By: Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, ABD
SON (PAUL): Something happened here. I can’t remember what it was. I can’t remember anything.
MOTHER: Paul, don’t believe a word your Dad says. Honey, you’re dreaming. Don’t make me shoot you. You have no idea how much he hurt you, hurt us.
SON: Now I remember what happened. I’ll never let myself forget again.
(From movie trailer found at http://www.MothersRedDress.com)
Don’t you want to know what happens in this movie? Titled Mother’s Red Dress, this film is a:
...tragic love story about a young man suffering from amnesia who's trying to piece together the past after seeing his mother kill her abusive boyfriend. He leaves home and moves to a small town in Southern California where he meets a young woman who inspires him to rebuild his life with her. All is going well until he receives a call from his mother who says she is dying of cancer and wants to see him one last time. She offers to reunite her son with his father who abandoned them years ago—his father wanting to convince his son that he is a changed man. He returns home, hopeful his mother has changed but finds his past waiting for him in the house where he grew up. (Official film description, http://www.MothersRedDress.com).
Mother’s Red Dress
The story itself is very personal for John Paul Rice, one of the filmmakers who worked with the director on the script. John was inspired by his mother, herself a survivor of an abusive household, to create a film where family members explore the complex relationships and choices they make when coping with abusive family situations. In John’s words, “Children are trained to love their parents. People make decisions and choices according to their environments. There is always hope that people will change. The film explores the pain of denial that each character faces, yet in the end each makes different choices to cope.”
John hopes that the film will bring to light the damaging effects of denial and help others to face their own experiences and feel hopeful for the future. He and the film’s writer, Edgar Michael Bravo, spoke with many folks and social service organizations with experiences with domestic violence. He was inspired by those who survive and try to thrive despite the trauma. He hopes that others will relate to the characters and have a positive, thoughtful, meaningful reaction, such as taking the best you can from others and giving the best you can of yourself.
For social workers in particular, he adds, “Giving your time to a child is more important than anything else in the world. The love and care that you give to someone mean more than your words—you never know what will be possible.... If we face what is real in ourselves, we have a chance to help other people in meaningful ways. By example and by healing yourself, you can begin to help other people.”
John’s film is partially funded using Kickstarter. Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com) is a Web site that uses “crowdfunding” via a combination of various social media tools to help fund creative projects such as books, music, games, food, art, fashion, photography, technology, or publishing. One unique aspect of this fundraising model is that it is an “all-or-nothing” proposition. A project is posted with a deadline and a fundraising goal amount. Supporters pledge a certain amount of money, in exchange for the promise of a reward, such as a copy of the finished film, CD, or other product. However, if the pledges do not reach the goal by the deadline, no money changes hands. It is up to the project’s creator to create interest and support in the project through his or her social networks and other sources, to try to successfully receive funding through Kickstarter.
Typing “social work” into Kickstarter’s project search brings up a host of documentaries, art projects, books, and even games to explore. Other examples of projects can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/discover and http://blog.kickstarter.com/.
If you followed John’s project on Kickstarter (which ended June 18, 2011), you could help fund his post-production film work, watch interviews with John and others involved with the film, and learn of project updates. In return, depending on your donation amount, you could download copies of the movie, receive copies of the film soundtrack, have your name listed in the credits, receive copies of the screenplay, or receive tickets to VIP screenings of the film once released. The project successfully reached its $20,000 goal by the June 18 deadline.
Although the funding aspect of using Kickstarter is obviously important to help develop projects, John sees a larger role for Kickstarter. According to John, “While I use Kickstarter for funding, I’m really hoping to get folks to be active participants in the film itself, becoming part of a community. Kickstarter is important to help build awareness of the film.... It really helps with self-distribution of making small, independent films with strong messages.”
You can stay updated on Mother’s Red Dress at http://www.MothersRedDress.com .
Choose the Sky
Renee Blue O’Connell, who goes by Blue in the music world, has also used Kickstarter to support her projects. Blue is a certified music practitioner, singer, and songwriter who does sing-alongs with folks in older adult communities and preschools. She creates music because she loves it. She loves when people feel inspired by her music. Given that she is also deaf, it is hard not to be inspired by her story and her music. Blue has overcome many obstacles to become the professional musician she is today. After her loss of hearing and subsequently receiving a cochlear implant, she endured months of rehab to do music again.
Blue initially heard of Kickstarter when she noticed some of her musician friends on Facebook using it to raise money for a project. She checked it out, and it reminded her of an NPR fundraising campaign—give money for this particular project and receive products or services in return. She finds it to be a great social tool, especially since most folks she knows on Kickstarter are people she hasn’t met in real life, although some are childhood friends.
Regarding Kickstarter, Blue says, “What makes it work is that the more people you know, the more you can offer them in varying levels. Toward the end of the campaign, you really start campaigning to get the total amount in, especially since if you don’t raise all the money by the due date, you get none of it. It helps to have lots of fans and a large base to ask to support projects.”
For example, Blue wanted to finalize her latest CD, Choose the Sky, but needed extra money to make it happen. Without the boost in funding from Kickstarter, she estimates it would have taken her another three years to finish the CD. She successfully raised her goal amount of $3,500 through Kickstarter. She used the money for artwork, more recording and mastering, and paying additional musicians.
Like John, Blue says it’s important that her creative work serves a larger purpose. She sees Kickstarter as a potential distribution channel to help raise money for nonprofit causes she supports. She gave 10% of her Kickstarter funding from her CD to a nonprofit called Music for Hope (http://www.musicforhope.org/) , which donates instruments to at-risk children. One of the songs from her latest CD, titled “Lullaby for Japan” (which you can listen to at http://www.reverbnation.com/tunepak/song_7894868) was also used in a PowerPoint presentation at the United Nations discussing the recent tsunami.
Blue feels that Kickstarter is a “wonderful way to raise money, but more useful to connect with people who would resonate with what I’m trying to do, the kind of music and songs I write, especially now that I’m doing music full time and hope to go on tour.” She adds, “I was not a touring artist with thousands of fans, so it was more challenging for me to raise the money. Other established touring artists I saw raise money on Kickstarter with ease. My fans were able to hear my music even without radio play and [it was] really helpful to grow community around the music. It makes me think ‘who would want to hear this, who should I be involved with?’ In terms of networking, I always ask people, ‘Do you want to get on board with this exciting adventure? I want you to be part of this experience.’ It became part of my story, and folks would check in with me to learn about Kickstarter project progress.”
For social workers in particular, Blue offers the following advice: “If we all work together, we have the power, even in a small way, to inspire others to create their own projects. We all have our own gifts and skills and can contribute. I envision a web of people working together. If they have an idea for a project, how many different types of people would the project resonate with? Everyone is connected to so many people, it keeps snowballing. You have something to offer. The project is universal. We all have needs to connect and feel belonging in community. You need to find yours and connect. You’re not just one small person but interconnected with others in the bigger picture of life.”
You can stay updated on Blue’s projects at http://www.blueoconnell.com/.
There’s no shortage of tips and tricks online for using Kickstarter to help fund projects. Aside from basic Google searches, a good place to start that includes many examples from actual projects is http://blog.kickstarter.com/post/1480119596/tips-from-creators-and-beyond .
For the Kickstarter guidelines, see http://www.kickstarter.com/help/guidelines .
What creative experience will you invite others to be a part of?
Karen Zgoda, MSW, LCSW, is an ABD doctoral student at the Graduate School of Social Work at Boston College. Her research interests include the role of technology in social work, the effects of information communications technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet and e-mail, poverty and class, aging, social informatics, socioeconomic development, public policy, and community practice. Karen is the chief editor and founder of EditMyManuscript.com, providing manuscript editing services to students, faculty, and other social work professionals. Her Web site is http://www.karenzgoda.org. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/karenzgoda.