There’s something very punk rock about Kickstarter, the grassroots crowd-funding site that’s been used to raise money for all sorts of independent arts projects. So it’s appropriate that the filmmakers behind the movie version of K.L. Going’s Printz Honor book Fat Kid Rules the World – in which punk rock changes the title character’s life – have launched a Kickstarter campaign of their own.
Why the need to raise funds this way? Despite praise from outlets like Variety and critics like Roger Ebert, Fat Kid, produced by Whitewater Films, has yet to be picked up by a distributor. “Mainstream Hollywood doesn’t know how to make money on a movie like this,” says the film’s first-time director, actor Matthew Lillard, on Fat Kid’s Kickstarter page. “It’s still a movie about a Fat Kid. It's still a movie about punk rock. The movie is still way outside the Hollywood “box” and our goal is to bring it to the people.”
Some children’s-book-related ventures, like Marissa Moss’s new publishing house have found success through Kickstarter. Others, among them R. Gregory Christie’s children’s bookstore and arts literacy center, fail to meet their fundraising goal by the deadline (Christie plans to relaunch the campaign with a reduced budget goal). Given the time constraints, Kickstarter is by no means a sure thing.
“They give you 40 days,” Going says. “Think about it: we’re trying to raise $150,000 in 40 days! I wish we had more time. It takes a while to get the word out, and then people don’t necessarily donate right away when they read about it. So it’s a huge challenge.”
Gaining the goodwill of audience, Going says, has proven less of a challenge. “The response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. We won the Audience Award at South by Southwest. That was huge. Right now it’s at the Seattle International Film Festival. It’s been doing wonderfully there – it had two sold-out screenings, so they added another screening.” Next up: Rooftop Films’ summer series in Manhattan on June 8, where Going and Lillard will be in attendance, as well as Going’s editor at Penguin, Kathy Dawson, who’ll be seeing the film for the first time.
It remains to be seen whether the success Fat Kid has found on the festival circuit will translate into donations. Should the filmmakers reach their Kickstarter goal, plans call for the movie to travel with the Vans Warped Tour – where Napoleon Dynamite got its start – which means 42 cities in 55 days, and the movie’s widest audience to date. “So far we’ve only had these individual screenings at the film festivals.” Going says. “We really want to get it out to as many people as possible.”