11:30 PM EDT, September 29, 2013
Backing a movie on crowdsourcing platforms like Indiegogo or Kickstarter is a fairly simple process: You give your money and walk away, providing little to no creative input on how the project gets made.
Tongal is taking a different approach over the next year as it turns to crowdsourcing to produce its first film, a full-length documentary.
The company, which has provided high-profile marketers like McDonald's, Lego and Procter & Gamble an opportunity to produce commercials by turning to their consumers for ideas, has paired up with Spitfire Pictures ("Undefeated") to ask audiences what kind of documentary they would pay to watch at the local multiplex.
On Sept. 17, the companies launched "The Spitfire Documentary Project" on Tongal.com, which has already received over 100 submissions from around the globe.
Tongal will stop accepting ideas -- limited to 500 characters -- for the film on Oct. 17, after which it will begin a second phase in November in which filmmakers within the Tongal community will create a pitch based on one of the five winning subjects or submit a "wild card" entry. One of the eight will receive $2,500 in funding to produce a sizzle reel for the documentary.
Two sizzle reels will ultimately be greenlit for production, and the associated filmmakers will be offered the opportunity to enter into a production agreement with Tongal and offered $35,000 to produce a director's cut of their film. At least one of the directors will receive an additional $15,000 in funds to complete the documentary. The final cut phase ends Sept. 17, 2014.
Making movies was always going to be the next step for Santa Monica, Calif.-based Tongal, according to company co-founder and chief product officer James De Julio.
It originally thought it would start with a traditional script, turning to the masses to help write the script. But getting it made would have still required working through Hollywood's often time-consuming constraints of dealing with agents, producers and distributors.
That isn't what Tongal is known for.
In making its commercials for major marketers, Tongal has sped up the development and production process, and it can get a 30-second spot on air or other form of video online within weeks, not many months, at a fraction of the cost (Tongal likes to tout its process as 10 times cheaper and 10 times faster).
A $30,000 project for Fox Sports and Lego was produced as a Web series that stars Fox Sports' robotic football mascot Cleatus as a mashup with Lego's Hero Factory toys.
One Tongal-produced spot for Colgate-Palmolive's Speed Stick brand, produced for $17,000, wound up airing during the Super Bowl this year after originally being pitched as a digital-only video.
In each case, Tongal goes out to its creative community and provides a brief on what the client is looking for. Tongal is now accepting ideas for a Hasbro campaign, with the toymaker offering up $40,000 to promote its board games. P&G recently completed one worth $150,000.
In Spitfire, Tongal has found a partner with a similar entrepreneurial approach to getting projects made.
Spitfire, owned by Exclusive Media, produced the Oscar-winning doc "Undefeated," Grammy-winning "Foo Fighters: Back and Forth" video and Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan music doc "No Direction Home," which took home an Emmy.
"Our partnership with a forward-thinking creative company like Tongal is a great opportunity to support emerging talent and discover new stories," said Alex Brunner, deputy chief operating officer at Exclusive Media, which recently backed Ron Howard's "Rush."
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Spitfire will work with Tongal to help judge the submissions and steer the development, production, marketing and ultimately distribution of the winning film. Tongal is putting up the $110,000 to complete the project.
"Breaking into the filmmaking industry is not without its challenges, and our mission at Tongal is to remove the barriers and help our creative community realize their full potential," De Julio said. "The biggest brands in the world have embraced the Tongal platform and our creatives - and paired with an innovative, award-winning company like Spitfire, this project will show that the Tongal approach can produce world-class feature films."
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