In our latest Kickstarter spotlight, we’ve had a conversation with James Hughes, creator, and director of the crowdfunded short film When the Rain Sets In. We’ve been following the project with keen interest & are happy to share the first of two pieces on Hughes’ work with you today.
Would you share your history with film and what moves you to create?
I have been fascinated with film and the moving image since I first watched a Buster Keaton short when I was a child. His genius and innovation with techniques completely fascinated me then and still inspires me to this day. My love for film developed through a number of classics and independents that have left a long impression on me. And yet despite being inspired by so many, I have never focused on a love for one particular director, or style. This passion for film has driven me all of my life. My head races with images and stories all the time. I develop ideas for my own stories, and over a period of time, I find that one or two of those ideas refuse to leave me. They eat me alive. It is then that I know I must write them and bring them into the world.
What is your elevator pitch for When the Rain Sets In and what does the title mean to you?
Kenzie and Treyden, a couple in their mid-20s who’ve been swept up in a whirlwind six-month romance, find themselves confronting a painful question: Has their love story come to an end? The title refers to those moments we have in life when when our whole world stops and we are confronted with two paths and we have to make a decision. A decision that we will live with forever. The rain of melancholy forces us to make very tough decisions that reveal our true character and motives.
Congrats on the successful Kickstarter – what were some of your successes and challenges with the platform?
The biggest challenge with crowdfunding is the uncertainty of it. You never know just how people will respond to your campaign. And more importantly if the momentum of support will endure. It can be easy with planning to get off to a good start, but to maintain it and find new supporters daily is hard work for anyone running a crowdfunding campaign. In the case of When the Rain Sets In, it got off to a tremendous start, so much so that Kickstarter emailed me and said they were impressed and were going to feature it on their homepage. It had only been live for 24 hours when they emailed me. After they recommended the project on their site, the campaign really took off. Its crowdfunding success was overwhelming. Despite the thousands of short film projects on Kickstarter, When the Rain Sets In remained first in the listing for its entire 30 day duration. This popularity and buzz is something you can never prepare for. I did spend a great deal of my own money creating a pitch video with a DP, Sound Recordist, Grading, Sound-Mixing, the full works. It was a short in its own right, and many commented how much they loved the pitch video, which was so lovely to hear. But, at the end of the day it is always the story and characters that audiences connect with, and they really connected with Kenzie and Treyden in When the Rain Sets In.
The pitch claims the short film reflects something about our society, what do you feel that is?
We have all experienced this pivotal moment in a relationship. Were we actually dating our partner for the wrong reasons? Was the allure of romance used to fill a void in our life? Were we using our partner to recover from a previous relationship? When the Rain Sets In explores how, in today’s world, the pressures on a relationship, and the obstacles to staying together, have never been greater. It is extremely hard to keep that spark alive — to keep our hearts dancing. The love story of When the Rain Sets In reflects the immense societal challenges that we all face in our intimate lives.
What makes a successful crowdfunding project?
They say you need to hit 30% funded within the first few days. If you do that, you are almost certain to hit 100%. As with many things in life, how you start, and make that first connection, is everything.
Your best advice for others creating short Kickstarter projects?
Preparation is key. Seek out supporters in advance of your launch. Focus on getting off to a good start. Once you do that, keep working hard to maintain the momentum. Be positive about the campaign even if there is a dip in interest. You are running the campaign, so you can control its success. Be creative, be unique, be yourself, and audiences will connect with you.
Why create short films? What are the advantages to the form?
I grew up watching them. They seeped into my subconsciousness and inspired me to write. I developed my writing itself by writing lots of short film scripts. One of the first I wrote actually sold for quite a bit of money, even by today’s standards for a short film script. This encouraged me to study them further. I have always loved them. The whole industry was founded on the success of those early short films. It was only later that features were developed and became the norm. But the reason the industry exists and why we get to work in it is because of short films. They allow for storytellers to hone their skills in all kinds of areas. From writing, to framing, to working with actors. It is the best film school in the world. Like many, I have ambitions to work in feature films, and I am working on a few now. But I will always make short films. One must never lose sight of how they were first inspired.
Your work has been popularly received in the festival circuits, what is the importance of having a festival presence and what have you learned from the experiences?
Film Festivals work hard to give our films an audience. For many of them, they work all year long preparing for the festival. As a result, they are extremely focused on finding the very best short films for their programmes. This has made the short film industry incredibly competitive now, which in turn inspires filmmakers to keep pushing themselves and make even better films. The festival presence enables filmmakers to meet like minded creatives, that always inspire us to create more films. If you are currently not making a short then still go to a festival near you, because watching them and meeting filmmakers will inspire you and jolt you into action, and that creative jolt is essential. Festivals remind us of why we want to make films. In my case, I have screened at over 150 festivals and I have learned a great deal during that time.
Not just as a filmmaker, but also in my capacity as a screening judge at various festivals, including Oscar-qualifying ones. These experiences have taught me a great deal, such as why certain films, no matter how strong they are, can’t be selected for a programme slot. A lot of filmmakers just don’t know how strict it can be with regards to end credits. They need to be ninety seconds maximum and most are only one minute. But as a screener, I watched excellent short films whose end credits were nearly three minutes long, and they were cut from the festival because of this. Those three minutes are precious and could be allocated to a complete three-minute short film. You need to be quick with your end credits or produce two versions. One for festivals, and one with a kinder pace for your crew.
What would you like our audience to know about your work?
I spend a great deal of time preparing before shooting. In the case of When the Rain Sets In, I spent a year on the script, and a year searching for the right locations. I am extremely passionate about the films I want to make and I hope that passion for detail and storytelling, comes across when audiences watch my films.
What’s next for you?
I am now in pre-production on my next short film, which I hope to share with your readers in the near future.