Film Director a.k.a The Crowdfunding Queen
"I’ve been successfully crowdfunding since my first film"
Klaudia Kovacs is a multi-award-winning Film & Theater Director, and according to the Hungarian National Film Fund's database, “Hungary’s most successful documentarian”.
She is the proud daughter of Olympian Swimmer, Museologist, and Educator, Eva Erdelyi, and a distant relative of the "Hungarian Laurence Olivier," Zoltan Latinovits. Due to her life-long absent father, she was raised by her outstanding mother. When she was six years old, her mother and Klaudia were in a gas explosion and she saw her mom burn to death. She was placed with her maternal grandmother but she was ill and passed away a few years after.
Klaudia’s father then sent her to an orphanage and then she was put in foster care. Later, as a young adult, due to a car accident, Klaudia became homeless. She built her life from there. Klaudia’s fascination with film and theater started quite early. At age three, she was determined to become a clown, and by sixteen, she was already acting at Budapest's most respected alternative theater, the Cellar Theater (Pinceszinhaz).
After moving to Hollywood, California, Klaudia directed, produced, and wrote the story of Torn from the Flag, the most accomplished documentary in Hungarian film history. The movie participated in the Oscar competition in the "Best Documentary" category. The eight-time-award-winning, sociopolitical picture is about the Cold War, the international decline of Communism, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Klaudia made her film with Oscar-winning Cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, and legendary cinematographer, Laszlo Kovacs. The following political notables appear in the documentary: Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, and Henry Kissinger.
1. When did your dream of becoming a filmmaker begin?
Becoming a director was an evolution. At age three I wanted to be a clown, at 16 an actress, and by 27 I was a director.
2. Why have you chosen the medium of documentary filmmaking?
My first film, Torn from the Flag, happened to be a documentary because that was the most suitable format for the given topic. Since then I’ve expanded substantially and directed other genres as well, including many theater plays.
3. What has been your greatest achievement as a filmmaker?
My first film participated in the Oscar competition in the "Best Documentary" category which for me was a big deal at the time. According to some critics (Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter) and historians (István Deak, Columbia University), Torn from the Flag is “the best documentary ever made” about the topic. The movie was presented to the United States Congress and was also entered into the Congressional Record. In addition, according the Hungarian National Film Fund's database, I’m “Hungary’s most decorated documentarian”. For the film, Panic Nation, our production was recognized by the City of Los Angeles and awarded a Certificate of Celebration for Contribution to Cinema, Art and Culture.
4. Tell us a little about the process and experience for making Torn from the Flag.
Overall, it was a very long process. It took me nine years to complete the movie. I spent two years doing research and then I created a community of 20,000 around the film so I could crowdfund $1.7 million for the documentary. I was able to secure the necessary budget in four years. I was committed to making the very best film I could make, and I feel I succeeded. Now that I have much more experience, I move forward and produce results much faster.
5. What brought you to Los Angeles?
Originally, when I was 16, I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac and through the book I fell in love with America. That being said, I found myself in Los Angeles by accident. A friend of a friend of a friend was looking for a long-term house sitter, and that’s how I ended up in Hollywood.
6. Tell us a little about the process of making Touche: A Blind Fencer's Story.
As the title suggests, it’s a truly unique movie. The public doesn’t associate people with visibility challenges with fencing, however, the sport does exist. Matter of fact, it grew out of necessity because when individuals lose their sight, they need to learn to navigate the world around them. Using a cane is very similar to using a sword and that is why someone—very cleverly—thought of teaching blind people to fence. My long-time filmmaking partner, George Adams, literally bumped into Catherine Bolton, our protagonist at a Mail Boxes Etc. in Oklahoma City and the rest is history. The documentary was a challenge to make in a sense that Catherine’s vision comes and goes and there is no pattern to when she is able to see or when she loses her sight completely. Because of that, it was difficult to anticipate the story and develop a script in advance, so the film was born in the editing room.
7. Tell us about your crowdfunding efforts and the lessons you've learned through the process.
I’ve been successfully crowdfunding since my first film and I now also teach others how to do it effectively via private coaching and public speaking. The most important part is the preparation. If you want to run the marathon, you need to train for those few hours of running for six to 12 months. It’s the same concept when it comes to raising funds. You need to gather your target market and then you must create a genuine relationship with them first, since knocking on people’s doors cold will not take you far. Your crowd will have to go beyond your immediate family and friends. Obviously, the more money you’re trying to raise, the larger your crowd needs to be. Also, even though everyone thinks online crowdfunding is the latest and greatest, I see my crowdfunding clients achieving better results when they mix off-line with online techniques. There is so much more to share since the devil is in the details. But whatever you do, know that it is, in fact, possible to raise enough money for your movie(s).
8. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned during this journey?
Quality over quantity. I would rather make a few outstanding movies that stand the test of time than many insignificant ones.
9. Finally, if you could share some words of wisdom for a young filmmaker just starting out, what would you say?
Tell the stories that you’re most passionate about. When you pour your heart and soul into a project, you’re much more likely to shine.