A Dream Closes as it Opens

It is with great melancholy, relief, and exhaustion that I have decided to cease active pursuit of the success of our Kickstarter campaign for Hawk Funn.

At half way through the thirty day run, we are only four percent funded. While it is common that the urgency of the final days often breeds the most pledges, it is unlikely that the pace will quicken fast enough.

Michael and I are extremely proud of the story we've developed. Hawk is a fascinating, rich character. His outdoor life, odd fear, and wild aspirations are an engaging premise. The plot, which we had not divulged, is rife with personal drama and thought-provoking themes. Hawk Funn, the story, will somehow continue. In what form, we are unsure.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those who supported us with dollars, advice, and cheers. 

We had some great successes:

 - Our concept of "social fiction" as a form of entertainment was a well received. As we envisioned, social media used in specific ways works as a unique storytelling platform. We were pleased that the audience interacted frequently with the characters, a major component of this art form.

- We received some very good press, including a feature on Mashable which was shared 1.7k times. Thousands of people learned about Hawk Funn.

Hawk's Facebook page, the main channel of the story, went from nothing to over 650 likes in a few weeks. People wanted this.

What went wrong: 

The primary roadblock was the two part complexity of our pitch - the story of Hawk Funn, and the innovation of social fiction. The Kickstarter page was well-crafted from the start, and many friends helped to shape it.

When we saw early after launch that it wasn't quite clicking with people, we tweaked. We got feedback, and tweaked again. And tweaked again. Each time, it became an easier-to-understand pitch, but in hindsight, parts of it became less effective. I believe this is why the traffic from Mashable didn't translate into backers. It's possible too that the rewards simply weren't enticing enough.

Why I threw in the towel:

The data did not project being funded. Simple as that.

But personally, I was working long, hard days, averaging about five hours of sleep a night for the last month. My health was suffering. I wasn't spending enough time with family.

As any entrepreneur knows, the hustle is par for the course. When it's this extreme, it's only temporary. But when the projections of success are so slim, it's fair to question whether to continue the path at all. With much thought, I chose not to.

Now what? 

Giving up on Kickstarter this time doesn't mean giving up on the dream. It's been suggested by many that the world might not be ready for social media storytelling at the scale we envision. Maybe another day with another approach.

What's more inspiring is the creative collaboration between Michael and I in developing Hawk Funn. We truly believe it's a story people will come to love, which makes it worth telling. We will find a way.

After I get some sleep.

 

Not anyone can make the next big thing, but the next big thing can come from anyone

Do you still believe in individuals making history from their living rooms? We came to Kickstarter because community funding is our only option to enable this breakthrough in entertainment.

Our innovation is inevitable.

The internet has yet to claim a predominant form of entertainment exclusive to its unique characteristics. Until now. We've cracked it and the potential is enormous for audiences.

If it's not us, it's going to be someone else. Others have made steps. AT&T recently poured $5 million into a Twitter based "reality show" and another crew finished their second YouTube adaptation of Jane Austin's novels.

Our social fiction is much more powerful and made of all original content. Corporate media and Hollywood will eventually get to where we are. It is inevitable.

So support the innovator.

You have the choice to support the originators, the entrepreneurs, the creative minds who break new ground.

What's at stake is that the credit, recognition, and success will go to the wrong people. You can't let this become another story of artists who never made it, but big business did. We want others to make great art too, but we need you to help us pave the way.

The best ideas, no matter where they come from, are supposed to come to fruition. That's the core tenet of Kickstarter, a free market economy, and human potential. I believe in it. If you do, it's up to you to make sure it happens. 

   

Hawk Funn as Post 9/11 Symbol of Progress

Why funding this story makes the world better:

Since 9/11/2001, America has experienced an identity crisis that calls into question the American Dream established in the last century. We're living in an era when the picture perfect suburbs are no longer a collective aspiration for a better life.

As co-writers, Michael and I have given deep thought into what we will say with Hawk Funn. We both grew up in midwestern suburbs and had safe, comfortable childhoods. As we became creative, working adults, we looked back on suburbia to see the cracks in the pavement, cracks that permeate the American Dream.

You can read a lot elsewhere about why the suburbs are proving unsustainable in our current economy, but it leaves the question of what to do with them. One man thinks he's got the answer.

On the surface, Hawk Funn is an eccentric outdoorsman with an offbeat phobia. Deep down, he's the symbol of the post 9/11 American ambition. The Hawk Funn story on Facebook begins in contemporary 2013, a time when America is pulling itself up by the bootstraps to a brighter future.

As the American Dream gets redefined for the coming generations, figureheads are emerging as leaders of innovation to solve big problems. What will we do with partially abandoned suburbs?

Hawk has some wild ideas that might only be feasible in a fictional, illustrated version of our economic climate. He's a capitalist, but he's liberal. He's going to build an empire that redefines American culture, and he's crazy enough to do it.

It's important to fund this story because long term, it aims is to inspire creative solutions to important issues. We need this story because we need more Hawks in our world.

   

Day 1: The Hawk Has Landed

Launching a Kickstarter campaign and an interactive story on the same day makes for one exhilarating day!

The Milestones: 

  • The Hawk Funn story premiered on Facebook with 3 posts from Hawk.
  • There were 87 audience interactions in the story.
  • 227 fans liked Hawk Funn's page by the end of the day. 
  • The Kickstarter project saw $1,800 in pledges on day one.
  • The project has already been featured as a staff pick by Kickstarter. 
  • The Kickstarter link was shared 107 times on Facebook and 56 on Twitter.

The Fumbles: 

  • Ten minutes after I sent my big announcement email, Amazon Payments, which processes Kickstarter pledges, went down for about a half hour. Some people told me they could not back Hawk Funn. How many didn't tell me?
  • Facebook rejected the ad I had created and queued up because the design had more than 20% text in it. I designed a new ad on the fly but Facebook was then apologizing for delays in reviewing ads. I had no advertising on Facebook.

The Best Part: 

The most fun was managing the story on Facebook. When people commented on Hawk's posts, Michael and I went in and replied as Hawk, January, and other characters. People asked questions, made jokes, and remarked about his eccentric life. Social fiction works!

There are 29 days left with a lot of Funn to be had. 

 

One. More. Day.

It wasn't the first time I decided to shut down a project of which I poured time, money, and passion. That was 6 months ago.

From that project was a marketing idea I'd been toying with that involved fictional characters on Facebook. That concept came to me 11 months ago.

Unbound from the original project, the idea of characters telling their story on social media grew into its own fully realized art form I dubbed "social fiction". It's been almost a year now that I've developed social fiction and the story of Hawk Funn. My co-writer and co-conceptualizer, Michael, has been on board for about 9 months.

Tomorrow, it premieres! 

It's felt like a long road getting to this point, but this journey has merely begun. If we're doing our jobs right by creating engaging characters and story, then Hawk Funn has the potential to play out for years, much like a hit television show.

I'm excited to push the boundaries of storytelling, illustration, and social media. I can't wait to share it with you tomorrow.

"Tune in" to Hawk Funn by liking his page on Facebook.



Why Social Fiction Matters

To get to the heart of our new form of storytelling, I wrote this for the Kickstarter page:

We advance our culture by pushing the boundaries of art and storytelling. We're at a crucial moment in history to take fiction and entertainment online in ways that have never been done before. Social fiction will happen. It's only a matter of who and when.

Picture that imaginative scene of someone stepping into the pages of a book, or through a television screen, to find themselves on the other side in a fictional world. We dream to be inside stories.

Hawk Funn is the opportunity for all of us, for the first time ever, to go inside the story and interact in real time with the characters. There can be nothing more powerful in fiction than that.

 



A Call to Social Media

We want you to be part of the Hawk Funn story, to literally be active in the storyline. We need your help to spread the word.

Hawk Funn will launch as an experiment in mass social media storytelling. All of our Kickstarter rewards will be about involving you in the story, from voting on the story to being frequent characters that interact with Hawk. The larger the audience, the more powerful the story becomes.

Take Your Part

Right now, let your friends know that you're one of the first to know about Hawk Funn and the new art of social fiction.

Turned Down for Innovativeness

Our creation of social fiction is so audacious and new, that it doesn't fit into the predefined categories of modern storytelling. It's entertainment, but not TV or film. It's fiction writing, but not a book or short story. It's illustrated but it's not comics or animation. Social fiction is its own new art form.

We've been turned down by multiple PR companies because Hawk Funn is the "wrong fit", or they don't work in "that industry". Are they afraid to take a chance?

Are you inspired to take a chance?

Hawk Funn is the story of a disrupter in a world of conventionality. Despite Hawk's flaws, you'll want to support his aspirations. It is with this mindset that you begin today.

Pick a page on this site, and share it with your network.

Each page has sharing buttons in the footer. 

Homepage | Hawk Funn | Social Fiction | Kickstarter Blog

 



Shooting the Kickstarter Video

Videos are not required to run a Kickstarter campaign, but they are necessary if you're serious about making an impact. Clicking play will be the easiest way for people to learn about funding Hawk Funn. 

Shot by videographer, Mark Montalbano, the Hawk Funn Kickstarter video is still in production. 

Video Content: 

I wanted to keep the video short and to the point. I wrote a script, then edited it down several times over. The key points I wanted to illustrate were: 

  • Defining "social fiction", the form of the story.
  • Introducing Hawk and the premise. 
  • Long distance collaboration with Michael.
  • The amount of work that goes into production.

In order to portray the scope of work involved in the project, I played different "characters", each of which discuss their own role. I'm a hat guy and I like to say that I wear many hats, both literally and figuratively. In the video, my hats, clothes, props, and locations compliment the diverse production roles.

Here are scenes from the video with a few of my characters: 

The goal of the video is to inspire people to pledge their dollars toward creating Hawk Funn. My hope is that if people see a creative video, they'll be inspired to fund the larger creative endeavor of producing the story. Also, I hope cute babies in fedoras sell inspiration.



Early Story Sketches

The Hawk Funn story will begin on Facebook the same day our Kickstarter campaign launches.

Story writer, Michael, and I have been having late night story sessions over chat where we figure out the drama of Hawk's life. We've nailed down the opening posts and I've been sketching the story on my iPad.

The next step is turning these into full color illustrations.

First Teaser Art

Here's the first illustration made specifically for pre-release promotion. One of the core themes of the story will be Hawk's fear of going indoors and his emotional embrace of outdoor living. His wife, January, while sympathetic to Hawk, has her own conflicting feelings about camping full time.

This illustration can be found on this site, Facebook, and elsewhere on the web.

The Difference Between Posting and Telling Stories Online

There have been many experiments in storytelling on the internet. Every online platform - blogs, video, social networks, etc. - have seen their share of fiction. I've listened to podcasts of book readings, seen video diaries of actors playing characters, laughed at fake Twitter accounts, and read blogs that release a narrative over time. Art happens when publishing tools are easily accessible.

But in each of these examples, stories are told by posting the content online. Writers and artists create their stories as if they're for traditional media, like print or video, and publish on an appropriate online platform. A blog is used to post chapters of a story or the next page of a comic book. Videos go on YouTube. Social networks are used to spread the content around.

What hasn't yet been seen are stories told through the entire internet itself. What if stories were not tied to a specific format or platform? What if the characters were just online? They have social accounts. They have websites for their businesses. They blog about family. They share photos. They tweet. They leave comments on your blog. They check in at coffee shops. They shop and leave reviews. And what if multiple characters did this, interacted with each other, and all their online activity was structured around a story plot?

That's telling stories online, different from posting stories online. Get it? Characters can live online in the same ways you and I do - across all corners of the web. 

Kickstarting Storytelling History

In order to devote the time and talent to producing Hawk Funn, I'm going to raise funds on Kickstarter.com. If you're unaware, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform that assists people in raising money for creative projects. Anyone can pledge money toward a project and in return, they receive "rewards" for their pledge. If the project doesn't raise its financial goal, it is deemed "unsuccessful" meaning backers are not charged and rewards are not granted. It's all or nothing. You can learn more about Kickstarter from them here.

Why Kickstarter?

Producing a project of this caliber requires a lot of resources - writing, drawing, more writing and more drawing. Social fiction is an art form that happens in real time, which demands continual social interaction in the role of numerous characters. It is labor intensive.

Illustrated social fiction is unprecedented. There's been fiction on the web of course, but nobody has done it on this scale. In order for it to succeed, there will be no half-assing it. Because I'm committed, it needs to be my full time job. There's no other choice. It's too important to do it part time. I have already devoted hours upon hours of development on the side of my full time work. At some point, Hawk Funn needs to take over.

Additionally, because Hawk Funn is a Facebook-based story, a budget needs to be dedicated to social promotion. Paying for promotion will boost Facebook's news feed algorithms to insure that Hawk's posts are seen by all who want to follow his story. Promotion will also grow viewership due to the viral nature of social media.

And finally, there's a non-financial purpose for Kickstarter. Social fiction is about building a community of fans. The ability for followers to interact with fictional characters and each other in real time is a powerful idea. Kickstarter provides great community building tools during the fundraising campaign. This incentive is worth as much as money and both are required to make storytelling history.

When? 

The Hawk Funn Kickstarter project will go live in August 2013. Join the email list at the bottom of this page.