CROWDSOURCING EXPANDS TO FILM PRODUCTION
By Michael Cormier
The Hollywood pitch process is anything but democratic. Aspiring independent filmmakers must run their proposal through a gauntlet of producers and studio executives, any one of whom may shoot down the project along the way. One “nay” and the dream of seeing one’s vision on the big screen withers on the vine.
Juntobox Films aims to change that. And one New England filmmaker, in particular, is hoping to capitalize.
Juntobox Films wants to include everyone in its mission to find and fund deserving independent films that might otherwise never be made. By crowdsourcing a great deal of the power to move the project along, it has found a way to spread opinion around. Sort of art-meets-democracy.
One filmmaker and screenwriter from southern New Hampshire is experiencing that process through Juntobox right now. Alfred Thomas Catalfo of Dover, N.H. is already well-known in the area for his whimsical short films and screenplays that regularly place high at film festivals. His latest entry, the screenplay Betrayed (on Junto Box at www.juntoboxfilms.com/projects/betrayed), based on the novel by Brendan DuBois, was a recent Grand Prize Finalist out of about 2,500 submissions in the Slamdance Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition, which partners with Junto Box.
Interviewed at his law office (when not making films, Catalfo is busy practicing law out of downtown Dover), Catalfo explained how he connected with Juntobox.
“I entered my screenplay in the Slamdance Screenwriting Competition,” Catalfo said. “The screenplay competition is sponsored by Juntobox. Everyone who made the top twenty at Slamdance was required to sign a Juntobox option agreement.”
What this means is that anyone entering a screenplay in Slamdance, not only has the benefit of exposure through that competition, but they could end up having Juntobox take over actual production with a serious budget.
So what is Juntobox Films? It’s a privately funded independent film production company, which made its official debut in 2012. Staffed by a host of film industry talent, including actor Forest Whitaker who co-chairs, the company looks for outstanding film proposals with the potential of being produced within its allotted range of $200,000 to $2.5 million.
Obviously, it’s not designed for those hoping to make the next CGI-laden sci-fi blockbuster. But it gives visionary filmmakers a respectable shot at getting their project to the screen in best form. The submissions are voted on via the internet, which means that anyone can help their favorite project find its way to the screen. Hollywood comes to Podunk!
Here’s how it works:
At Level 1, an aspiring filmmaker or screenwriter puts up a project page on Juntobox, which includes the project’s title, a synopsis and/or logline (Level 1). At Level 2, media is added: either a short trailer called a “sizzle reel” or images or a storyboard. Gain a minimum of 10 followers, and the project jumps up to Level 3. There, the full script must be downloaded to continue on. Adding 30 followers pushes the project up to Level 4. There, a total of 60 followers starts the Option process at Level 5.
And that’s where things start to get serious.
At Level 5, Juntobox may option any one of the top five projects, which means assigning a budget and getting the production process rolling. In 2012, Juntobox optioned a total of four projects.
So what would it mean to a filmmaker like Catalfo to have his project greenlit by Juntobox? In a word, expansion. “I’ve never spent more than $5,000 on any of my films,” Catalfo said. This has meant making only short films, even though he has written several full-length screenplays.
If made, Betrayed would be his first feature-length film. A budget in six or seven figures could make that possible. “I would like to direct features,” Catalfo said.
Betrayed at last count had 96 followers on Juntobox. That is more than enough to put it at the Option level – Level 5. Already feature-length, though only on paper, Betrayed seems the kind of project Juntobox is looking for. It’s a thriller about an Air Force pilot who mysteriously shows up on his brother’s doorstep forty years after being shot down over Vietnam. It took the Grand Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival screenplay competition, so it’s no wonder the screenplay has sparked interest on Juntobox.
Still, the final decision is in the hands of the ones with the purse strings.
“The Option (with Juntobox) stays open for 60 days,” Catalfo explained. “If it’s not picked up, you’re free to do what you want with it.” And what will he do if Betrayed does not get optioned? Keep on writing and filming, Catalfo says.
One can’t help thinking he’s getting closer all the time to that magic green beacon.