Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initiatives

WHEN BAD GETS WORSE: Local writer Matt D. Wilson says his in-the-works comic series isn't so serious although it's based on a harrowing hypothetical: "What if every bad thing happened at one time? What if all your greatest fears came true?" He calls the work timely and morbidly funny. Illustration by Rodrigo Vargas

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise start-up capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd.

‘Everything Will Be Okay’ comic series

In his forthcoming comic book, Matt D. Wilson explores the concept of worst case scenarios — not just from one protagonist’s point of view, but on behalf of the entire human race, the universe and even alternate universes. Everything Will Be Okay follows siblings Anya and Edgar, “who escaped an Earth in constant crisis and now live on a space station where everyone is completely on edge and another crisis is surely just around the corner,” Wilson explains on his crowdfunding page. Worsening circumstances stack up to the point of absurdity, “which probably sounds familiar.” The writer is creating this five-issue series in collaboration with artist Rodrigo Vargas, colorist Joe Hunter and letterer Josh Krach. He aims to raise $12,000 by Friday, April 14, to pay for artist compensation, printing (though the series will be released digitally in installations first) and crowdfunding costs.

A memoir on the Zendik Farm

Descriptions of the controversial Zendik Farm and its revolving roster of inhabitants vary, depending on what corners of the web you dredge up. And former Zendik member Helen Zuman is adding her perspective to the mix with the release of a memoir titled Mating In Captivity. On her crowdfunding page, she recalls the initial allure: The Zendiks were starting a revolution based on “truth, beauty, honesty, cooperation and saving the earth from ecocide” — all from a farm “crawling with hot guys.” As a member, she could travel to sell the Zendiks’ underground magazine and “Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution” bumper stickers, returning for organic, home-cooked food. The utopian ideal dissolved, though, as Zuman became exposed to disturbing parts of Zendik culture, including dictatorial leadership, assigned sexual interactions and general mind control, according to the author. “I started writing my memoir in January 2006, a month after seeing that Zendik fit the cult pattern. I was amazed that I’d committed so fully to a false story — and doubly amazed that after years in captivity I was gloriously free,” she says. “Mating in Captivity is for those who’ve dreamed of fleeing the mainstream, those who’ve tried, those flailing for a role in the world as it is. Most of all, it’s for those who’ve been trapped inside stories — and those who still are.” Zuman aims to raise $16,000 to cover the cost of publishing and printing her story through She Writes Press and to fund fulfillment of backer rewards.

Ashley Heath’s success story

In September 2016, after releasing her first album A Different Stream, local singer-songwriter Ashley Heath raised $11,886 through an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign. “I ran the campaign to raise funds [for] promoting, publicity, touring support and pressing vinyl records,” she says. “I have been able to get all of my graphic design work, logos, prints, merchandise and vinyl records done. It was a big year, and I’ve been able to step out of my region just a little bit to see what the touring world is about.”

Raising the money directly from fans, rather than from a bank or record label, “gave me confidence that my community really does believe in me and what I’m dedicating my life to — and they want to see me succeed,” Heath says. “Instead of having one person donate a huge amount of money, there were almost 160 different people who donated for different rewards. It also helped me see what kind of merchandise and items people want to buy.”

Though the “shameless self promotion” felt strange at first, Heath tweaked the concept in her mind: “Create relationships with your crowd, and let them know what you have going on,” she now advises. It’s a shift in thinking that serves as a survival skill in an industry where talent isn’t enough.

“Unfortunately, money is a huge factor in deciding the kind of opportunities you can get,” she says. “For example, if you have money, you can pick the studio you want to record at, the musicians you want on the record, your producer. You can hire a publicist, a booking agent and more. … If money is the name of the game, find a way to get the resources you need so you can invest in yourself, your craft and what you believe in.”

Image from Heath's website
Photo by Layne Sizemore

Send your crowdsourcing campaign news to kmcreynolds@mountainx.com. A limited number of campaigns will be highlighted each week, at Xpress’ discretion. Campaigns must be locally based and should represent a current project with an achievable goal. Conditions are subject to change. Read about more Western North Carolina projects here.

About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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