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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Vermont Production Company Uses Social Media, Crowdsourcing To Fund Short Film

Nicole Erthein
A Putney production company is using crowdsourcing and social media to help make their short film called "Van Money," a heist story that centers around a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon named Betsy.

A Vermont-based production company is using crowdsourcing and social media to help make their short film Van Money, a heist story that centers around a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon named Betsy.

Betsy has her own Twitter account, which encapsulates this production company’s quirky and creative methods. Who’s Asking Productions specializes in projects that have a social consciousness to them. “Everything we make has feminist ideals in mind, racial equality, gender equality, but we are also comedic and ridiculous,” says Tim Velsor, filmmaker and co-writer of Van Money.

The production company has put out a web series, several short films and a live variety show. Velsor says they release most of their projects online.

He sees Vermont as an under appreciated resource for filmmakers. “You don’t see a lot of movies being made here and it’s such an incredibly beautiful state. Film making, when done properly, can be a really clean source of revenue for an area,” Velsor says.

"You don't see a lot of movies being made here and it's such an incredibly beautiful state. Film making, when done properly, can be a really clean source of revenue for an area." - Tim Velsor, filmmaker

So how did their new project Van Money come to fruition? Quite randomly, it turns out. “For the past two summers, I’ve been teaching filmmaking at the Putney School,” Velsor says. “We play this game where we take Bananagram tiles, which are like Scrabble tiles, and lay them all out on the table and pick letters out and start forming words. I write them down on the board and we turn them into movie titles. From there, we start to form plot lines around the title of the movie … Van Money came about that way,” he says.

Credit Who's Asking Productions
Who's Asking Productions
Katharine Maness (left) and Tim Velsor wrote the short film "Van Money," which centers around this 1984 Volkswagen Vanogan named Betsy.

The short film is very character driven, Velsor explains. “We kind of play on the archetypes of typical heist movies. My character, for instance, is the guy who’s like, ‘I’m out of the game. I’ve been out of the game for awhile, I left that life behind but then my ex partner drags me back into the game, for personal reasons, for one last job.’”

The production company is using Indiegogo, which is similar to Kickstarter, to fund Van Money. “It’s fantastic,” Velsor says. “It’s my first time using a crowdsourcing service to raise money for a film.” They are still fundraising for Van Money and are in the pre-production phase of the project. Along with crowdsourcing their fundraising, the production company also uses social media, including Instagram and Facebook, to promote their projects.

Velsor says a lot of people donate their time and resources to projects such as Van Money, although he says in an ideal world they could pay everyone what they deserve. “That’s a long game. You have to establish yourself as a filmmaker who can get movies into film festivals, can get movies actually seen and generate revenue from it,” he says.   

So where will we be able to see Van Money when it’s finished? “We will most certainly put it in as many film festivals nation-wide and nationally,” Velsor says. “And we will have screenings of it in Vermont. I would love to be able to show it at the Latchis [Theater in Brattleboro] at some point.”

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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