EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Modine is the latest celeb filmmaker to seek funding via crowdsourcing with his just-launched campaign for The Rocking Horsemen, a 1960s-set music pic about five high schoolers who hear the emerging sound of rock ‘n’ roll and decide to form a band. But he’s not following the likes of Zach Braff and Spike Lee down the Kickstarter yellow brick road. Modine, who wrote and will direct the film, is using Slated, an online platform/marketplace launched last year, to raise just his under-$5M budget. (Check out his Slated project here.) Unlike backers on Kickstarter or Indiegogo who typically receive small rewards of sentimental value in return for donations, Modine’s Slated investors will get the opportunity to participate in a meaningful financial way as equity investors, owning an actual piece of the project they’re investing in.
In the brave new world of film financing wrought by big-name campaigners like Braff, Lee, and the Veronica Mars gang, donation-based Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding ventures aren’t win-win for everyone. Fans throwing cash down in exchange for “perks” don’t benefit monetarily from becoming Kickstarter donors. Even Indiegogo, which unlike Kickstarter allows filmmakers to take home funds even if they don’t reach their posted fundraising goals, isn’t the most viable option for mid- or higher-budgeted projects, particularly those lacking in name stars or sizable fan support. Equity film crowdfunding, on the other hand, was made viable by the 2012 JOBS Act which allows for the solicitation of accredited investors by entrepreneurs and start-ups. Since the SEC is still finalizing regulations on exactly how that’s to be implemented, platforms like Slated — and others in the works — can’t yet broker monetary transactions themselves. But they can match-make filmmakers with financiers, who can then privately seal the deal.
Slated, then, is less a Kickstarter peer and more akin to an OKCupid for film financing: a gated online marketplace intended to connect like-minded filmmakers, investors, sales reps, and other industry figures with the ultimate goal of financing indie projects of a certain size. To join Slated, verified members must be vouched for by two other members. To invest, investors must be SEC-accredited and be vouched for by two other Slated investors. Each posted project seeking funding or other services is vetted by Slated and must fall within the site’s parameters: $500K-$15M budgets for features and $250K-$2M for documentaries. “Anything below, we recommend filmmakers, especially first-time filmmakers or filmmakers doing something highly experimental, first go to Indiegogo,” said Slated co-founder and chairman Stephan Paternot.
Submitted projects must be as fully packaged as possible to pass muster and get posted to Slated. For Horsemen, Modine’s attached Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom), Riley Griffiths (Super 8), Miles Heizer (Parenthood), and James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom). Modine also is attached to star and Orian Williams (Control, Big Sur) is producing alongside Cinco Dedos Peliculas Productions‘ Modine and Adam Rackoff.
Related: Spike Lee’s Kickstarter Passes $1.25M Goal
Potential financing connections are made through vetted introductions via site members, who can also “track” other members and posted projects. So far nearly 50 of 320 Slated projects have completed funding. As Paternot explains it, “crowdfunding is where you begin making films; Slated is where you go when you graduate.” He sees Slated as a platform to not just find financing, but build careers. “There’s a novelty quality with crowdfunding. A tiring factor kicks in eventually. Most people are happy to donate $10, $100, $1000,” Paternot says, but Slated’s bigger-ticket investors are seeking more. “They want the glory, and they also want the profits.” According to Paternot Slated’s network represents $2 billion in capital between member sales companies, film funds, “name brand billionaires,” and first-time investors.
Paternot says the networking aspect of Slated’s membership is just as much a benefit as funding. “We’re not a just a crowdfunding platform — we are a marketplace, helping members find talent, sales agents, distributors, buyers,” he said. More than half of the introductions made on Slated are industry to industry, not just between investors and filmmakers. Modine’s Rocking Horsemen campaign, for example, was born of a Slated connection. Producer Williams first met Modine many years ago, though the two didn’t reconnect until Modine started tracking Williams on Slated. That led to a meeting, and Williams came onboard to produce Rocking Horsemen shortly thereafter. “I’ve always said getting in front of someone is key,” said Williams, who still prefers in-person pitching to digital dealings, but “this way we’re bringing this project to a lot of people might not have thought of, and financiers I would never had met.”
The site is free — for now. Paternot says monetizing is on Slated’s roadmap, targeting the end of 2014, though a program offering investors access to higher-tiered projects for a fee has turned some off of the service. Still, Slated claims success stories like Marina Zenovich’s docu Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out and Christian Camargo’s Days and Nights (formerly The Seagull), which were partially financed via Slated. Until the SEC approves regulations allowing sites like Slated to become broker-dealers of said transactions and potentially take a broker’s fee on completed deals, Slated remains focused on growing the quality and scope of its network. “We wanted to first prove that people were willing to use it online,” said Paternot. “And I think we did that.”