How to reverse engineer a film by Dan Hartley

Crowdfunding has become so common-place that it’s an accepted part of film funding strategy. Not only do filmmakers receive some much-needed financial support but it also enables them to gauge support for their films and galvanise their fans. This has been spectacularly successful in relation to Veronica Mars, Zach Braff and Spike Lee films. In each of these cases the combination of star power has met with the crowdfunding zeitgeist to fund films that would previously have been made as independent films with presales and distribution deals. Essentially what the filmmakers have found is a way to sidestep the middlemen and reach out directly to the audience, a route that, as well as the ‘big name projects’, has worked for thousands of filmmakers around the world in raising initial investment and building a potential audience through crowdfunding.

Rich Shean & Dan Hartley

I have first-hand experience of why this model makes sense. In 2013 I completed my debut feature film Lad: A Yorkshire Story, a coming-of-age film about a teenage boy who befriends a park ranger when his dad dies. It was an honest take on bereavement with an uplifting message about how we come to terms with loss. After failing to secure a distributor I toured the film across all fourteen national parks, screened at several dozen film festivals and self-released the film in the UK to sell-out audiences. The film was a sleeper hit, winning 21 festival awards, gaining 5 star reviews and reaching number four in the iTunes independent top ten chart.

All of which ought to have made a compelling argument for a distributor to release the film internationally. The truth however is that there has been a seismic shift in the way the audience consume films and the distributors have found themselves out of step with the changing landscape and risk averse to an extent that borders on obscene. The audience, meanwhile, have greater choice in how they watch and enjoy films than ever before yet paradoxically have fewer choices about the type of films that they get to see. If it doesn’t feature a known actor, for instance, then its essentially dead in the water, which of course leads to the same tired faces appearing in myriad roles for which they’re intrinsically unsuited.


It was with this understanding of the current status quo that I decided to create We Are The Film. The idea was simple; rather than create a sequel that followed my expectations of how the story would develop, I would instead turn to the audience and ask them what they wanted to see – from the storyline to the casting, locations to art direction. It would be a sequel designed by the expectations of the audience.

Several days ago we launched our Kickstarter campaign #wearethefilm and the response has been phenomenal. If the campaign is successful I will invite all of our contributors to become creators, allocating them to a specialist film department, such as writing, directing, cinematography, editing and production and then engage them with the creative decisions that shape the creation of the screenplay.

At its simplest it will be a fun and informative adventure that will give our audience an insight into the filmmaking process and me an insight into what they want to see but hopefully it will serve a greater purpose – offering up a new model for filmmaking and distribution which challenges the status quo and serves to empower the audience and filmmaker. 

Something which in my opinion can’t happen too soon.

Visit the We Are The Film KickStarter campaign page here