Indie Game: The Movie strikes new financing path

Indie Game The Movie

When Winnipeg’s James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot took home the top pitch prize at last week’s Westdoc Conference in Santa Monica, they realized that their pet project Indie Game: The Movie could speak to all audiences – not just gamers.

“No one from the networks on the (pitch) panel were gamers,” says Pajot. “They completely connected with the personal aspect and the creative aspect of what we’re trying to do and saw that as something that’s exciting.”

“That was the dream end result we’re going for,” adds Swirsky. “We know we have a hardcore audience of gamers and indie game fans. We want to spread it out beyond them to people who appreciate the creative process, people who appreciate design.”

The pair who make up the one-stop-shop prodco BlinkWorks Media stumbled upon a wealth of stories when attending the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco a few years ago – more specifically, the developers involved in the Independent Games Festival, held concurrently with GDC. When they were commissioned to create a video about fellow Winnipeger Alec Holowka and his partner Derek Yu after winning the IGF 2007 grand prize for their game Aquaria, Swirsky and Pajot knew there was a deeper story to be told.

“We just kept getting drawn to (the developers),” recalls Swirsky, noting that no video game docs exist that delve into actual game creation. “Not only their personal stories, but the fact that they were one- or two-person teams making these really fantastic, highly innovative and highly personal games for a worldwide audience.”

Tackling their first feature project has been quite the ride – and that’s not counting the dozens of hours (and miles) they’ve spent on the road, as they fill Playback Daily in from Austin, Texas.

“I think we approached this as filmmakers and storytellers first, and game appreciators second,” says Pajot, drawing parallels between making IGTM and how developers handle their craft. “I think there’s a kinship between what we’re doing and what they do, how they go through their creative process. It seems so much harder than making a movie, which blows me away.”

They’ve also decided to find another way around traditional government-funded models to finance their film. Earlier this spring, they set a $15,000 target on the crowd-funding pledge site, thinking it would take 30 to 60 days to reach their goal.

In a mere 48 hours, they hit the $18,000 mark, which swelled to $23,000 over the 60 days, thanks to the pyramid effect. Since launching DVD pre-sales through, they’ve topped $30,000. Tack on their $5,000 pitch prize from Westdoc and the two haven’t even needed to reach out to funding bodies like Telefilm and CMF.

Though they’d certainly welcome other sources of funding, Swirsky says, ”Given that we’re a two-person team now, we just didn’t have the time and effort needed to put toward that.”

Adds Pajot: “A lot of other filmmakers have been doing this, blazing their own trails, and that’s something we find really inspiring: filmmakers who see their films as an artistic and business endeavor, they have the tools and the power to do it themselves.”

The duo are looking to have 90% of filming completed by the holidays and will be criss-crossing the border until then, hitting up cities from Montreal to Phoenix, with projected delivery date of late summer/early fall 2011. Swirsky and Pajot are also open to discussions on distribution opportunities.

Photo courtesy of At First Sight Cinematography

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