Dollars for dreams

Sean Whiteford

The new website Kickstarter bills itself as “A new way to fund and follow creativity.” So far, the fundraising platform has proven effective for several local artists, including three Saugertesians.

David Becker used the site to request funding for post-production of his film, To Be Forever Wild, which chronicles the natural beauty of the Catskills and the people who love it. He was able to achieve his goal, with 131 different backers contributing a total of $10,206.

“It means a lot,” said Becker, who used the money to hire an assistant editor. “We all feel this real combination of excitement that we’re able to finish the film mixed with this new sense of responsibility to fulfill what we said we were going to do and make all of our new supporters proud that they helped make this project a reality.”

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Launched in April 2009, Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects from around the world that uses “crowdfunding” to bring in capital. It’s not unlike PBS pledge drives, where a large number of donors can receive incentives from the project based on the amount of money they’re willing to donate. The projects came with incentives for donors; including everything from tickets to performances to signed posters and DVDs to producer’s credits.

The Kickstarter website lists three projects based in Saugerties: Becker’s film, a documentary about the Catskill Animal Sanctuary by Daniel Schutzsmith, and a musical called Girlfriend from Hell by Saugerties native Sean Matthew Whiteford. All three reached or exceeded their intended financial targets.

 

Funding an Off-Broadway production

Whiteford’s show was based on a late-’80s cult film. The 18-song, 90-minute show was eventually performed by Whiteford’s theater company, the Castaway Players, in New York City.

“I knew from the beginning if I was going to do this, I would try to take it to NYC and find an Off-Broadway venue for it,” Whiteford said.

Most of the money went to renting the theatre.

“I settled on a goal of $5,000, which I thought was humble, considering the venue (The Gene Frankel Theatre) alone was $3,000 for a week, leaving us with only $2,000 for costumes, lights, sound, etc…I didn’t settle on a price that would take care of it completely, but just – and excuse the pun – give us a kickstart.”

Whiteford learned about the website through word-of-mouth. He submitted the project about three months before rehearsals began and received approval within a couple of days.

“I don’t mean for this to sound cheesy, but it was really quite wonderful and heartwarming,” Whiteford said. “And we got the most support in our first few days of opening the Kickstarter. It was great to know that people believed in me and the project; it was extremely encouraging.”

Whiteford plans on submitting the show to the New York Musical Theatre Festival this fall and hopes to see it continue to grow. But despite the success of the performances and the fund drive that helped make it possible, Whiteford said he wasn’t sure he’d go with Kickstarter again.

“I wasn’t a fan at all with the Amazon Payments method, and encountered several problems with them about receiving my money,” he said.

But before he has to decide about his company’s future with Kickstarter, Whiteford is looking at a more immediate project: The Castaway Players’ “nearly-annual” production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” with performances at The Colony Café in Woodstock from October 28-31.

“Dress-up is highly encouraged,” he said.

David Becker

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