FOR most of its short history, crowdfunding has been the place small players with big plans go to dream. But now the phenomenon has gone mainstream, and Wolf Creek director Greg McLean is leading the charge locally.
''The crowdfunding thing kind of democratrises content production,'' says the Melbourne-based filmmaker. ''There's not a lot of quality control and that means a lot of crap gets made, but it also means people who can make stuff can talk to millions of people directly, and say, 'We will make this, and send it to you if you like the look of it.' It's quite amazing.''
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The Earth Wins - Trailer
Shot entirely from the air on 4 continents, 7 years in the making, The Earth Wins is a tribute to the many wonders of Mother Earth.
McLean will soon start production on Wolf Creek 2, but the crowdfunding he seeks is for another project entirely - a graphic novel about a swashbuckling Victorian-era adventurer called Sebastian Hawks.
The $35,000 he and his co-creators - writer Tristan Jones and artist Chris Di Bari - are after is ''a modest target'', he says. They aim to fund a print run of 3500 copies of their 90-page hardcover book. ''In a sense it's like a pre-order.'' For $5 you get a digital teaser. For $15 you get the story in digital form. For $30 you get the full printed novel.
From there it scales up: $450 gets you a spot as a drawn background character (10 available), $550 gets you one of two directing masterclasses with McLean, $1000 buys the ultimate fanboy dinner date with McLean and Jones, and $2500 will land you a visit to the set of Wolf Creek 2 early next year (return flights included, though if Mick Taylor is having one of his days, you may never come back).
The three creators ''all have our own fan bases'', he says. ''We're appealing to people interested in film, in comic books, in art. It's just making it interesting.''
McLean is far from the only high-profile filmmaker to have become interested in the potential of crowdfunding recently.
In September, Charlie Kaufman (writer of Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and Community creator Dan Harmon more than doubled the $200,000 they sought for a 40-minute stop-motion animated version of Kaufman's 2005 play Anomalisa.
Last month, David Fincher (The Social Network, Se7en) announced plans to develop a rough animated feature using storyboard art as a precursor to a full animated adaptation of the graphic novel The Goon. Via the crowdfunding platform kickstarter, he has already raised more than $230,000 en route to a $400,000 target.
Closer to home, the producers of the Australian feature film Wish You Were Here have turned to crowdfunding platform Pozible to find gap funding for their feature The Second Coming, based on a novel by sometime Age writer Andrew Masterson. They have already hit their stated target of $75,000, and hope to ultimately raise $200,000 via the platform. As ever, if the target isn't hit the pledged money isn't called in.
Melbourne producer Sara Hine doesn't need money to shoot her film - it's already in the can - but she does need it to clear the songs she has used.
The Earth Wins is a beautifully shot, 40-minute environmental documentary made for IMAX and filmed entirely from the air over seven years.
It's already cost $3.3 million and the money she and her partners at Helifilms are trying to raise on Pozible will pay for the rights to the music - by New Order, the Temper Trap, Coldplay and the Who, among others - which she insists is crucial to the films.
With just 16 days to go, The Earth Wins has attracted pledges of just $3408 towards its $175,000 target.
''If we don't reach our target, the pledges evaporate,'' she says.
And then what? ''To be continued.''