Homophobia: Austrian Film attracts the Crowd
Just in time for the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May, Austrian film director Gregor Schmidinger put his short film Homophobia online. With this upload to YouTube and Vimeo the project came full circle, as it was a web-based crowd-funding campaign that enabled the project in the first place.
‘The project grew bigger and greater than I could ever have imagined’, the young director said in front of 600 people at the premiere at Vienna’s Gartenbaukino last Friday. The film, which stars young Austrian actors, strikes a blow against homophobia and at the same time adresses themes such as self-acceptance and moral courage. In the film we follow a young protagonist coming to terms with his feelings in the Austrian army.
The idea of turning to crowd funding first came to Schmidinger during the writing of the script. ‘This doesn’t work with every film project. The more concentrated and focused a theme is, the easier it is to find an audience’, says Schmidinger, when interviewed by futurezone. ‘A theme like homophobia is strongly emotional. This definitely helped us to gain the funding we were hoping for’, Schmidinger says.
Schmidinger could not have foreseen the success of the crowd funding. Using the platform Indiegogo, by the end of last year they had collected the sum of US$ 10,100 (they had initially aimed for US$ 6,000) in just 69 days. With the success came a sense of increased responsibility. All donators were kept informed of the film’s progress via a newsletter. Those who donated more than US$ 50 were invited to give feedback during the entire casting and production process via a closed Facebook group.
Frightening, but great process
‘At the beginning it was a frightening thought. You wonder, if you will loose control over your work due to everybody involved’, Schmidiger admits. ‘However, the experience was great. By taking people on board, you get a test audience and an external point of view, which helps you to refine the project and maximise its impact’, Schmidinger says.
The community took particular interest in the casting process and in the end helped confirm the director’s first choice of actors. The community also significantly influenced the design of the film poster and even managed to convince the director to use an alternative motif. However, the director kept his choice of title – Homophobia – and also the decision to drop the more obvious happy ending to the film that was originally envisaged.
Schmidinger is not surprised that the sudden and gloomy ending turned out to be a little disturbing for those who had been involved since the beginning of the project. ‘The rather irritating moment at the end was a conscious artistic decision. Even if the film is about self acceptance and the protagonist makes his first step towards achieving that goal, it does not necessarily mean that he wakes up the next morning and everything is instantly going to be fine’, Schmidinger explains.
Besides the online version, which is available on Vimeo and YouTube with English subtitles, the film makers are aiming to show the piece live and online at a number of festivals. Furthermore, the film is going to be shown in Austrian schools over the next couple of months to help discuss issues like homophobia and self-acceptance in class rooms. Schmidinger points out: ‘It was especially for this reason that a cheesy ending was out of the question for me. The happy endings of feature movies never really happen in real life. Still, I think and hope that the audience will be left with a positive feeling at the end of the film’.
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