Monday, November 22, 2010

Crowdfunding Evolution


As many of you know, the Wellcome Trust awarded me a grant earlier this year to make a series of music videos for the Rap Guide to Evolution, a project that is intended to "promote the public understanding of science" using a new medium. Well, over the past few weeks I've been working with a professional film crew in London to shoot these videos and the results have been really exciting. We are now on target to finish the live filming by the middle of December, with the editing to be completed by February, give or take. Click here to watch our trailer video with some preview clips.

The challenge we face now is finding additional funding to support this project. The Wellcome Trust grant is enough (barely) to film and edit the videos, but we want to take them to the next level by weaving in original animation, digital effects, and high-quality nature footage licensed from sources like the BBC. Imagine a four-minute short film, part Eminem-style rap music video, part David Attenborough-style nature documentary, illustrating themes such as the common descent of all human beings from African ancestors and the processes of natural and sexual selection that shaped our bodies and minds and the rest of nature. We are making twelve such videos, one for each song on the CD. My hope is that these videos will be used by Biology teachers the world over to make evolution accessible to their students, as well as offering an entertaining entry point into Darwin's theories for non-Scientists in general.

The solution? A new concept called "crowdfunding", which allows you to pre-buy the DVD we are making before we are finished making it, contributing to the production value and ultimately the potential impact of the finished product. Together with SPL Productions, I have partnered with a website called "Crowdfunder" to run a campaign to raise an additional £10,000 to increase the production value of these videos. If we can hit our target in 60 days, the end result will be something amazing. If we fail to hit the target, the money is all returned to the funders and we fall back on the Wellcome Trust grant, which will still be enough to complete a good finished product, just one with a lot less mojo.

To give you a sense of what this all means, we've created a lovely Crowdfunder pitch page that lays it all out. Click here to see it.

If you like the project and want to support it, there are various rewards attached to different levels of funding. £10 gets you a download of the finished videos, £20 gets you a DVD, and £30 buys you immortality: we will put your photo in one of the videos, representing a branch on the human family tree. You can also book me for a performance if you contribute enough (click the above link to find out my going rate, slightly discounted).

And if you haven't heard the songs yet, you can click here to download the Rap Guide to Evolution CD.

I hope you will help me take this project all the way, and if you know any science teachers or friends of evolution, please forward them the link.