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The Art of a Penny - January 29, 2019

Dear Backers,

When Signe Baumane was growing up in the Soviet Union, nobody would pick up coins that lay on the sidewalk. It was far too undignified. No kopek was worth that kind of public humiliation.

Paying the price for picking up a Kopek

Several years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Signe moved to New York and sold her art on the street. As the weather grew colder sales got meager. Signe often had no money for hot tea, but she still wouldn't pick up a dropped coin. One spring day, Signe was walking with her friend Gordon when he stooped to pick up a penny. “What are you doing?", she asked incredulously. Gordon, an artist but not a starving one, put the penny in his pocket and said, “Respect money and it will respect you.”

A light flashed for Signe and she's been picking up pennies ever since.

Fact: There are more pennies on New York sidewalks in 2019 than there were in 1996

The new strategy worked. With respect for money and a lot of hard work, Signe gradually established herself as an animator/filmmaker. Miraculously, she has been able to survive as an independent artist.

But an artist must always push for more.

Contemplating "More"

1.5 Million Dollars. This is what My Love Affair With Marriage will cost by the time the film is finally completed sometime in 2021. Our budget is very small for an animated feature film, but it's massive for a penny-picking artist.

Our goal is to raise this money without losing control of the film. Partnering with multiple donors (you!) helps us stay independent. It is crucial that Signe - the writer, director, and animator of this film - maintains final say on all things artistic.

In the film, Zelma goes on a 23-year quest for Perfect Love and Lasting Marriage

But fundraising for anything in the Arts is a challenge. And it's especially difficult for independent artists to have their voices heard.

Zelma's Scream at age 13

Here is how we have been funding My Love Affair With Marriage:

Kickstarter. In early 2017, 1,562 Kickstarter backers financed the complete 95-minute audio track of the film. Recording, editing and mixing 29 actors was an extensive process. The ensuing dialogue, narration and songs became the blueprint for all the animation to follow.

Since November 2018, we have been conducting a Fundraising Drive through our website to help us with the animation production process. Many additional backers have joined the My Love Affair With Marriage Family during this ongoing campaign.

The ZAP!!! of Amazement and Gratitude: Our reaction every time a new backer donates, or an existing backer gives additional support. Thank You!!!

Grants. We apply to the ones that we are eligible for. Many grants only fund documentaries (we're not a doc), others support social change (we never seem to fall into their specific parameters). Some grants are for script development (done), others for post-production (not there yet), and still others are for filmmakers from under-represented communities. The grants we do apply for are highly competitive and most of the time we don’t get them.

The Mythology Sirens. We combine Signe's hand-drawn 2-D animation with photographs of sets that we build, texture, paint and light. The characters and mics in this scene are animated, the rest is set and lighting.

Some grants give us 1,000 words to answer their questions. Others, 1,000 characters to answer similar questions. None of the grants allow us to add images to our words - our preferred way of telling our story. And careful with the humor. Grants are a serious business.

Learning to write a successful grant without using humor

But still, we persist, grateful for the opportunities. As we complete more of the film, our sample footage should make it clearer to grant panelists just what we are trying to do. An Animated Feature Film for Adults is a rare bird. Add to the mix an ambitious story told in unconventional ways... and, well, that's the challenge we face with grants.

In 2017 Signe was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. It was the 8th time she had applied. The award money went right into the production budget.

Latvian Co-production. Without the partnership of Roberts Vinovskis and Studio Locomotive along with the support of the National Film Centre of Latvia this 6-year project would be a 10-year project. Which is unfathomable. As the Film Centre only funds work undertaken in Latvia by Latvian artists, Roberts put together a team of artists in Riga to color and composite all the animation of the film.

The Locomotive Team of Artists: (from left) Vendija Rozenblate, Anete Matvejeva, Artūrs Lācis, Inga Prauliņa, Georgs Harijs Āva, Vidaga Grīnberga, Andreta Strade

To keep the Brooklyn studio operating fully we are in continuous fundraising mode.

At work in the Brooklyn Studio.

Magic. Many artists fantasize about some sort of magical funding, which would allow them to focus entirely on their art. While we would never turn our backs to Magic, we enjoy the challenge of funding My Love Affair With Marriage. It connects us with our backers. It enlarges the number of people who have a stake in the film. It makes us continually define and re-define the project and its importance. It keeps us on our toes.

And Pennies. We continue to pick up the coins giving them our full respect.

Nickels, dimes and quarters, too.

Thank You for your support! We could NEVER do this without you.

Love, Sturgis, Signe, Roberts and the entire My Love Affair With Marriage Team

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