McCarren Park, a Passion-Fueled Project
In 2008, Steele Filipek and Caitlin Burns set out to create McCarren Park, a live-action comedy distributed through a mobile application (read: bar crawl) of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The film was built as an homage to the low-budget monster movies of Ed Wood and, of course, as a parody of 1993’s Jurassic Park, riffing on the popularity of the hipster dinosaur meme. More than that, it was built to show that a multiplatform property could be produced and made with free platforms.
Everyone joined the project because they were interested in the experiment: following in the steps of guerilla filmmakers, they wanted to create a project that any kid with a camera phone could learn from. The producers bootstrapped the hard costs of production. Actors donated their time. The Director of Photography used his personal Canon 5D to shoot. Simple, affordable, fun.
Out of a total budget of $3500.00:
- The vast majority of the costs went to deposits on the space and staging of the final scene, which took place at a party in Brooklyn that the audience that had been built through characters interacting online through tumblr and twitter were invited to attend.
- The second largest costs went to “catering” for the crew and cast during shoots. Actors drink a lot, after all.
- As DNA replication was ruled out from the start due to ethics, the third largest cost went to the construction of costumes and dinosaurs.
Notice a lack of advertisement: much of the project’s promotion folded in to the narrative development of the project. Shoots became invited live events for fans. Scenes were presented in character at local events that ultimately made their way into the final cut of the film. Twitter became a place where rehearsals turned into online scene weekly as actors built their characters and relationships. These were all free to use platforms; no pay-per-use platforms were utilized in the distribution of the project. The Movable Feast Mobile Media App was a fantastic partner as the support platform for the walking tour release of the film. The platform is free to download and use, pushing interactivity even further.
At the start of the project, crowdfunding wasn’t really available (Kickstarter launched in 2009). It would have been a way for the project to find a larger audience, and a slightly larger budget, possibly outside of the low-budget context. More money would have meant a tighter production timeline for shooting. Outdoor shooting dates were spread out over the course of the summer of 2011 and were entirely at the mercy of volunteers’ schedules, the final scenes had to wait until later that year.
Passion fueled the project rather than money, and though it took longer than a standard production, people eventually took notice. The mobile app caught the attention of the 2012 Tribeca Interactive Day and 2012 New York Film Festival: proof positive of the exercise’s hypothesis and that, regardless of budget, everyone loves watching hipsters get eaten.
Three Types of Implementation Options
Project budgets are based upon the scope of a project, the level of effort it takes to make it. Accordingly budgets for immersive media projects can span a wide range. This is largely based on the approach that is taken during implementation.
There are three main types of implementation options:
- Use existing technology platforms to create your project. There are a bevy of interactive storytelling platforms available to creators these days. One implementation approach is to use one of these technology platforms. You may find there are functionality limitations, but these non-coding solutions provide a low cost option for creating interactive stores. Budget ranges are largely based on the time it takes for you to learn the software and to build your project and small monthly fees to host the project on a third-party interactive storytelling platform.
Monthly cost ranges: $50 to $500
The next two implementation approaches are better suited for projects that require custom development that can’t be achieved with an existing interactive storytelling platform.
- Hire digital freelancers or people you know to help out. This implementation approach is better geared towards a truly bootstrapped or smaller crowd-funded project. This relies on knowing the right resources and being able to get them excited about your project. It’s not that different from building a film crew with people you know and trust who are willing to work at discounted rates because of your relationship and their excitement for your project.
Budget Range: $5,000 to $15,000
- Hire experts with a proven track record of success. This approach is required for projects that are truly innovative and breaking new ground. Brand new technology is created here to achieve the project’s goals. All of the immersive projects you see at major festivals, or read about in major publications or websites are created this way.
Budget Range: $75,000 to $300,000
Obviously these budget ranges vary tremendously. But realize that the immersive media projects that likely inspire you the most were created by a large team of experienced and talented professionals. The New York Times spent months and had an entire team working on the creation of Snow Fall. Make sure to set your expectations accordingly based on the funds you have raised and the type of project you are trying to create.
A final important aspect to consider is to establish how long the project will be live and then plan for ongoing support. A digital application is a living, breathing thing. It is vital to not only plan for its birth, but also its duration. The longer it lives the more expensive it is to support.
Digital applications break for a variety of reasons (for example a new OS is released or the third-party Search Engine tool goes down). They need ongoing attention from developers, whether those are in or out-of-house. You should plan and budget accordingly.