Crowdfunding Friday: Joe Dante, Roger Ebert and steampunk toads

A potentially great Roger Ebert documentary, a Joe Dante film and a steampunk children's book feature in this week's crowdfunding pick...

It’s always a pleasure to see unusual, niche ideas find support, and ideas don’t come much more unusual and niche at least in videogame terms, than an MMO inspired by the world of Jane Austen.

Called Ever, Jane, the game successfully managed to cross the $100,000 threshold it required before its campaign ended on the 2nd of December. This means that, thanks to the generous donations of 1,600 backers, this Regency-set online RPG will be able to set sail in the next couple of years.

There’s good news, too, for the thousands of fans who backed the Veronica Mars movie campaign. Having acquired an incredible $5.7m on Kickstarter earlier this year, it’s been announced that the film, which is currently in post-production, will be out in selected US cinemas on the 14th March 2014.

Hollywood will no doubt be keeping a close eye on how it fares financially. Because if Veronica Mars does become a high-profile, crowdfunded success, we could see more projects like it appear on sites like Kickstarter in the future.

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This week’s pick of worthy crowdfunding causes begins with a familiar Hollywood name, in fact, as Joe Dante takes to the website FundAnything to scare up some donations for his latest horror comedy project…

Burying The Ex

It remains my assertion that director Joe Dante has never made a bad film. Admittedly, some are better than others, but from the 70s onwards, Dante has been responsible for a string of films that tread the line between horror and comedy: Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, and the fantastic Innerspace are just a few of them. His 2009 film, The Hole, was a brilliant PG-13 horror thrill-ride, with some of the most interesting uses of 3D I’ve seen – what a pity, then, that it was so rarely seen on the big screen.

All of this leads me onto Burying The Ex, Dante’s latest project, which is already in production. This makes this particular crowdfunding campaign an unusual one, since most film projects are in pre-production when they start trying to raise funds, not in the middle of filming.

At any rate, Dante hopes to raise $200,000 to fund the cutting, effects and cinema distribution of his latest film. It’s a fairly starry one, too, with Anton Yelchin playing a central character haunted by his clingy ex-girlfriend, who’s returned from the grave. It’s a premise that sounds tricky to get right, but if there’s a director who can pull off horror and comedy perfectly, it’s Dante.

Mansion Lord

Proving that RPGs don’t have to be set in a fantasy realm or a far-flung corner of the galaxy, Golgom Games’ Mansion Lord gives players a gigantic country house to look after. Actually, it’s a bit more involved than that, with this quirky little indie title mashing up a business simulator, RPG elements and a hint of murder mystery.

By decorating, furnishing and generally keeping your mansion ticking over, you’ll begin to attract lots of rich guests who’ll happily pay through the nose to sleep and dine in the luxurious country pile. Unfortunately, not all the guests are as respectable as they appear, and when the bodies begin to mount, it’s up to you and your detectives to find out who the murderer is.

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Already halfway to acquiring its $28,000 goal at the time of writing, Mansion Lord looks like a promising, diverting little game, with some charming pixel graphics. And with a pledge of $10 securing a digital copy when it’s ready, it’d surely be a crime not to throw a bit of funding in its direction.

Life Itself

When Roger Ebert died in April this year, he left a gaping hole in the film criticism landscape, but also left us with a remarkable body of work. What better way to celebrate his life and career, then, than to make a documentary all about that very subject.

Aside from the obvious interest of the subject matter, Life Itself has a sterling pedigree. Its director Steve James is a veteran of documentary filmmaking, and his 1994 feature Hoop Dreams is widely regarded as one of the greatest documentaries ever made. Indeed, when it failed to get so much as a nomination at the Oscars after its release, the backlash against its snub provoked a change in the way documentaries were put up for consideration by the Academy.

With a filmmaker like James behind it, Life Itself has every chance of being the perfect tribute to a writer whose work continues to inspire. But don’t just take our word for it – here’s Martin Scorsese, the film’s executive producer, to tell you why Life Itself deserves your support:


Steam In The Willows

We end this week’s selection with a particularly cute mash-up of science fiction and a classic children’s tale: it’s Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows, but steampunk. The project’s from artist Krista Brennan, and will result in an illustrated storybook featuring Grahame’s familiar characters, except in a very different techno-Victorian world.

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It’s a charming idea, and with options ranging between an e-book, a black-and-white paperback and a lavish, full-colour hardback edition, the campaign has something to offer anyone keen enough to give it a bit of funding. It’s well worth considering, too, because Brennan’s illustrations are absolutely exquisite. I mean, just look at this: 


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