Member Spotlight: Michael Schwartz
This week, we caught up with NYC member Michael Schwartz. He's the Founder & Creative Director of Boat Ashore Productions. The crowdfunding campaign for his newest film, Montana, is currently the #1 trending campaign on Seed & Spark in the world! Here's his story:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I’m a lifelong vegetarian and a cultural carnivore. I grew up in San Francisco, have lived in Los Angeles and London, and have been based in NYC the last 10 years. I’m big on wonder and adventure. My favorite thing to do is tell untold stories and create new experiences.
Professionally, I’m a New York based writer, director, and producer working across film, television, theatre, digital and large-scale events.
You’ve worked on a bunch of amazing projects over the years! What were a few of your recent favorites?
Thanks! I enjoy changing up mediums every 6 months or so. It keeps things fresh and invigorating for me, and I find working in each medium informs something new in another. A recent favorite TV project is Spice It Up!, a Napa set-comedy which I co-created with Elspeth Keller Scott. It’s an “experiential” TV show so to speak, which I find really exciting as we continue to develop it and get it out there. A recent favorite theatre project is a site-specific production of Peter Pan, which I directed in a 360 degree Greek-style amphitheater above the clouds on Mt. Tamalpais overlooking Neverland (aka The San Francisco Bay Area.) That was amazing. As for events, I worked on The Tony Awards for the first time this year with an incredible team, and we had a blast.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind Montana?
We just wrapped production on Montana, which is based on an hour-long TV pilot script of mine. This short film serves as a prequel to the TV series. I grew up around therapists, and have been interested in exploring the world of a remote therapeutic boarding school ever since I was a kid. When members of our government declared mental illness a “pre-existing condition” back in May, the anger in me propelled me forward. I knew I had to move on telling this story.
You’re over 60% towards your crowdfund goal on Montana -- congrats! What has the crowdfunding experience been like so far?
Thanks! It’s been a lot of work! It’s definitely been a full-time job. It might seem a bit counter-intuitive to shoot first, crowdfund later, but I knew I wanted footage, stories, and photos from set to be a part of the campaign’s narrative. So I hired my friend Dominic Colacchio to be our on-set documentarian. He’s a great talent.
I try to integrate social advocacy and impact into many of the projects I develop. In collaboration with The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, my intention with this campaign has been to make it as much about awareness building as crowdfunding. I want this campaign to be a catalyst for dialogue, support, and education around mental health and suicide prevention.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those looking to crowdfund or launch their own passion projects?
It’s funny – I’ve spent much of my career directing galas and fundraisers and raising money for other people and organizations. This is the first time in my life I’m asking for support for one of my projects, and at times, it’s a nerve wracking thing to do! While I’m extremely passionate about this project, I never wanted it to be a “passion project.” I wanted to assemble the best team I could, serve this story, and raise a voice for the teen suicide epidemic in this country.
I’d rather the campaign narrative be, “We’re already moving, so join our team and help us finish this thing.” Rather than, “I have a big idea and I need money.” And while I’m no expert on crowdfunding, I’d encourage people to be advocates for the bigger story and the greater community.
Also, have a highly detailed but flexible campaign strategy, ask (or learn how to ask) for help, and make the time.
What are a few of your go-to Croissant spaces?
Croissant has changed my life. Truly! Since joining Croissant a year ago, I have gotten more writing done and more work done than I ever have before. I know people thrive in all different kinds of work environments. I’m personally most productive in high natural light/low volume settings. The Yard at Columbus Circle has been my go-to, but I’ve also really enjoyed Pourt, WorkHouse, and Primary.
Thanks Michael! There are currently 12 days left in the Montana crowdfunding campaign. You can learn more about the film and watch the trailer on their Seed & Spark campaign page. Follow Michael and his work on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.