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Money talks for indie filmmakers 

Bottle collecting and 50/50 draws: local filmmakers get creative raising money for their movie projects.

Just as Michael Moore held church-bingo games to pay for Roger & Me, Halifax independent filmmakers find that creative financing and fundraising---the least exciting but most necessary of movie-making endeavours---is a rite of passage en route to completing their latest projects.

North Sydney native and current Dartmouth actor and filmmaker Mike Ratchford is currently cobbling together money to produce one of his varying projects, which range from the comedy short Shit Disturber to the vampire drama Final Temptation. His fundraising drive began with collecting bottles and cans from his family in Cape Breton and expanded from there to his friends here in Dartmouth and Halifax.

"When I first put the email out, I got 20 responses," he says. "So I got my own mini-van to go to pick it all up and I'm picking up more people as I go along."

For Ratchford, who caught the acting bug when working on an independent film in Sydney, the entrepreneurial spirit of his bottle scheme was born out of the piecemeal nature of acting work.

"Actors are all self-employed and kind of entrepreneurs, in a sense," he says. "They're always out networking and making contacts, making a business for themselves. This fundraising aspect---if you have a passion for acting and filmmaking---just adds to it."

NSCC film school graduate and Video Difference supervisor Colin MacDonald has been incorporating 50/50 draws, offering up producer credits for cash and planning Local is the Word---a June 10th benefit film screening and silent art auction---into his pre-production for Withered Dead, a family drama with zombies, going before the camera in Stellarton this July.

MacDonald has found that advertising locally for donations netted him some money but also yielded the happy benefit of drawing movie-minded people into his network, increasing his profile within the Halifax film community.

"I just had this desire to do this film on my own and get it done and whatever I had at the end, I had. I didn't think I had enough to go out there and bring people on board. But with the community around here being what it is, bringing people on board has happened without me even doing it. Through the little bit of advertising I've done for my fundraising, I've been getting all these contacts from people."

Indeed, MacDonald has received emails from people offering to compose music for his film, to another offering to go out there and help him finance it. "I've had a lot of people contacting me and wanting to help out," MacDonald says. "Maybe around here that's the way it works."

On top of the achievement of independently financing a film, there is the unanticipated result of beginning new relationships within the film community, for which MacDonald seems genuinely grateful.

"The amount of people I've talked to through this---indie producers, indie filmmakers---that I've never had the opportunity to meet in any of my other work; they've come at it with such enthusiasm that I can't wait to get them on board."

Chris Cuthbertson's personal lore includes the typical trope of indie financing (relying heavily on one's credit card), but he also moved his wife and young family, along with his filmmaking partners, to Halifax from Vancouver to make movies full time. One of his savings- and card-financed projects was a 16mm trailer for A Bug and a Bag of Weed, shot in Vancouver before the move out east. Four years later in 2006, Bug debuted at the Atlantic Film Festival as a feature, made with assistance from Telefilm and Film Nova Scotia, among others.

His story, like the best of fundraising tales, hints at the extreme dedication it takes to see a project to completion. And there are sacrifices that don't seem as much like sacrifices when all is said and done: Cuthbertson sold his expensive BMW, purchasing a Dodge Ram Van to haul gear.

"It meant a lot and I enjoyed driving it," Cuthbertson says of his Beemer, "but at the end of the day, this, making movies, was more important."

Local is the Word, Wednesday, June 10 at the Burke Building, Theatre A, 5932 Inglis, 7pm, $6.


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