I have a wealth of unique, intimate footage of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's first ever tour of Australia. Now I need your help to turn this into a full-length documentary.
Of the fifty-odd broadcast TV documentaries and features I've made, one of my favourites is my 2006 film on the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. The band was still struggling to make a living then, but I was struck by their personal chemistry and the unpretentious human values behind their showmanship.
Maybe that's why now they've made it big, the band was prepared to grant me full, unconditional and exclusive access on their inaugural tour of Australia Feb/Mar 2012.
For two weeks on the road, they put up with me lurking with a camera 24/7, on coaches and planes, backstage, at rehearsals and guerilla gigs, asking them about their new-found fame, and observing how their Pommie humour went down Down Under.
I intended to shoot enough footage for a short pilot to raise funding for a documentary on The Ukes' World Tour. Instead, I've ended up with enough material for an hour-long documentary about their Aussie odyssey. For Uke fans who know them from performances, it's a unique opportunity to get to know your heroes offstage. For not-yet fans, its a chance to discover a fascinating, funny group of talented performers who happen to express themselves through a plywood cordophone.
This film will appeal to The Ukes' new legions of Aussie fans, UOGB fans around the world, ukulele fans in general, and anyone between the ages of 2 and 102 with a pulse, sense of humour and a toe to tap.
The footage is waiting in the edit suite – with your help, you can bring it into your homes.
What We Need & What You Get
US$40,000 will pay for a broadcast-standard 52min documentary on The Ukes Down Under, plus plenty of DVD extras. This sum covers all the post-production costs, such as editing, sound mixing, grading, licensing & music rights clearance, graphics, animation, marketing, distribution, DVD design & production.
In return for your contributions, I'm offering a range of rewards - from your name appearing in the end credits to corporate sponsorship.
The 'perks' listed on the right are in fact simply value-for-money pre-purchases, for which you will only be charged if the $40,000 target is reached.
Also on offer is a digital download of 4 Strings & The Truth, the film I made 6 years ago in the days before the UOGB made it big. It was the first, and until now only, behind-the-scenes documentary on the band, and has already been completed.
All prices are in US dollars. If we reach our target by June 14th, your contribution will have helped ensure this new film is made.
If we don't, you pay nothing.
I worked as a TV news producer/reporter for ABC, CNN and CNBC in the Far East for 10 years before turning to documentary, and for the past 12 years have been making films for major broadcasters using the standard commissioning model (if I can persuade them enough people will be interested in my idea, they give me money to make the film). If you're curious about the kind of films I make - or have an existing interest in Mongolian naval history or Chessboxing - take a look at www.litmusfilms.com. You'll see that I relish finding universal human stories in apparently obscure subjects, but while I've made a living doing this for 12 years, I know broadcasters are reluctant to risk veering too far from the mainstream.
This is my first experiment with crowdfunding, which I see as a great opportunity to reach out directly to people I know will love the film, in order to make it happen.
Those who've never seen the UOGB may wonder why anyone would pay to see eight people play ukuleles for two hours. Those who do see them discover this band's unlikely, anarchic, indescribable appeal for themselves. Having taken a chance on investing my own time and resources in filming their tour of Australia, I'm convinced the passion and enthusiasm the band inspire will make this a popular project, and I hope you'll prove me right.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you support this project, or know people you think might be interested, please help get the word out - whether via the Facebook and Twitter buttons on this page, email, mime, charcoal sketches or semaphore -to help us get to $40,000 by June 14th.
Thanks for reading this.
Video update here
Any questions? Take a look at the FAQ below, add a comment, or email email@example.com
For more background on Robert Stern and Litmus Films: www.litmusfilms.com
For more on the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: www.ukuleleorchestra.com
The Ukes Down Under Crowdfunding FAQs
Does the money get deducted from my account the moment I make my pledge, or only when the target is reached?
Indiegogo deducts money from your account when you make your pledge, but refunds it within 5 days of the end of an unsuccessful campaign. See:
In other words, if we fail to reach our target, you'll definitely get your money back, with a slight delay.
What if I want to wait until the DVD is made before ordering one?
We perfectly understand that not everyone is comfortable with the crowdfunding concept. We are one of the benign, happy-go-lucky but reliable dolphins frolicking in the Internet Ocean, but know lurking below us are sharks a-plenty.
Waiting until the DVD is finished is absolutely fine, though this safety-first approach only works if enough people do support the project to meet our £40,000 target. But let us know! If you want to buy the DVD once it is completed, please send us an email saying just that. No obligation whatsoever to buy, but we can let you know as soon as the regular non-'Backer's Version' DVD is ready for purchase. And we promise not to pass your email address on to any of those sharks.
What will be so special about the pre-release limited edition version?
Good question – we haven't decided yet, and maybe we could use the campaign site to field your suggestions. We want to make this 'Backer's Edition' version extra-special, but what would you like? Extra footage & interview of the Oz fans around the country included in the Extras? A particularly fancy cover? A completely different cover design? 'Backer's Edition' emblazoned on the cover? All of the above? Do let us know your suggestions.
Is the campaign in US Dollars or Australian Dollars?
Indiegogo currently only offers a US dollar service. US and Aussie dollars are worth about the same, so we hope it's not confusing. PayPal and credit cards take care of currency conversions from your own currency.
What's the difference between the $5,000 perk and the $10,000 perk?
The $5,000+ reward is for a generous individual who wants to associate themselves prominently with this production. Their name appears as a single prominent credit at the end of the DVD, and in any version broadcast on TV.
The $10,000+ is for a company (e.g. a ukulele instrument or string manufacturer, distributor, music shop or website) or brand that wants to associate themselves prominently with this production. At a minimum, their logo would appear prominently both on the cover of the DVD and in the final credits, but additional options (e.g. branding on publicity, correspondence, at premieres, special screenings for ukulele clubs, promotional inserts sent out with the DVDs etc) are also negotiable.
Will I be able to view the DVD in North America?
The current plan is to produce only a Multi-Region ('Region 0') PAL DVD. PAL is standard in most parts of the world apart from North America & Japan, but even in those countries many DVD players play both. Any computers/laptop can play PAL, so these days very few people will be unable to view the DVD. This has been the UOGB's approach with their concert DVDs, and they don't seem to have had too many complaints or problems, but if there's enough demand from N. America to offset the additional production costs we might consider pressing a NTSC version too.
Team on This Campaign: