ALGORITHM: Fundraising-Method

Daniel (He gave me permission to share his last name, but why give the NSA more fodder?) recently asked me a question. I thought it was a good enough question that I wanted to share both it, and my response with you.


Hi Jonathan,

I glanced through the screenplay and am impressed. I supported you on KickStarter and am happy to support you on indiegogo, but am a bit concerned with the funding style. With it being flexible funding, your funds will be significantly less if you do not raise the minimum $30,000 goal and I was curious as to whether there would still be enough funding to pay the cast, etc. to get the movie produced. My contribution can’t be much, but I am interested to hear what will happen if you are short of your goal. I really want to see you succeed!

Please give me some ideas on what you are thinking so I can be comfortable with my contribution/pledge. Thanks!

Daniel [redacted]



Thank you for your honesty. I suspect that question is on a lot of people’s minds. This is going to be a bit wordy, and probably more than you expected or care for. But, I believe in complete transparency, both to promote a sense of trust, and to help build a better model of making movies. ALGORITHM is a bit of an experiment in an alternative method.
There are two reasons I chose to go with the Flexible Funding method on Indiegogo.
1) The typical method for making movies is for the producers to pay people upfront. In that model, all profits are kept by them. I don’t really like this model. I think it’s unfair to almost everyone involved. Only the people at the top make a lot of money. The rest of the cast and crew can only use a successful movie as a calling card. They still have to eek out whatever living they can until they happen to land in another successful movie.
Instead, we’re doing a profit share model. Everyone takes the risk and everyone reaps the reward. What that means is that no one gets paid upfront, or even during the process of making ALGORITHM. However, they all get back-end, or what are normally called royalties. These royalties are divided proportional to the work done, with actual costs covered first (such as the makeup artist has to pay for makeup, I have to pay for permits, food, travel, etc.).
However, my portion is either 40% or 50%, depending on whether we license distribution or self-distribute, respectively. The reason I’m not a part of the work/pay model is because the amount of work I have and will put into ALGORITHM is so disproportionate to what everyone else has done, that, were I to include my own time, I’d get more than 90% of the money, again, back to the unfair model.

2) With the flexible funding model, we can begin pre-production before the campaign actually ends because the moment someone preorders a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, the money is transferred to my Paypal account. A fixed-funding method, or Kickstarter only transfers the money once the campaign reaches the goal, or often 1-4 weeks after the campaign ends. Since we’re planning on filming in the month of September, we’ve got to do casting starting late July. So, there just isn’t time to do a standard fixed-funding model.
Also, the fact is, with this model (no one is getting paid upfront), means that we’re making the movie regardless. We just have to do it without permits and calling in favors. It’s scary because all the expenses that aren’t covered by the campaign come out of my pocket. I’m not a rich man, but I really believe ALGORITHM can be something great!
I know that’s a bit longer than you might have expected. But, I wanted to be very clear.
Jonathan Schiefer


Movies aren’t made by one person. They are a team effort. ALGORITHM is no exception. We’re looking to crew up. Here’s the list of crew we’re looking for (alphabetical):

CINEMATOGRAPHER: He’s the guy who coordinates the lights and the camera, working closely with the director to compose each shot and make it look perfect. On smaller crews (that’s us), she will also operate the camera.

HAIR/MAKEUP: There will be blood… and bruises. It’s all pretend and the makeup department makes that happen. They also help make beautiful people even more beautiful, or sleep-deprived, or starving.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: These are the people who don’t have a specific assigned job, but do whatever is needed at the moment. It can be anything from passing notes from the director to the city, or as simple as getting the lead actor a soda. They are the army that helps make a movie!

SOUND: Movies got sound pretty early on. Sound is vital. People will often forgive bad picture before they’ll forgive bad sound. Sound quality is the fastest way to tell a low-budget independent movie from a major studio movie. It takes much more than simply pressing record and stop. You’ve got to have a keen ear.

SCRIPT SUPERVISOR: This job has also been called continuity. This is the person who makes sure everyone says they’re lines. Also, if someone takes a sip from a glass in shot 1, then in shot 2, that glass needs to be at the same level. Keep in mind, these shots may not happen one after the other, or even on the same day. Yeah, it’s tough, and vital. The Script Supervisor on ALGORITHM will also be in charge of taking notes about which “take” Jonathan likes most.

ALGORITHM: Locations List

LOCATIONS (alphabetical)


Abandoned Building: Will (the main character) finds an abandoned building inside the Tenderloin. He crawls through a door or boarded up window and finds a small room where he lines the walls with aluminum foil and hacks some software. So, we’re gonna need a dodgy building exterior. Remember, this is the movies, so the interior, or inside, doesn’t actually have to be the same place as the exterior, or outside. Will enters the building at just before sunset and leaves long after dark.

Al Jazeera News Room: A reporter gets an email. We need a news room, so desks, computers, reporters, preferably with a Middle Eastern decor. We also need a news studio where an Al Jazeera anchor reports some plot-critical news.

Back Door: This is actually a club/bar/coffee shop, owned and operated by Sudonym, one of the main characters. We need an exterior shot. We also need a conference room, a hallway, and a dining area. A good portion of the movie takes place at this location, so it’s pretty important. Of course, most hackers are nocturnal, so most of the shots can be at night, when the real bar/coffee shop is closed.

BBC News: A reporter gets an email. We need a news room, so desks, computers, reporters, preferably with a conservative, refined decor. We also need a news studio where an Al Jazeera anchor reports some plot-critical news.

Bitchan’s House: A large part of the movie takes place here. Bitchan is a 2nd generation Japanese. Hopefully, this will be somewhere not too far from Japan Town. Ideally, the inside of her house will reflect that. She’s also a cluttered geek, so, it’s a flexible idea. We need both interior and exterior shots. We need a living room (a couch and a coffee table), a restroom, a kitchen, an office (with maker/hacker decor (desk, soldering gear, etc)), a hallway.

Black Room: While this location is, according to the script, inside the abandoned building, it would probably be smarter to film it someplace a little safer. I mentioned it in the Abandoned Building section, but it’s basically a small room where he lines the walls with aluminum foil and hacks some software.

Cell Tower: There’s a shot of a cell tower, staring from the top and craning/tilting down to the bottom. But, the really cool part is when Will picks the lock and gets access to the cell tower base station, which is a small shack filled with servers. Again, it’s the movies, so the inside doesn’t have to be the same place as the outside. And, the likelihood of one of the major Cell providers letting us use their facility to show people how their hardware can be hacked, probably not gonna happen. So, think a little outside the box on this one. For instance, the Cell Tower, and the Cell Tower Base Station, are definitely two different places.

Decimate’s House: Decimate’s got money. Like… millions. Ideally, this will be in the Richmond district. We need the outside for several shots, and also a living room, an office. Ideally, the living room will have a fireplace, be near the back, with bay windows leading to a view of the pool. If you’ve got anything like this, you’ll find my vision rather flexible.

Dempsey’s House: A nice, multi-story house preferably in the Sunset/Twin Peaks area. Will talks past it at night and tosses something onto the roof. In a series of rooms and cuts, we show Dempsey watching TV, in his home office on his computer, and the wireless router. We also show Mrs. Dempsey’s office where her computer turns itself on as Will remotely hacks it.

DHS BUILDING: A lot of the movie takes place here. Going from the outside in, we need a nice entrance plaza, corporate lobby, hallways, an elevator, an office, a tech center (a room with a lot of monitors, and a police style interrogation room (There needs to be one door, no windows, a table, three chairs, 1-3 lights. This room should be largely concrete, since there’s a scene where some water might splash… a bit.

Golden Gate Park: Will meets Hash at a bench on Golden Gate Park, probably the pan-handle. Together, they talk about hacking, while Hash breaks into a wifi network. I’ll work this out with the city.

Grocery Store: Will walks in, buys a bunch of aluminum foil, has a brief conversation with the cashier, and leaves. This is actually one of the trickier shots because I’ve got to get permission to shoot every product that appears in the movie. If I don’t have permission, I’ve got to move the product so the registered trademark isn’t showing (this happens so often in movies and on TV, there’s a term for it: Greeking).

Market Street: Will walks from his apartment South of Market, across Market to get to the Tenderloin. We’re probably just going to do this as casual as possible: Me, and Will.

Muni: N/Judah: Will boards the N/Judah line at Market, and rides it to the Sunset, exiting near Fifth and Irving, just after the tunnel.

Neighborhood Park: Ideally this will be Alamo Square Park, on Steiner & Hayes. We’ll need it mostly after sunset. I’ll get this taken care of with the city, but I wanted it here just so the location list is complete.

San Francisco Newspaper: A reporter gets an email. We need a news room, so desks, computers, reporters.

Novak’s Office: Nice, corporate. Business casual. These guys are government contractors, so, considerably more straight-laced than Facebook. Windows, a desk, and a computer.

Park: I’ll work out the park itself with the City. However, I also need an adjacent house, where some DHS guys break in and kidnap someone. I’ll also need access to a hole in the sidewalk (like where they load supplies for restaurants) deep enough for someone to be in, preferably while they’re standing upright. It’s supposed to be a telephone company router, but, again, there’s no way the telco would actually let us film their stuff. In fact, they have rules specifically prohibiting the photography of the inside of their boxes. This is both at night, and during the middle of the day. Since we’re limited to how late at night we can film, this will probably need to be a several day shoot.

Public Library: Ideally, this is going to be the main branch in downtown San Francisco. It’s just too gorgeous not to use. But, that might not work out. Regardless, Will walks in, places a screen protector over the monitor, and hacks into several different computers. He then walks out. I’ll almost certainly work this out with the City.

Russia Today: A reporter gets an email. We need a news room, so desks, computers, reporters. We also need a news studio where an Al Jazeera anchor reports some plot-critical news.

The Tenderloin: This leads up to the Abandoned Building scene, but the place is so colorful, why not use it.

Upscale Coffee Shop: You were probably expecting more coffee shop scenes. Trust, me, this one will be enough. It’s where Will meets Dempsey. I’ve actually got a coffee shop in mind, on Irving in the sunset, next to the N/Judah line, but I’m not sure that one will work out yet, and I’m always open to suggestions. This meeting is at night.

Will’s Loft: Will rents a room, or more probably a studio, South of Market. Ideally, it will be facing east, so the sunrise can shine in and wake Will. Anyway, it doesn’t have to be nice. Just a window, and a futon/couch/disheveled bed (listed in descending order of preference). We will also need exterior shots of this, as Will leaves his apartment, and tries to return, but mitigating circumstances stop him.


We need your help!

So, if you, or known someone you known, has access to any of these locations and wants to help make an amazing movie, send me an email:

A Moving Train

There is a phrase I dislike, but that is a truism nonetheless: “Everyone likes a moving train.” It means no one wants to start anything but once something’s started, everyone wants to be a part of it.

When I came up with the premise for DRG, I knew I had come up with an idea that is good enough to use as currency. This is not an ego thing; I have proof: everyone who has heard the idea, with one minor exception, has loved the idea. Every creative person I’ve approached to collaborate with me in making the idea come to pass has agreed to do so, even though there’s no upfront money involved. EVERYONE. No exceptions.

I’m not under the delusion that everyone everywhere is going to like DRG. In fact, I’ve been very selective so far about who I choose to disclose it to, people I thought either might be interested in, or who have a talent that will help me make an amazing movie.

This is going to be a wild ride and I’m going to be as open as I can possibly be with every stage of the making of DRG, from casting to production, to actual real distribution metrics!

We are in a world full of possibilities. I believe this world is made better by the free sharing of information. As such, I’m going to be releasing DRG myself, and it will be as DRM free as I can make it.

If you’d like to know more about DRG, as it happens (read: as soon as I can type it up and send it out), send me an email: and put the word “Subscribe” in the subject. I’ll add you to the email list, which you can unsubscribe from at any time. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google+. Just check the links at the top right of the page (there are 4 little icons each linking to the appropriate page.

As always, let me know what you think.

Posted in DRG