Kickstarter launch timely for Vancouver filmmaker

Nimisha Mukerji leo awards

Nimisha Mukerji attends the Celebration Awards Ceremony at the 15th annual Leo Awards, Vancouver, June 07 2013. Gerry Kahrmann / PNG staff photo

GLEN SCHAEFER
THE PROVINCE

Canadian filmmakers are clicking on Kickstarter after the U.S.-based online crowdfunding platform launched its Canadian presence this week.

Vancouver’s Nimisha Mukerji was among the first to use the platform, launching a month-long drive to raise $40,000 to continue filming a documentary on the legendary burlesque dancer Tempest Storm.

“The money will keep us from missing anything,” said Mukerji, who earlier made the documentaries 65_RedRoses and Blood Relative.

Now 85, Storm lives modestly in Las Vegas, after a decades-long career that included four marriages and affairs with luminaries including John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley. Rocker Jack White is a recent fan, having produced an album of songs with her this past year.

“We’ve reached out to him, he’s in Nashville,” Mukerji said. “The moment we get that interview, we want to drop everything and fly out there.”

Nimisha Mukerji

Nimisha Mukerji (L).

Mukerji has filmed some preliminary interviews with Storm, and with younger dancer Dita von Teese, but the director needs the money to follow her subject for a longer period of time and to do more interviews.

Surprisingly, given that Storm took off her clothes for a living, Mukerji describes her as a private person.

“There was a lot of control she had on stage — you could see but not touch. She comes from that period where people respected privacy a lot more.”

Storm, born Annie Blanche Banks in Georgia, became a star on stage and appeared in several movies in the 1950s and ’60s, counting Bettie Page and Blaze Starr among her peers. In the late 1950s, Storm had her breasts insured for $1 million.

Kickstarter has been popular in the U.S. as a fundraising tool among filmmakers, musicians and newbie entrepreneurs. High-profile American filmmakers using the platform include Spike Lee and and Zach Braff, while actor Kirsten Bell was involved in a Kickstarter drive to fund a big-screen version of her Veronica Mars TV series.

The platform held its Canadian launch in Toronto on Monday, and Kickstarter’s film program director Elisabeth Holm will meet with Vancouver film types at the Vancouver International Film Festival’s trade forum in October.

Mukerji, in Toronto for the launch, said the platform helps filmmakers raise the profiles of their projects.

“We do need the funding, but Kickstarter is as much about audience building, connecting to (Storm’s) fans and the burlesque community globally,” Mukerji said.

“We’re not just talking about getting in touch with our neighbours and friends and family, we want people around the world to know about this project and spread the word. That’s priceless.”

In terms of generating awareness, Mukerji sees Kickstarter as a means of levelling the playing field for indie projects without studio publicity resources.

“A lot of Canadian films, I find, get through production and then can’t connect with their audience because they can’t compete for publicity the way the bigger budget films can.

“Kickstarter is enabling us to have a fair shot at this film not just being made, but being a successful release.”

More information on Mukerji’s project is at tempeststormfilm.com and at kickstarter.com.

Vancouver’s non-profit Cinematheque has also launched a Kickstarter campaign, looking for $20,000 towards the $60,000-plus cost of installing digital projection gear at its 1131 Howe St. theatre.

As well, Vancouver writer-director Jeff Richards is using Kickstarter in a bid to raise $8,500 to make the short supernatural film Tesla Vs. Cthulhu.

And maverick German director Uwe Boll, who has made many movies in Vancouver, is using Kickstarter in a bid to fund the violent sequel Postal 2.

gschaefer@theprovince.com

twitter.com/glenschaefer

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