Hello my patient and long-suffering Friends. A lot of you saw the Aurora Centauri hoopla last month. Some of you have questions.
I often tell the story about how on a junior high class trip I received inspiration from a lizard on how to make friends: warming yourself in the sun will get you nowhere; you gotta get up and do something…like climb a rock.
This post is for the crazies that are climbing the rock alongside me.
Who is Aurora Centauri?
Every year Kiley Butler and his overly-modest-about-her-mad-violin-skills wife Rachel host HUGE summer camps, and I typically create some accompanying videos and motion graphics. This year, wanting to dig deeper into storytelling, I proposed we shoot a short film that would screen in four parts over the four nights.
Kiley and I sat down to talk about what such a thing would look like, and the result was Aurora Centauri, a fun sci-fi romp based loosely on C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. Initially it was going to be a low-fi slapstick film, akin to some of my early DangerCouch stuff. But, as we met and talked, we realized there was a great opportunity before us.
Those of you who grew up in church youth groups know that was a desperate need for modern media and teaching tools. Even today the pickin’s are slim.
Aurora seemed like a perfect aligning of the stars: Timid Monster would produce a kick-butt film with which we could tour festivals and cons, and Kiley and Rachel would develop an accompanying curriculum package that they could sell to youth leaders. It was a win-win for everyone!
To test our theory, we spent weeks on the phone conducting market research. We spoke with youth leaders across the country, and every single one of them indicated a solid sci-fi film with accompanying curriculum would be well worth their money.
A film for the sci-fi geeks, curriculum for the youth leadership geeks, and even behind the scenes tutorials for the film geeks. What could possibly go wrong?
Anatomy of a Failure
We launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign even though I swore I’d never do one again. It’s not that I’m against them, but they’re like playing a lottery where the admission price is your friends list. Every week my Facebook feed is choked with somebody’s Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign; the last thing anyone wants is more nagging self-promotion.
Right away we ran into some serious problems:
- Youth leaders were hesitant to pre-purchase the curriculum through Kickstarer because they had no way of knowing what the actual content was going to look like.
- Sci-fi fans were hesitant to pre-purchase the film because we so over-sold the curriculum that Aurora looked purely like a teaching tool.
- The script hadn’t been written, which forced us to be a little ambiguous about the story.
- Nick’s masterful concept art was mistaken for animation stills, causing many to think we were making a cartoon.
As hard as we tried, and despite numerous radio interviews and thousands of emails, the Kickstarter campaign crashed and burned in the most spectacular fashion: we barely raised 1% of our goal.
Who Will Aurora Be?
After the Kickstarter campaign failed, I had written off the project entirely. It was a film nobody cared about. I figured I’d learn my lesson and move on.
That is, until Jess came back with a stunning re-write of the script.
There’s a few kinks to work out and I’ve got a few more effects shots on Avarice to wrap up, but the team is seriously considering pursuing Aurora as our next project. Once approved, we’ve got the long work of writing a business plan, budgeting and scheduling…and wooing investors.
It’s a big rock to climb, but by golly, we’re gonna get to the top one way or another.
People always ask me “what are you working on now?” The truth, unfortunately, is rather drab. For someone in my position it takes years to get a film off the ground, so the answer always winds up being “oh, Jess turned in another solid draft of John Gray, I might start a business plan for one of the other projects soon, and we’re still working on getting Avarice finished.” I see their interest level evaporate before I’ve finished my sentence.
These things don’t take time because we’re lazy and out of our depth. They take time because we only get one crack at it, and we want to make it count.
If you’re still reading at this point, you’re one of the few crazies that have climbed up on the rock with us. Thank you for being our friend.