Partnering with Grist on my first Kickstarter project



Well, it’s about time: after writing a lot about Kickstarter projects for Fast Company, Wired, and New York magazine, I’m doing one myself. Well, sort of. It was Grist‘s idea to do one and they invited me along for the ride. Here’s the trailer:

“I, Party Cup” Kickstarter Trailer from Small Mammal on Vimeo.

Grist approached me a couple months ago about partnering on a Kickstarter project. They wanted to try to do something outside of their normal purview, and Kickstarter seemed like an obvious and potent mechanism for motivating their core audience to support an interesting project. But what kind of project? They weren’t exactly sure, so they decided to ask me what I might do with this opportunity.

After batting back and forth some pretty out-there ideas (like 3D printing miniature models of cities that would float in water at the exact level at which sea levels are supposed to rise due to global warming), we settled on something I’d been wanting to do for a long time — make a short “autobiography of an object” film about something ubiquitous and totally mundane, something whose creative origins we’d long since stopped considering. Something like… the red plastic party cup.

So why a partnership — why not just do a Kickstarter of my own? Well, the boring reason is that Grist simply asked me first. But it kind of made sense — we’re both doing this for the first time, so why not have each other as a “wingman” of sorts? This way we could divide things up to suit our strengths: Grist is in charge of conducting and promoting the campaign (they set up the project page, designed the rewards, and wrote the site copy), and if funding is successful, I’m in charge of making the film (I also made the trailer for the Kickstarter page). What’s extra awesome is that because of this partnership, every Kickstarter pledge counts double: an anonymous donor is matching every pledge, dollar-for-dollar, in a donation to Grist itself. So if you pledge $1 toward making the film, another $1 goes toward supporting Grist’s mission of environmental journalism, too.

In a way this is no different from applying for a grant to make a short film, except that Grist is handling most of the grantwriting (I’m pitching in, of course) and its own readers are the grantmakers. My responsibility, if we get our funds, is just to make the damn thing good. That’s a very lucky position to be in even if we don’t meet our funding goal, so I’m grateful to Grist for reaching out to me in the first place. (And to anyone who dares to donate at the $5000 reward level that Grist designed — I’m not sure “lunch with the filmmaker” is really such a spectacular prize, since I’m just a normal non-famous guy like anyone else, but if you donate that much money to our project, it will certainly be MY pleasure to meet YOU.)

Of course, since it’s a Kickstarter project, it’s not just Grist readers who we’re hoping to inspire — it’s anyone out there on the web who thinks it might be interesting to meet some of the human beings whose choices brought this mundane yet instantly recognizable object into the world. If that sounds like you, click through to the project page and see what you think. And thanks!

I, Party Cup: A Documentary –

%d bloggers like this: