Sophia Cacciola
[sophia@sophiacacciola.com]
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Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein

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Sophia and Michael are Somerville, MA based musicians and filmmakers
TEN the movie! MAGNETIC the movie!

Michael J. Epstein
[mje@michaeljepstein.com]
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This is a personal weblog.
Opinions expressed here
represent my own and
not those of my employer.

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling [Music][Press][Blog][Facebook][Twitter][Youtube] bass/drum duo based on The Prisoner
The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library [Music][Press][Blog][Facebook][Twitter][Youtube] Indie ensemble
Darling Pet Munkee [Music][Press][Blog][Facebook][Youtube] garage/surf songs about items sold in comics
Space Balloons [Music][Press][Blog][Facebook][Twitter][Youtube] Children's space-traveler music
The Motion Sick [Music][Press][Blog][Facebook][Twitter][Youtube] Indie rock with emphasis on song

Neutral Uke Hotel
[Press][Facebook][Blog][Twitter][Youtube] Uke based Neutral Milk Hotel sing-a-long


Friday, August 29, 2014

Music Video for Anda Volley (shot and edited by Michael and Sophia) "If I Turn into a Black Rose"

Out today, a music video that we shot and edited for Anda Volley! We shot this in a few hours in the wilds of Cambridge one August afternoon:



Read Anda's blog about the video, excerpt:

"Porcelain Dalya dances, making wavelets with her arms in the sun-dappled, glowing background. She is the red rose; the purity and force of new love. Nefertara Hotep is the mischievous and magical black rose faerie, appearing and disappearing suddenly behind and between dark trees, antagonizing love; the undercurrent of transformation, how love changes. Will my lover accept me when I become, at times, a black rose? The sincerity and anxiety of unfolding ourselves and revealing our imperfections, adulterating the idealism and magnetic force lovers first hold toward each other."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

We are stealing energy from the sun! One year of data from our solar-panel system.

(This is not my main reason for writing this, but first of all, if you're interested in looking at the possibility of adding leased solar panels to your home and wish to check out Sungevity, the company we went with, please use this referral link, as it gets both of us some money: http://www.sungevity.com/get-your-iquote?referral-code=387839 - There are also other great companies, so definitely look around!)

My reason for writing this is to encourage people to look into getting solar-panel installations to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and increase our use of renewable energy, which is just waiting to be taken!


The numbers:
Our no-money-down lease costs $2.40 per day
NStar average price over this time: $0.18797 per kWh 
Our average generation for the first year: 14.3672 kWh / day
Solar value / day: $2.69
Current net: +$0.29 / day
Total Generation: 5244.028 kWh (72.17% of our total energy for the year) - $985.72 worth of energy


Analysis: Our plan with leasing was that we would likely lose small amounts of money on the lease for up to 5 years. The lease stays fixed, but energy costs are guaranteed (I would argue anyway) to go up. Inflation alone is guaranteed to raise costs. Our generation efficiency is also expected to decline a little, but not as much as costs are projected to go up. This is really surprising that we've done this well in the first year.

Example of a pretty good month (March 2014)





Solar System Details*
System Size (STC-DC)4.9 kW
System Size (CEC-AC)4.168 kW
Number of Solar Panels20 modules
Panel Dimensions39.1" x 65.0"
Estimated First Year Production4,724 kWh
Roof Details
Roof Pitch42°
Roof Azimuth149°
Annual Shading74%
Sungevity also currently has a generous referral program. If we get people to sign up, we get money. So far, we've already earned $2500 ($2000 cash + $500 Lowes gift card) via this program. By those numbers, if we continue to generate exactly as above, we've already ended up in the positive on the lease (and as I said, I expect we will do much better as years go on - this is actually much better than I would have originally projected). I'm not going door-to-door asking people to sign up or anything, but it's frankly a good, very-low-risk deal I think - why we signed up! So, I certainly would encourage people to check it out. Our link: http://www.sungevity.com/get-your-iquote?referral-code=387839


WHY SOLAR?

In 6th grade, we had a class project that required us to make solar collectors that could store as much heat as possible. We would measure the temperature inside our collectors before and after they spent an hour outside in the sun. We all devised various crazy schemes ranging from painting the cases black to building giant tinfoil reflector dishes to filling our collectors with water or other high-specific-heat materials. It got me really interested in the whole science of using the energy that already surrounds us instead of burning fossil fuels. I waited patiently for 20+ years before home solar collection started to really become financially viable. With state rebates and federal rebates, I got excited to make it happen at our house and we started saving money. Just when we had about enough money to get panels installed, we hit an artistic crossroads. We decided we wanted to make our first feature film, TEN, and we needed to use the money we had saved to make it possible. So, we gave up our solar dream (TEMPORARILY!) and spent all our money making a movie.

A few months pass and I hear about a wave of opportunities to lease solar panels instead of buying them. It turns out that it does reduce your savings/earnings from solar significantly, but it allows the installtion of solar panels with no money down and a fixed-cost monthly lease. We talked to Sungevity, and I worked through the numbers and they looked pretty good for us. We probably wouldn't make a financial killing on the whole thing, but we looked to make a little bit of money over the course of the 20-year lease and their minimum-production guarantees were good enough that even if we somehow never produced any energy, we wouldn't lose very much money.

Here's the timeline of the whole installation, which was a relatively painless process:

I put in for a quote on May 9th. I had a phone consultation on May 15th. After speaking with some people and exploring some other numbers, I signed on May 17th. On May 29th, Boston Solar (contracted by Sungevity) made a first home visit to take photos of our roof, the interior, the electric system, etc. On June 17th, the design plan was complete and ready to submit for permitting. July 9th, I was notified that the City of Somerville provided a permit for the installation. July 15th, the workers came and spent all day installing all the panels (I think it was about 95 degrees that day - ouch!). July 30th, the first inspector came (I think maybe a building inspector?) and then the installers returned to finish something related to electric sometime in there (I can't recall the date). August 5th, the electrical inspector came. I was notified that the installation passed inspection on August 7th. The utility came and upgraded their meters to fit with the system sometime in the next few weeks. They didn't tell us, they just did it. On August 24th, I was given permission to flip the system on, which I did myself. It was kind of fun to get to actually turn the thing on, even if it was just moving two clearly labeled switches from off to on.

I was pretty happy with the ease of the experience. I know there are now multiple companies doing this same thing and I certainly can't give you comparison info, but I encourage everyone to look into solar leasing. It would be great to get our energy generation up and with no-money-down options, it's definitely worth exploring, even if you don't have any money to invest into such a project!

Below is the report from our first week (a little more than a week for the non-graph reports). It's quite interesting to see how big the difference is between a sunny day and a bleak, cloud-covered rainy day.





My hopes with this, regardless of how much it benefits us financially, is that we can work toward generating as much electricity as we use. This also means thinking of ways to cut usage!

We've already switched all of our household lights to ThetaLux LED lights and I hope we take opportunities to further reduce our consumption. Now, if only we could find a way to make our own natural gas (not like that)!



Friday, August 22, 2014

TEN featured in Fangoria magazine issue #335

TEN is up to something a little different, looking to subvert audience expectations...and while TEN contains the scenario’s requisite blood and nudity, it veers off in directions you likely won’t see coming, both in narrative terms and in the way it explores questions of female identity.” - Michael GingoldFangoria, Issue #335
As a young child in the 80s, I was pretty obsessed with horror, sci-fi, and just plain strange films. At first, it was the Universal Monsters, then it was A Nightmare on Elm Street and House, my first R-rated movies, viewed nervously from the corner of the room through my fingers at retrospectively surreal 5th grade spin-the-bottle parties. By junior high and early high school, I was tearing through every strange title I could find at one of my local video-rental stores with my friend Josh for our frequent four-movie-day marathons or thumbing through the TV guide listings for Cinemax and Showtime's overnight slots. Long story short, I loved movies that took a chance. I loved movies that told a unique, strange, personal story to a niche audience. Whether it was compelling, surrealist horror like Phantasm or ridiculous tongue-in-cheek gibberish like Blood Diner, I consumed and loved it all. And when I wanted to learn more about my favorite popular (or obscure films), Fangoria was the top choice on the magazine rack, with everything from previews of upcoming weirdness to behind-the-scenes looks at the practical effects creating the wonderful gross-out momennts in my favorite movies. Undoubtedly, Fangoria fed my curiosity about how these movies got made and sparked an interest in making them myself! My love of genre film has continued (though I favor the classics of my youth over more modern fare) and when it became feasible to create something of my own, I went back to everything I had learned from my study of not only film itself, but the commentary and insights of Fangoria and its cousins.

Then the most amazing thing happened...

Michael Gingold of the very magazine that had such an impact on me as a film lover and a filmmaker, was on the jury at the Boston Underground Film Festival, and was very kind in asking to interview Sophia and me about TEN, which was screening at the fest. We had a lot of fun going on and on about all of the things we intended with the movie, and all of the themes we tried to jam into 82 minutes. And now...

Issue 335 of Fangoria is out! It includes our full-page feature interview about TEN, with a focus on the underlying themes and the film's exploration of female identity. We are deeply honored to be included in the magazine, and to have something in life come full circle in this way is a wonderful and rare moment that I will appreciate and cherish.

Buy a copy in the Fangoria store and help keep Fangoria telling the stories of people like us, and putting those stories in print right next to the big guys. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstein host On the Town with Mikey Dee on WMFO 08/20/2014

Go "like" the On The Town with Mikey Dee facebook pageOTTwMD plays local Boston music and is on every Wednesday from 9pm-Midnight and almost always features a live band around 10:30 - it's on 91.5 WMFO - http://wmfo.org.

Send your CDs to the station SO THAT WE CAN PLAY YOU! and if you're extra nice - denote which tracks have swears (and likewise if all tracks are clean, please!)

WMFO
attn: Joel Simches
PO Box 65
Medford, MA 02155

 if you are interested in playing live on the air, contact Joel Simches 

 Here's our playlist from 08/20/14! Archive is up for a week - which includes a live performance and interview with 33 Leaves!

spun by Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein on 2014-08-20
play archive
SongArtistAlbumTime Played
Fanfare SparkMistle ThrushDrunk With You21:04:00
Blues In D (011613)ReverseLive From Studio Dee; The Very Best Of On The Town With Mikey Dee Volume One21:06:00
RISESchoolTreeRise21:14:00
Speech of FoxesGem ClubIn Roses21:17:00
SALTAll Eyes On MeAll Eyes on Me – EP21:21:00
Sunken ShipWill DaileyNational Throat21:25:00
Can You Stand It (feat. Ad Frank)D-TensionD-Tension’s Secret Project21:28:00
Rare Earth Element (08-18-10)JaggeryLive From Studio Dee-The Very Best Of On The Town With Mikey Dee Volume One21:35:00
Helicopter Fight SongHelicopter HelicopterWild Dogs With X-Ray Eyes21:39:00
Kurt VonnegutThe Field EffectCartography21:42:00
Off & OnThe I Want YouAh Really21:45:00
Get Up GirlUranium DaughtersGet Up Girl – Single21:48:00
FilligreeCurious RitualGod Hilliard21:51:00
No one leftSoccor MomSoccor Mom21:59:00
Catch/ReleaseFull Body AnchorLive From Studio Dee: The Very Best Of On The Town With Mikey Dee22:03:00
Robot GlassesHookerClopsI No Bueno!22:06:00
RianJenny Dee and the DeelinquentsBoston Does Boston Vol. 1 & 222:09:00
Pavement ProphetGarvy J.Boston does Boston Vol. 1 & 222:13:00
You Don’t Wear That Dress, The Dress Wears YouParlour BellsThank God For The Night22:20:00
Zirconia (Radio Edit)The InterrobangThe Interrobang22:26:00
What’s Buzzin’ Cuzzin’Jittery JackGone Plum Crazy!22:30:00
Think BigDoom BuggiesLive From Studio Dee: The Very Best of On The Town with Mikey Dee22:33:00
Live from Studio Dee 2014082033 LeavesLive from Studio Dee22:36:00
MarsHo-AgEquals Go At23:20:00
All is ShakingEndationEndation23:23:00
Fan the FuryAloudFan The Fury23:25:00
(Interview)33 Leaveslive interview23:32:00
Radio ActionPetty MoralsThe Lemonade EP23:40:00
No RoomWalter Sickert & The army Of Broken ToysLive from Studio Dee Vol. 1 and 223:43:00
Weed WackaMission CreepLive from Studio Dee Vol. 1 and 223:57:00

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Color of Air podcast extensive interview with Sophia and Michael about musical and film projects

We are very pleased to announce that The Color of Air, a weekly interview podcast hosted by Greg Massi, (Baliset, ex-Kayo Dot, ex-maudlin of the Well), has released an interview with us (Sophia and Michael).

The Color of Air Facebook


The goal of TCoA is "to showcase, promote and have honest in-depth discussions with a variety of musicians and artists." And in-depth it is! This 2+ hour interview gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk about our creative histories, approaches, and goals. If ever we have revealed what makes us tick, this is it.

The running time is undoubtedly a commitment, but if you are interested in our history and process, I don't think it will let you down.

From: http://colorofair.com/episode-5-michael-j-epstein-and-sophia-cacciola

Direct download: Episode_5_Low_Res.m4a

On the first episode recorded in person, Greg welcomes Boston musicians and filmmakers Michael J Epstein and Sophia Cacciola. They discuss their work ethic which has spawned multiple bands, grass roots music promotion, music videos, and 2 feature films over the last five years. Their story should be inspirational to any musicians or other artists.
Songs Played:
Episode 1: Arrival - Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling - The New Number 2
Genuine Soil From Dracula’s Castle - Darling Pet Munkee - Glows In The Dark!
Faith In Free Part 1 - The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library - Faith In Free

This is a Ret Con Recordings production.
Color Of Air Feem Tune written and performed by Greg Massi
www.colorofair.com
www.retconrecordings.com
colorofairpodcast@gmail.com
facebook.com/colorofairpodcast
@TheColorOfAir

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TEN: Kentucky Premiere Fright Night Film Festival (Fandomfest) and Filmmaker Panel


TEN is playing Friday August 1st at 6:30 PM in room KICC218

We are also hosting a panel at Fright Night:

Make your movie: a conversation with the low-budget feature filmmakers of Fright Night / Fandomfest
Sat 12:15 PM KICC Room 211
Panelists will each briefly talk about the challenges they faced and the hurdles they overcame, from funding to final cut, to finish their feature film that is screening at Fright Night / Fandomfest. The group will field questions from aspiring filmmakers, encouraging everyone to make a movie of their own!

Panelists:
Michael J. Epstein (Somerville, MA, USA) - TEN
Johannes Grenzfurthner/monochrom (Vienna, Austria): Die Gstettensaga
Eamon Hardiman (Charleston, WV, USA) - Pig Girl
David L. Eblen (Portland, OR, USA) - Ravana's Game
Jesse Knight (Boone, NC, USA) - The Orbs
Jaysen Buterin (Greensboro, NC) - The Gospel According to Booze, Bullets & Hot Pink Jesus
Shannon Foerter (Toronto, Canada) - SCARS

More about TEN:
TEN is a post-exploitation exploration of identity starring ten women.
Ten women find themselves in a vacant mansion on Spektor Island in December, 1972. Each believes she's traveled to the house on business, but they all agree that something seems strange. For one thing, the entire house is full of pictures and statues of pigs.

 

The women all come from drastically different walks of life. None of them would have chosen to spend the night together in such an eerie place, but the last ferry for the mainland has just left, and a terrible storm is rolling in. Trying to make the best of an unpleasant situation, they raid the mansion's wine cellar and throw a party. As the night creeps on, however, it becomes clear that someone--or something--has arranged to get them in the house. It's not long before someone mentions that Spektor Island is supposed to be haunted. Of course, no one in the house believes in ghosts.

 
At least, not until the first murder.


What do an actress, a religious zealot, a renegade, a coed, a model, a singer, a medium, a real-estate investor, a historian, and a doctor have in common? None of them is who they seem. Yet, the fate of the entire world may rest in their hands.


Friday, July 11, 2014

MAGNETIC Lip-Synching: Billy Joel "Piano Man"

MAGNETIC Kickstarter-reward lipsync Billy Joel "Piano Man"  chosen by Jade Sylvan.

This was Jade's original request:
*Michael must be the primary performer, and the video must establish him as the protagonist "Piano Man." *Sophia and Allix may have supporting roles, though this is not required. If one is involved, the other must be. They may only play male characters. *The video must contain: 1) truth; 2) velvet; 3) emotion; 4) mood lighting; 5) either no irony or post-ironic earnestness. *The video may not contain animals, guitars, librarian glasses, or any explicit references to Billy Joel. *The video should express something essential about being human and challenge your ability to covey story, character, and emotion with limit(ed/ing) factors. Find the art. I look forward to being moved.

We did not include velvet. I hate velvet, especially wet velvet. I am not a fan of Billy Joel (despite apparent shout-outs to him in my lyrics and VH1's use of a song I wrote in their Billy Joel Countdown) I also really, really, really hate the song "Piano Man" with great passion. It's kind of like one of those hip-hop bragging songs about being a gangsta, except it's about a guy who plays piano at a dive bar. The piano man is so full of himself in the song that he thinks he is the most essential thing in the bar patrons' lives. Yuck. I now hate it even more than that song by The Fray that I thought was the song I hate the most.

So, in looking for the art, I am fully exposed, washing off the pain of the lack of worldwide recognition of my greatness as the titular "Piano Man." In order to create the most drama, this was shot at 3x speed and then slowed down to normal speed to create slow-motion-delivered angst and the pitter-patter of water burning my eyes while I tried to keep them open to look at the camera. The pain was real. It turns out that it's extremely hard to lipsync to the song at 3x the normal speed, but I gave it my best and I hope my shortcomings in lipsync timing are made up for with my nudity.

Please allow me to bare my body and soul for you...



I was a little inspired to try this water and speed thing by the "No Surprises" video by Radiohead

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sophia special guest of Women in Film & Video's Networking Night - tonight 7/1/14

Sophia is very excited to have been invited to share some insights with the Women in Film and Video New England's monthly meetup tonight at Park Restaurant in Harvard Square at 59 JFK street. 6:30PM-8:30PM.

Are you ready for another fun and exciting evening of networking?  If you support women, film or any combination of the two, come out Park on Tuesday, July 1st to meet some like-minded folks from the industry!
This month, we are celebrating all of the fantastic CASTING opportunities here in town with our specially-themed ACTORS' SPOTLIGHT!
Whether you're a producer/director trying to figure out where to get quality talent, or an aspiring casting director trying to make connections--come on out to Park on Tuesday July 1st at 6:30 PM.
Our Special Guests for the evening include:
• Kristen Lucas, Producer, Founder of Respect Her Hustle
• Jodi Purdy, Casting Director
• Erica Derrickson, Founder, Hollywood East Actors GroupNew England Acting Workshop
• Sophia Cacciola, Filmmaker and Musician
• Izzy Lee, Filmmaker, Founder of Nihil Noctem Films
• Melissa McMeekin, Actress and Producer

Dust off those business cards and come get all of your casting/acting questions answered by our amazing special guests!
For more information about membership or this event, please check out the website:

Women in Film & Video/ New England (WIFV/NE) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to supporting the accomplishments of women working in the film, video and new media industries. We provide an educational forum for media professionals and a valuable network for exchange of ideas and resources.

An affiliate of Women in Film and Television International, Women in Film & Video/ New England was founded in 1981. Women in Film and Television International has grown into an umbrella organization linking dozens of chapters representing women filmmakers from all over the globe.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library plays The Steve Katsos Show Fifth Anniversary Spectacular Jimmy Fund Fundraiser at The Regent Theatre (Arlington) - June 29, 2014



Sunday, June 29 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Regent Theatre Arlington
7 Medford Street, Arlington, Massachusetts 02474
A benefit for The Jimmy Fund
Facebook Event
Tickets: http://www.regenttheatre.com/details/steve_katsos_show_4th_anniversary_spectacula


LIVESTREAM THE SHOW AT: https://new.livestream.com/SteveKatsosShow/5th-Anniversary-Spectacular


Featuring brief sets (we'll play 1-2 songs) of music, comedy, and more (which will all be taped for a TV special) by:



TV host Todd Newton from Todd Newton on Vimeo.
Veteran television host Todd Newton is known and respected for being one of the most amiable and versatile personalities on the air today. From covering the red carpet on E! Entertainment Television to awarding contestants over forty million dollars in cash and prizes on game shows such as Whammy and Family Game Night, Todd Newton does it all. For more information please visit www.toddnewtononline.com.








Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Seeking your stories of ordering items from the backs of comic books for a film


We at Launch Over aren't quite ready to release all of the details, but we are starting work on a documentary telling the story of items sold in the backs of comic books and pulp magazines and we want to include you!

We're looking for unique tales of specific experiences with items you bought from comic books. Got beat up for looking at someone while wearing x-ray specs? Your goldfish ate your sea-monkeys? Your vat of itching powder broke open at the prom?

Most of you probably know of my love of this topic via Darling Pet Munkee. Now we're stepping up to capturing the history and the associated experiences. We just need your stories! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Friends of TEN: Help put an Edgar Allan Poe bust at the Boston Public Library!

Check out this very worthwhile project to bring a life-sized bronze bust of Edgar Allan Poe to the Boston Public Library. It has already been backed by Guillermo del Toro and us, so you'll be in good company!


In addition to the statue, filmmaker Izzy Lee and bust sculptor Bryan Moore are bringing Dennis Paoli’s Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe featuring Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, various Star Trek roles, etc.) as Poe to The Somerville Theatre.

The bust unveiling is slated for the evening of October 30, 2014 in the Boston Public Library’s Abbey Room, and “Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe,” will be performed (one night only) at the Somerville Theatre on October 31, 2014.

Tickets





Thursday, June 12, 2014

MAGNETIC Lip-Synching: Misfiits "Hybrid Moments"

MAGNETIC Kickstarter-reward lipsync Misfits - "Hybrid Moments" - Song chosen by Allix Mortis, dedicated to Kickstarter backer Noel Kelly!

shot by Michael J. Epstein on the set of MAGNETIC!


Art Direction for this shoot by Zombie Romance/Kristilyn










Check out our other Kickstarter reward lipsyncs: http://blog.michaeljepstein.com/search/label/magnetic%20lip-synching

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kickstarter reward tiers: in-depth looks at our campaigns for MAGNETIC and TEN

So far, Sophia and I have run two modest Kickstarter campaigns - both successful - for our films TEN (stats on TEN) and MAGNETIC (I never wrote up my analysis, but Kicktraq summary of stats). In preparing for these campaigns, we spent a very long time researching how to structure reward tiers. It led to introspective investigations examining what crowdfunding is really about, whether we really wanted to be doing it, how other campaigns doing things differently create different general views about crowdfunding than we hope to portray, when it goes terribly awry, and numerous other philosophical and practical questions about raising money to make things. We learned a few things along the way (10 of them).

Whenever I have an opportunity, I try to share information that I might have found useful when I was starting out down this path. I certainly do not consider myself an authority on the matter, nor a scholar of crowdfunding and the psychological principles involved, but I can tell you what things worked well for us, and what things failed.

I wanted to present this breakdown looking at how we selected our reward tiers because it's very tricky and because I think it is still something that most campaigns are not doing optimally. 

I am going to present a look at our tiers for MAGNETIC because I think we learned quite a lot from TEN and made some progress in making our rewards clearer, better, and more accurate in terms of promise time (sorry everyone who is owed a TEN DVD - almost done, I swear!).

We don't view any contributions to the campaigns as donations - and never use that word. It implies that there is no gain or return for the people giving. You can give donations to charities doing good work to make the world better. We're making a movie. Don't give us a donation, become a backer and participate in helping to make this project and this art possible.

We never expect or demand that any of our friends, family, or fans give us anything. We do not judge anyone for not giving and there are no repercussions of not giving on our relationships. We want people to contribute because they want to be part of what we're doing. We appreciate it very much, but never expect it.

There are a lot of pieces involved in making a good crowdfunding campaign and reward tiers is only one of them, but we'll focus on that here.


The general breakdowns of where the rewards fall for our two campaigns are almost identical.
MAGNETIC 262 backer breakdown by reward tier


TEN 258 backer breakdown by reward tier


Note: on the campaign itself. I highly recommend actually spelling out the full reward at each level, rather than saying "plus all the earlier rewards" or "plus all $50 rewards." This makes it much easier for backers to follow. In this post, for the sake of making it a little shorter, and because the discussion at each level is about what is added, I have changed the text from our original campaign to the shorthand.

Pledge $1 or more - 28 backers
One Tesla: an official thank you on our blog, web site, Facebook, and Twitter feed with a link of your choice (nothing offensive) included.
Estimated delivery: Nov 2013

This brings us to the first philosophical question - is the point of your campaign to raise money or to build an audience/family for your project (and to raise money).

If the former is the case, I recommend getting an additional part time job and skipping crowdfunding altogether. It will be easier, you will make more money, and you will feel less entitled to the money and/or guilty about the money. You can stop reading now and go check the job listings.

If you instead are interested in an audience/family for your project, you should have a $1 tier. In financial terms, a $1 tier is an absolute disaster in terms of your time, resources, and money, but it is a total win in terms of engagement, involvement, and friendship. It allows people with limited financial resources (and we know how that is right now thanks to these damn movies) to be part of your project with what is effectively a gesture of support.

We treated our $1 exactly the same as our other contributors in terms of how we valued them. Sophia sent every single contributor a thank you video (with a sock-puppet version of me playing along). You can imagine, this takes time to record, upload, tag, and email. Time is a precious resource in handling your crowdfunding campaign, and we committed to reaching out to every single person who chose to be part of our adventure. Sophia did her best to personalize these videos to the people who helped us out. Here is an example sent to one of our favorite people in town, Rob Potylo. (We upload these as unlisted, so they are only known to backers, but may be shared freely by the backers should they wish. Rob had shared it publicly, so we are assuming it is okay to share.)



We also decided that if we broke 200 backers, we would send all of our backers postcards signed by cast and crew. Now, a postcard costs almost 75 cents to get printed and mail. For every dollar contribution, Kickstarter and Amazon end up shaving off a good 15 cents or more. So, for a one dollar contribution, we net about 10 cents and we spend many, many minutes of time interacting.

Not worth it for the money, but absolutely worth it for the new friends and supporters!

We considered breaking up the tiers even more with a $5 reward, but ultimately decided that everything we wanted to offer everyone would sit at the $1 tier. We didn't have anything we wanted to split and require a $5 contribution for. Many people gave us some money between $1 and $10 while selecting the $1 tier.

We added the 200+ backer incentive part-way through our campaign, to encourage people already participating to share with their friends.

If we surpass 200 backers: 

  • We'll mail everyone a postcard from set signed by cast and crew.
  • We'll provide a free MP3 download package of all of our major music releases - that includes, all of the releases from: Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, Darling Pet Munkee, Space Balloons, The Motion Sick, Blitzkriegbliss, and a sundry of other tracks, in one big musical bundle.


Pledge $10 or more - 48 backers
Ten Tesla: $1 reward and a thank you credit in the film (all film credits will be submitted to IMDB).
Estimated delivery: Dec 2013

This one is a no-brainer! Offer a credit in the film for relatively little money. It costs you nothing, acknowledges the support of the contributors in an official capacity, and it encourages people who don't know you well to be part of the campaign. When I look at campaigns, I often go for the level with the "thanks" credit. You can check out the "thanks" section on my IMDB page and see a few that I've given to, with more on the way. Would I have given without that credit? Well, a funny thing happened. Since it became relatively normal for campaigns to give "thanks" credits at low tiers, I kind of have come to expect it. Often, if I see a campaign where thanks doesn't hit until $25 or more, I skip it. If they had a $10 thanks, I might go for it if I like the project, even if I don't know anyone involved. Is the credit important in any way to me? Nope. It just shows me that the filmmakers value the contributors, which I value.

The "dirty" secret: for both of our films, we gave a thanks credit to everyone who contributed - even at the $1 level. That said, we had quite a few people select $10 specifically for the credit. There are people browsing campaigns trying to pad their IMDB pages - more on that later when we hit associate producer.

Pledge $20 or more - 65 backers
Twenty Tesla: A digital download copy of the film and a digital download copy of the score and soundtrack music from the film, and $10 reward
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

For $20, you get the movie and the soundtrack. That's pretty much the whole final product of this adventure, and $20 is where it is. A lot of people look to support at the tier where they receive the product of the campaign - it should be high enough in value that you make something off it, but low enough that it encourages a quantity of people to go for it.

AND THIS IS A HUGE ONE!!! No rewards in the crowdfunding campaign should be more expensive than the retail value of the product (or at least not much more). In other words, if I offer tier to backers, you can bet I am not going to come out and sell the thing, at least initially, for much less than $20 ($10 movie / $10 soundtrack perhaps - but $20). Maybe we can go a little lower and consider the value of the credit, postcard, etc., but not much. Backers will feel cheated, and rightfully so!!!

It does also help if the backers see/get the movie way before anyone else does. That adds value to the package. This all costs nothing on a per-unit basis.


Pledge $30 or more - 43 backers
Thirty Tesla: A special, limited-edition DVD of the film (for backers only), signed by cast and crew and $20 reward
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016
Add $10 USD to ship outside the US

Essentially the same as the $20 tier, but a limited-edition physical copy of the movie. When we send this, it will be a specific package that will NEVER be released to the general public. This way, if someone buys the eventual DVD release, the backers will have still received something special.

And shipping overseas has become insane! It will cost way more than $10 even to send a DVD. You might think about how you just sent some stuff to Europe a couple of years ago and it wasn't so bad, but costs have skyrocketed. Don't underestimate this cost if you are going to have a lot of foreign backers. Check rates at https://www.usps.com/ before launching! I included the "add $10" to all rewards, but am not including it at every level in this post.

The increase from $20 to $30, which is actually about $9 additional after site costs, includes the manufacture of a DVD and shipping. You're easily looking at a $5 increase in your cost to make this reward happen. So, the additional yield is maybe $4. In this sense, the $20 reward level is much more lucrative per dollar given, though people feel often more connected with a physical object that sits on their shelf. We've considered different ways to provide objects that are low cost, but still "valuable" to backers.

Ultimately, we care most about backers connecting with us and the project and the money backers provide to the campaign isn't "paid back" via these rewards until after the production is complete. (Save up some money to fulfill rewards!!!)

Pledge $42 or more - 4 backers
Forty-Two Tesla: A limited-edition physical hand-made mix-tape copy of the score and soundtrack music from the film and $30 reward
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016


Very similar to the above, but we add the handmade cassette copy of the soundtrack. This is special because some of the aesthetic of the film is tied to mix tapes and cassettes. As such, we wanted the opportunity to provide an item that is tied to the content of the film. (We'll probably also release the movie itself on a dubbed VHS, but we didn't know that when we did the KS campaign.)


Pledge $50 or more -  20 backers
Fifty Tesla: A VIP ticket to a Boston-area screening of the film (or a special online screening with Directors available for Q&A for those outside of the Boston area) plus the $40 reward. For an extra ticket to the VIP screening, add $10.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014


Around $50, we think it's good to offer exclusive access to special events associated with the film. This allows backers to be the very first to see the film and to get to ask questions which ultimately will help us understand what stood out to people and where they got confused to finalize the cut of the movie.

I'd very much like to note that we do not ask for feedback in an open critique sense. We mostly don't find it valuable, and we've come to recognize that compromising any aspect of our vision to meet the requests of a single audience member destroys the integrity of the vision and ultimately will displease someone else. We very often get conflicting feedback. The same thing is usually most loved and most hated. That said, the Q&A is useful because questions demonstrate what people found important and what people missed or found confusing. From the first cut of TEN we showed to our backers to the current cut of the film, we actually ended up cutting about 9 minutes to better hone the message and goals of the film and to remove as much distraction from that as possible.  So, anyone who sees the movie as part of this reward is seeing something that no one else will see.

Pledge $60 or more - 6 backers
Sixty Tesla: 11x17 Movie Poster numbered and signed by cast and crew plus $50 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

More special, limited items that do not add much to our production costs.

Pledge $70 or more - 0 backers
Seventy Tesla: A short rap written & performed on video for you by Allix Mortis - celebrate a birthday or special occasion or just being you with a custom rap! Plus $60 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2015

At $70, we started getting into the really unique, custom things that we create for you. Many of these end up not getting selected. A lot of times, people also have a certain amount of money they want to give and they look for rewards in blocks of $25 or $50, so it's always a good idea to have rewards available at each tier.

While Allix did not rap for this reward, rap skills did make the cut for a later tier. Here's a preview:

Pledge $75 or more - 3 backers
Seventy-Five Tesla: A t-shirt plus $60 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

Another item - a t-shirt. Again, the addition of items that might be sold later is done at "retail" increases in the value of the items. We don't ask for a $50 increase for a shirt that will sell for $15. That makes people sad.

Pledge $100 or more - 9 backers
One-Hundred Tesla: The cast and/or crew will record a one-take lipsync video to the song of your choosing. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Mar 2016

This is a silly one, but it ends up being one of our most popular rewards. It does take a lot of time, and often set time, which is valuable, to create these, but they are often good mental breaks on set. This is an opportunity to make us do something silly. Here are the MAGNETIC lipsyncs:



TEN lipsyncs: http://blog.michaeljepstein.com/search/label/ten%20lip-synching 

We also try to be creative with these. Sometimes they aren't really just lipsyncs. For example, we may have rewritten "Barbie Girl" to be about the backer, done some interpretive dance, or handwritten all the super-fast lyrics to a hip-hop song.

Pledge $115 or more - 3 backers All gone!
One-Hundred-Fifteen Tesla: We've had a lot of requests for opportunities to make cameos. MAGNETIC only has one cast member, BUT, at this reward level, your name (or an imaginary name of your choosing - accepted at our discretion) will be used in one of the phone calls that Alice makes (she's calling to inform people that their children have died). Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

Appearances in the film are always popular! And again, we try to keep these options affordable, so that people without a ton of money can select them. Just as many of your backers are looking to give you around $50, many of your backers are hoping to give you around $100, so we try to cluster a lot of rewards around the $100-$200 range. It's a significant amount of money, but also an amount that many people can afford.

We were limited in our film because we have no cameos or secondary roles, so we got creative about finding ways to incorporate people into MAGNETIC. For this reward, your name will be included in a phone call. It's a little grim as it's a phone call about a death, but so it goes...

For TEN, we allowed backers in a tier like this to put artwork of their choice into the movie. We had two takers and included a scene where the wonderful Molly DeVon, very much in character, insults the backer! We're professional like that!


Pledge $125 or more - 5 backers All gone!
One-Hundred-Twenty-Five Tesla: ...we will put a polaroid of you in the movie, say your name (or whatever name you'd like your character to have), your scientific position, and why you ultimately perished. We'll even let you choose a reasonable (i.e., not silly) scientific position. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Mar 2015

Again, as we tend to see a lot of action around the $100-$200 mark, we sold out of all of the film appearances in this previous category, and in this one, which allowed you to have your photograph shown and your name mentioned. Again, no longer alive, but who really is?

Pledge $150 or more - 1 backer
One-Hundred-Fifty Tesla: A copy of the script signed and numbered by cast and crew. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

Limited-edition production script! Good for people in this bracket who don't want to be listed as dead in the movie. Who wouldn't though?

For TEN, we ended up giving almost all of our cast scripts to backers via this type of reward tier.

Pledge $151 or more - 1 backer
One-Hundred-Fifty-One Tesla: A Boston-area coffee-date with Sophia and Michael where we talk about whatever you’d like. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

Hang out with us! We're mostly okay.

Pledge $152 or more - 2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)
One-Hundred-Fifty-Two Tesla: Audio commentary by Sophia and Michael on any movie of your choosing (we must approve the choice - no horrifically gross/violent/misogynistic choices please). We will provide you with an mp3 of commentary. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

Some more "make us do stuff that takes a long time" rewards! We do a special commentary for you on a film. Haven't done this yet, but it should be interesting. I think we stole this idea from Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys.

Pledge $153 or more - 0 backers
One-Hundred-Fifty-Three Tesla: Acoustic cover song of your choice performed by Sophia and Michael (song will be under 5 minutes and potentially simplified). Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Oct 2014

As we came to film via music, we wanted to offer some musical rewards.

Pledge $178 or more - 0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)
Sophia will paint you something! (your request is up to her discretion, if it is an animal in human clothing, she's already excited.) You can see examples of her work here: http://blog.michaeljepstein.com/2007/10/examples-of-sophias-painting.html Painting will be acrylic on canvas (size up to 18x24), unframed. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Dec 2014

Even more "make us do stuff that takes a long time" rewards!

Pledge $199 or more - 0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)
One-Hundred-Ninety-Nine Tesla: A 60-minute skype burlesque or drag act development workshop with Allix Mortis. Just starting out in burlesque/drag? Have questions? Have a great idea for a routine but no idea how to execute? Ask Allix! Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2015

We added the this reward late in the campaign along with a few others that were sort of ways to spark the imaginations of people following along.

Pledge $200 or more - 1 backer All gone!
Two-Hundred Tesla: The portable cassette player used extensively in the film (with a digital still image of a scene it is in and a signed certificate of authenticity). You can choose for it to be signed by cast/crew or not. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Dec 2014

and

Pledge $201 or more - 1 backer All gone!
Two-Hundred-One Tesla: Film slate used for the movie signed by cast & crew (with a digital still image of the slate in action and a signed certificate of authenticity). Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

Get a prop from the movie or a piece of the production! With TEN, we gave away all of our pig masks, butcher mask, and other small props as rewards around the $200 level. Some of you own them:



Pledge $202 or more - 0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)
Two-Hundred-Two Tesla: Sophia and Michael will write and record a basic song about any topic you want (within reason!). They'll write lyrics for you, they'll use your lyrics, they'll play on your song...whatever you'd like! (Note: recording done at The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library home studio).Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

More music, which was what we were more known for. For TEN, we offered a short biographical song upgrade at a pretty low cost and made this:


Pledge $250 or more - 0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)
Two-Hundred-Fifty Tesla: Green vintage Western Electric rotary phone used extensively in the film (with a digital still image a scene it is in and a signed certificate of authenticity). You can choose for it to be signed by cast/crew or not. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

One of our more expensive props! It's an actual vintage phone that we used in the movie.

Pledge $251 or more - 3 backers
Two-Hundred-Fifty-One Tesla: Associate Producer credit on the film. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

and

Pledge $2,500 or more - 0 backers
Two-Thousand-Five-Hundred Tesla!!!! Executive Producer! You'll be listed in the main credits and IMDB. We'll send you rough cuts and progress reports that no one outside the cast and crew will see. We'll reserve seats for you and introduce you at a premiere event in the Boston area some time in 2016. (travel and lodging not included). Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Mar 2016

I am pulling these out of order, but these probably belong grouped together. Selling producer credits seems controversial in some ways, but the fact is, it's essentially what has been done forever. The precise roles of specific producer titles is really mostly a mystery, but one idea is that Executive Producers figure out major funding sources, and associate producers figure out minor funding sources. Now, this is not always what people in these roles do, but sometimes it is...for someone else's perspective, see: http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/video/articles/103660.aspx

"An associate producer position is usually separated from an executive producer position, though what an associate producer does may often be similar to what an executive producer does. An executive producer often provides funding, acts as an intermediary for a distribution outlet, or simply did one great thing for the producer. An associate producer will likely do regular tasks, though the title is negotiable. For example, if one individual provides a large sum of funding they may request that they are credited as an associate producer credit so that they add this to their filmography. It is these kind of allowances that make it hard to say what an associate producer will do in a production because it is strictly determined by each situation."

As such, we decided to offer the options to be Executive or Associate Producer for a sum of money. These roles do not include creative control in any form. We kind of expected no one to take us up on the offers, given the costs, but we had a few enthusiastic supporters who really liked the project, thought it had great potential, and wanted an associate credit. We thank them!!!

Other campaigns offer these credits at much lower cost (or much higher cost). It's really up to the filmmakers to decide what feels appropriate for their campaign. Some people even give some creative control or at least input to these backers.

Pledge $351 or more - 0 backers
Three-Hundred-Fifty-One Tesla: Sophia and Michael will play a 1 hour acoustic concert in your living room, in your car, on your roof, anywhere legal and relatively non-hazardous in the New England/New York City area. To be scheduled at mutual convenience. Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

We do music stuff!

Pledge $500 or more - 0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)
Five-Hundred Tesla: Michael and Sophia will do a one-day music video shoot for your band (or help with a short film of any kind) in the Boston area (Inquire for videos outside the Boston area. If travel and lodging expenses are covered, it may be possible) and will provide the raw footage to you (we will not do any editing). (Depending on concept, you may also have to pay any additional production costs for props, cast, location, etc.) - some examples of their one-day shoot work: http://youtu.be/DtgJLiWEI_w and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zwrm0Q5xcs Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

and

Pledge $1,000 or more - 0 backers Limited (3 left of 3)
Thousand Tesla: Michael and Sophia will do a one-day music video shoot for your band (or help with a short film of any kind) in the Boston area (Inquire for videos outside the Boston area. If travel and lodging expenses are covered, it may be possible) and provide a basic final edit (up to 25 hours of editing).Depending on concept, you may also have to pay any additional production costs for props, cast, location, etc. some examples of their one-day shoot work: http://youtu.be/DtgJLiWEI_w and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Zwrm0Q5xcs Plus $75 reward.
Estimated delivery: Feb 2016

We do film stuff for you!!! We present these higher-cost rewards with the expectation that it's unlikely that many people will take us up on them. In fact, we did one relatively big project, which evolved from a reward like this in TEN. It was a lot of fun, but certainly also a lot of work!