I’ve been making films for awhile now, in all sorts of genres. Each process posing a different set of issues and downfalls. But I’m certain that documentary filmmaking, at least in my experience, is the most difficult of all processes I’ve dealt with thus far. Like all art, filmmaking is very emotional and draining. But documentary filmmaking, specifically social based projects, is much more nerve-racking because it’s not just your future at stake. In most cases, like my own, a social action project comes from a deep place in your heart and the desire to make a difference. My upcoming feature documentary, Gwapa (Beautiful), isn’t about profit or numbers. It’s about spreading awareness and bringing not only hope, but true change to the people who need it most.
But just having passion and dedication isn’t enough. Like all things in life, it comes down to money. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need a lot of dough to make something great. I’m a firm believer that “Where there is a camera, there is a way...” But what do you do when your inspiration lies across the Pacific Ocean? Fundraise, fundraise, and fundraise some more. My current film, Gwapa (Beautiful), is about two poor Filipino families and their struggle to help their kids with facial deformities. This project started back in the fall of 2010 when Faces of Tomorrow founder, Dr. Brian Rubinstien, told me about these special families and their remarkable stories. We’ve been fundraising ever since.
Last fall, bound and determined, I assembled a dedicated team, Lindsey Rowe, Sabina Padilla, and Carlos Espinoza, and we ran a successful crowd-funding campaign via Indiegogo. This campaign proved to be invaluable in terms of promotion and growing an organic audience for the project. The immense support and backing from our fans helped to keep the fire alive while we were running this tough campaign. People from all walks of life, from all over the world, come out to show their support for Gwapa (Beautiful). We even snagged IndieWire’s “Project of the the Month” for December 2011, winning a consultation with the Sundance Institute and SnagFilms. Although we didn’t reach our funding goal, we raised enough money to bring a small team to Bohol and Pitogo Islands, both remote areas in the Philippines. As you can imagine, that money went fast, but well spent. I think I speak for the entire Gwapa Film Team when I say it was an incredible experience and we captured an inspiring, life-changing film in action. And due to the project's exposure, we partnered up with Rayomar Outreach, the social action branch of the Filipino distributor, Rayomar Marine, who donated $2,000 for a new motorized fishing boat and supplies to the family featured in this film. A once in a lifetime experience indeed.
Now, I’m in the thick of post production, anxiously awaiting a rough cut from my amazing editor, Eamon Glennon. But the fundraising never stops. We’re actively seeking funds to finish and implement this important film. Since we’ve already hit the social networking platforms, we’re trying a more tradition funding strategy this time. On April 5th, we’re holding a fundraiser and call to action event in Los Angeles at Tuff Sissy & Co on Melrose. And, like we’ve seen before, people are lining up to support this great cause. It’s wonderful to watch so many talented people come together like this. Here are some highlights we have planned, just to name a few! Good friend and comedian, Iliza Shlesinger, winner of Last Comic Standing and Host of CBS’ “Excused," will provide some good laughs. Appetizers by Cooking With Corralez, featured on Virgin Mobile’s “Sparah” Web-Series. Cupcakes by Sweet E’s Bakeshop, featured on FoodNetwork’s “Cupcake Wars.” Blues entertainment by renowned guitarist, Ray Bailey. The world famous Laugh Factory graciously donated tickets to our silent auction too. Likewise, Bill Ostroff of FirstGlance Film Festivals, donated the “Indie Filmmaker’s Startup Package:” VIP passes, lots of merch, 1 year subscription to MovieMaker Magazine, and Gorilla Production Software. We even got a media board donated and we’re actively building a celebrity guest list. Once we put the word out there, people are jumping to get on board. This event is bound to be not only financially successful, but like the online funding campaign, it will bring more eyes to the project and thus help spread awareness. It just goes to show that if you build it, they will come!
If you’re in LA on April 5th, please join me and the Gwapa Film team for a wonderful evening. All proceeds go toward the completion and implementation of Gwapa (Beautiful), a grassroots effort to bring awareness to the thousands of Filipino children born with facial deformities every year. Support a great cause and get a Special Thanks credit on this inspiring film. Join the movement, tell your friends, and spread the word! For more information, please vist www.gwapafilm.com and be sure to join our Facebook Invite too!
Meg Pinsonneault is an award-winning filmmaking and screenwriter in the LA area. She is the founder of Thirsty Girl Films and the director/producer for Gwapa (Beautiful). She is easily excitable and her passion for filmmaking is known to be contagious. She believes that with inspiration, dedication and passion, anything is possible.