INTERVIEW: Director and Producer of ‘Reboot’

We catch up with Joe Kawasaki (Director) and Sidney Sherman(Producer)  behind upcoming cyberpunk thriller Reboot. The guys reveal what the story is about, how they became involved with the project as well as some interesting marketing ideas and some tips behind achieving their funding goal on Kickstarter.

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Reboot Trailer, posted with vodpod

Set within a dystopian world that is a collision between technology and humanity, “Reboot” touches upon many of the current social and political concerns that arise from becoming more and more intertwined with the virtual.

In contemporary Los Angeles, a young female hacker (Stat) awakens from unconsciousness to find an iPhone glued to her hand and a mysterious countdown ticking away on the display. Suffering from head trauma, and with little recollection of who she is or what is happening, Stat races against time to figure out what the code means, and what unknown event the pending zero-hour will bring.

What attracted you to Reboot?

Joe: When you pound your head against the wall enough times, something attractive usually falls out on paper eventually.  What attracted me to it?  It was a story that I could actually pitch in a couple of lines, people seemed to get the essence of it immediately, and it was somewhat “contained” for a cyberpunk genre idea, making it produceable.  It was love at first draft from there.

Can you tell us a little bit about Reboot?

Joe: “Reboot” is a fun little ride around a female hacker who wakes to find herself banged up in an apartment that is completely thrashed, and with an iPhone glued to her hand which has a ticking countdown and some code running on it.  What the code and countdown are all about, why it’s glued to her hand, and how she ended up where she is, are what the film is about.

Joe, what was it about Reboot that drew you back to the world of narrative film?

Joe: I’ve always been drawn toward narrative all my life; I just haven’t listened to myself very well sometimes. That “Reboot” was a story that was essentially “contained” within a couple interiors, honestly, made it produceable on a shoe-string budget and so it definitely helped to open the path.  I think, strictly from a story-telling aspect, it was a genre that I’ve always loved, and the content was something that interested me – continues to interest me – so it was natural to go in that direction for the film.

When putting together a project like this with no financial backing to begin with, how do you go about attracting people to becoming involved with the projects? How difficult was it to put the team together?

Joe:  We were very fortunate to have some amazing, talented professionals that we can also call “friends” who were more than willing to jump onboard for the film; so getting people involved wasn’t so difficult.  Even for the other key positions, we were so fortunate to have a team of young, talented, and energetic pro’s come onboard that it just set the tone for everything early on and really made it a great experience.

Sidney:  Yes, very fortunate. We had a core group of “key” players that we had worked with in the past, and we knew that we wanted them on “Reboot.”  They included our DP (Curt Apduhan), Composer (Riad Qabandi), VFX Supervisor (Adel Gandomikal), VFX Lead (Aleem Parkar), and Supervising Sound Editor (Roland Thai).  It seems to me there is never a shortage of wonderful talented artists to collaborate with, it is raising the money to make your films that is always the challenge.

You used Kickstarter to fund the project and were successful. Would you use this method as a means for funding all your future projects?

Joe:  I think it can be specific in its use, and as interesting and wonderful as our experience was with crowd-sourcing, I’m not sure if I would personally want to go that route again on something bigger.  It’s a lot of work.  I mean, I know there are filmmakers out there who are quite involved with all this, and can be found tweeting while they shoot, or are neck-deep in pre-pro and sharing it with a “fanbase”, but honestly… not my cup of tea.  As much as I’m into a lot of tech, and am a diehard sci-fi/cyberpunk/fantasy fan, I’m also quite old school; and the idea of being connected with the public 24/7 thru our devices and platforms is not something I necessarily embrace. I mean, I definitely need my disconnect times where I will disappear off the grid – making a film is definitely one of them.

Sidney: Kickstarter is great for certain types of projects.  If you are making a short like we did, and the amount you are seeking to raise is not too much, it is a wonderful resource and tool for the indie filmmaker.  If you are looking to make a $30 million action film, then Kickstarter would not be the place to do it.  At least not for now…LOL.

For every Kickstarter success story there are many projects that do not hit their goal. What do you think were the key ingredients to the success your Kickstarter project?

Joe: We had a great network of friends and families to start off with, and that certainly was key in our success.  But on a general view, it always helps to have a good pitch video, and a concept or idea that can resonate with enough folks to get the support you need.

Sidney: Make no mistake, Kickstarter is work.  You need to spend several hours a day campaigning and getting the word out to friends, work colleagues, and extending your own network via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.  Also, it is very important to keep updating your current backers on Kickstarter and letting them know what you are doing vis a vis the film (i.e. casting, location scouting, etc.) while you are trying to raise the money.  The more things you can share about your process that make your film sound like it is really happening, the better chance you have of actually reaching your goal and getting funded.  If you just sit back and think you will wake up one morning and you will have raised your goal amount, you are mistaken.

For someone wanting to put together a Kickstarter project, what are some of the key factors that you think need to be taken into account?

Joe: Faith and the willingness to put it out there in some form – and to present it clearly and concisely.  From there, it’s really about networking and keeping up on informing and posting so that everyone can feel a part of the process, for whatever project you may be developing.  If you can get a crowd to be excited about what you plan on doing, then half the battle is done.

Sidney:  Without a doubt, the video you create and post on your Kickstarter page is crucial to succeeding.  It is the first introduction of your project and in some cases to who you are, and it needs to be great.  We had a lot of backers that Joe and I did not know personally, and I attribute that to the strength of the video Joe created to help sell people on backing our film.   I could discuss things to do on Kickstarter for hours as there is an entire strategy about how and when to launch a campaign to increase your chances of success.  There is a great blog by filmmaker Ryan Koo  who wrote an excellent blow-by-blow account of  what he learned raising $125K on Kickstarter.  It is mandatory reading as far as I’m concerned if you are seriously considering a Kickstarter campaign.

Tell us three things about Reboot which can’t be found on your website?

Sidney:  Good question.  Well, visitors to our site have no idea that we are running an elaborate ARG in connection with the film.  In order to learn that, people would need to follow us on Twitter as we run the game primarily via that platform.  We also use Facebook and Tumblr to compliment our Twitter efforts and they are a great source of additional information about the film and the players involved.  Joe, do you have two more?  LOL.

Joe: Tidbits and little insights into the making of the film could be found via the Tumblr blog – but that feed also goes through our site so technically it too can be found through the website itself, under “news”.  You cannot find the film itself (in its entirety) there yet!

You have been really pushing the marketing side with Reboot. How important do you think a successful marketing campaign will be to the success of Reboot?

Joe: The film was always meant to be a calling piece for us, and I think the more people we can get onboard to see the short, the more it helps us with all our future plans.  So in that sense, it’s quite important to keep getting it out there in the ethos of whatever audiences may attract to it.  There’s a lot of content buzzing around, and you want to be noticed.

Sidney:  I always say, making the film is only 50% of the job.  The other 50% is marketing the film and getting people to see it.  As much as we embrace the creative side as filmmakers, it is equally important to embrace the business side of exploiting your film.  I think you can be truly creative in how you approach marketing and distributing your film if you remember that we are creating a fun experience for the audience.  Our world is changing faster than any of us can keep up, but one thing is very clear, there has been a fundamental shift in the way audiences consume and share entertainment and the rise of social media and our obsession with cool gadgets (i.e. iPad, iPhone, iAnything) has a lot to do with it.  It is an exciting and fun moment in time for filmmakers if you are smart about using all of the media platforms available to you to maximize your impressions and create a dynamic and entertaining experience for your audience.  As far as Reboot, we hope to get as many people as we can to see the film when it is released and running a smart and strategic marketing campaign is key to accomplishing that goal.

Can you tell us about some of the interesting ways you currently trying to market Reboot?

Joe: This is a torch that Sidney has definitely been championing. The fact that he’d produced and pushed with us through the entire production process and is now tirelessly pushing the film on this global campaign says a lot about him.

Sidney: Well, we touched on our ARG, but really that is the most innovative and bold thing we are doing as far as marketing goes.  It takes a huge amount of time and resources (we don’t have much of either…LOL) to run a successful ARG, let alone a successful campaign of any kind, and I don’t know how many indie short films have ever tried to do it, so that makes us a bit unique in the space.

For those folks wondering what the hell we are we talking about, ARG stands for alternate reality game.  Basicaly, we have created an interactive narrative that uses our film as a platform and transmedia to deliver a fun and exciting game that is a parallel expereince to our film.  Our game starts by asking the player to watch our trailer and see what Easter eggs (i.e. hidden clues or messages) they can find.  Once they find anything, we ask players to send us a direct message via Twitter (@reboot_film) telling us what they have found and then we reply with a confirmation, a clue or simply goading them on to keep looking.  When the player finds the “key” they move on to the next level in the game.  As the game goes on, the difficulty increases as some of the challenges are geared more towards hackers, but we have consciously made each Level have challenges that anyone can solve.  Since many of us are competitive, we have a Scoreboard where we track the Top 10 players in the game, and we are awarding prizes throughout the game for accomplishing different tasks.  The goal of the ARG is to create a fun and dynamic experience for the player that will make watching the film later a more rewarding and enjoyable experience.

What has your supporters reaction been to the trailer?

Joe: It’s been strong.

Sidney:  Very positive. People seem to like it and keep asking us to see more which is nice.

When and where can we expect to see the finished film?

Sidney: We are waiting to hear back from several film festivals in order to determine where and when our film will have its world premiere. After a few key festival screenings, we hope to roll the film out online (via iTunes, etc.). Ultimately, we want as many people to see the film as possible.  Here’s a bit of an exclusive for you: we are planning to do a few sneak previews of the film in the near future so stay tuned.

GS Reporter: Nuge

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