Short film 'Kung Fury' shows the power of crowdfunding

Monday, November 9, 2015 - 11:58am
As an aspiring filmmaker, I was excited when I saw friends post on Facebook and Instagram about an incredible short film titled “Kung Fury” that is free to watch on YouTube. Since I don’t particularly like kung fu films more than any other genre, I was hesitant to believe the hype at first. But its wild success inspired me, not only because you can finally reach a wider audience to appreciate your work, but also because it shows that anyone who believes in their craft finally has a platform where they can make it big.
 
“Kung Fury” is a brilliant homage to the cinema of the 1980s — especially kung fu and cop films — and illustrates the maximum potential filmmakers have in the digital age. The project was crowdfunded through Kickstarter and raised more than $600,000 in funds, which, while short of the $1 million needed for a feature-length film, exceeded the $200,000 originally asked for. This garnered the short film a lot of attention, including this year’s Lovie Internet Video Person of the Year Award for director David Sandberg for his spectacular use of netizens’s support in getting his short film completed and released on YouTube and Netflix for free. This is in addition to the positive reviews critics gave “Kung Fury.” The way the project was funded is a stark change from the difficult, traditional way to fund films, which changed my view of the profession after wondering how I would solve such a problem.
 
My biggest concern in becoming a filmmaker is funding. Patiently infiltrating Hollywood over several years seems to be the most common technique used, but that means that I would have to wait a long time before I could quit my day job. You can’t predict what the public will enjoy, which leads to producers playing it safe when they decide what projects to pursue. This difficulty to finance films has led to mainstream cinema producing the same old movies that follow the same old tropes no matter how devoid of originality or creativity or taste they are (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay!). This makes sense, considering film production is an expensive and consuming effort. After writing and rewriting your script, you have to gather actors, props and people who know how to handle cameras, lights, costumes and makeup before you can even begin to edit and add special effects. Funding a film the way Sandberg did was unimaginable before the widespread use of the Internet.
 
A case in point is the 1994 classic “Clerks” by director, screenwriter and producer Kevin Smith. The philosophical comedy was solely funded by Smith, including maxing out multiple credit cards and dipping into his college fund. Even then, he was forced to film at the convenience store he worked at when it was closed, and had to get his family and friends to act in the movie in order for his budget to make ends meet. Fortunately for him, Smith’s deep investment in his craft paid off, winning several awards at the Sundance Screen Festival and the Cannes Film Festival and leading to the creation of the “View Askewniverse” franchise. Yet, Smith’s experience remains a rare one. The same can’t be said by all filmmakers struggling to get their vision seen.
 
Though “Kung Fury” ’s success from crowdfunding doesn’t change the fact that making it big in the film industry is easier said than done, I expect that more people will be able to share their cinematic art this way and improve entertainment for all. And if this pushes movie studios to compete with the web’s access to such raw talent, and in turn makes them raise the standard of today’s mainstream movies, I’m all for it.