ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Kickstarting The Details —

It’s five days left in the Kickstarter funding drive I started 55 days ago. It has been, by any measure, an enormous success. I set the whole thing at 60 days because that was the maximum that Kickstarter allows these days, and because I was asking for people to pledge $100,000 toward my project idea, which is not exactly something that leads to immediate clicking of the “drop tons of cash” button.  I was very binary towards the whole thing – either it would not happen at all, or it would absolutely happen. And it absolutely happened: 45 days in, the threshold was crossed. Fully funded!

There are two jumps there: The first couple days, when a bunch of people flooded in with lots of pledges, including a couple massive ones, and that hoist-up around September 25th where I did what nice people call an “e-mail blast” to everyone who ever bought a copy of my previous documentaries. I made it something that was informative and not just pleading and mercenary and it resulted in what looks like a pretty sizable jump for a tad, before going to the slow per-day rise you’ve been seeing. That last jump was someone being very generous.

One really nice thing about the whole process, the facet and fact that has really been the most heartwarming and the most touching, is that I’ve not dropped much in the way of details. In some ways, I’ve dropped almost no details. The Kickstarter pitch video is straightforward (if a tad weird) and the general message is: I am making three documentaries, and it is best to make them all at once, and I need this funding because I am now a low-paid archivist and not a well-paid sysadmin. That’s about all I’ve dropped, and all this happened. That is amazing.

So, here’s the interesting thing.

I’ve been working on some amazing things, talking to some really unique folks about aspects of the three projects, that might pay off really well – but I can’t guarantee them, so I haven’t been discussing them. I still really can’t – I rejected professional film-making not just as a career but as an outlook – and I much prefer underpromising and overdelivery to the alternative. So while I’m sure discussing these things I’m working on with much detail would skyrocket interest, having some of them inevitably not work out would make people feel misled. So there’s my quandry.

So let’s focus on some specifics in terms of goals, and maybe that’ll inspire people to get in on it.

Faced with the engineering/scheduling/arrangement of three documentaries, and having learned from the previous two projects, what I will be doing is travelling to a geographic area, and setting up for 1-3 weeks, doing a combination of location filming, interviews, appearances at events or being my own event, and general historical work. These massively hybrid trips will save me bundles in airfare, which was always the utter killer for costs. With my current employment endeavors being almost entirely online and not subject to specific geographic locations, this dovetails perfectly.

And it means that like the previous works, I can go after folks that some standard production would consider marginal and not worth the effort – people who are “just folks”, and as I hope both BBS and GET LAMP would show, some of the most amazing interviews that got in were “just folks”. (Jeff Keegan and Rob Griffiths come to mind). I can drive that extra few hours and get a place way off the beaten path. I can connect with stuff going on that a 2-3 day weekend trip would not allow. This is going to make interviews very good indeed. In a very rare few cases, I’ve had technical issues blow up an interview (I lost 3 out of 300 interviews I’ve done, roughly), and it’s good to be able to ask to come back, just a few days later. (Actually, this happened with a couple interviews and the subjects were both delighted to get a second chance to get their thoughts together.)

We are years from release, but even I can read the writing on the wall – as weird as it is right now to buy vinyl records (but deeply meaningful to a minority) it will be weird to order some media project in a couple years and not have a digital download option, or to be able to get the primary “stuff” at a less expensive and quickly convenient cost. That said, the other trend is that the physical form, the package and media, should be particularly high-quality, particularly amazing.  Because with these new physical packages, I will not be held to these two groups equally. You want the fast digital version, you get it – you want the deep version with many gigabytes of content in an exquisite package, you can get that too.

So at $107,000 – things are going well, well indeed. I decided, though, to throw in a big challenge to the folks out there that there’d be an immediate reward for hitting a higher mark. So I have this thing where if the funding hits $150,000, the $100+ funders get a backer-only coin. We’ll see how that goes – I guarantee the additional funding will end up making everything another layer of great. Really. As you can see, at current rates, that is not entirely likely to happen – but the whole point of challenges is to be challenging.

In terms of the documentaries themselves, that is, the actual content, I am going for very wide subject scatter like the previous films. GET LAMP covered not just text adventures and interactive fiction, but the nature of writing, the creating of reality through text, the meaning of story. BBS covered not just bulletin board systems and technology, but the nature of community, friendship and understanding, as well as the viciousness of politics and organization.  Even though a LOT of people really love 6502 (believe me, I have heard a lot about it), I am sure folks will find the resulting works of Tape and Arcade, and 6502 to be more than just the name on the box (or the download file).

All these ideas are swimming in my head now, recreating those moments of five and ten years ago when I started the previous two projects – new filming technology, new places to explore, weird ideas becoming reality, and the knowledge there will be a lot of pain, a lot of sleeplessness, a lot of stress here and there… but, eventually, watching boxes go out the door, letters coming in, and sitting at the back of a lot of theaters and auditorium hearing the laughs.

So there you go. Please spread the word about the Kickstarter in its last days – the short URL is and takes people right to the page. I have found people coming to me telling me they had no idea this was happening, so getting out to places that might not occur to me to visit would really help.

Thanks again. This is going to be amazing.


Categorised as: documentary | jason his own self

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One Comment

  1. Jase says:

    Congratulations on the funding. Just wanted to say the site you keep here is truly awesome — all those old CD archives are priceless and are contributing a lot to some projects of my own. Thanks so much for that!

    Again, congratulations, and best of luck with your documentaries!