I first heard about Kickstarter through my love for the Delaware St. John adventure series back in April 2012. That campaign did not succeed, unfortunately.
The next time I visited Kickstarter was for “Red”, a movie that was going to star Jodelle Ferland and have Claudia Christian in a supporting role. The director, Danielle Colman (more often known as Director Dani or DirectorDaniC), was an unknown factor and I didn’t know the production company either. But based on those two actresses I decided to pledge to the campaign.
The campaign was the second one for this movie as the first one didn’t generate the $50k intended. The second campaign, the one I pledged to, was launched with a target of $25k. During the first campaign and most of the second (less than with the first campaign) the director was active on the project pages with vlogs, interviews with the stars and such to keep every backer up to date. At the end of the second Kickstarter that changed: no countdown livestream, due to the director being unwell. Her final vlog was a few days before when the project crossed the $25k line. On August 24, 2012, the project was successfully funded and had raised $28,075.
After that, updates became almost non-existent. On October 13, 2012, Dani mentioned on Twitter that there was a lot going on behind the scenes. After that she didn’t post a new update until the end of February 2013 after former producer Ben Yennie of Films by Neptune mentioned on Kickstarter that his company had parted ways with Ms. Colman months before and that he felt he had an obligation to mention that he and his company had nothing to do with the movie anymore. In her update, Dani admitted that Films by Neptune isn’t involved anymore and that it is proving difficult to get enough money for the film. Nowhere did she acknowledge that she had the obligation of keeping the backers informed about crucial information like changing production companies and failing to secure enough funds to get it made. In fact, she implied that she didn’t have any intent of keeping the backers informed of what was being done behind the scenes when she said, “ It’s slow, boring, frustrating work — and it doesn’t lend itself well to frequent updates…”
Since then she hasn’t posted a single update to the Kickstarter page and never mentioned the film again on her Twitter feed. Sognetto Films’ website (it only had a second-rate copy of the original Films By Neptune page on “Red”) was left to expire. And recently, Dani deleted her personal Facebook page and deleted the films Facebook page.
Finally getting fed up with the lack of any news from her, I asked her on Twitter if there was any news on the project, since I noticed on IMDB that the status of the movie was in post-production since July 2013. In her reply dated October 21, 2013, she mentioned she might have some information to share after the American Film Market (AFM) in November 2013. When I asked her about any news after the AFM was over she never replied and blocked me from following her on Twitter.
Meanwhile on the Kickstarter page two people, who themselves are involved in filmmaking, started wondering about the lack of updates. One even offered Dani help in getting the movie made. However, they did not receive any reply whatsoever from her. Another started to ask some very valid questions:
‘I’m feeling incredibly frustrated with this project. I’ve reached out repeatedly for the past two months to the director, Dani Colman, and have not received an answer. I decided to look again at the home page of the Kickstarter project to see if she has kept her promises.
First off, this is what was promised regarding updates:
“Anyone can pledge to the project, and in return we keep you informed about our efforts….”
To date, there has been NO effort to keep us informed about the efforts being made with this project.
Here’s what she said she was going to do with the money we gave her:
“$25,000 is only a fraction of our full budget, and it’s not enough to make the whole film. But what it is enough to do is take care of a few key things that will persuade our other investors to come on board. Firstly, we’ll be using the money to attach an actor to the lead male role and round out our amazing cast. We’ll also use the money to kick pre-production into high gear, so that by the time we get to shooting we’ll be ready to put something truly incredible on film.”
Pre-production should have been kicked into high gear long ago. So where are the storyboards? Where are the designs for sets and costumes? What locations have been scouted and/or secured? Has “Red” been promoted at fan conventions to gain more support? Where is the website for “Red”? Where is the Facebook page for the movie? Does the movie have a Twitter feed? Where can supporters sign up for the mailing list for the movie? What efforts are being made to raise the rest of the funds?
These are just a few of things that should be happening during pre-production. Why aren’t we being informed?’”
Dani still couldn’t be bothered to reply. After posting her grievances via Facebook, Amanda Rogers managed to get her money back.
Inspired by this I embarked on a quest for a refund. Mailing via Kickstarter yielded no reply. When I sent a message via Amazon Payments, I got a reply from Films By Neptune that Dani had all the funds, but that the Amazon Payments info still pointed to Films By Neptune and couldn’t be changed. After some searching I found Dani’s email address online while researching her defunct website.
In December 2013, I e-mailed Dani about a refund, citing the rules regarding Kickstarter she had violated:
“After months of little to no updates about the project and you banning me from following you on twitter I have reached the end of my patience with this project. I request a refund on the grounds of a failure to comply with reasonable expectations re: communication on project status. The lack of communications leads me to believe that the project is not expected to be completed at all.
From the Kickstarter 101 faq:’
’What should creators do if they’re having problems completing their project?
If problems come up, creators are expected to post a project update (which is emailed to all backers) explaining the situation. Sharing the story, speed bumps and all, is crucial. Most backers support projects because they want to see something happen and they’d like to be a part of it. Creators who are honest and transparent will usually find backers to be understanding.
It’s not uncommon for things to take longer than expected. Sometimes the execution of the project proves more difficult than the creator had anticipated. If a creator is making a good faith effort to complete their project and is transparent about it, backers should do their best to be patient and understanding while demanding continued accountability from the creator.
If the problems are severe enough that the creator can’t fulfill their project, creators need to find a resolution. Steps could include offering refunds, detailing exactly how funds were used, and other actions to satisfy backers.’
’Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?
‘I hope to receive a reply and/or a refund in a timely manner.”
Initially, I received a reply from her asking for my Paypal address and the amount pledged. After that I neither received a refund nor did she e-mail me back, not even when I started sending frequent reminders. In January 2014, I got so fed up with the constant disrespect of the so-called director towards me, one of the backers she so desperately sought during the Kickstarter campaign, that I e-mailed her that I would report her to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov). That got her attention. She replied that she had filed a report on me for harassment, claiming that since she didn’t give her e-mail address to me it was inappropriate for me to use it to contact her. (However, I acquired it on a publicly visible website detailing the registration information she used while setting up sognettofilms.com; so any privacy was waived by her as she should have known any such registration data is publicly visible).
Dani claims the money is in a high interest savings account to “best protect the interest of the backers”, (something she obviously doesn't give a darn about since she had been keeping everyone in the dark for months). She then gave an “explanation” for why the refund had stalled: the type of account meant there was no quick way to get at the money, and the holiday season stalled it even more. (Really? From my initial e-mail to this reply there were only two Federal holidays: Christmas and New Year). She then said my “harassment” of her hadn't given her an incentive to hasten the procedure. She also mentioned she would no longer receive any mail at her e-mail address.
After that I never heard from her again. From the posts on her Twitter account it seems her only activities on the social media front is writing essays on medium.com.
Her total disregard of and disdain towards her backers is astounding and not befitting a director and/or writer — alienating the people she wants and needs to make her films a success. Her IMDB page has some dubious credits that cannot be backed up by reliable (or even unreliable sources).
Where does this leave the “Red” project? It might have started out as a legitimate Kickstarter project, but it seems that after parting ways with the original production company it was abandoned. The lack of updates as well as Dani’s efforts to shut down every means of communication from her backers makes me suspect fraud. If she treats her Kickstarter backers this way, how can she expect to attract high net worth investors (that would never put up with this kind of behavior)? My guess is that she never will. Her only chance of redeeming herself is to admit her failures and refund all monies to all her backers.
If Dani Colman ever tries another crowdfunding campaign, avoid it like the plague as she is not interested in keeping backers informed and is not interested in being accountable in any way.