Micro-Sponsorship Makes a Movie

The new documentary Ahead of Time, by Bob Richman, will debut in L.A. later this month and its creators are experimenting with micro-sponsorship online. The film’s content is powerful. It chronicles the life of the incomparable Ruth Gruber, who is now 99. She defied gender barriers, earning a PhD at age 20. By the age of 24, she was the first journalist to explore the Soviet Arctic, and during WWI escorted Holocaust refugees to America at the request of President Roosevelt. Her photographs of Holocaust victims became the eyes and conscience of the world and helped galvanize resolve around the world.

The film’s website invites post-production sponsorship. All sponsors, no matter the range, receive a film credit. A form of micro-philanthropy, it’s enabled by PayPal. I continue to find it an intriguing model for artists. It’s premised on seeking support after people have seen the work, or at the very least the trailer. When people are emotionally connected to a powerful story it’s a way of coaxing beneficence in a fair exchange—entertain me, entrance me, uplift my soul and that has a value. It harkens back to street performers. What’s old is new. I hope it takes off. The digital culture will be better for it.