and you’re assigned a review of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. What if you don’t like it? Or what if you like it, but not unreservedly? Are you willing to say so? Would you be willing to critique Straub’s novel after watching her life scroll out on social media over the last year—indeed, after likely being the recipient or admirer of some small word or act of kindness on Straub’s part? To the uninitiated, this might seem immaterial, or like the kind of navel-gazing tabulation of credentials that can make the New York literary world insufferable. As a relatively recent arrival to New York, I can say that both are true. But it also matters, because the situation of someone like Straub epitomizes the mutual admiration society that is today’s literary culture, particularly online.” Slate
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.
Story: Snug Nugget – Pay-what-you-want eBook Bundles – Here is a quick summary of the service. Snugnugget.com
- 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?
I don’t know how *imbedding* a video can be considered a copyright violation, in that the owner/original distributor retains control, and the video is not copied or changed in any way. Obviously my brain is too small to understand.
The SmugNugget offering includes a collection by the awesome and incredibly talented Frank Tuttle who is not only a fabulous fantasy writer but a truly wonderful person as well. Great project.
Interesting about the Kickstarter project. I’ve seen so many of them recently, and have had similar concerns.
I really enjoyed the Karen E Olson Tattoo Shop quartet. Las Vegas set, interesting female heroine, some romance, and some pretty cool tattoos.
Branded as Trouble by Lorelei James has a female tattoo artist. The heroine is also the A. A. sponsor for the hero. This book is one of the angstier ones in the Rough Riders series.
Sarah Mayberry has a book featuring a female tattoo artist as the heroine — She’s Got It Bad.
@Jen G.: I reviewed that one here a few years ago.
Dana Marie Bell’s Halle Shifters series (Bear Necessities and Cynful published so far) feature heroines who are tattoo artists.
Thanks for the info regarding the Popular Romance Kickstarter. I’d seen it linked to on several writers’ forums. Given that the Kickstarter goal is to raise $50K, I assumed the “substantial” grant was for a similar figure. Boy, was I wrong. Nearly $700K??? If the $50K is the last money they need to bring the project to fruition, then they should state this clearly on their website. That way, no one feels they’ve been take for a ride. The current wording makes it sound like the $50K is funding most of the project.
I have my own objections to Kickstarter. If someone is asking for funds to create intellectual property, then contributors should have an equity stake in it. The entire model is basically out of Barnum: Give us your money so we can get rich down the road and you get these nice parting gifts as consolation prizes. And when it comes to manufacturing things, dealing with Chinese factories as an inexperienced outsider who has no idea which company is legit and which isn’t is just asking for precious money to be flushed down the toilet. Even dealing with American legit manufacturers can reveal process flaws — now add that to having to fix them remotely from thousands of miles away with a language barrier!
I’m conflicted on Kickstarter. I only support projects on it where parties are known to me. I participated in funding Franz Nicolay’s new album (out today and outstanding in all respects) but things tied to product development don’t appeal. I agree with the problems outlined here. I think it works best for small scale art projects where creator and audience are already connected.
I’m fringe and new to the romance community (off in the f/f side of things), but I saw something about this on Twitter, checked out the PRP website, and I’m curious. If I’m reading correctly, your arguments are mostly not directed at *this* particular Kickstarter project, but at the concept behind Kickstarter generally (that is, that people asking for money don’t have to show a transparent plan before asking for funds, and that funds are donations, not investments). Definitely, people who make donations should consider the risks they take in donating. But that’s true of any Kickstarter or blind donation (I don’t ask my church how it uses the money I give at offering–though it’s good to know I could ask if I wanted to).
You mention other worthy causes romance readers might donate to. What comparable projects or causes supporting positive public perception of the romance reader/writer community are there?
I understand your concerns regarding Kickstarter. I’ve donated to eleven film-related Kickstarter projects including documentaries. All those I donated have the details I’d want to know about their projects. Here’s the one I donated the most: Behind Being, a documentary.
That entry includes a budget breakdown, estimated running time (which most Kickstarter documentarians surprisingly forgot to mention), a list of people and locations he would like to interview/film, and his future plans in terms of this documentary. What clinched the deal is an inclusion of film festival entry fees in his budget. This to me shows he’s considered all possible angles, short- and long-term.
I haven’t made a donation to the Project Romance documentary because the “How will the money be spent” section doesn’t have certain details I want. Such as a budget breakdown. As it stands, it’s too vague for my taste. This is not a criticism against the Project Romance only as this applies to all other documentary film-makers who fail to include certain details. It still doesn’t mean some shouldn’t donate, though. It’s all about operating from each person’s comfort zone.
Karen E. Olson has published 5 books in her A Tattoo Shop Mystery series. These are fun comtempory “cozy” books.
You may be making blind donations to your church, but unless your church has chosen not to opt for tax-exempt status, it is required to keep an accounting of its revenues and expenses and to make those accounts available for public inspection. Kickstarter allows for both 501(c)(3) organizations (which have to report) and individuals to put forward projects. The Popular Romance Project has apparently chosen to present its Kickstarter funding request on an individual basis, which means no reporting or accounting is required (I say “apparently” because I couldn’t find any information that stated otherwise). Their NEH grant was awarded through a 501(c)(3) organization, as is required by the terms of the grant.
Sarah Weinman posted a link to an article on Kickstarter that’s pretty interesting: http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/08/06/080612-tech-games-kickstarter-machkovech/.
PRP is really the first of this kind of project in the Romance community, so it’s going to be setting a precedent for Kickstarter-type direct-giving. Which, for me, at least, means it bears the burden of all precedents — to set a high bar. I’m sure there are plenty of folks who will want to contribute, even knowing the particulars of other funding. However, if people ultimately feel pissed or let down because they DIDN’T know those particulars, that feeling will bleed into other projects that reach out to the community for support. Why risk that, when the kind of details Maili is talking about are hardly private and personal (or beyond what many granting agencies would require)?
That’s not something I knew you could do on Kickstarter, if you’re clearly not an individual, and *does* seem very questionable, but it seems more a problem with Kickstarter than with the project. Wouldn’t pressure be better put on Kickstarter than on an individual project? I’m sure they’re already under fire; more pressure for accountability at the Kickstarter-as-a-whole level could improve transparency on projects all the way around, not just this once.
I’m still curious to know if there are nonprofit projects or organizations out there supporting the romance community that need donations. Does the RWA accept donations? Are there new-writer programs or workshops that ask for funds? People donating to this project must be looking for ways to support what they love. If there are more transparent comparable options, it may be that they’re not so well-known. The publicity surrounding this project sounds like it would make for a great moment to increase awareness of other, similar projects or organizations that need funds.
There are different models for thinking about Kickstarter — but “blind donation” isn’t the one that I prefer. Every Kickstarter I’ve backed (about 6 or 7 now) has a variety of reward levels. Depending on what the project is, that might be a book, a CD/DVD, VIP tickets to an exclusive event, or simply recognition as a donor. To me, a better analogy is paying for a product in advance. In the case of this Kickstarter, a $35 donation yields a DVD of finished documentary, plus a few other small goodies, while a $50 donation nets you the aforementioned plus a nifty cloissone pin. If the rewards being offered are something you want, then go ahead and back it. If not, then don’t. (Certainly, there’s a risk that someone will run off with your money, but that risk isn’t unique to Kickstarter.)
Certainly, some skepticism might be in order about any project one would consider backing. But I’m surprised at the level of vitriol surrounding this discussion. Why isn’t she being more transparent about exactly where the money will go? There are probably some excellent reasons for that. By way of example, I point out musician Amanda Palmer’s recent wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for her new album. Her campaign was for $100,000 and ended up raising over $1 million — and she got a lot of grief about this. Here’s a link to her response about where that money will go, and whether she’s now just rich off people’s generosity: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour/posts/232020
Note that the very first thing she mentions is paying off the stacks of bills that were necessary to bring her project to that point. What struck me in reading through Palmer’s discussion of where that money will go is just how many costs there are that I never imagined. And that at every step more funding means a higher-quality product. And the PRP’s Kickstarter makes this point well, I think — higher levels of funding mean music composition and recording, participation in film festivals, and financial support toward a romance symposium at the Library of Congress — all consistent with the project’s overall goal of raising awareness of the romance community in a positive way.
Cameron Dane’s “The Sweetest Tattoo” is pretty good – smartass heroine and uptight hero, plus really hot sexy times. The m/m sequel is good too.
What struck me in reading through Palmer’s discussion of where that money will go is just how many costs there are that I never imagined.
Which is EXACTLY why disclosure is a good, desirable thing.
I do not assume that projects lacking disclosure are improper — sometimes it’s just the assumption that everyone will automatically know what a good, honest person you are; other times it’s inexperience. However, I do expect someone like Kahn, who has experience with funding requests, to know the importance of disclosure. And assuming everyone associated with the project is well-intentioned and honest, why in the world would you want to risk the bad feelings of people who might feel duped without transparency? Not only can that generate backlash and bad publicity, but it can bleed into other prospective projects and funding requests.
Transparency builds trust and allows people to feel their donations are informed, regardless of a “reward.” Whether or not Kickstarter requires that, I don’t think it’s unfair or unreasonable for prospective donors to the PRP to want more information about where their money is going and what the project has already earned. Nor do I believe that the lack of disclosure here is an act of bad faith. But I do believe it can and should be remedied, not only for the sake of PRP, but also for future projects that will benefit or suffer from PRP’s example.
@Jasper: I don’t *know* that it makes the project questionable, and that’s entirely the point. There are perfectly good reasons not to go through an organization, the top of the list being that the organization will take a cut for administration. When you consider that Kickstarter already takes 5 percent and Amazon takes another 3 to 5 percent, those cuts begin to add up.
I’ve been on both sides of this question (making grants and applying for/receiving them), and the clearer an applicant is about where money is going, the better the handle a funder can get on the project.
As for other ways to donate money, that really depends on what the donor’s goal is and how s/he wants to achieve it. There are all kinds of ways to contribute to how romance is perceived, from school and library donations to new organizations to new awards to existing fundraisers for charity.
1. Vitriol? Where? If you’re seeing “vitriol” here, you’re alone on that front. I just see people questioning a project’s lack of transparency.
2. “There are probably some excellent reasons for that.” The only ones I can think of are: their budget’s incomplete due to their project being poorly organized, sheer laziness/assumption that Kickstarter patrons aren’t interested in details or thinking that not mentioning their other sources of funding might lead to more people donating through Kickstarter.
You know what would chill the “what are they doing with all this money” speculation? Transparency.
@Robin/Janet: Exactly. And if I were one of those people who thought I’d given to support Palmer’s new project and found that I was actually paying off other bills, I’d be very cross indeed. If you’re asking for investment, you have to treat your investors with respect. That means telling them, in specific detail, what you plan to do with their money and how that will help you achieve that goal.
As far as I understand it, Kickstarter doesn’t prevent that transparency, so there’s no reason not to provide it.
@Kelly: I second this rec. Loved that book, the heroine has pink hair!
I don’t see vitriol here either, especially as Jane only posted about this because a lot of people asked her. Sure, the questions are with Kickstarter generally, but people asked her about *this* project. To me this seems like another example of the idea that Romanceland is a community, so to ask these questions is to doubt the integrity of our friends and is somehow mean or inappropriate.
I trust my friends and family, I trust the people who run my church. But if a friend or my sister asked me for a large loan, I’d ask why (is she in trouble? Does she need other kinds of help too?). I look at my church’s budget every year to be sure my donations are going places I value. It’s not unreasonable to want to operate on more than trust, respect or friendship where money is involved. Doesn’t mean I assume my sister’s on drugs or my clergy are embezzlers.
And the fact that you can collect 10 times more than you asked for with no accountability is one of my problems with Kickstarter.
@Ros: Especially since some of the controversy in this case seems to be coming from the impression some have that the project is ONLY being funded by Kickstarter monies.
I have no issue with the funding Kahn has received from NEH, etc.. But I also know that most granting agencies require specific articulation of the budget, including matching funds, in-kind support, specific requirements like evaluation, etc. — so they are making an informed grant based on their own administrative criteria. And I think that when you have individual people in the position of the grantor, it’s equally important that they have adequate information that might impinge on their donation, even if they are not in a position to know exactly what information that might be. The other granting processes certainly provide a lot of guidance about what kind of information might be helpful in making those funding decisions. ;D
@Sunita: I didn’t mean “questionable” in the definitely unethical sense, but in the sense of–well, seeming worth questioning. Which seems to be what the tweets and discussion I’ve seen surrounding the project are about: questioning. I don’t mean to point a finger.
What I’m reading are different views of what giving money to a Kickstarter is. Some people seem to see it as a donation (as though someone knocked at your door and asked for money for the local soccer team–you throw a few bucks at them and assume it goes to what they say it would), some as investment (you expect whomever you’re funding to be accountable throughout their project and to know precisely how it will be used and what returns will be), and some as a payment (you give money and get the reward that’s offered). Those are very different perceptions. My thought is that many people contributing to Kickstarters don’t see themselves as investors, but as casual donors or buyers. I think it sounds like what’s being asked of this project is that they had made more clear what they think their Kickstarter contributors are–donors, buyers, or investors. Is that anywhere in the ballpark? (If it is, I agree that it sounds like best practice for anyone starting up a Kickstarter.)
It does seem like there’s nothing as “shiny” out there to donate to right now. Is there? I’m inexperienced. Media is a big shiny. It can distract from other causes, but it does help legitimatize (or condemn, when done poorly) activities and groups in the public eye. People make documentaries on comics con-goers and LARPers. If those fields are fair game, it seems like romance should have its shot.
@Ros: But it’s not an investment. That’s the problem with Kickstarter. You’re making a donation and in return for that donation, you may receive a little trinket. (Of course, when you give money and receive a DVD in return, that’s really a purchase.)
When you make an investment, there is the expectation of a return in the form of more money plus your initial investment, not a DVD or T-shirt. And unless you are a silent partner/investor, you generally have a say in how your money is invested, so if you see the project going off the rails, you can pull it back and salvage it, replace the CEO, or sue for fraud and slew of other nasty things. (Then again, some silent partners/investors are not really all that silent.) With Kickstarter, if the beneficiaries decide they can’t make the project work, the donors have little recourse.
People who use Kickstarter are probably ones who don’t want to deal with legal things like fiduciary duty to shareholders.
I do have a problem with the lack of transparency here, and particularly, some of the implications that the Kickstarter funds were necessary to complete the project.
I really enjoyed the Kickstarter project video. I met Kahn at RWA and respect her mission. I’m ecstatic about a romance-positive portrayal.
But I worry that if a documentary film maker is unable to present the full truth about its funding situation to potential backers, there may be concerns later on with the documentary itself. The project’s method of telling truth, and the question of whether the film makers shape a narrative in a fair and truthful way, are important to the reliability of the final product.
Wanting to see a breakdown of costs and spending, and a disclosure of other funds received, doesn’t mean I hate the project or that I want it to fail.
It means I want it to succeed.
1. Vitriol was perhaps a strong word to use, but I was referring to was the discussion on this topic on Twitter over the past few days. I’m sorry I was not clearer about that.
2. There are other possible reasons: For instance, the Kickstarter campaign seems to have been intended as a stop-gap funding measure while waiting to hear about the NEH grant (this is what I inferred from Sarah’s tweets on this topic). Given that news about the substantial NEH grant arrived about a week ago (AFTER the KS launched) while she was shooting at RWA, there may not yet have been time to figure out exactly what the NEH grant would cover and what the Kickstarter campaign would cover, except in the more general terms outlined on the KS page. Her first update indicates that the KS campaign would cover the expenses not covered by the grant.
The bills were for Amanda Palmer’s current project — they were for expenses already incurred on the project for which she was seeking backing. As with the romance documentary, it wasn’t a situation of “hey, I have this great idea — can you help make it happen?” but more “look at what we’ve done so far, can you help us finish this in a fabulous way?”
@Linda Lee: I still think that’s dishonest. And, in fact, having read Palmer’s post, it’s not quite accurate. Some of the money went to bills related to that project and some of it was what she incurred due to not working for 8 months.
Actually, I would feel a whole lot happier if Kickstarter automatically refused donations once the target is reached.
I read your post and undestand your concerns. Did you contact Laurie Kahn with your concerns and not receive a response? To be fair, I would be interested to hear her responses the concerns you have about the project.
Laurie Kahn posted an update to Kickstarter page addressing many of the questions about the project’s funding sources and budget: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1162698421/love-between-the-covers/posts
First of all I want to thank everyone who has commented today for their thoughtful comments on this blog. I have read what’s been written and the discussion has been very interesting and worthwhile. I have posted an update to Kickstarter, and this is the text of that update.
I appreciate the points you make in your blog, Jane, and I am very glad that you are in favor of this film (Love Between the Covers) being made. I am happy to answer the questions you have raised. I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to provide answers to your questions before you posted your blog. I would have been glad to explain my funding.
Your research about typical feature-length documentary film budgets (between $500,000 and a $1,000,00) is correct. My total budget for the production of this film is $851,000 and I am currently $235,000 short of what I need to complete the film and launch it.
I realize it’s hard for people who aren’t in the film business to evaluate a film budget since they don’t have any/many points of comparison. Most people coming to Kickstarter do not want to see explicit budgets and figures, but I’m willing to share the details. I want EVERYONE in the romance community to know just what’s up, at whatever level of detail they desire.
You’ve asked for 1) more information about my funding sources (and my reasons for doing a Kickstarter campaign) and 2) actual figures and more details how the Kickstarter money will be spent. Here are your answers:
1) the money raised to date has been:
• A $5,000 research grant from RWA for which I am very grateful. It got this project going, allowing me to do research, contact key scholars and members of the romance community, and conceptualize the project.
• A $10,000 development grant from Mass Humanities, which allowed me to travel to conferences (where I’ve seen you, Jane, and made many valuable connections for making this film). I also used the grant to develop the team that is behind the Popular Romance Project, and to develop the ideas for the entire project (which encompasses FOUR programs: the documentary film, a symposium at the Library of Congress, a library program with the American Library Association, and a large interactive website with the Center for History and New Media). With this grant I also wrote an NEH application for development funds, a process which takes 3 months of solid work (these proposals look like PhD dissertations).
• A $2,500 research grant from the Tavris Fund at the Womens Studies Research Center at Brandeis, which allowed me to pay for the transcribing of many (not all) of the interviews I shot during the development phase of this project.
• A $48,000 DEVELOPMENT grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2010. This grant was rewarded to pay for further research, some research travel, the writing of a film treatment, the submission of a production proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities, and NEH-required, modest, per-day stipends for the humanities advisors for the project (who, by the way, I’ve always identified publicly. They are listed, and have been listed for months/years –with their photos– at both blueberryhillproductions.com/new-projects/the-popular-romance-project.html and at PopularRomanceProject.org/about/
With the initial NEH money I did everything listed above. However, I also did much more. I stretched the NEH dollars far beyond their intended purpose and I’ve also used profits from other work I’m doing for the NIH and other clients. I shot footage at multiple romance events in 2011 (with a crew or by myself): at RWA in NYC, at the IASPR conference in NYC, at Authors After Dark, on a trip with Beverly Jenkins and her fans, at Moonlight and Magnolias conference in Atlanta, and in NYC with Eloisa James teaching in Fordham. I also shot at various conferences in 2012: the Popular Culture Association conference, several local RWA conferences, and the McDaniel College conference on romance studies.
In addition, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and my company, Blueberry Hill Productions launched PopularRomanceProject.org in February of this year, a site that has already gotten hits from more than 120 countries. Each week two new posts have been added at the site. With no pay whatsoever, I have been cutting videos from the footage shot for this project (interview excerpts for the “Interviews” section of the blogsite and behind the scenes videos for the “Behind the Scenes” section of the blogpost). Sarah Frantz and Eric Selinger have been commissioning and editing unpaid essays by scholars all over the world about popular romance (from a dazzling range of perspectives) for the section of the blogsite called “Talking About Romance”. This has been a labor of love for all of us. But it was important to do. Having the site up and running and well received has proved to the NEH that our concept is viable.
In January of this year I applied to the NEH for PRODUCTION funding (decisions were expected in August). In this day and age it is VERY VERY difficult to get NEH production grants. I was sure I was NOT going to get production funding. But it was very important for me to shoot at RWA in Anaheim at the end of July since several of the characters I’m following were up for GH and Rita awards, and I needed to shoot more interviews, and it’s very efficient shooting interviews when everyone is under the same roof. So several months ago, like most filmmakers in this decade, I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign.
The amount it has cost to get this project to the point where I can launch a Kickstarter campaign is far greater than the total of what has been received to date from the grants listed above. The extensive shooting, the launch of the website, the editing of a Kickstarter reel were, for the most part, NOT covered by those grants.
The timing of the Kickstarter campaign:
I began editing the Kickstarter reel in June with an editor whose salary came out of my savings. That took three weeks of solid work (you can see the reel at kickstarter.com/projects/1162698421/love-between-the-covers). I then had to clear the music rights which is a bear. And when RWA agreed to show the reel at the opening luncheon of the conference in Anaheim, I decided to launch the Kickstarter campaign just as the RWA conference got underway, while excitement and interest was building.
While I was at RWA, the NEH made its announcements (unexpectedly early – they were expected in August) and to my great surprise, the Popular Romance Project received a $616,000 PRODUCTION GRANT. Needless to say, I was elated! I immediately posted an update at the Kickstarter campaign page about the NEH grant. I also sent an email to all of the project’s partners and advisors telling them the news and asking if I should pull the plug on the Kickstarter campaign. They all said no. You don’t have your full budget, they said. Carry on. (FYI, I changed the front page text at the Kickstarter campaign as soon as I could, when I returned from Anaheim. It’s much easier to add a separate update page than it is to make front page edits. While in Anaheim I was too busy shooting; we were working14-16 hours days.)
2) where does the money go? (in more detail):
Our total film production budget is $851,00 which covers making the film, launching it in the world, and also keeping PopularRomanceProject.org alive and growing. This is not an overblown budget for what we will deliver. I’ve got high standards, and that’s a good thing in my book. My films have been recognized with the industry’s highest awards, and I’m not going to lower my standards on this film. I run a lean operation, but there are sizeable unavoidable expenses. My film includes characters from different continents. There is a lot of travel involved (airfare, hotels, meals, etc). I am also working with people who are keeping video diaries. I take 25-30 weeks to edit my films, and that kind of care makes a big difference. I want to get it right. In addition, I am covering much more of the romance community than the filmmaker who made the film Guilty Pleasures and my research is more comprehensive. I am also working with the Library of Congress, the American Library Association, and the Center for History and New Media as they develop their Popular Romance Project programs.
The total film production budget of $851,000 (which covers work done after the development phase) minus the $616,000 from the NEH brings us $235,000 short of the total film production budget. The more I can raise now, the more time I can spend on filmmaking and project development, rather than fundraising. I have applications in to other funding sources. I am trying every avenue I can think of. Kickstarter is a viable source.
As I wrote on the Kickstarter page, we can finish our main shooting and begin editing with the NEH production funds. If we raise $50,000 at Kickstarter those funds would be used to
• edit the film (a process that takes many months for a complex long-form film). More detailed info: an experienced editor for a documentary makes between $2000-3000 per week. To edit for 28 weeks at the bottom end of that range would cost $56,000 plus benefits. Then there is my salary working with the editor and the salary for an assistant editor. Fyi, I pay myself less than I pay my editor.
• continue to make videos for our website, to share what we are doing, take you behind the scenes, and get input from you. More detailed info: I have been spending 1-2 days per week cutting the videos for PopularRomanceProject.org myself, writing the text that goes with them, uploading them, and getting the word out each time we post a new blog. Someone at the Center for History and New Media has also been tweeting, posting at our Facebook page, etc.
• do pickup shoots (the shooting one does while editing). More detailed info: During editing, one invariably has holes to fill. With this film, events in the lives of our main characters might unfold during our editing phase. Shooting costs include travel (airfare, hotel, meals), crew salaries for a director of photography and sound person (paid at per day rates), and equipment rental (I have gotten very good deals but camera and lighting equipment per day is typically $350 or more per day, and sound equipment is typically $150 or more per day)
• 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!). More detailed info: $71,000 of our total budget is allotted to keeping the website alive and growing. The Center for History and New Media has to pay for development, content management, and project direction personnel for the upkeep of the website over at least 9 months, and probably longer.
I hope this answers your questions. If you want more detailed information about how we would spend larger amounts (if we are fortunate enough to raise them at Kickstarter) I can spell that out for you, too.
I would be happy to answer further questions you might have.
Producer/Writer/Director, Love Between the Covers
Executive Producer, The Popular Romance Project
I see I guessed her reasoning behind not listing where the money goes: an assumption that Kickstarter patrons don’t want details.
I’ll be in my office, wearing a smug, self-satisfied grin.
Am I just overlooking the scientific advancement part of the post?
@DS: It’s the video right after the Kickstarter section. (And I want a pair. Maybe I could reach light switches and elevator buttons again.)
@Laurie Kahn – thank you for the additional information. I am sure this is helpful for those who are evaluating donations for this project.
@DS I tried to insert an hr line but clearly didn’t work. Yes, the video isn’t related to the documentary but to the scientific advancement.
@Ridley – I’m pretty amazed that this exoskeleton is made via a 3d printer.
I’m sure I’m going to come across as a disgruntled curmudgeon, but this line:
irks me a bit.
Ms Kahn did have that chance, well before Jane even thought of posting about the issue, to explain and detail and elaborate as much as she saw fit. She could have done it at her Kickstarter page from the beginning or, if she thought not every one donating there would be interested in all the details, she could have linked to the Popular Romance Project site and give all the nitty-gritty there.
I have donated to the Romance project. I read the details, and I saw how there were other funds already gained. It never hurts to have more money when working on a movie. I don’t begrudge the extra, as I am really looking forward to seeing the documentary. There is such a positive and engaging idea behind it.
Kickstarter is an idea that works for me, as it gives me a chance to help someone reach their goals, their dreams.
I, too, wish there was a site that let a person invest in a project and therefore earn dividends if the project is a success. Maybe someone will come up with something like it.
@Jane: 3D printers are the proof that we’re living in the Jetsons’ era. I mean, just in case talking to your pocket computer-phone to ask Google a question wasn’t proof enough.
A year or so ago I read an author talking about how it was harder to write speculative fiction now because we are living the scf-fi reality in so many ways. Add to that the fact that we now know that those old stand-bys of SF like faster than light travel, transporter beams, phasers and so on are pretty much impossible, then anyone wanting to write hard SF is kind of stuck.
But hey, rules were made to be broken, right?
@Ann Somerville: I’ve always thought hard SF sort of missed the point anyways. Give me Le Guin over Niven any day.
I really appreciate the more detailed information on the Popular Romance Project and just have one question: is the Kickstarter money going to the documentary or to related pieces? And if it’s going to related pieces, what are those pieces, and is it going to anything like salaries or honoraria, etc.? Okay, I guess technically that’s more than one question…
The Kickstarter money will be used to fill the gap between what funding we now have and the full FILM PRODUCTION budget of $851,000, as I explained in my earlier comment at Dear Author. The shortfall is currently $235,000, so the amount we are able raise at Kickstarter will determine what we can/will do with the funds. In sequential order, we would spend those funds on: 1. completing the editing of the film, incl editor and asst editor and equipment rental 2. pickup shoots, incl crew, travel, equipment, insurance 3. music composition and music recording 4. sound editing, sound mix, and color correction, all essential for a high quality end product 5. animation and graphics creation 6. rights payments for photos, film, music that we don’t create but have to buy (this category by itself will be approx 80K) 7. film festival entrance fees and travel 8. design and production of poster,ads,etc to get word out about the film 9. editing of videos for PopularRomanceProject.org as we are creating the film, sharing what we are doing with the community AND maintenance, management and development of PopularRomanceProject.org which is a critical arm of the film, helping to build interest in the film, allowing us to communicate with our audience in advance, and get feedback, and get the word out when the film is finished.
I run a tight ship. Money will not be wasted.
@Laurie Kahn: Thank you for your response. I realize now that I should have done a better job of explaining the source of my confusion, namely the relationship between the film itself and the surrounding/supporting aspects of the project. However, I also now realize that this may be something that can’t really be “answered,” at least not comprehensively.
For example, in your response to me above, you refer to your “FILM PRODUCTION budget of $851,000,” as compared to your initial comment, where you noted that Our total film production budget is $851,00 which covers making the film, launching it in the world, and also keeping PopularRomanceProject.org alive and growing. I think my confusion really starts here, because my sense of the website, from various descriptions I’ve heard, is that it’s connected to the film but goes much further and is not part of the actual film production. I totally understand that your first explanation included the website as part of the whole project; I am just trying to keep straight the different parts of the project as they relate to the funding.
When I see the PRP website, for example, at #9 on your list, I’m thinking ‘huh?,’ because, as you say, it’s already been in place since February, and I know Sarah and Eric have been soliciting and editing content for it. You noted that the original NEH development funding went to get the site up and running, then include the site in your “total film production budget,” even though it’s the last thing on your Kickstarter wish list. Is it the last thing because the Center has agreed to cover the costs as long as they need to? Will it become an in-kind donation? Will they forgo (and are they even expecting) administrative funds from the grant to administer the website portion? Or is the site it the last thing on the list because you’ll jettison it if you don’t get the full $71K? I know you are getting unpaid contributions other than money for the project (which is quite normal – again, not criticizing here), and I expect that at this point everyone involved is pretty invested and wants to keep the project going.
But the sheer scope of the project and what constitutes “film production” seems to mean that money has to go to multiple places at once, depending on what part of the project needs attention at the moment. For example, I would assume that clearance costs would be included in the large NEH grant, even though they’re listed in the Kickstarter wish list. I view those as core production costs, and I know you have to get those clearances in order to use certain IP, so I have to assume that either you’re talking about further clearances or you will pay for those from the NEH grant. Again, I’m not criticizing, just trying to explain how for me as an outsider, the scope of the project is difficult to reconcile with the various budget sources and amounts.
One reason I’m trying to sort this out is that in my experience with granting (at least in academia), one’s take is NEVER the same as one’s ask, and so there is always a plan in place to make use of the funding available to cover the project pieces. You get in-kind donations; you call in favors; you pad the budget to compensate for the expected reduction; you have pieces of the project you can jettison if you need to; you get matching fund pledges, etc. NOT that you shouldn’t ask for your ideal, just that it’s not like the project will be destroyed if you don’t meet your ideal budget.
One of my issues with the way the Kickstarter is being promoted is as a ‘$235K or bust’ kind of project, when someone as experienced and savvy as you cannot possibly be unprepared for the likelihood of falling short. As you indicate, you’ve already used some of your own funds for the project, and I know others have donated services, as well. The sheer ambition of the project means that you have a lot of players and some of them are paid, others are not, and some who are supposed to be paid may be forced to take a cut or to contribute some of their personal time and expertise as “in kind” donation.
I know there’s a lot of complexity when it comes to these kinds of projects, which is part of my discomfort with Kickstarter as a funding venue. The donor basically has to trust that their money will go where it should, which requires either blind trust or a level of transparency that makes the donor comfortable. I’m the type of person who has a million questions: I want to know if the academic consultants are being paid; I want to know if the “rewards” for Kickstarter donations are paid or volunteered; I want to know what’s going to change if you don’t reach $235K (and whether that includes the percentages that both Kickstarter and Amazon take of the total); I want to know who in the Romance community who might be asking me for money is receiving money from the project, etc. etc. etc. Other people, as you note, won’t be interested in the details. In any case, I appreciate your willingness to detail the project more extensively. The Romance community has been let down more than a few times, and I think some of us are particularly gun-shy when it comes to personally investing in our collective portrayal.