Actor/filmmaker Kate Madison is facing a problem born of her own success. Her independent production “Born of Hope” which she built around a story fragment from one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s appendices to “The Lord of Rings” has been a stunning success. Since it’s release in December of 2009, “Born of Hope” has generated more than 23 million views. So what does a young artist do to follow that kind of success?
Kate’s answer is to come up with a new fantasy web series. “Ren” is built around the premise of a young girl in a medieval village who’s sheltered life is turned upside-down when her face is branded by a mysterious mark that suddenly makes her an outcast. The series follows her as she becomes a fugitive searching for answers to who she is and whether there are others like her.
Making a fantasy series isn’t cheap, with costumes, props and scenery all essential to creating a believable environment. While “Born of Hope” has generated staggering numbers of viewers, as a non-authorized presentation based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Kate had to take great pains to make it clear that the project was strictly not-for-profit. Kate used up her life saving making Born of Hope, with generous fans contributing to the budget as well. Without personal funds to produce Ren Kate has turned to the fans again and the on-line fund raising site Kickstarter to raise the £35,000 (about $50,000) she figures the first six episodes will cost.
Kate tells Examiner the freedom of running an original project is great, but she’s not planning on getting rich. “The joy of this project is that it’s completely original so there should be no infringement problems this time round. Therefore we’ll be able to make the T-shirts, photobooks, keyrings and DVDs that people were so desperate for with BoH but we were unable to provide. Although the series will be free to watch online, in theory the production could generate revenue from merchandising and advertising, however it’s very unlikely that the show is going to ever turn a profit. Making the series is going to be very expensive so any money that is raised will be put back into creating even higher production quality and future seasons.”
The show’s main outlet will be YouTube and Kate says the interactive nature of the site will allow fans to influence the story lines. “we’ll be constantly monitoring what the fans like and want to see more of, either via the facebook page or a forum set up on the official website or even just youtube comments. Maybe there’s a character that everyone’s talking about and really want to see more of. Well when we start writing the next season of the show we might try to give that character more to do and an interesting storyline. We’ll try to shape the show the way the fans like it :-)”
While Kickstarter is a great fund raising tool it also represents something of a gamble: funds are only released if the fund raising goal is met. Kate has until August 19 to meet her goal of £35,000. As of this writing just over £7,300 has been raised, meaning it will be a race to the finish to meet the goal. Anyone who wants to contribute (including Americans who want to donate in dollars) is welcome to join the team by following this link.