The Van Wilt report

The Van Wilt report


What’s working, what’s not


Creative Director, Luissa Lawrence and Presence Films’ CEO, David Steinhoff, meet to consider the next step in the digital revolution.

The duo come up with an idea to create an online development community where fans, film-makers and investors can collaborate, create, connect and invest.

The very first project would be a hybrid version of Carol Baauw’s supernatural fantasy, ‘Journey of the seeds’.

That’s where it began. Where it goes is up to you.

Change is coming

The way of development for independents is no cake-walk. This article explores what’s working, what’s not and what will change. Team members, have your say, comment in the comment section below. 


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The way of development

This is a development site. 

Our objective is to create a TV series by developing a pilot, a series bible and content that supports our proposal for co-production and investment.

We are a team working together to achieve a common goal. 

We prove ourselves by the content we contribute. We provide in-house crowd-funding by purchasing Campaign Veteran Stamps. Team, fans, supporters and sponsors all share in a slice of the production bonus pie through accruing leaderboard points. 

We promote team members through our social media and through interviews. 

Most of our our collaboration process takes place offsite, using Google Docs, Dropbox, Pinterest, Moodshare (a visual whiteboard), Skype video and team meets. 

When we publish, we credit the team behind each work and if payment is not available, we credit them points to the leaderboard.  The site is a living credit for its members and track of the project’s development process. 


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What’s not working

The site encourages, fans, semi-pros and professionals to join and contribute content. It all flows through the same portal. Some feel this makes the site less professional than it could be.  

In-house crowd-funding, employing  Campaign Veteran stamps was modeled on $8 per month per team member. This is enough to sustain basic operation for a site with under one thousand members. It is currently yielding forty cents per member. 

Investment in development in the current environment seems unlikely. We capitalised to achieve the development we have so far however post 2011 the market has collapsed.

Investment dollars are being drawn to tax-deductible areas such super, real estate and shares. This is configured into the tax model. There is currently little interest in new technologies, science or intellectual property development in Australia. 

Sponsorship is possible but we have not enjoyed much success in this area to date because whilst the site has some promo material and considerable concept art it lacks actual content which might compel a sponsor to act. We need to create that content. 

Even with ‘The Guide’, members often state the site is difficult to navigate and development is hard to track.

There is too much burden on the main team members using the current model. We need to reduce, spread the responsibilities and focus on professional development.

Most importantly, Presence has exhausted its capital and struggles to convince members to contribute by purchasing campaign stamps. There is a common perception that the site is a networking site like Facebook and should be free however Facebook won’t provide employment, nor will it issue its members a dividend from its profits. The Journey site can achieve this through contracting and its leaderboard system. 

If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.

Benjamin Franklin

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The way of change

So, where is the potential for improvement? Consider the following.

Separation of church and state

Instead of one site, create three or a trinity of the one.

  • A development site – a simplified site focused on development for the pros
  • A presentation site – a site for new content just like HBO’s site for ‘Game of thrones’
  • Dedicated crowd-funding

Run an on-going, per project, crowd-funding campaign using Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a global intersection between culture and technology. It can attract the right kind of sponsor, investor and crowd-funder and may attract some important interest.


Create an on-going crowdfunding site using a WP template like Ignitiondesk.


Use our social media including Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and mail subscription for:

  •    Notification to fans and community of new content
  •    Opportunities to participate
  •    Contest and prizes 


That’s a start but there a few things that would really simplify the process and excite team and fans.


A promo video

Anything under 30 seconds that says, ‘This is how it works and how you participate’. Make it fun.


The hoop

Create a burning hoop. Demand the very best from the team. Lesser content can be fed through the social media sites but the presentation site must feature only the best.



We need specific team members to handle each social media form and the running of the site. Development requires an absolute focus if we’re going to get it done and done well.



Crowdfunding is good but we need to start thinking about revenue from other streams such as:


  • Betting systems
  • Merchandize
  • Licensing
  • Lowest price bidding auctions
  • Competitions
  • New grants
  • Apps and app micro-episodes
  • Free release of content for utube and similar ad revenue
  • Google ads
  • And so forth


That trailer

We need content. We need WOW content or at least, ‘This is going to be a really good story, I want to know more’, content. We need the trailer and it ought to cover the basics.

Over to you

Have your say. Log in and share your views in the comments section below and whilst your there, show the love and grab a Campaign Veteran’s stamp. *Your naked without one. You can pay by credit card using PayPal. 

About Yasmine

Yasmine Van Wilt is a North-American singer-songwriter, writer and actress. She’s completed a PhD in Creative Writing and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

A musical chameleon, she records under her own name and under the name of her two alter egos, Elle “A” and Antoinette. She describes her music—that she creates for herself—as “a folk-rock-pop hybrid, with a strong dash of Delta Blues”.

Find out more about Yasmine.

A horizontal squiggly thung

Begin the journey

Katie-Honan - Join Journey of the seeds

Alex Soliven- Donate - Journey of the seeds

Sascha-Raeburn - Contact Journey of the seeds

31 Responses

  1. Some crowdfunding sources I’ve seen so far:
    Anime Series. High-quality. I had my doubts seeing it was $100k+ under the target budget but they blasted through it just now. (in ONE day)
    This is so ridiculous that it’s entertaining. Nothing too thoughtful and complicated there but I’d really want to see it.
    It only started to make sense when a guy I’m in the same team and company with right now is actually making it work and got some exposure from kotaku. Before it was just under $50. First day in kotaku and half funding. 2 days in and it’s almost hit the target. Almost anything promoted through kotaku gets funded. These are paying customers and they’d love the genre.

    How do we make people want to enjoy the ride?
    What can we show them to kick things off?
    Who are we targeting?

    • CD,
      This is excellent and exactly what I have been exploring. Certainly, having dedicated team members to serve those areas would be of assistance too but finding the right social portals and communicating in a unique way for each is the way to go.

      I have discovered that the parallel universe Pinterest board has more regular followers and regular interaction than even our Facebook account. Creating story and competitions to engage those followers would probably gain a lot more interest for the project.

      Well spotted.

  2. I am going to first and foremost say reading the comments on this thread is difficult with the gray on black. Which leads me into the discussion. I’ve been a member of this site since 2011 I believe, when it all began. I assisted in the DAY ONE and corroborating on the who, what, when and how. I’ve since taken a backend approach for various reasons: the site, the motivation and the sales pitch.

    For those TL;DR: We need a better website, better perks/benefits and a trailer.

    The site
    I’ve said it from day 1 and will continue to say it. Although, I am being hypocritical, I say it as we look for a better and more user friendly way to operate. Using Facebook would not be beneficial because it requires users to have an account and is streamlined to one thread; We have many threads operating. We need a site that is simple, compact, can be viewed on both a mobile device (including tablet) AND computer as well as links to all social networking aspects. This is 2014 and while some are ignorant to join the technology wave, businesses and organizations that do not, will fail (and have started to already). We are getting ready to enter web 3.0: Web 1.0 was the birth of the internet, Web 2.0 was social networking and web 3.0 is making tasks seamless and easier (purchasing, selling, researching products). If someone that has heard of JOS ventures to this site, they would leave vastly confused and turned off from the idea in my opinion.

    The Motivation
    We need to create reasons for people to come to our site. We need to create incentives for those that have been here to stay here and to stay engaged. As it stands, we have very little of that. Loyalty amounts to seniority which then amounts to better benefits and perks. No one starts off as the leader but wants to work their way up the ladder to it. We as internet users of an intangible service (the world wide web) want to see tangible results. We want to see where the money is going, what stage we are at with production and so forth. This is the exact same thing investors want to see too. The ‘hero points’ and campaign stickers are great but feel they are buried deep in the bowels of this website. We need to come up with a way to get already existing members motivated to not only recruit but contribute their own skill level as well as create a system that will lure new members to becoming senior members. I understand nobody likes to work for free, but the idea of this project is amazing and if pulled off, could really put a dent in studios and distribution companies and the way Hollywood and LA does business.

    The Sales Pitch
    Unfortunately, not much in terms of Hollywood blockbusters and films come out of anywhere other than the US. This is the first obstacle, the second being we have a story and pre-development but again, buried deep within this site. While WordPress is great and all, for what we are trying to accomplish, we need to find something more expansive, friendlier and would also allow for donations to come in, links to outside website, etc. Allow me to step out of the member role and into an investor. If I see JOS has a solid trailer, solid storyline and the backing of hundreds of members of varying levels of donations/skill levels, I am interested and want to sit down with its members or ‘board of directors’ to find out more. Google is currently making a ‘choose your path’ feature film. This has never been done and they are gearing up for filming. Hollywood has turned into recycled ideas and investors are looking for new ventures to throw their money at. Case in point, Sharknado 2. A movie so horrible that it’s good. Now to have this movie called ‘Journey of Seeds’ created NOT from a studio but a group of people that came together and created it? That is amazing.

    I’ve rambled on too much now, ha.

  3. Keith Melton says:

    Some thoughts:

    1 I agree about using Kickstarter (provided, of course, that the current set of negative aspects has been resolved before any Kickstarter campaign begins) We need a good trailer in place for potential crowd-sourcing supporters to click to, as well as short interviews with people in different places around the world – the “Global” aspect of the collaboration strikes me as significant and needs playing up. Rewards for the largest sources should include travel to filming venues when the shooting starts – supporters pay for their own travel but hosting can be included in the award value (see my earlier comments about hosting near Rio de Janeiro, for example). Perhaps for the very largest supporters even travel costs can be included?

    2 Those of us already on board must have been brought on board at least partly by the “Journey of the Seeds” title, so it cannot be all bad – but it does not immediately tell you about the core topic of the project. However, there does seem to be a head of steam building towards changing the title, so why not open the title up for a competition, open to ALL current members of the community – even the passive ones, who may, as a result of the competition become less passive! There should be rewards available so people can submit more than one potential title in the hope of triggering a reward – so for example the top 100 titles picked may receive 5 hero points and if your title gets into the top 20 you may receive 20 hero points, the top five will receive 100 and the runner up 200 with the winner receiving 500 point (possibly more??) – in total 1700 points if my arithmetic is correct, more if the first prize is larger of course.

  4. We received these notes from Team member Maria D’urso

    Hi David,
    Here’s the problem as I see it.
    Problem – cash flow.
    Reason – lack of investors and subscribers.
    Reason – lack of product
    Reason – writers aren’t producing
    Reason – Can’t see any quality writer persevering without full understanding of storyline, characters, plots, subplots, context, full exploration of all this etc. That’s where writing begins and then there’s so much more to do. Communication, and lots of, is imperative.
    Solution – in order to succeed, this project needs quality product, quality writing, quality everything. It starts with the product. No amount of ‘sell’ will succeed if the product doesn’t fulfil consumer expectations and consumer expectations are very high. Why subscribe to Seeds when they can hire a movie or watch other multimedia?
    Problem – The present model doesn’t allow for quality and cohesion.
    Problem – Without quality and cohesion – no sellable product.
    Problem – No sealable product – no cash flow. No cash flow – Ok sounds familiar.

    Solution – breakdown into different task forces sounds promising. It’s a start.

    I know how much this beloved Seed Baby of yours means to you.

    All my very best wishes,

    • It’s difficult to argue with anything that Maria has said. I’ve written series projects as part of a team of writers before, and it’s important to have things like character bios/backstories/descriptions/motivations, a plot summary that outlines the big picture, the major arcs and the subplots, and a writer’s guide that includes direction on things like style, character relationships, social structure, technology, etc. That way all writers start from a common understanding. A good script is always the best foundation for any movie or series. While some of the other material here is good promotional material and will help to sell the concept and the look and feel, without a good script you have nothing to produce.

      • I agree, we need a solid base at this stage. But I think a film synopsis first then focusing on the finer details of a script. We already have the plot and day one down, we need to continue expanding off that.

  5. MARIA D’URSO called and commented that there is a need to create an INNER CIRCLE of WRITERS who are privy to the BIG PICTURE, THEMES and so forth and that this approach will enable the very best story outcomes.

    MARIA also said re the CHOICE OF A NEW TITLE that it would reveal itself once the PROTAGONIST understood their role and the ANTAGONIST had been identified. It requires for teh CONFLICT to be defined and the THEME being addressed to be revealed.

    Often from there, using IRONY, the best choice of title reveals itself.
    Thanks Maria

    • Yeah, I think things need to be open to the ‘public’ or not. Currently the story seems to be behind a door which is slightly ajar. If the project is totally open source collaboration then all needs to be revealled in a project bible and some process to decide who is privy to it, or decide there is no bible and the story is being improvised by whoever steps up. Highly irregular but Alex Proyas did this recently by writing an opening scene and setting up what amounted to a game of ‘consequences’ – a competition to write what came next. Alex chose the best one, published it and then a new competition opened for the next chapter. Mind you, though a script was completed, I don’t know that the project went anywhere.

      We are not doing this, but I’m not sure what we are doing. At the moment David is revealling the story to us in stages but this has the problems described. The writer has to know the big picture. If it’s not presented then they’re making it up. If we’re just writing a self-contained teaser of how the story opens, okay, but that means it may not make it to the later final production., and may not sell it very well.

      • YES YES YES! It sounds as if we are all in a dark room attempting to get to this door that is ajar. This though creates a problem in my eyes: If we create an open public forum regarding the story and script, who would want to pay or watch the project because they know everything about it? 1,000 people signed up for JOS already know what is going to happen, let alone more signing up to join in on it? I believe we need an inner circle of writers to hash out the story but find a way to keep the talent that have dedicated their time and energy to this project in the loop and onboard.

      • I’m presently thinking there’s two ways to write a long form story – either linearly, making it up as you go along, or if you know where you want to go then you work from the outside in, with a big blurry picture to start with, then working into it with details. Maybe the latter needs some consideration.

  6. Crowdfunding per-project is a good shout, I think. Certainly at least worth a try and a good way to reach a new demographic of sponsors big and small.

    I think having someone/ a group dedicated to social media is definitely important. Consistent and targeted social media marketing would help and be a weight off your shoulders. Of course the issue with social media is being available to create and upload content regularly. Tapping into the student community would be a winner- have the know how and the time and always looking for projects to increase their experience.

    How about also reaching out to film students to get them involved and encourage them to make trailers too?

    • Thanks Harry,

      Yes, there is a real challenge with getting sticky attachment here for team members.

      May be more problems than it is worth. There is a feeling of, ‘I only want to do my own thing’ unless there is money and if there is money then we might as well pay the pros

  7. All sounds very considered. The idea of utilising existing, large-base crowd sourcing sites like Kickstarter is a good one. They already have investors logging in looking around so you don’t have to go looking for them. Many a great, large creative project has been funded through Kickstarter, and JOTS is ideally placed to be among them. Funding stages or phases of production may be a way to go – eg, fund a development program, then fund production of a pilot, then fund a series. Each stage will be able to leverage the success of the previous stage.

    Breaking the site up into a development site and a second publicity site (or using existing social media for that purpose) is an interesting idea. What is the effect, though, of the existing social media presence? Is that working? What needs to be done to improve engagement there? You also want to be careful not to ostracise the non-professionals. Part of the uniqueness of this project is that professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs can all work alongside one another on the same creative project.

    Just some early thoughts.

  8. Yes we should have this conversation but ill have to gather my thoughts about it.

    • My thoughts, gathered:

      1. Story

      Something I’ve raised before. It’s a problem for anyone getting on board as a sponsor or participant. What is the story?

      Yes, we have an inciting incident in Day One.
      Yes, we know there are three main characters of Toowyn, Che and Khalil.
      Yes, we have some scripts exploring day one.

      But we need something to guide creatives on the heart of the main story. If tipping the big picture is a problem then maybe thats where we look at different sites with different functions as Mr SteinyHOD says.

      Only then can we begin to ask questions like:
      What is the main character’s dilemma?
      How is the main character connected to the two others?
      Who is the nemesis? What do they want?
      How is theme explored by the opposing values of the protagonist and the antagonist?
      How does this connect to Day one.

      If people don’t know this how can they know what theyre investing their time or money into?

      2. Passive membership

      I think the above issues are contributing to this one. People don’t really know what theyre signing up for so there’s nothing obvious to get inspired about or get their teeth into. It looks to me like many people are signing up and waiting for something to happen. Theyre film crew and actors etc and I wonder if for most of them it’s just a kind of job search activity.

      We do have an active membership too, but using myself as an example, I’ve felt like, or hoped, someone else is steering this somewhere and what’s been driving my activity isn’t that different from the passive people – it’s just that I’m not waiting, I’m pushing it along when an opportunity to do so is presented but I don’t really know where it’s going. I’ve just been assuming if it’s got somewhere to go it’ll go and maybe it’ll be worthwhile I’ll have a part to play.

      Then I look at Team Moscow, Barcelona and of course Alex in London. They are creating a whole new storyline around Day One but we have not addressed the basis of the story of the Journey that would trigger a full exploration of theme and message and how that plays out against the characters.

      3. Title

      Is “Journey of the Seeds” our media title? ‘Game of thrones’ was ‘Fire and Ice’. Why can’t we have a stronger title? The seeds reference is too open to jokes about reproduction. We need a short sharp, potent title.

      • DN,
        1. OK, story can be fixed by a PILOT treatment LITE.

        Key questions can be addressed in the LITE.

        2. Re passive membership
        Ja, let’s say that money and pro outcomes are likely to drive it but raising that money and achieving sticky is no easy journey

        For fans and team to get DAY ONE we can integrate into the PILOT treatment LITE but don’t discount the problem that most people do not read. I still get emails and messages saying, how does it work? I write back See the Guide and receive a message, ‘Can’t you just tell me?’.

        You see the problem. SO, that’s why the issue of a collaborative site is in question as if you say MONEY, STICKY and COMMUNICATION is the challenge and then STORY is required to address that, then the next Q is WHERE IS OUR TIME BEING SPENT? Answer, recruitment, promotion, interaction, explanation with members. What is the yield from all of that work in the way of funding or story. Very little. So, does such a collaborative site work OR should we shift a number of fans and followers to our social media and bring on board main team whilst still recruiting.

        Money drives it. We should be funded to shoot. We don’t have cash to pay our hosting fees. It’s clear the time spent is not yielding and yet we are not able to invest time in story and production.

        We may need to bring a close and loyal team with us and shift the rest of the site to social media follow. I don’t want to do that but the numbers are speaking loud and clear. It won’t monetize and we cannot allocate to production.

        3. Title
        Carol will bite my head off but I agree. We need a different title for the work. The title distracts.

        Good points and thanks for taking the time.

        • Further to David Nerlich’s comment re TITLE, Maria D’urso gave an excellent tactic for determining title. Title is determined in a feature by ACT TWO of the script when the protagonist knows what they are about, when we have identified the antagonist and when the theme and the conflicting values have been identified. Then, apply IRONY. At the heart of this what is the conflict about?
          Two great titles:
          FACE OFF

          Yet this is not always used for example:
          Battlestar Galactica

          Always that Carol’s original Graphic novel be acknowledged so for example, based on or inspired by the original graphic novel by Carol Baauw, ‘Journey of the seeds’.


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