In October 2002, I interviewed David Sander, the creator of Man Conquers Space, a mockumentary chronicling the first fifty years of an alternative-history space program that takes as its’ inspiration a series of articles published in Collier’s magazine in the 1950s and featuring the art of Chesley Bonestell, among others.
Cinescape ran a short piece by me drawn from the interview, but I wanted to provide the complete interview as well. You can read the article in issue #68 of Cinescape, which features either a Daredevil or a Frodo cover (they issued it with both versions).
This introduction will be published prior to each section of the interview, which will be presented over a period of five days.
Mike Whybark [MW]: On the website, you have some intriguing information concerning the business status of the project, including what’s apparently a to-be-scrapped subscription funding model (which nonetheless showed impressive revenues of about $20,000) and the joining of forces with an exec producer to secure larger-scale funding for the movie.
David Sander [DS]: The current overall investment structure is in transition (with a final form yet to be properly determined), but the relationship between the current group of investors and Man Conquers Space remains, and will remain throughout, regardless of any additional investment structure coming on board. In essence, the original investment structure will be maintained as a separate entity to any new system, safeguarding the original investors to whom I owe so much.
MW: First, tell me a bit about the initial subscription deal and the current status of the original contributors with regard to what they can expect upon completion of the film.
DS: The initial deal was that for USD$100, a “Contributor” would earn one ‘unit’ or share in the profits of MCS. Three years from the completion date of MCS, the profits earned by the film in those three years would be divided up. A certain percentage allocated to investors – the total amount finally allocated divided by the number of units accumulated. A percentage of the profits would go to certain members of the production crew, and a percentage would go to individuals and organizations who were instrumental in bringing MCS to life.
To my mind I was hoping to at least double the money of those who provided funds. Many made the investment of just USD$100, but some individuals made greater offerings, increasing their chances to earn greater returns. For most of them in their communications with me however, their priority was not financial return – it was to simply see MCS made. They want to see the film. Indeed – a few investors deliberately withheld any means of contacting them, as they did not care about returns. They saw their funds as a contribution gratis.
MW: Have you heard a lot of complaints from these early-stage supporters about the alterations to their expectations?
DS: None at all – indeed everyone who contacted me about this issue pretty much expressed continued deep enthusiasm and increasing eagerness to see the project finished (with formalization of the revised structure also a priority).
MW: The revenue you mention on the site, is that total in US dollars or Australian dollars? About how much is that in the other currency?
The total quoted is in US dollars. For the duration of production, the Australian dollar has averaged in value to 50 US cents. In other words, double the US figure for Aussie dollars, which is how the funds are spent.
MW: If you could pick anyone in the world to provide substantial financial and business guidance on the project, who would that be? What can you tell me about the current exec producer? What projects has s/he worked on in the past? Is s/he working on any currently in addition to yours?
DS: The role has been ostensibly labelled “Executive Producer”, but Boyd Britton has requested to be considered co-producer rather than EP. Boyd is a young film maker, but already has a number of projects under his belt (primarily documentaries and commercial work), and knows the elaborate workings of the industry very well. He is currently working on a large-scale documentary for the Australian TV networks SBS and ABC, which in its final stages of post production right now.
MW: Can you tell me about your funding goal for this new round? How much money are you looking for to complete the film? When do you need the money by?
DS: Looking at what needs to be shot, and what needs to happen post-production-wise, the current goal is to raise about AUD$250,000. This will permit not only a highly polished (and highly marketable) product, but also enable me to shoot certain scenes I had been unable to shoot before because of lack of adequate budget. In order to have the film ready for the end of the first quarter of 2003, I need the funding to arrive by the end of November at the latest.
MW: What happens if the film can’t complete funding by that date you mention? Does it just delay the film, or does it jeopardize the production?
It simply delays the film. If I can’t get funding at all for whatever reason, it means continued delays, but not enough to kill off the film – it simply reduces the chances of shooting certain scenes, and prevents the production from affording the necessary services in post production to bring it to the level I would like. MCS will still be completed, regardless.
MW: Have you successfully secured additional funding sources? Can you tell me more about them?
DS: Not at this time.