Stuart Murdoch, singer and songwriter with Scottish indie-pop band Belle and Sebastian, is shooting his directorial debut in Glasgow this summer.
And you could be the difference between it turning out a lush, professional production worthy of his group’s rich ties with cinema, or an ultra lo-fi effort made on a handheld camera with a roll of Super-8 film a la Belle and Sebastian’s early homemade videos.
A musical film about a girl (and a boy – of course there’s a boy) who overcomes emotional problems through songwriting, God Help the Girl has been in gestation since 2003, but is now well on its way to realisation. The soundtrack of the same name was released as an album in 2009 to positive reviews. Barry Mendel – who was behind Wes Andersons’ Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums and recent double Oscar nominee Bridesmaids – is on board to produce and casting is underway.
All that’s needed now is the small matter of readies to pay for the thing, $100,000 of which Murdoch and Mendel are hoping to raise via an innovative online fundraising platform for creative projects that should in turn lend the film a unique character beyond that of your typical indie flick.
The American website Kickstarter allows creatives – be it directors, musicians or writers – to pitch for a set amount of donations from the public by a certain date, at which point the money will be paid out if the stated target has been reached, or refunded if it hasn’t. It’s up to the individual projects themselves to provide incentives to convince backers to pledge; if they make their $100,000 goal by 19 February the God Help the Girl team are, in exchange, offering some clever and quirky rewards.
For donations of between $5 and $50 there’s a range of limited edition memorabilia from postcards to enamel badges and posters up for grabs, as well as personalised mentions on a “thank you” website. The wealthier collector may be interested in a prop guitar used in the film ($1000) or the director’s chair ($1,250), while in exchange for the maximum pledge of $5,000 one donor will become the proud owner of Murdoch’s own white label test pressing of Belle and Sebastian’s iconic 1996 debut album Tigermilk.
Aspiring filmmaker? Why not invest $550 and get a 45-minute production tutorial by Mendel over Skype from LA? Wannabe pop star? Part with $4,000 and Murdoch will produce your next single. Belle and Sebastian diehard? Consider pledging $250 and getting back-stage passes to Belle and Sebastian shows for life, or stumping up $300 for a game of Scrabble with Murdoch over a cup of tea, or shelling out $400 in exchange for a personal guided tour of Glasgow by the man himself – in a mini-bus if there are enough takers, or just in the singer’s car if everyone fits.
As well as helping the project get off the ground (en route to a total projected budget of $3 million), the Kickstarter campaign is also about “building a community behind the film”. Once production begins, this God Help the Girl community will be asked for input into all kinds of different elements of the film – everything from casting choices and locations to the design of costumes and sets. For $3,000 you can even get a walk-on part to deliver a specially written line in the film itself.
It’s questionable quite how good a movie influenced by amateur committee can be, but God Help the Girl nevertheless presents an intriguing proposition: a genuinely fan-assisted and inspired picture that feels very much in keeping with the work of the frontman from a band who are still treated like a closely-guarded secret by their most passionate followers. Not to mention a band who have shared a close relationship with the big screen throughout their career, from appearing on countless film soundtracks to composing a score for Todd Solondz’s movie Storytelling and getting actress Carey Mulligan to sing on the title track from their latest album Write About Love. At time of writing God Help the Girl needs only another $25,000 to reach its Kickstarter target – that’s just one rare piece of vinyl, two walk-on cameos, a minibus tour around Glasgow, six games of scrabble and 544 pin badges to go. Whatever you can afford, it sounds well worth helping towards its goal.