The Needles

Artemis Eternal: A New Way to Make Movies


Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of Artemis Eternal. I hadn’t, until I received an email from Jessica Mae Stover, the project’s mastermind, berating me – gently – for continuing to give coverage to Uwe Boll’s latest hack-work while other filmmakers, far more skilled and dedicated than he, toiled away in obscurity on projects much more deserving of the attention. Projects like, for instance, the aforementioned Artemis Eternal.

Straight from the website’s mouth: “Artemis Eternal is a professional sci-fi fantasy short intended for film festivals and traveling screenings. The film is the premier crowd-funded, professionally-led, studio-quality film with absolutely no studio intervention, and the way production is approached tackles issues of media consolidation, independence and a lack of diversity in cinema as well as eliminating the middle-man and connecting artist to audience in a direct, meaningful way.”

It’s quite a mouthful, but the whole thing essentially turns on the central idea of “crowd funded.” The project is being financed entirely by micro-donations from individuals who contribute to the cause in exchange for nothing more than the opportunity to see, and in some way be a part of, the creation of a professional-level film outside the purview of the studio system. The idea seems simple enough: With no profit-driven obligations to a studio, a filmmaker can tell her stories free of outside influence or interference. But could it actually work? I was curious – so I asked.

“After seeing that the studio system is absurd and broken, I took a trip further into the dark side in order to understand the nuances of how it came to be this way and why it remains so incredibly unworkable,” the gregarious Ms. Stover told me in a recent email exchange. “I understood that I was in a unique position to investigate anything that I didn’t already know about Hollywood strategy and economics since I have had access to experts in those areas for nearly a decade.”

If the idea of “crowd-funding” sounds vaguely familiar, you can thank the most recent U.S. Presidential election, which saw both Ron Paul and Barack Obama employee similar strategies to mobilize grassroots support. “Their campaigns came to a similar conclusion and opened up to micro-donations,” Stover said. “The difference with this style of funding in the recent election vs. previous years was the emphasis put on audience participation and the focus on the positive takeaways from the decision to micro-fund.” And what are those positive takeaways? “If one funds via micro-donation from like-minded folk, then one can free herself from special interests and achieve the goals she set forth without unethical interference,” she explained. “Smaller, lower amounts allow more people to be involved; people who traditionally have no say in who gets to run and who does not.”

Stover also noted that Darren Aronofsky financed his 1998 film Pi in a similar fashion, albeit through friends and family rather than an online appeal to like-minded strangers, and pointed out that the basic principle can be seen in operation all around us. “Taxes and the government for one, gyms for another. And theaters. Or how about fraternities, sororities or any club and team a lady or gent chooses to join? Not to mention churches. More people using these communal spaces and paying to do so allows for the spaces and events to be better and for the user to participate in events they could not create and afford on their own,” she said. “It’s the spirit of potluck dinners.”


Of course, like tightrope-walking without a net, endeavoring to make a studio-quality film without the bankroll of a studio to back it up is an inherently risky venture. The project’s website advises that putting your nickel in the hat is no assurance that the film will actually be made and even with all the progress already achieved Stover warned that there are no guarantees. “There is always that chance [the film might not be made] or else, and I ask no pardon for evoking this cliché, everyone would be doing it. Although it is popular to suggest ‘If you build it, they will come,’ in matters like these, unfortunately it’s not true when taken out of context,” she said. “Terry Gilliam has had films collapse, Francis Ford Coppola lost his physical studio lot in the ’80s and Spielberg found his studio-less studio (DreamWorks) couldn’t cut it in a market place where a handful of studios have a war chest of content and media dating back to the advent of the medium, not to mention control over avenues of distribution including press.”

“Until we lock the complete budget there will always be a significant risk that we don’t reach our benchmark for production, but the risk to The Wingman herself is low since we fund via micro-donation,” she continued. “After that benchmark the risk decreases significantly. The tremendous thing about the Artemis plan, however, is this: Once the film is safely in the can and in post-production, our worries evaporate. We’ll have finished building out a rad community, establishing vendor relations and garnering interest. Typically it’s the reverse because distributors have to worry about promoting and getting asses in the seats and pulling out all the stops and flooding the world with marketing to make sure they’re building up a strong licensing platform at the box office so that they can eventually turn a profit down the line.”

“The Wingman,” you say? Ah yes. Wingmen are Artemis Eternal supporters who have donated $100 or more to the production of the movie. There are currently about 250 Wingmen and Stover estimates it will take roughly 1500 in total to cover the project’s needs. Anyone is welcome to join up but Stover makes no bones about the fact that she’s looking for people who are as dedicated to changing the film-making paradigm as she is, a policy she succinctly spells out as “no wimps.” Now that the project is well underway she actually plans to increase the participation amounts, saying, “The community we need is small enough that this one hurdle really weeds people out and makes us stronger.”

What’s actually planned for the screen, however, is still a mystery. When I asked her what the movie was about, she threw me the ol’ existentialist knuckle-ball. “To me the movie has always been about exploring the limitations society places on the individual, when does the individual strike out on their own, what’s their breaking point, and what the implications of challenging the status quo are,” she said. “As soon as we fundraise a slight bit more I’m going to get on working out the release of some concept and storyboard work to compliment what pieces are already available on the film’s map. We’ll also be doing an entire redesign of the online experience to evolve the presentation and clarify some of the creative while also putting more emphasis on The Wingmen. It will be a load of work, but also a load of awesome.”

The film may be great, or it may not, but as is often the case with such ambitious undertakings (and to paraphrase an old adage), the journey is what makes it remarkable. If Stover and her team can demonstrate that crowd funding is a viable method of financing, it could ultimately result in a dramatic shift in the way entertainment media is created. I wouldn’t start dressing up for the revolution just yet – insipid remakes, shitty sequels and the general Hollywood malaise will be with us for a long time to come – but I would say that Artemis Eternal in all its aspects is something that’s very much worth keeping an eye on.

More information about Artemis Eternal, the Wingmen and how you can support a new kind of movie-making is available at


Andy Chalk lost faith in the movie industry years ago.

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