EastIndie: What is the Stone Soup Fund all about?
Evan Kimball Plochmann: The Stone Soup Fund is a platform for indie filmmakers to get their projects funded and made. It uses a form of crowd-funding to raise the equity needed to produce a short film—including budget, talent, and equipment. It also serves as a group platform for networking, socializing, and facilitates the search for crew.
EI: Where did the idea to launch the initiative come from?
EKP: After last year’s Beijing Indie Short Film Festival, I was chatting with some other filmmakers. We all had ideas about making more films and organizing a social space for filmmakers. We had spaces to meet in and everyone had enough equipment laying around to make a film, but what we didn’t have was time, because we were working all the time to make money. It didn’t even seem practical to expect filmmakers to want to come to a space, hangout, and work on films if they didn’t have the time or money to do so. I thought the only real solution would be to make a way to generate money so teams could spare the time.
This is really just the beginning—our imaginations will be the only limit in the coming years.
EI: How is SSF different from other crowd-funding or filmmaker community platforms?
EKP: First of all, it’s inclusive to filmmakers—not just for filmmakers, but also paid for by and meant only for filmmakers. It’s not just a funding site, it’s also a community initiative based very regionally in China. I have no plans to open this up globally, because I want everyone involved to know each other and to help develop it into something bigger than just themselves. This is really just the beginning—our imaginations will be the only limit in the coming years.
EI: Cool, so, how does it work?
EKP: There will be a competition which filmmakers can join for a fee of 500RMB or more. That might seem high, but a good indie film costs fifty-to-a-hundred times that—so the payout is justified. Once you’re in, you have a few months to develop a solid pitch. The pitches are reviewed by a panel of judges who will then choose the best pitches and work with the filmmakers to develop their ideas more and work out a plan. The filmmaker who convinces the judges that their film will be the best gets the submission money from all those who entered. The amount will range from 15,000RMB-to-100,000RMB—depending on price to enter and the amount of participants.
Foremost, they’ll be looking for artistic originality and a pitch that says, “You’ve never seen this before.”
EI: What will the judges be looking for in a good pitch?
EKP: Foremost, they’ll be looking for artistic originality and a pitch that says, “You’ve never seen this before.” From there, they’ll need to consider plausibility of making the film in four months with the budget at hand. Only projects that seem possible to make will qualify to win.
EI: Who can participate in the competition and how can people get involved?
EKP: Anyone and everyone is allowed in. Love films, but never made one? Come and join us. Just got out of film school and wondering what to do with your life? Let us help guide you. Have you been making films for twenty years and miss the indie work? Here’s your chance to get in. For those who don’t win the competition—because only one team will—they can still crew or act, work on the films, and come to set to see how it’s going. Not winning isn’t losing—it’s simply helping make a great film.
EI: Other than assisting with costs, how else will SSF be able to help filmmakers?
EKP: There are a myriad of challenges that indie filmmakers face. For newer directors, we can provide them with a wealth of information and tools to help develop their film. Beginners don’t even know what questions to ask—and they tend to make a film through trial by fire—which can be pretty painful. The Stone Soup Fund can help by guiding them through all the steps, from pitch development courses, to budgeting advice, and finally by overseeing the production of the film and bringing the whole community in on that process. This allows us to provide a wealth of knowledge to them—much more than just getting your toes wet.
Nothing is more powerful than your audience’s reaction.
EI: What is the timeline for the whole process?
EKP: We officially kicked off registration on the first weekend in June. By August, we should have all the teams enrolled and pitches should be turned in at the inaugural event on August 4th, 2018. Judges will then have two weeks to pick the best pitches. From there we’ll inform the finalists and work with them to develop a production plan. The best plan wins the money and the filmmaker will have four months to write, shoot, and edit their film. Finally, we’ll have a special screening of the film at the next Beijing Indie Short Film Festival.
EI: What are you looking forward to the most about the competition?
EKP: The screening. Nothing is more powerful than your audience’s reaction. Just making a film and then listening to the audience laugh, cry, scream, or shout is the most satisfying aspect of the process. But, since I’m not the director this time, I’ll be looking over to the lucky winner and seeing on their face that moment of joy when their audience reacts to their film.
EI: Is there anything else you want to mention about the whole thing?
EKP: No… Except, please join us at the Stone Soup Fund. I can’t wait to see everyone’s ideas and excitement to make their film!
For more information about the Stone Soup Fund, check out their (really cool) infographic below. Plus, scan/extract the QR code at the bottom to join their WeChat group and keep up with all the latest news and developments.