Alex & Andrew Smith on "Crowdfunding = Barnraising: We All Have To Do Some Heavy Lifting"

It's kind of hard to find the appropriate analogy for what we do, particularly these days. Often I am tempted to think it is running full speed against a brick wall without any protective headgear on, hoping that a door may open the moment before impact. But those are on my down days. Usually I can see us all working together, building bridges, fusing connections, doing the labor that will lift the culture in many ways. It shouldn't be so hard to describe that, but I still struggle.

Which is one of the reasons I was so pleased to reconnect with Alex and Andrew Smith, twin brothers, whose go to it attitude and willingness to reach high with their ambition has never been lagging. They look for the truth of it, and don't shy from the honesty of the hard work. Which is why the analogy they unearthed for crowdfunding for their guest blog today is so fitting.

Back in the 70’s, when we were little mop-haired twins, our parents would host ‘work parties” at our ranch in rural western Montana. They’d call up all their friends-- my father’s English Lit colleagues at the university, his graduate students, all their hippie, carpenter, writer, rancher, logger and bohemian buddies– and invite them up, first to do some ranch work, and then to have a party.

And we would all, together, gather stones spit up from the meadow and stack them on rockpiles; pile up old fence posts, rotten lumber, old rusty tractor parts and scrap metal; we would clear irrigation ditches and thin the larch stands.

And every spring we would take on some seriously ambitious, semi-crazy project—trying to turn the basement of an old burnt down farmhouse into a swimming pool, or fusing two old hand-hewn turn-of–the-century log cabins together, to form the “big house” – the house in which we grew up.

In short, a lot of good people would come together for a short period of time, and they’d get something epic done quickly. Then there’d be a softball game, and a feast— chili and salad and beer— and a bonfire with guitars, stories and singing. We still have the Super-8 movies to prove it.

Those mid-1970’s community gatherings, in their “Whole Earth Catalogue” funky, post-psychedelic form, were a reiteration of a much earlier homesteader model— the old fashioned ‘barn-raising’. (Cue the clip of Harrison Ford in suspenders in “Witness.”) The family who needed the barn would do all the heavy preparations. The mapping and measuring. The gathering of tools, the cutting of lumber, the cooking– and they’d get everyone to come over– and they would all, together, raise that barn. And in the next season, this family would pitch in to raise some else’s barn.

And, so, too, now, creative project-makers find themselves returning to that reliable, roll-up-your-sleeves, grass-roots, reciprocal “gather”— and its corresponding “glean”—salvaging the fine apples that the industrial machines left behind-- to get our crops in (the literal ‘roots of grass’), and our barns built, be they actual buildings, or specifically, in this context, the sturdy, scrappy, home-made architecture of indie films. We’re not talking DIY, but rather, DIO—‘Do It Ourselves’. This joint effort spirit is what gives crowd-financing platforms their energy, power, and, indeed-- joy.

Our own father is gone now– he’s been gone a long time. Not all of his projects turned out exactly the way he thought they would: few things do. But on those golden ‘Days of Heaven’-like gathers, magic happened. Serious work happened. It was a truly communal effort: work hard; play hard. Later there’d be dancing— and even some howling at the moon. Almost forty years later, the result of those efforts still bear fruit.

And that’s what we are trying to do with the Kickstarter {Barnraiser} campaign for our film, Winter in the Blood: gathering, gleaning, raising load-bearing beams. Digital uploads and Mail Chimp-generated email lists have replaced Whole Earth catalogue instructions, but the communal work— and the sharing of strategies of ways to best get to our goals— remains the same. “You help us with our project—and we’ll honor your contribution. And help you with yours.”

We’ve been brainstorming and barnstorming for over four years on our film project. We’ve drawn the maps, measured the clearing, cut the timber, smithed the spikes. We’ve stewed the meat, iced the beers, set stumps around the fire, and invited a bunch of good people to join us. The script is written, the cast is cast, the crew is lined up, and we are—90% financed.

Now we just need a little help– to hoist our movie up onto its feet. To anchor it to the ground.

To raise this barn of a film.

Thank you for reading, and thank you Ted for articulating (and being) Hope.

--Alex & Andrew Smith

Alex and Andrew Smith directed the feature film THE SLAUGHTER RULE which premiered at Sundance in 2002 (and starred the incredible David Morse, and the then unknown Ryan Gosling & Amy Adams). They are now crowdfunding for their next feature and the campaign ends July 6th. Please contribute. I did

Due to popular demand to get to know a bit more about the film, the WinterInTheBlood team have provide these additional links to media that they created for Winter in the Blood.

Our presentation about the film- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ht0N2UrOnCo

Alex, Andrew & Ken on writing the film- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cehbpHTGDpk

Susan Kirr talks about Producing- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqA0687u17I

A How-To video for Kickstarter- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5beV7FglLo

A word from one of the interns that will be joining us from Long House Media- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpTWaTO-zO4&feature=related

David Morse talks about the project- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBX6jl7gkPE&feature=related

Chaske Spencer talks about the project- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbuzEr5E5i8