Fundraising for Filmmakers | Still Rolling Initiative
The SmallHD family continues to be inspired seeing all the ways in which our community has pivoted during this pandemic. From virtual collaboration to educational content, filmmakers everywhere have shown both goodwill and resiliency. One Boston based DP has been particularly busy, spending his quarantine creating a nationwide collaborative fundraiser from the ground up. Tom Furcillo saw first hand the effects of production shutdowns and decided to create the Still Rolling Initiative, to support the freelance production community, vendor, and agency personnel.
Q | Tell us about yourself.
A | My name is Tom Furcillo. I’m a father, a husband, and DP by trade. I own a small company outside of Boston called Single Light Media. The company is me, a small garage studio, and a pool of ridiculously talented freelancers. I got my start in this business back in 2008 working as a PA in Bristol, CT at ESPN. I spent the first part of my career bouncing around the live broadcast world as a camera utility, runner, and eventually an Operations Producer for ESPN (A hybrid of a PM and line producer). There was a ton of opportunity at the time, but I knew it wasn’t the direction I wanted to take my career. I was also shooting a lot of content on the side for some of the shows which I found way more fulfilling. After a few years of traveling with these broadcast crews in that role, I decided to walk away and become a full-time DP. It felt like a gamble at the time, but looking back it was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. The last few years have been great for me both personally and professionally. I have a great home with an even better family.
Q | What compelled you to start the Still Rolling Initiative?
A | I would say even before this whole Pandemic, I always felt there was a need for something like this Initiative. I watched my mother depend on fundraisers during some tough times when I was growing up, and know first hand how helpful they can be to a family. Onto the Pandemic. On March 12th, I was at Dave and Busters celebrating my son's 4th birthday with my in-laws. I’ll never forget that moment because I watched the entire sports world begin to crumble on the biggest screens on the planet. One after another, I watched each league begin to cancel their season, and with that all of the work I had scheduled. Watching my son, a happy and wild 4-year-old run around from game to game unphased by the news, stopped me dead in my tracks. I worked through the recession back in 2008, but had little to no responsibility at the time. I now have a family to protect and knew this time was going to be a lot different. I took the first two weeks of the stay-at-home order to just enjoy my family and try not to worry too much. I learned real quick that I’m no good at just sitting around and waiting. I needed something to do to keep busy. I started seeing everyone around the world rally behind other industries. Things like restaurant workers, nurses, police, EMTs, and teachers all beyond deserving of the time in the light were now top of mind across the globe. Even sports teams started to step up to the plate and pay their arena workforce. I thought maybe there’s something I could do with my time and help out those in our industry. At first, I wasn’t even thinking nationally. I was thinking about my friends who just bought their first home, or just had their first kid, and what this Pandemic was doing to them. It’s a shaky time to be a freelancer, and this is something most of us are not set up for. At the end of the day, this whole thing comes down to helping people. It’s as simple as that. Think of one person who you know in our industry that’s impacted financially by the Pandemic and you now have a reason to get behind this. We also get to design some cool stuff and collaborate with others all while raising money. The print house we teamed up with is a local small business as well so it helps them out too.
Q | Who are the kinds of creators who will be receiving financial assistance?
A | Almost anyone in our industry can apply via our website for assistance. My goal with this was to make it as easy as possible for people to apply and be paid. I have a fundraiser account set up with my bank that I can pay people out direct with wiring services from Zelle. The $500 payout is below the threshold for tax reporting so it’s considered a gift. We are asking people to tell us their story and how this Pandemic has affected them financially. How many people we pay will be based solely on how much we can raise. We hope that as more people submit for assistance, more people will be sharing this and it will grow organically. The only disqualifying factors we have right now are if you're a full-time employee or a student. Currently, we have raised just over 5k in our first month which is awesome. We’ve also got some great production companies locally that have paid in to sponsor the Initiative.
Q | Can you share a story of an individual who has already been impacted by Still Rolling?
A | Our first payout from the Initiative was an individual who is a 1st AC. He depends like many support roles on DPs getting calls for work or bigger commercial productions hiring a crew. He just bought a house pretty recently and has a one-year-old at home. His wife was laid off due to COVID, and of course, he has no work coming in. Being a parent, I know first hand the stress this puts on you. We paid him out pretty much out of the gate because PUA for the self-employed was taking forever to get set up. I know $500 isn't a solution for anything, but at the very least it can help buy food, and give some runway before the next month's bills hit. Stories like this are the reason why I wanted to start the Initiative.
Q | What kind of positive impact do you think this pandemic will have on our industry?
A | I try my best to think positively about how we will all come out of this (and fail sometimes to be honest). I know for sure smaller crews will be a thing. I do most of my work in the sports doc space, so most of my shoots are like that anyway. I hate to think of it as a positive because it will ultimately be costing people their job. I also think it's an opportunity for brands to really connect with an audience through storytelling. More human interest, more character, fewer sales. I think the industry has been going this way for a while anyway and this just skips us forward a bunch. After we get back to work the stories will be abundant. We will need to change our approach to how we tell these stories and what resources are actually needed to get the job done. That’s why this Initiative will be important going forward as we find out who will be impacted the most even when we return to work.
Q | During a time of "social distancing," what role does community play right now for filmmakers around the globe?
A | I think as a community there is a huge focus on collaboration. We may not be together on a shoot, but we can take this time to share knowledge, share resources, and give back in any way we can. For example, I couldn’t run this Initiative on my own without help with things like social and content creation. There are a few people who have stepped up to help me out, which has made all the difference in the world. It turned this from a stressful job to something to get excited about. We get to hang out from time to time, shoot some stuff and collaborate. I think finding ways to keep working especially for a good cause is important. We are putting ourselves out there, as well, which is always a good thing to do with your career. It's something completely new and believe me, it humbles you quickly. You get all pumped about something, and send it out to the world and they don't get as excited it’s funny sometimes. Right now, I feel like we are just tossing ideas out there to see if anything pops. Again, there's no failing here. The worst-case scenario is maybe we only sell a handful of a certain design, but still, that raises money. Win. I also think it’s important to carve out a little time in our day to check in on your friends. It’s really weird out there right now. Soon enough we’ll hit a wrap party or post-shoot beers. I can’t begin to tell you how much that is missed right now.