Patreon

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Visit our Lunatics! Patreon Page to support our project!

Why Patreon?

Patreon is a newer crowd-funding solution which is particularly suited for on-going serial projects. Instead of having a fixed deadline and funding goal, we have “milestones” we’d like to reach, which will improve the quality of the episodes we can produce, and how quickly we can produce them. More money means we can bring more talent into the production, and that means producing more episodes in a shorter period of time. Enough money, and we can operate less like a “no budget” underground operation and more like a commercial studio. And that’s entirely feasible if fans put the kind of money into our production that they would on buying movie tickets or renting videos of a proprietary series.

How much you pay is up to you — it depends on how much you value our work. Many people who are only casually interested will probably pay nothing. This is nothing new — most people who watch television shows probably don’t buy from the advertisers, either. And a lot of people will just watch whatever is on. But if you value what we’re doing and want to make sure we can do more of it, then you can buy into it, and we’re prepared to offer some exclusive rewards for doing so, though we hope the biggest reward is watching the show which will be free for all, and knowing that you helped make it happen.

Patreon also represents less production risk than Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, because you don’t pay anything up front. You’re only charged when we release an episode — it’s “pay on delivery”. And for series, it’s more convenient, because it’s a subscription — if you do nothing, you’ll pay the same amount for the next episode, and so on. However, if you decide you really like the series, you can increase your pledge, or if you’re disappointed, you can reduce it or cancel it at any time.

We’re using Patreon to ask for direct support for producing Lunatics. Among the rewards we’re offering:

  • Early private links for video streaming at different resolutions (see it early, no pre-roll ads, etc).
  • Sponsorship listings ranging from “Patron” to “Corporate Logo Sponsorships”.
  • Progress reports and digital freebies, produced monthly.

Distribution of Funds

When we release an episode, I will publish a spreadsheet that shows where all of the pledged money from that episode will go, for the benefit of contributors and patrons, both. I can publish some information already, because some of the work has already been done, but other things remain uncertain. Rather than try to guess the results in advance, I’m going to describe the process by which it will be reached.

Priorities/Goals of Distributing Money

What’s a fair distribution? This is not a clear-cut decision, but I’m approaching this from a kind of “needs pyramid” approach, where we have to meet certain requirements at a given priority level before moving on to the next. This way, if we don’t get past a certain point, we take care of “first things first”. I can express these principles as a series of priority levels:

First: Pay the Bills
The first thing is to pay for the things we have to pay money for which are necessary for the project to survive. See Expenses below for a list. As the project grows, this should be increased to make the project stronger, by retaining some earnings to support future work.
Second: Offset the Opportunity Cost of Contributing
In order to contribute to Lunatics!, contributors have to spend some of their time, creativity, and effort. A minimal goal is for them to at least feel like this wasn’t just a waste of time. See the Priority One list below for this. This is just for people actively working on the project, and I’ve excluded myself and my family to avoid any conflict of interest — we’re personally committed and can wait until others are paid first. Particularly, we should make sure no one is starving or homeless in order to contribute to the project — to the degree we can manage it, we need to take care of our own.
Third: Pay a ‘Reasonable Wage’
It’s hard to say exactly what we mean by ‘reasonable wage’, but the idea is that it’s enough that if you were paying somebody a flat rate, they wouldn’t feel like they were being completely ripped-off. I consulted several different kinds of sources to get an idea of what this should be in each category. For voice actors, I sought guidance from a publication of union minimums by AFTRA (since then, merged with SAG). For 3D artists, I looked at commission rates that have been charged for different kinds of work. And so on. Obviously subjective, but these are the rates I settled on. Also, at this point, I’m going to go ahead and pay myself and family members, since other active contributors have been paid already. See Priority Two.
Fourth: Fairly Reward Excellence and Industry
Especially as we get to larger revenue, so we’re sure we have enough to go around, the payments should reflect merit. This should reflect relative contribution, aesthetic importance, and degree of effort. The Profit Share table is meant to express this. This is of course, subjective, and the responsibility for judging it is the Producer’s (Terry Hancock).
Fifth: Further the Public Good of the Free-Culture Ecosystem
Finally, the way we pay out should show consideration for improving the free-culture ecosystem as a whole. We want to make sure that we are paying something to artists who freely license their works so that we can use them. This provides incentive for more releases of content to the free-culture domain.

To be clear all money paid out is counted against the percentage in the “Profits” table. So, for example, if you got paid $1000 already (either as a direct advance or through one of the early “priority” payments), and you’re expecting 1% of profits, then earnings on the episode have to reach $100,000 before you will see additional payments (because 1% x $100,000 = $1000).

Payment frequency will be adjusted to reduce the impact of transaction fees from payment processors. So we will pay some of these out annually, accumulating different sources of income. Larger amounts due from Patreon payments will be paid out immediately.

For PASSIVE CONTRIBUTORS: we will only make payments to people after we have confirmed they will receive it. We will make an attempt to contact you based on the contact information provided with the work we used. If we are not able to make contact, then we will retain your share for a period of ONE YEAR after the release of the episode to which it applies. If you contact us in that time, we will send you your share. If you do not, then the share will be folded back into the project to be used as part of retained earnings or distributed among the other contributors, as needed.

Patreon payments are explicitly for specific episodes. The profit breakdown used for those payments will reflect the contributors to that episode. This may not be the only revenue from that episode, however, as there are other Creator Endorsed revenue sources, such as post-release video sales.

Advances

There were only a few people who we’ve been able to pay in advance so far. Specifically:

  • $1600 for Character Design / Modelsheets, paid to Daniel Fu
  • $200 each for 3D modeling trial commission in 2012, paid to: Andrew Pray, Cosmin Planchon, Gorka Mendieta, Sathish Kumar, Guillaume Cote, Vyacheslav Yastrebcev, and Timothee Giet
  • $100 for Sergei Oleinik, to cover an English voice coach

Additionally, we covered some expenses or process fees that will not be treated as advances on future earnings. For example, small amounts were also paid to musicians, either to purchase commercially-available compact discs, or for lossless audio downloads (Elaine Walker, JMF, Distemper, J.T. Bruce, Butterfly Tea, Mattias Westlund, Insignificance). Some we were not able to contact or did not follow through on the transaction (Yunus, AK1974, Gotika, Lulo, Alone in the Chaos, Walter Well, Fridance). These are meant to cover costs associated with better material for mastering the soundtrack. Music for the ones we couldn’t contact are based on the best available downloads, which were MP3s.

Expenses

Examples of project expenses. These are things we have to pay for up-front. They may be per-episode, per-month, per-year, or one-time-only expenses, so the relationship to the amount budgeted per episode on Patreon is not constant.

  • Web-hosting for our current VPS is $40/month
  • Email hosting is another $4/month, because we have it on a separate account that deals with spam-filtering
  • Domain registration for Lunatics.tv is currently $50/year
  • We really ought to be paying about $50-$100 per month on very-targeted web advertising to raise awareness of the project
  • We ought to have printed CDs of the Audiodrama so we can make them available for sale
  • We ought to have a web-store open, which would add about $40-$80 per month, depending on how we do it

 

  • As we get other priorities covered, there are some optional investments we can make the grow the project more (see Upgrades).

These are just examples of how this budget might be spent. Actual payouts will depend on the project’s needs and are subject to change.

Priority One

  • $200 each for voice actors (both supporting and principal), for the already-completed work on “No Children in Space” and “Earth” (future recordings will add to this). Specifically this includes: Karrie Shirou, Veronika Kurshinskaya, Paul Birchard, William Roberts, Lex Quarterman, Sergei Oleinik, Melodee M. Spevack, Miki Kuroki, Kristina Ponomarenko, Karen Jagger, Sophie LeNeveu, Jami Cullen, David Jordan, Nadezhda Dmitrieva, Shamil Aminov.
  • $450 per character for the principal character and base meshes that Bela Szabo has been working on.
  • $300 per model for the monument models Sathish has been doing — and of course, additional money for set models that he hasn’t started on, but probably will have done before the first episode is released.
  • $600 for Keneisha for solving our character rigging problem, since she’s basically taken over the Character Rigging position. And some amount to be determined for the additional wardrobe and character modification work to create our costume changes and also the Walk-On and Extra characters. This is all yet to be done.

These are based on some research into the low-end of market rates. The $200 for voice actors is to reimburse for any expenses they might have incurred, and also from looking at low rates on voice-over commission sites that I looked at.

Also, there are some conspicuous absences from the Priority One level:

  • For propriety’s sake, the project founders, Terry Hancock and Rosalyn Hunter won’t take money at this level — we want to make sure other debts are handled first.
  • Likewise, for anti-nepotism reasons, we’ve also barred our close family from this, which is why Ariel, Nicholas, Sylvan, and Janet Hancock are not included in the voice actors
  • Principal Mechanical Modeler Chris Kuhn has voluntarily bowed out to make the goal easier, and we also have a special arrangement with him, as he is able to monetize some of the work he’s doing by reusing it elsewhere

Priority Two

  • An additional $600 for the principal voice actors for their work on “No Children in Space” and “Earth” (for total of $800). Specifically: Karrie Shirou, Lex Quarterman, Veronika Kurshinskaya, Paul Birchard, and William Roberts.
  • The entire $800 for principal voice actress Ariel Hancock
  • $200 each to Nicholas, Sylvan, and Janet Hancock as supporting actors. (Making up for not being in the first set).
  • $3000 for Chris Kuhn’s extensive mechanical modeling for the project, probably spread over several episodes.
  • $1000/episode each for Terry Hancock (Director/Producer) and Rosalyn Hunter (Writer).

These rates are derived both from similar rates in the commercial industry (e.g. the $800/session for principal voice actors was based on a look at AFTRA union-minimums, although the method of evaluation doesn’t match up very well with our workflow) and with a rough idea of what the people involved need to make to justify continuing to work on this project, especially when it requires turning down other paying work.

Upgrades

Additional cash expenses to be met after priority payments are covered.

  • About $3500 on a dedicated rendering cluster to make rendering go much faster
  • Commissioning one or more dedicated character animators
  • Investing in development for automating more of the animation process (motion capture, simulation, puppetry, etc)
  • Administrative overheads as the project grows: legal and accounting services, for example.
  • Additional advertising and promotional campaigns
  • Advances for commissioned work on the next episode (we’d like to get to where we’re paying these instead of using the complicated “priority” approach).

Profit

When the higher priorities and overhead costs have been met, we’ll begin to treat the income like profit, and split it according to a percentage representing the amount of contribution to the production overall. The following will apply to the first three episodes on Patreon (“Prolog”, “Pilot-Act1″, and “Pilot-Act2″, comprising the full pilot, “No Children in Space”):

  • 15% will go to “concept”, currently about %6 to Director/Producer, %6 to Writer, and 3% to Character Designer.
  • 45% will go to “animation production”, split between 32% modeling, 8% animation, and 5% related tasks.
  • 40% will go to “sound production”, with about 20% going to voice, 15% to music, and 5% to ambience, foley, and effects sound.

Each of these categories will be broken down further, using a rubric appropriate for the different segments to try to keep things fair.

Chart for all of “No Children in Space” (Episodes “Prolog”, “Pilot-Act1″, “Pilot-Act2″ for Patreon)

Profits Pie Chart

The breakdown will be re-evaluated for later episodes to reflect changes in the relative importance of different elements. Most likely, the “Concept” share will be a larger fraction;”Modeling” will be reduced compared to “Animation”; and more of the “Voice Cast” segment will go to “Principals”, reflecting changes in emphasis and effort required.

Patreon Milestones

Here’s how these priorities will relate to the Patreon Milestones we’ve set.

The level were chosen to roughly reflect our priority levels, although natural unpredictability and the desire to make them into easy-to-remember round numbers were also factors.

To $1000/episode

“Pay the Bills” (see Expenses).
To $5000/episode
“Offset Opportunity Cost”(evenly fill Priority One), will have to be balanced out a bit over the first few episodes.
To $10,000/episode
“Pay a ‘Reasonable Wage'” (evenly fill Priority Two after meeting Priority One). Also requires some balancing over a few episodes to work out.
To $20,000/episode
Cover some of the Upgrades after priorities are met. Begin to include passive collaborators to support the community.
To $50,000/episode
“Fairly Reward ‘Excellence and Industry'”. Fill in Profits for the passive contributors that weren’t given priority above, until profits catch up.
Past $100,000/episode
“Be Competitive on the Open Market”. By the time we reach $100,000/episode, two things will have happened: First, all of the payments can be thought of simply in terms of the percentages listed in the Profits table, and second, the rates being paid are competitive with rates in the traditional television and film industry. In other words, we’ve reached sustainability and are in direct competition with commercial/proprietary studios.

Once again: the Patreon numbers are per-episode, and the other impact of increasing the funding will be that we can produce episodes faster. There are three basic reasons for this:

  • People already on the team can spend more time on it.
  • More people can be recruited to grow the team.
  • Better equipment makes better use of our time.

So if you are a contributor, higher amounts mean not only more for a specific amount of work, but also more work available. These rates basically span from “a hobby that pays for itself”, to “proper full-time employment” for several of us. We’d love it if producing a series in this way begins to be seen as a viable alternative to working in a proprietary Hollywood studio environment. I don’t want to raise false hope that that’s what will happen. Quite likely, it’ll just be a bit of fun that we can hopefully justify spending the time on. But it’s possible that it will go fully commercial. And that would be a great thing if it happened, because then we’d start to see other people following our lead.

And of course, as a patron, this means less time to wait for the next episode to come out.

Partially installed framing for office extension.

Infrastructure Projects Update

Most of my time lately has been dedicated to remodeling work on our office here in Texas.¬†This will give us more work space on-site, including a dedicated voice-recording booth (possibly we can also use it for some foley recording, although at about 3×6 feet, it’s a pretty small space for that). You might have noticed […]

Patron Newsletter for September 2015

Patron Newsletter for September 2015 is up on Patreon

Better late than never! We’ve been very busy this month, but we still have good stuff for you: a slightly-tweaked version of the presentation given by Terry Hancock to the Dallas Blender 3D Symposium on Sept 19th, including all of the slides and notes, and some information about fully rigged characters that we have getting […]

Patron Newsletter cover for August 2015, featuring the 2040 Space Station

Patron Newsletter Summary – August, 2015

We’ve published the Patron Newsletter for August, 2015. This is one of the best ones we’ve released, because it’s been a very active month for production. Chris Kuhn and Terry Hancock worked on the model for the 2040-era “Space Station Alpha”, as it appears in Part 2 of our Pilot story, “No Children in Space”. […]

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