For animators working with free and open source software, nothing compares to Blender. A fully-featured 3D animation suite, it offers a huge array of tools that individuals and small studios need: modeling, rendering, motion tracking, and more.
Volunteers power Blender. Artists, visual effects artists, and hobbyists alike contribute to the tool, facilitated by the Dutch Blender Foundation. Now, that same group of volunteers is planning to create a feature length 3D animated film called Gooseberry, and they're seeking help via crowdfunding.
I reached out to Ton Roosendaal, the chairman of the Blender Foundation, to ask more about the project: what it means for traditional production, how it differs from standard crowdfunding campaigns, and how animation and open source enthusiasts can have a hand in making it happen.
Read on in my interview with Ton Roosendaal.
Can you sum up Project Gooseberry and explain precisely what the money being raised is going toward?
In short, we will make a feature animation movie with 12 independent small studios around the world. All our tools will be open source, the film will be open content, and our production process, using Blender Cloud, is going to be entirely open as well.
This quite unsurpassed level of openness is what we hope will trigger people and sponsors to get involved and contribute.
The crowdfunding target, $2.5 million, collected by getting 10,000 people to subscribe monthly, is going to be spent entirely on the makers. We have 80 people, among them 15 open source developers, ready to start working on the film.
On top of this funding, we're working on getting another $5 million via bigger sponsors, project partners, and subsidies. We also reserved a window of exploitation: for 3 months after the film premiere, someone can get the exclusive rights to screen or broadcast the film. After that, all our gates open and we share it with everyone.
All the benefits will go to the makers, to the people who made this film possible.
Do you have anything to reveal about the film itself? Is it a full-length feature? Is there anything you can share about the plot?
It's a full length film, probably around 90 minutes.
In order to keep the production feasible and efficient, the individual teams can work in their own style and use their own cultural influences. This will be brought together by the vision and direction of a single person though, and there will be a strong story and script to make it a film you won't forget easily.
The story is a funny, absurdist, adventurous love story about a sheep named Michel, who longs for a more interesting life. If you watch the trailer, you can get a clue about how his life is getting out of control!
Story development is crucial and will well continue during the next four to five months.
What is the Blender Cloud and how does it fit in with Gooseberry?
If you look at Indiegogo crowdfunding for film, most of the successful campaigns there didn't do more than half a million dollars. These either were with famous stars or sexy actors with abs. We don't have dinosaurs, cute manga girls, or skateboarders.
Our best message still is "open source, open film, open production." And the fact that this film will be made by and owned by the makers. Or even "occupy Hollywood" or "go your own way." But that message is not easy to get across to an Indiegogo or Kickstarter audience, and I doubt I'd see them give us millions of dollars for it.
Another weak point of crowdfunding for film is that the typical "perks" don't have much to do with getting involved with the film itself. You pay now, and then you need to wait two years for something to come out of it. Or not.
That is why we decided to focus first on our own community and use our own platform. And give a real reward for supporting the film: get access to the same platform that the makers use for working together. More over, by doing this as a monthly donation, there will be an interesting synergy between makers and the audience. You can't get a closer relation to your audience than this. Almost as if you're up there with them on stage.
Do you have contingency plans in place, just in case the project doesn't meet its goal?
For sure, there are plans B and C and D. But let's talk about that later!
We did have a slow start, I agree. It was really difficult to get the message right, it was hard to build our own platform, and not easy to activate our own community backing it up either.
You can't do something so new and expect it to go smooth, right? But now we have sufficient momentum to go really public, to show everyone how exciting this project can become, and how much it would mean for the media industry in general, and for the open source industry specifically.
How do you use open source software/hardware/philosophies in daily practice?
Personally? I have a very practical stance here: it just works, for me and for the things I want to achieve. Open source and open content is a means towards a goal: to be enabled to be a creative person and to make things happen!
Aside from backing the campaign, how can the community engage with Blender and with the Gooseberry Project?
My strategy now is to drive as much traffic to our website as possible. People should read about it. Talk about it. Share this! It might well be one of the coolest projects on the web during the next year. And, finally not one initiated by a billionaire, but by you and a whole community of enthusiasts.
Finally, who is your open source hero?
In the early 90s, I learned programming and computer graphics on Silicon Graphics (SGI) systems. It was all before open source really took off, but this company and the community around SGI showed me that sharing and building together is essential, satisfying, and brings a lot of awesome people together.
Read more about Project Goosebery at the official website.