From Kickstarter to the Academy Awards: Three Questions for the Creators of ‘Loving Vincent’

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“This will be the world’s first feature-length painted animation,” animator Dorota Kobiela and director Hugh Welchman wrote on the project page for Loving Vincent in early 2014.

Nearly 800 backers supported their project to make a animated film exploring the life of Vincent Van Gogh, and over the next three years Kobiela and Welchman set about bringing their vision to life. They filmed live actors on a green screen, and recruited 125 painters to meticulously animate some 65,000 film frames in the artist’s trademark gestural style.

After winning acclaim on the festival circuit, Loving Vincent was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature — making this the eighth consecutive year a Kickstarter-funded film has been nominated for an Oscar. 

Read on to hear from Kobiela and Welchman about how they used Kickstarter to connect with their audience, as well as their advice for emerging filmmakers. And join us in cheering on the filmmakers this Sunday, March 4, at the Oscars.


Saoirse Ronan as Marguerite Gachet
Saoirse Ronan as Marguerite Gachet

What’s the most valuable thing you learned from running the Loving Vincent Kickstarter campaign?

Dorota Kobiela: It was the first time we got feedback that showed us how excited people were about our project, its visual style, and the idea of bringing painting to life [in film]. It was the first of several boosts we received through social media, which really helped us through a tough project that took several years.

Hugh Welchman: The Kickstarter campaign was the testing ground for how we communicated with the wider public through social media. None of us had used social media before the campaign, and it was a process of trial and error. Now we have over 500,000 followers across our different platforms.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received as a filmmaker?

Dorota Kobiela: Story first. Filmmaking is above all a storytelling medium, so it doesn’t matter how visually stunning or innovative your film is — you have to get the story right.

Hugh Welchman: “It can’t be done,” or, “it shouldn’t be done.” I’ve been told that about Loving Vincent and [my film] Peter and the Wolf before it — and it always motivated me to find a way to do it.

What advice would you give to independent filmmakers who are just starting out in their careers?

Dorota Kobiela: Try to go to a good film school. I had a year at film school but had to drop out for financial reasons, so I had to learn on the job and teach myself a lot. And while I’m sure that had some benefits, I would have liked another year of film school, as it is a safe place to learn and experiment.

Hugh Welchman: If you can’t get to film school, or prior to film school, try to make films yourself — with your friends, with your family. The technology is easily accessible now, and it is a great way to learn and work out if it is what you want to do, and which branch of filmmaking interests you the most.

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin
Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin

Learn more about Loving Vincent here, and explore live Film projects on Kickstarter here.

Video courtesy of ThinkJam.

The Kickstarter Blog