Design by Ruby Lewis

It’s hard work being an aspiring director, screenwriter or really any creative role in movie making without any proper connections to Hollywood (and if you don’t believe me just ask any of our own student filmmakers). It’s often the case that unknown independent filmmakers have trouble financing their projects, and usually, their best chances for distribution are festivals and art showings, which may or may not provide them with the mainstream attention they need. To combat this, every March, Kickstarter’s film division specifically highlights short films with the Long Story Short initiative. This month-long celebration puts the spotlight specifically on short narratives, documentaries, animated shorts and anything that could qualify as a short within the medium. In a Zoom interview with The Michigan Daily, Kickstarter’s Senior Director of Film Elise McCave discussed Long Story Short and the film division at large.

McCave described how Kickstarter’s film division may add more options to an aspiring filmmaker’s toolkit. For the unacquainted, Kickstarter is a crowdsourcing platform where entrepreneurs can advertise a product or idea and members of the public can choose whether to “back” the product with their money. Kickstarter has a specific division that deals with film, where filmmakers can crowdsource their project the same way any person with an idea would. 

One thing that immediately stuck out during the conversation was the large reach and breadth of Kickstarter’s film division. There are projects such as music and journalism documentaries, which benefit from the input of colleagues in those divisions. One key example McCave elaborated on was virtual reality projects: “VR sits in the space between film and games … there’s lots of cross-collaboration within the organization to be done.” Generally speaking, McCave was keen to discuss the large reach of the film division, adding that the section features film “in all of its guises.” In other words, “If someone needs money for something related to film … we’re working with them.” 

It became clear that there are certain demographics that make up the people that seek crowdfunding support, demographics that define the “someone” who needs money. McCave discussed that while there are filmmakers in “every stage of their career” working with Kickstarter, many of the people using the resources were at the beginning of their careers. However, she also made it clear that established, experienced professionals were no stranger to crowdfunding with Kickstarter, using Spike Lee and Alexander Rockwell as examples. Many aspiring filmmakers use the platform as a way to create their first ambitious projects, and other, more experienced filmmakers often use the platform to “try something new” and explore new methods and styles.

McCave mentioned that many of the emerging filmmakers who are just starting their careers often make short films using the platform since they are often less of a task than full feature-length projects. In regard to the Long Story Short project specifically, McCave explained that short films are some of the most popular and successful types of projects in the film division, and the team at Kickstarter wanted to “put more of our energy” behind them. March was chosen as the month-long spotlight for the initiative. “The weather is turning,” McCave said. “It’s great for people who want to shoot in April, May, June.” She also mentioned that the timing is great for “folks fundraising for thesis projects” and for students and filmmakers in academia who are taking classes.

But McCave ultimately described how the nature of short films makes them “a really good fit for the platform” and are the reason behind the Long Story Short project. “(Shorts) are just a space where filmmakers can be so experimental and innovative, where they can get a lot on screen for not necessarily a lot of money … you can pack so much in a short space of time,” McCave said.

While Kickstarter’s film division provides a financial platform for funding the production of film projects, they do not have a comparable formal distribution platform. “We don’t have a tool for folks to distribute via,” McCave mentioned. However, she never shied away from explaining how Kickstarter offers “a lot of help and resources… The vast majority are submitting to film festivals as a first step … distributing shorts can be challenging … there are a lot of different options.”

But McCave was confident in the ability of Kickstarter’s film division as it applies to short films, citing the high success rate of short films across the platform even without a formal distribution network: “It’s been working; many great films have come out of this period.” She expected this current year to be one of the most successful, as the Long Story Short initiative started in March 2020 in the midst of the crisis period of the pandemic. “I think this is the least restrictive of the years,” McCave said about the March 2022 Long Story Short initiative.

Creating and financing films can be difficult as an unknown filmmaker, and the talk with McCave was enlightening in regard to the non-traditional pathway of crowdfunding, especially for shorts. The Long Story Short spotlight and the general platform look to provide a robust option for upcoming filmmakers interested in short films before they embark on a feature film. Ultimately, McCave seemed very pleased with the results and success of the short films, even with the complicated life cycle of short film distribution: “there’s lots of projects I’m very excited about … we just really love shorts.” 

Daily Arts Writer Alvin Anand can be reached at