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Superplex’s Adam Baroukh and Eddie Sternberg share some important advice on finding funding for your independent film.

Superplex Guys

Adam Baroukh (above left) and Eddie Sternberg (above right) are the founders of Superplex Pictures, a production company that lends itself to narrative, commercial, and short-form film. Though they have a dedicated team working alongside them, both Adam and Eddie are dedicated filmmakers in their own right, each having produced their own shorts while running Superplex. 

In their four-and-a-half year history, Adam and Eddie have done a lot of commercial work for agencies and brands, including a 300-video, ten-week project for Good Housekeeping showing off an A-to-Z of cooking techniques. They’ve also produced a television talk show, and have four narrative shorts all on the film festival circuit.

During an extensive chat with myself, Adam and Eddie discussed their company and the shorts they’ve created through it, each using different funding methods. From finding support from Transport for London, to running a successful Kickstarter campaign, to earning funds from the Southern Exposure London Calling Film Grant, the duo have worked with a whole range of funding methods, and had some excellent tips to share with me for others looking for ways to find the money to make their films. 

OOB_Still_5

“Out of Body” 

Directed by: Eddie Sternberg

Funding method used: Partnership of London Boroughs and Emergency Services

Superplex’s first film was Out of Body, a road-safety drama written and directed by Eddie Sternberg and co-produced by Adam Baroukh and Christopher Pencakowski.  Adam and Eddie found that collaborating with TFL for a creative project with an important message on road safety proved mutually beneficial, resulting in full financial support and access to the London Emergency Services whilst being able to work on an extremely fulfilling project at the same time.

Adam: “[Out of Body] was a really interesting one, because we had made a few viral videos for the borough of Hounslow and their road safety campaigns. They then patched us through to TFL. They were looking for a teenage road safety awareness video, and previously it had always been more educational than dramatic. Coming from a filmmaker’s background, we suggested a British indie film that deals with these issues in a relatable way.

Eddie pitched on it, in front of a whole panel of executives from TFL, the London Emergency Services and Boroughs and they went for it.  They essentially allowed us [to make] a short narrative film that would have a life in the festival run, as well as being used in their own campaign and their own events.”

Eddie: “The aim was to make something that young people would really want to watch, to make it as relatable and enjoyable as possible, so that by the time the actual crash happened, people really cared about the characters. It had more of an effect on them, something that would make them think seriously about their actions in a relatable way.”

Adam: “We took it on its own festival run, in five or six festivals here and in the US, premiering at the London Short Film Festival. The film was also nominated for the Engelke award at Emden-Norderney Film Festival in Germany. This was all happening at the same time as the client was taking it around all of the different London boroughs. Now it’s been seen by over 20,000 16-21-year-olds.”

The aim was to make something that young people would really want to watch.”

justdesserts

“Just Desserts”

Directed by: Michael Yanny

Funding method: Self-funded

Superplex’s second released short, Just Desserts, Directed by Michael Yanny (and co-written by Yanny and Adam Baroukh) is currently doing the rounds at UK festivals. So far it has played at the London Film Festival, Raindance (where it was nominated for Best UK Short), and at Encounters in Bristol, where it premiered. Just Desserts was self-funded, with a lot of the film’s success coming down to attracting the right talent to the project.

Adam: “We had this script that all takes place in one room, so we (along with director and co-writer Michael Yanny) were able to make it on a really low budget. We decided that we were going to self-fund it as it was feasible to make relatively cheaply.

Things really began to happen when we were sitting in a café one day and Eddie saw David Schneider, the well-respected British comedy writer (Alan Partridge, The Day Today). It was funny because we had David earmarked as a possibility to play the lead role. Eddie plucked up the courage to pitch the short and voila, he was in! Then, through him, he started to help find the other talent, really great people like David Schaal, who’s in The Office and The Inbetweeners, and Rebecca Lacey. Some really great British TV talent.”

Unfortunately just before rehearsals, [David] had to drop out due to personal reasons however he helped us replace him with Alex Macqueen, who then became the lead, and in our opinion totally made the film. Once we shot the film, we had these rushes with some seriously respected British talent. This then helped us in post immensely, where we worked with great individuals at Final Cut and Envy to help us complete the film.”

Eddie: “The script was there, and we had a director with a really strong vision for the piece which enabled us to get an outstanding cast and crew, once we had the talent, the post houses gave it their time, so it was a sequence of events that enabled something that was quite a low-budget film to get a wide audience.”

Eddie plucked up the courage to pitch the short and voila, he was in!”

iusedtobefamous

“I Used to be Famous”

Directed by: Eddie Sternberg

Funding method: London Calling and ticket pre-sales

Superplex’ third film I Used to be Famous was written and directed by Eddie Sternberg and produced, as with Out of Body, by Christopher Pencakowski. The film premiered at Leeds International Film Festival, where it was in competition for Best British Short. You can also catch the film on Monday 14th December where it has been picked to screen at The Best of Cinema Jam 2015. For this film, two funding methods were used; The Southern Exposure London Calling scheme, and by pre-selling tickets to a future premiere.

Eddie: “I first came up with the protagonist of Vinnie, (a former boyband star desperately trying to forge a come back) in 2013. After a couple of years Chris and Adam encouraged me to finally write the script and then helped me prepare it for the Southern Exposure London Calling Film Grant. Every year there are certain boroughs that take part in the London Calling schemes, there’s also London Calling Plus, which is centered around stories about ethnic minorities. The BAFTA-nominated Three Brothers was actually made through that last year.

We got down to the last nine, and those nine then were invited to workshops for a few months at the BFI in Stephen Street headed up by Elizabeth Mitchell and Brek Taylor. They are great filmmakers and just legends in general so it was lovely meeting every week and immensely helpful. We were then chosen as one of the three projects that share a pot of £10,000 to help make their short.”

“So we received half the budget from Film London and Southern Exposure, and a little bit of private investment came our way too, but really we needed to get a sizable amount of money and we wanted to try to see what would happen without using Kickstarter or Indie Gogo. We were shooting soon after, and didn’t want the distraction at the time as you need to dedicate a lot of time to really do it properly. We did it in a slightly different way.

What Chris suggested was to pre-sell tickets to the eventual premiere of the film, and we did just that.  One of the main characters is based on my cousin Saul Zur-Szpiro. He is an immensely talented individual and an excellent drummer. He plays in a band called The AutistiX, where three of the principal members are on the autistic spectrum (including Saul). The band has quite a following and they are very, VERY good. The film aims to portray the purity of music, which is totally in line with what the band represents, so we thought it would be a great fit.  We asked them if they would perform at the premiere, and they said yes!

Suddenly our premiere was becoming an event that would garner more interest. We also decided to screen Just Desserts as well as a documentary based on the band to really make a night of it.Finally the premiere came, we rented out the main space at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green and it was a great success People really, really loved it.”

Adam: “When we were actually editing the film, Eddie and Chris had a little test screening at the Actor’s Centre with the Actors Screen Collective. I had met a couple of the people from there last year, and we have become really friendly. They’re great for writers and directors, because you can go and give them a script, and they’ve got access to talented actors, who’ll workshop it for you. They make their own films as well.The film received a great reaction, a writer in attendance really liked the film, and they got Eddie in touch with Sayle Screen, who represent some of the best auteurs around. Eddie then got signed off the back of the short before it was finished, which was great. So all of this news really helped gain interest and enabled us to sell tickets to the premiere.”

Suddenly our premiere was becoming an event that would garner more interest.

Kitty's Fortune

“Kitty’s Fortune”

Directed by: Adam Baroukh

Funding method: Kickstarter

Superplex’s fourth and most recent film, Kitty’s Fortune, tells the true story of a girl, Kitty Hart-Moxon, who spends her first night in Auschwitz in 1943. Written and co-produced by Sophie Shad, produced by Dalton Deverell and directed by Adam Baroukh, Kitty’s Fortune was a graduation piece for the Central School of Speech and Drama, funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Adam: “We managed to raise the money through Kickstarter, due to the great work from Sophie and Dalton. We were lucked enough to have access to Kitty herself who’s now 89 – she’d been a consultant for ’Sophie’s Choice’ and had been in lots of documentaries. Having Kitty on the campaign page gave the project an authenticity and a validity, which gave it that extra edge.’

The producers got the investment process well underway before even the Kickstarter campaign started, so we really hit the ground running, and then they were working the phones, right up until the end of the deadline. They also got in touch with newspapers and magazines. We shot it in Harpenden, so the Hertfordshire Post did a piece on it.”

“We also pledged the film as a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. By anchoring it to something which is taking place right now, it became a lot more relevant to people who were thinking of giving, and it’s like creating a memory for a specific event.

It’ll be released at the end of January. Then we’re going to start sending it out to festivals.

The success of that film remains to be seen, but it was a fantastic experience, and with regards to crowdfunding, it’s interesting because having drawn together 200-odd people to fund the thing, you now have this community who can then watch the film, and are interested in coming to the film, and getting involved in subsequent projects. So in a way the work you put in into the crowdfunding thing isn’t just to raise money, it’s also to build an audience around the film and whatever happens spirals out from that afterwards.”

By anchoring it to something which is taking place right now, it became a lot more relevant to people who were thinking of giving.

General Tips

After we had discussed each of their short film projects, I asked Adam and Eddie for some general tips on film funding. Here are some of the things they said:

Apply, apply, apply:

Eddie: “Apply for as many funds and schemes as possible, because it is worth it. Also, be ambitious when casting/crewing. Building a package and making the project as attractive as possible is key, so make sure the script and treatment are as rock solid as possible before approaching them.”

Inclusivity:

Adam: “Out of Body focused on road safety, I Used to be Famous involved themes of inclusivity and autism, Kitty’s Fortune has a focus on human rights and the Holocaust, so if there’s another aspect, apart from the narrative, if there’s another dimension to it, see if there are any organizations, charities, people who might be able to get behind that film, so that they in turn can use it for their own cause. Those should really be explored, and even if you don’t get funding for it, it might end up helping promote it, just speaking to them can be great research for your film.”

Think small:

Adam: “In situations where you have a tiny budget to work with, see if you can shrink the canvas of your film to something that’s really manageable, for example Just Desserts was set in a single room. If you execute that really well, it can be as good as doing something more grand.”

And, finally, on managing a workload as epic as Superplex’s:

Eddie“We’ve got a great crew that work with us all the time, and with each job it gradually gets easier and smoother.” 

Follow Superplex on Twitter @SuperplexPics. Visit their website for more info. 

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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Posted on Dec 8, 2015

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