Just in time for Halloween comes the film fundraising campaign for MacBeth, an adaptation of the classic tale of murder which transports the story to a nightmare version of Los Angeles. Filmmaker Jason Decker is using the IndieGoGo platform for the crowdfunding campaign, and he’s doing some unique outreach efforts. I interviewed him via email about the project, the innovative ways he’s building support, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado, SAG Indie contracts, and much more…

Making the Movie: Where did the idea come from to set Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles?

Jason Decker: Initially, it grew out of necessity. While I was in grad school, Michael Almereyda visited as a guest artist. I’ve always been a fan of his Hamlet
and so the two of us got talking one day and he asked why I wasn’t shooting a no-budget Shakespeare film. That sparked a bunch of different explorations (there are several Shakespeare plays that I’d love to film at some point) but I finally landed on Macbeth. It’s something that I had been directing in my head ever since I acted in the play back in college.

The resources I have pretty much necessitated shooting in LA and, in the process of developing the script, I discovered the wonderfully desolate industrial areas surrounding downtown which already look as if they’ve been abandoned by society. Changes along the way have bumped the budget up from “no-” to “low-” but it still lives well below any other Shakespeare film I know of.

I do have to say that I’m not completely comfortable with the term “post-apocalyptic”, thanks to all the Mad Max or Waterworld cultural baggage already attached to it, but “post-implosion of society” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. This is not going to be some distant future where the city is no longer recognizable a la Planet of the Apes: we’re looking at 10, maybe 20 years down the line when the population explosion finally overtakes the planet’s food-producing capacity and the ensuing panic returns us to a medieval tribal mentality of “kill or be killed”.

Your first big decision in making this film was to crowdsource the funding. There are a number of platforms available now to filmmakers. What made you choose IndieGoGo?

Kickstarter may have more name recognition at the moment, but IndieGoGo has actually been doing this longer and was originally established with a focus on the filmmaking community. Thanks to their partnership with Fractured Atlas – through whom MacBeth is fiscally sponsored – we are able to offer tax-deductions on all contributions to the film. Since it was important to me to create this film without the profit incentive that I believe is the major degrading force in filmmaking today, it seemed a natural fit to raise the funds and produce the film completely outside the profit model.

IndieGoGo also has a fantastic new feature that allows us to track referrals by contributors who then come back to the site and contribute themselves. Using this information, we’ve created an incentive structure that offers thank you gifts when contributors spread the word and bring new people on board.

I know you just launched, but do you have a sense yet about what elements of the campaign are getting the strongest reaction?

I think the biggest reaction has been to the fact that everybody, at any contribution level, gets a copy of the finished film. Most crowd-sourced films aim to entice higher contributions by offering thank-you credits at the lower levels and holding out on copies of the film for the $50 or $100 levels but, with MacBeth, we truly want a massive base of grassroots support. It seems counterintuitive – and unfair – to qualify that support based on a person’s financial situation.

People who have been blessed with above-average finances are generally more than willing to give to causes that they believe in and, so far, this project has proved no exception. But, if you love Shakespeare as much as we do and you don’t have buckets of cash floating around, $10 is all it takes. For less than the price of a movie ticket, you can help create the film and, once it’s finished, you’ll receive a copy that you can watch as often as you like. Then, if you’d like to aim for some of the perks available at higher levels that might be out of your price range, help us out by finding more supporters and we’ll send you some pretty spectacular gifts to show our thanks.

As a Shakespeare fan, I love how your pitch is also geared to Shakespeare aficionados. How are you reaching out to this niche in particular?

We Shakespeare lovers are a strange and under-appreciated lot. To blatantly generalize, as soon as we hear the Bard’s name mentioned, our ears perk up and we immediately want to involve ourselves in the conversation. And we have an amazingly diverse online presence world-wide. Just yesterday I was trolling around Twitter and found a guy in Brazil who tweets Shakespeare quotes in Portugese. He has 157,000 followers!

Sadly, in the world of film, Shakespeare rarely gets adapted unless a huge amount of money is raised to convince financial backers that the celebrity of the actors or the ostentatiousness of the costumes will sell the film to the general population. (The exception that proves the rule is the recently announced adaptation of Much Ado that Joss Whedon shot in his house in just 12 days. However, he had just gotten a pretty decent paycheck from The Avengers so I’m guessing he didn’t have any problems paying his production team.)

Our goal is to get the word out to the Shakespeare community at large and to make them all aware of the incredible potential we have to bring one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces to the screen on a grassroots budget both for and by the people who truly love it. If we can find between 10 and 20 thousand people out there who are willing to advance us just $10 or $25, our budget will be covered and they will have bought themselves a chance to be a part of the process. They’ll be kept up-to-date on all developments throughout production, get a behind-the-scenes look as we put the film together, and, in the end, each and every one of them will get a copy of the film, either digitally or on DVD.

I understand that the $200,000 goal is related to being able to use SAG actors. Can you talk about that decision?

Basically, the Screen Actors’ Guild has an agreement in place whereby we can cast a mix of union and non-union actors as long as we pay them all a certain minimum amount per day and as long as our budget is $200,000 or less. Since we want the best performances we can get – because, honestly, with one bad performance, Shakespeare can be deadly – and since we do want to pay everyone involved, it seems like an ideal contract for us.

In terms of production value, we also need to create a Los Angeles that looks like it’s been emptied of all humanity, so we tailored our creative decisions toward that upper limit. You can see a demonstration in the fundraising video of some of the budget-friendly computer tricks we’ll use to create the world.

One last questions… given your name, how can fans of Blade Runner be sure you’re not a replicant?

What makes you think I’m not?

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Thanks to Jason for the interview. I love the concept for this project and am personally backing it to the tune of $100. To join me in supporting MacBeth, click on the link below.