Tilt Interview Part 3: Using Twitter & Kickstarter To Get Your Film Off The Ground

September 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Filmmakers. Fans. Independent Film

When you are an aspiring filmmaker, it can be extremely difficult to get a film produced. With the right amount of creativity and dedication, you can definitely pull off a short or feature film little to no money but it isn’t easy.

No matter what, if you want to achieve success as an independent filmmaker, you will have to prove what you can do with a budget eventually.

Where is the money!?

If you’re savvy enough, there are thousands of dollars out there to claim through grants, investments and sponsorship opportunities.  (There are also credit cards and personal loans but that’s another article all together.)

Today’s indie filmmaker has a whole new set of tools to play with.

In this third and final installment of our interview with independent filmmaker Phil Holbrook (@philontilt), we discuss that very issue.

Part 3: Using Twitter & Kickstarter To Get Your Film Off The Ground

Social Media

Phil is currently producing his first feature film entitled Tilt.

Check out Part 1 of our interview for more on the film.

As you can imagine, finding the funds necessary to produce a feature film was tough but Phil and his team employed an extremely successful campaign using social media sites like Twitter and Kickstarter to reach their goal.

They were eventually able to raise more than $15,000 from more than 200 backers using a method called Crowd Funding.

Essentially, Kickstarter is a social network where artists can present their projects and offer a list of benefits to anyone willing to contribute.  In order to attract these backers, you need to be clever in your marketing approach and constantly promote your film.

How do you get the word out?

Phil has nearly 4000 followers on Twitter. An extremely large percentage of those followers are fans of film.  That’s a pretty significant number of people who read his tweets and pass them on.

When asked, Phil reflected on the high level of participation needed to gain such a following.

“I’ve had my twitter account for over 2 years, but for the first year, I wasn’t very consistent and as a result, didn’t really have anyone following my account.  One day I just decided that I was going to attempt to use these free tools to be a part of something instead of begging people to be a part of my thing.  I dropped all aspirations of having some “cool” online persona and just decided to be myself.  I enjoy finding new things on the interwebs and read a lot of blogs, so I just started posting the interesting stuff that I found.  Turns out, other people thought some of it was interesting, too. With that, promoting other peoples work and just genuinely taking an interest in what other people had going on, I became part of a fantastic community of people from all over the world.  It really is an amazing time to be a filmmaker.”

Add another 2000 followers more when you factor in the duo of Julie Keck & Jessica King (@kingisafink)  The tandem met Phil on Twitter which sparked a friendship and eventually they were brought on to write the screenplay for Tilt.

It’s an inspiring tale.  Today’s filmmakers can now network with passionate professionals from around the world.  Who knows who you might connect with and eventually work with.  Imagine the possibilities creatively?

Check out Part 2 of this feature for more on the screenwriting process.

All of their followers, mentions and retweets add up to thousands and thousands of targeted film fans. 

A marketing dream.

It was time to launch their Kickstarter campaign.

Phil admits the process is challenging but also incredible rewarding if you are willing to put in the work.

“There could be an entire article written on just this question.  As a matter of fact there have been several.  And from those articles, namely David Branin’s Crowd Funding Cheat Sheet and Gary King’s Lessons Learned In The Land Of Crowd Funding, we formulated a plan for our Kickstarter campaign.  Something like this shouldn’t be taken lightly.  These campaigns don’t just happen on their own.  They are  lot of work.  However, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks if you go into it with a plan and are prepared to follow it through to the end.”

Every single project is different and you really do have to plan out the entire campaign and follow through. It’s a fascinating concept.  In David Branin’s piece, he talks about his experience with his film: Goodbye Promise. His Kickstarter campaign successfully raised over $16,000 but what I find interesting is how he breaks down his backers contributions.

“85% of contributions were $50 or less”

There aren’t many people out there willing to donate thousands of dollars to complete strangers.  While they do exist, the nature of crowd funding is to appeal to the masses.  The thought of donating 10-20 dollars is a lot easier for backers if you inspire them with your pitch.

That’s what it’s all about.

Inspiring others to believe in your project and your passion.

They have to believe in you.

“We wanted our campaign to be personal.  We are real people making a film, and the backers are real people, too.  They aren’t just names with dollar amounts next to them.  We wanted to connect with these people.  This campaign was as much about the people who donated as it was about us or our film.  One of the coolest parts of it, was that not only did people connect with us, they connected with each other.”

You really can’t sum up the benefits of social networking better than that.

It was working.

Yet still, the Tilt team continued to push forward creatively and come up with better ways to reach people.

You’ve got to raise the bar.

Their first creation was a pretty clever invention known as Tilt: The Town.  A fictional map of Brainerd, MN that’s ‘populated’ by their backers.

“We were also prepared to adapt and try new things when the ideas arose.  With 18 days left of our campaign, I started recording a daily update video every morning, Coffee with Phil.  This was another way to connect with our backers, and even got  noticed by the Kickstarter crew and written about on their blog.”

It’s ideas like that pushed the project beyond their goal.  By constantly reaching out to people and connecting they created a community around their project. Cameras haven’t even rolled and they have a built in audience eagerly anticipating the results.

For more on Tilt’s journey, check out the film’s blog.

For even more check out these great posts over at kingisafink.com.

Special thanks have to go out to Phil Holbrook, Julie Keck and Jessica King for their amazing contributions to this feature.

Tilt Interview Part 2: The Screenplay

September 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

Filmmakers. Fans. Independent Film

Read Part 1: The Movie HERE.

I love absolutely everything about movies but without a doubt my passion lies in screenwriting.  It’s an addiction.

Even when I’m not working on a script, I’m either writing about it on this blog, reading other people’s posts online or flipping through a book on the craft.   I simply can’t get enough.  I’m always looking for inspiration and trying to learn more.  Where better to start than talking to other indie filmmakers out there?

In the second installment of my interview with filmmaker Phil Holbrook (@philontilt), we talk about how the screenplay came together for his first feature film: Tilt.  We also hear from the screenwriters themselves.

Part 2: The Screenplay

King Is A Fink

Throughout this series, I’ve discussed Phil’s deep connection to the film community on Twitter.  It began by taking an interest in other people’s work.  This allowed him to build up a huge network of filmmakers and screenwriters throughout the world.

Enter Julie Keck & Jessica King (@kingisafink).  The screenwriting duo are also a big part of Twitter’s growing film community.

“We joined Twitter last year as an experiment, and we quickly realized that there was a supportive and fun film making community that we never knew we always wanted. Phil was one of the first people we connected with”

The tandem became good friends with Phil and eventually began discussing the possibility of working with each other.

“When EgoFest opened for submissions last year, they (Julie & Jessica) sent in two of their short films.  After watching their short, Snow Bunny, and loving the characters, I knew they were who I should ask about possibly writing TILT.” says Holbrook.

It’s definitely a new age for independent filmmaking. Even a series of messages limited to 140 characters can lead to new and exciting opportunities.

Twitter provided Phil with such an opportunity and he wasn’t about to pass it up.

“The screenwriting process for TILT has been different from anything else I have ever done.  I basically told the screenwriters the dream.  I didn’t give them my notes.  I didn’t give them anything else.  I told them that if they were interested, to take the idea and make it their own.  That’s exactly what they did.”

The pair were instantly excited about adapting Phil’s idea for Tilt.

“We found ourselves faced with an opportunity to collaborate with someone whose work we respected, we fell in love with the idea of sharing the responsibility (and the work) of making a feature”

Twitter got them together.  It was time to get to work.

Collaborating with a team of people is what makes filmmaking such a unique and amazing experience.

Still, adapting someone else’s idea can be challenging when you are in the same room let alone in different cities.

The Tilt team tackled these challenges head on.

“Phil told us from the beginning that we weren’t writing a script FOR him; instead, he wanted us to write a screenplay based on his idea that was ours through and through.  This took a lot of pressure off; we were free to write a movie based on Phil’s idea that was still reflective of our sensibilities.  It was also important that we didn’t have to think of Phil as our ‘boss’. Instead, we submitted our work to him as our colleague, eager for his approval, surely, but also hungry for his feedback and open to his ideas.”

Using Twitter and Skype, they continued this process for months.  Little by little the screenplay for Tilt began to take shape.  Phil’s vision for the film was becoming a reality.

“We have had Skype meetings to go through the script at different phases.  Of course, those meetings were not always butterflies and fluffy clouds.  We had some difficult times, but we always worked through them and now have a script everyone is very proud of.  This process has probably been the most difficult thing I have ever done professionally, and most definitely the most rewarding.”

You always hear about the nightmares of working with other people in a creative medium.  Everyone wants input and nobody wants their ideas to be ignored.  The trick is to find a balance and keep an open mind. When you achieve that balance the results are extremely rewarding as the script will always get better.

Creative bliss.

This is a balance Julie, Jessica and Phil have mastered.

“The conversations we had as a group about the screenplay weren’t always easy, but we can safely say working through any rough patches we hit made our screenplay stronger. We’re very happy with the final result. It’s the best feature we’ve written so far and we can’t wait to see it up on the big screen.”

“They have crafted an amazing script.”

With the screenplay completed, it was time to move on to the next step.


In the third part of this series, we will go in depth and learn about how you can use Social Media tools like Twitter and Kickstarter to fund your movie.

Visit the film’s blog here for more on Tilt.

Check out Julie and Jessica’s site KingIsAFink as well.

TILT Interview Part 1: The Movie

September 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

Filmmakers. Fans. Independent Film

I’ve been a part of Twitter for nearly 2 years now and I’ve encountered a lot of filmmakers and passionate movie fans.

When I first began searching for and following film people on Twitter, Phil Holbrook (@philontilt) came up a lot.  One day, one of his tweets mentioned entries for a film festival he runs in Brainerd, Minnesota called EgoFest.  I contacted him about entering Playing Through and I’ve been following his feed ever since.

In addition to having thousands of followers and his own film festival, Phil is also an independent filmmaker and I spoke to him recently about his upcoming feature film and much much more…

Part 1: The Movie


Like many (or nearly all) independent filmmakers out there, Phil began with short films.  His love of the medium eventually led to the creation of EgoFest.

“I thought I could encourage people to go out there and create by starting a short film festival in my hometown.  Not only are local filmmakers submitting but also films from around the country.  It’s been a really great experience.” says Holbrook.

Now, Phil is ready to tackle his first feature film which is set to start production this fall.

“Tilt is about a father and daughter who aren’t very close and when a tragedy occurs, we get to see how they deal with it in their own ways.  Tilt is about revenge & forgiveness, betrayal & redemption and second chances.  Small town style.”

The small town in question is of course Brainerd, the director’s home town.

“Brainerd is a tourist community.  The area is beautiful, with lakes and nature everywhere.  There are also some historical landmarks in the town as well.  We will be incorporating these elements into the film to achieve what should be some very visually appealing photography as well as give a glimpse into the life of a small town.”

I’m always interested to learn more about what inspires filmmakers and  in this case, the director credits a dream he had many years ago.

“It was more of a nightmare.  My daughter was about one at the time and I woke up in the middle of the night, terrified.  I hopped out of bed to check on her and then wrote down what I could remember before it faded away.”

Read more about the birth of Tilt here.

Since that day, Tilt has been on a pretty interesting ride on it’s way to production. It’s a journey that begins on Twitter where Phil met the talented screenwriting duo Julie Keck & Jessica King. (@kingisafink) The pair went on to write Tilt’s screenplay for Phil.

From there the film began it’s incredibly succesful Kickstarter campaign where they raised over 15 thousand dollars.

In Part 2 of this interview, we’ll go into detail with Phil, Julie and Jessica about the unique challenges they faced while writing Tilt.

Later in Part 3, we’ll go in depth with the filmmakers about their innovative Kickstarter campaign and the benefits of using Twitter to build a community around your film.

Check out the film’s blog here for more on the production.

Preview: Indie Horror Film ‘SPARROW’

August 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Filmmakers. Fans. Independent Film

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Thomas James Longley, one of the stars of the upcoming indie horror film Sparrow.

The low budget feature was shot in Poland and is set for release this Halloween.  It was directed by Shaun Troke and written by Matthew Mosley.

Here is the synopsis from the IMDB page:

Six teenage friends take a camping trip to a forest which is the site of a presumed historic murder. But their disbelief in this urban legend is soon changed when strange happenings begin to occur to each of them.

Sparrow Movie 2010 Horror

I’ve always been a fan of  indie horror films so I was excited to find out how the film intends to stand out.

“It’s simplicity.  It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not and I think because of that it can never fall into the trap that so many horrors have done before.  It’s just meant to be scary, a bit jumpy….  Hopefully the fans will respond to that.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes, all a horror fan needs is a straight forward thrill ride full of scares and when it comes to low budget features, simplicity is also a great way to keep costs down.

Sparrow Movie 2010 Horror

Another great way to keep costs down these days is to use Social Media tools to your advantage. In addition to the usual suspects like Facebook, the filmmakers decided to approach film blogs individually to get the word out.  (That’s how this post came to be.) It’s a lot of work but in the end it’s a great way to get the word out.

Longley credits producer Wojciech Stuchlik for the creative approach.

“A Facebook page and official site were set up, and Flickr I think too.  Of course these mediums really allow for the film to to get some kind of immediate exposure/interest which naturally helps.”

Years ago, one could never have imagined connecting an independent horror production in Poland with a Toronto based film blog but that’s what makes this an exciting time.  Not only can indie filmmakers network easier than ever but you can also generate a lot of buzz for your project for next to nothing.

Speaking personally, it’s great to hear from fellow filmmakers.

Sparrow Movie 2010 Horror

Sparrow is currently in post production and Longley says the film’s release is on schedule and hopes to see it accepted into festivals worldwide.

Check out the film’s official site here.

Best of luck Sparrow team!