The Hawk The Hunter campaign started with great gusto, screenings at FrightFest in London and at a convention in the States, a slew of magazine and news website coverage.
It was as though the campaign organisers were just siting back, expecting the cash to come flooding in. Or they simply didn't understand how Kickstarter works.
The campaign launched on August 30, and ran until October 1, hoping to raise a cool half-a-million dollars, the final 20 per cent of the finances needed to get the film made.
In that time there were only three updates to the campaign, the last being on September 1, where the writer/director of the original Hawk The Slayer, Terry Marcel, said: "Just wanted to let you know we've raised $4.5M on this project, we need the final $500K to make this happen."
Through the duration of the campaign we heard nothing from the director chosen for the new film, nor from Rebellion (the comic publishers and video game company providing the special effects), no sample footage, no tunes from Rick Wakeman, or anything that might spur people to invest ... beyond simple nostalgia for the original cult classic.
In the end the Kickstarter raised just under $27,000.
You just need to look at the Kicktraq data for the campaign (which is more readable actually on the Kicktraq site) to see the enthusiasm was there at the start, but then dropped away dramatically.
Days before the end of the campaign, producer Andrew Grocock posted a message to the Official Hawk The Hunter Facebook page spelling out some of the reasons why the campaign had faltered so spectacularly.
First up, a couple of their pre-release promotional videos on YouTube were removed because of music clearance issues:
"The first two videos were then taken down from YouTube by the representative of the Harry Robertson Estate [citing] Soundtrack Copyright as we’d used a few seconds of original Hawk the Slayer music without permission.
We were also issued with a statement that under no circumstances were we allowed to use the HtS soundtrack music to promote the sequel Hawk the Hunter."Luckily co-producer Jason Kingsley, head of Rebellion, stepped in and helped create an alternative launch video.
Then, despite some success with getting Terry in front of reporters to talk about the campaign, Andrew said:
"Many newspaper, magazine, RPG and games-based media outlets refused to help promote or mention our campaign as Kickstarters are not wholly recognised as being 'FOR REAL'. Games Workshop Weekly newsletter being one opportunity that was a ‘NO’ and disappointed me the most."In the end, the Hawk The Hunter campaign received pledges from only 375 backers (which, of course, now won't be collected). If it was just members of the Official Facebook Group who were backing it that's still less than 60 per cent of the group's 639 membership.
If self-professed fans of the franchise weren't even willing to chip in $10, what chance did Terry and Andrew have of raising $500,000 from others who weren't so invested in the world of Hawk The Slayer?
Let's consider for a moment Iron Sky (the 2012 fan-funded Nazis-on-the-Moon 'comedy'). That was a pretty awful film that makes Hawk The Slayer look Oscar-worthy in comparison, yet its sequel, The Coming Race, raised $614,599 from 8,807 backers on IndieGoGo at the start of the year.
The current Mythica film Kickstarter (the third fantasy flick, from indie film company Arrowstorm, in a five-part saga) has gotten over 1,000 pledges already, while the second part got 1,382 and the first 1,527.
Both the Iron Sky crew and Arrowstorm get crowdsourcing, understand the need to keep their backers enthused so they continue to spread the message, regularly update their sites while their campaigns are running, drip feed new tidbits about the production or new investment incentives etc
Earlier in the week, when it was clear the Hawk The Hunter fundraiser wouldn't reach its goal, Terry posted an upbeat message on the film's website:
"As you may be aware, the Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful so we are re-evaluating the project. I hope to have news before the end of the year."However, this needs to be taken in tandem with Andrew's earlier message, which said:
"You all know the resulting failure of the Kickstarter, the numbers of which cannot justify holding onto our studio, post [production], CGI and equity pledged investment..."So, it looks as though, if Hawk The Hunter is ever to move ahead, it's not going to be simply a question of making the movie with the $4.5 million they had raised, as they may not even have all of that now.
It's very easy to sit back here, behind my keyboard, and armchair quarterback what went wrong, but given that, in some shape or form, Hawk The Hunter has been 'in the works' for more than 30 years, you have to question some of the decisions made as the film raced towards its final hurdle.
Besides the music clearance issue discussed above, I found a number of the high value rewards on offer for the campaign rather strange, for instance:
- $250 for a 15-second bespoke voice message (even though there was no indication who the actors would be in the film).
- $3,000 to be an extra for a day in a tavern scene (I don't know how much extras get paid these days, but to pay three grand to appear in the background of a scene seems a mite excessive. It didn't even state where the filming would be taking place, so you could have coughed up the money then found it was being filmed somewhere you couldn't get to)
One person chipped in for a Mind Sword prop replica, a couple went for framed art, and three were hoping for a pair of premiere tickets, but most of the high-priced items didn't attract any interest.
I guess, because there was the big launch at FrightFest, Terry and his team felt committed to run the campaign to completion, but given the lack of anything from its orgainsers after the first few days, sadly, I'm not surprised that few others were interested in pitching in.
I'm still holding out hope that Hawk will live again, but if this campaign couldn't even muster the full support of its own fans, maybe the wider world just isn't that bothered about seeing Hawk do battle with Voltan again.
Perhaps, the Hawk The Slayer video game will still come out from Rebellion, perhaps they'll still publish the comic that was mentioned in passing during the initial promotion, or perhaps we'll have to make do with our shiny new Blu-Rays of Hawk The Slayer...