James Stewart of Geneva Film Co. knows the short route to making an animated theatrical feature film. Stewart is the mastermind behind the 4-minute, stop motion title Foxed!, a smash 2014 iTunes release and winner of seven Best Animation awards on the festival circuit.
In 2014, Stewart’s abbreviated content bore tall fruit: powerhouse production shingle Prospero Pictures optioned Foxed! for a full-length motion picture to be released in 2017.
Below, Stewart reveals his secret to growing a seedling of an idea into a potential franchise. In brief, here are the steps:
1) Hatch an excellent story. For example, the plot of Foxed! is as follows:
When foxes kidnap Emily and force her to work in the secret underground blue goo mines, the little girl must use her determination to lead a band of misfits back home, simultaneously uncovering the foxes’ cryptic plan.
Stewart shares this suggestion: “Consider making a short film that plays as a self-contained narrative, as opposed to a sizzle piece or teaser trailer for a proposed feature film. Proof-of-concept emerges organically. The product is more appealing as stand-alone, salable content, particularly for festivals and distributors.”
2) Coerce funds from both traditional and newfangled sources, and make an inexpensive masterpiece. Gather your most talented, film-loving friends and family, pool your assets, and find money in creative ways. Crowdfunding, a la Gofundme.com, Indiegogo.com and Kickstarter.com, is an option for both community-building and capital-raising.
Stewart elaborates, “In our case, we got some funding from bravoFACT in Canada. You have to live off the energy and enthusiasm of everyone involved, so be kind, and be efficient with the budget.”
3) Use the momentum of both big and small film fests to build a loyal audience. If one is able to snag a spot in Sundance or Toronto, then one should be extremely happy. If one does not, then, according to Stewart, one should not despair.
“Foxed! did not get into Tribeca, Cannes (meaning, in competition there), or Sundance, but it was in other important festivals, like Comic-Con, Stuttgart, Anima Mundi, Ottawa, and Annecy. Those big animation gatherings proved more advantageous for us in the long run.”
Foxed! earned accolades at the San Antonio Film Festival, the Quebec Children’s Film Festival, the Garden State Film Festival, and other noteworthy competitions.
Stewart says, “Winning awards leads to more festival invitations, and it grows from there. Foxed! has played in over 100 film festivals, and there still is a steady stream of overtures. Given that we always wanted to make a feature, building a fan base was/is our priority. We have over 130,000 social media followers. This proves that the story is a hit.”
4) Attract the attention of a big shot producer like the guy who produced David Cronenberg’s films and Ice Road Truckers. In this case, said big shot is Martin Katz of Prospero Pictures. Katz has produced Maps to the Stars, A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis, Hotel Rwanda, and the ubiquitous reality TV series Ice Road Truckers. Incidentally, Katz focus-group-tested Foxed! with his own family before proceeding with negotiations on the big screen redux in question. (They loved it.)
5) Strategize with aforementioned big shot to maintain and grow devotees until the 90-minute version debuts. Katz intends to score international pre-sales for Foxed!, starting with activity at the Cannes Film Festival Marche’ du Film (which closed on May 22). The goal is to generate positive buzz and money to offset production costs. Continued iTunes sales, plus a rapidly swelling online community at www.foxedmovie.com (and beyond), add to the growing pot of gold and overall brand awareness.
To blaze your own your short film trail and track that of Foxed!, consult these enlightened sources: www.foxedmovie.com, www.prosperopictures.com, and www.genevafilmco.com.
Also consider following Foxed! director James Stewart on Twitter (@jamesstewart3D).
Gushes Stewart, “Jack Dorsey does!”
For Stewart and his brainchild, let’s trust that something akin to Dorsey’s Midas touch will alight on Foxed!