Legendary Director Jan Svankmajer Turns to Crowdfunding for his Final Film

Jan Svankmajer’s Final Film “Insects”.

Czech director Jan Svankmajer has enlisted crowdfunding support from Indiegogo to bring his last feature-length film, The Insects, to the screen. The preparation for this final project has taken him five years but the legendary director, who is teaming up with his longtime producing partner Jaromir Kallista, is eager to begin the filming. Right now, he’s occupied with the research on the subject of his film, but before they start filming, the creative team is determined that they must have full funding for the film. They’ve reached their $100,000 crowdfunding campaign goal but they’re hoping that funding will continue so that they can have the full amount that they need for the film. Because they believe that this film belongs to the fans, they looked to crowdfunding as a financing source rather than going the more traditional route with distributors or sales agents.

Jan Svankmajer Crowdfunding for “Insects”

Svankmajer, currently spending his time visiting entomological auctions to buy different kinds of insects so that he can do rehearsal shots with them, compares his project to Kafka and the Čapek Brothers and will include the surreal imagery, as well as the misanthropy of those models. He explains, “The Čapek brothers’ play is very misanthropic. I’ve always liked that; bugs behave as a human beings, and people behave as insects. My screenplay extends this misanthropy further while also reflecting Franz Kafka and his famous Metamorphosis.” Given the prominence of his place in the surrealist movement, it’s not surprising that Svankmajer would find inspiration in Kafka. Svankmajer is known for creating dark, yet subtly playful worlds that dissect the core of modern society. A prominent figure of the surrealist movement, Svankmajer has created more than 30 award-winning short and feature-length films.

Jan Svankmajer’s Film Career

Svankmajer, who was born in 1934, never studied film or film technique while he was a university student because he believes that art thrives best with an open approach that’s free from the shackles of the technical medium. While a student he was engrossed in stage design and puppetry, but in 1964 he began making art. For him, tactile phenomena and imagination are the best way for him to express himself. This internationally acclaimed pioneer of stop-motion animation has had a lasting impact on the works of Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, David Lynch, Brothers Quay and many others.

Jan Svankmajer

Jan Svankmajer’s Film Career.

Filming, which is estimated to take up to 170 days, is scheduled to begin in either late summer or early autumn of 2016. However, that requires coordinating the schedules of the actors, which can be challenging. Another time-consuming aspect of filming is the combination of animation with live action. The film is scheduled to be finished during the second half of 2018.

The film begins in a pub in a small town. The bar is closed and the pub is occupied only by six amateur actors who have met to rehearse the Čapek brothers The Insect Play. During the course of the play, the characters are born and die, regardless of time. The actors gradually become one with their characters, some of the experiencing transformations that are truly frightening.

The overall budget for the film is $1,940,000, of which nearly 75% has been raised. The remaining amount that’s relying on the crowdfunding campaign has been raised to $150,000; this is the amount that’s needed in order for filming with live actors to begin.

The breakdown of expenses by percentages of the budget outlines the costs of the film:
Director and animation: 7%
Preproduction: 8%
Postproduction: 6%
Laboratory: 9%
Music and sound: 6%
Actors: 7%
Camera and lighting: 10%
Art department: 14%
Production: 34%

As his long, legendary career comes to a close, Svankmajer looks back upon the current state of the film industry, a state which he feels is reflective not merely of film but of Western civilization as well. The civilization we live in has little interest in authentic artistic creation. What it needs is well-working advertisement, the iconographic contemporary art, pushing people towards more and more mass consumption. Unless we again begin to tell fairytales and ghost stories before going to sleep and recount our dreams upon waking, nothing more is to be expected of our Western civilization.” He sees The Insects as a way to break a few of the industry’s bad commercial habits, which is why crowdfunding was the financial venue he selected when it was time to choose funding options for the film. He’s also excited about the chance to deliver the film, when it’s finished, directly to the fans who have supported it.

Jan Svankmajer’s Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign.

Film financing is always a challenge. Svankmajer elaborates on this dilemma: “It gets increasingly difficult to fund independent art that scrutinizes the very core of our society. Who would deliberately support their own critics?” The reason that he makes a film every five or six years is not because there’s a lack of ideas, but because of the difficulty of acquiring funds to back up the projects He sees crowdfunding as the way to change this logjam.

Svankmajer is grateful for crowdfunding support. “To those of you who choose to support our effort, I want to thank you. I promise you that I will invest my entire body and soul into this last feature film of mine. After all, that’s the only way I know how to create.”