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Kickstarter-funded film reunites Joss Whedon's 'Dollhouse' cast

Launching online on Friday, the new film "Lust for Love" comes together through some Kickstarter love and the efforts of several favorites from the Whedonverse.

Lust for Love/YouTube/Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

A film funded through Kickstarter donations is making its online debut today with a cast that should bring a smile to the face of many a Joss Whedon fan.

Written and directed by Australian filmmaker Anton King, "Lust for Love" tells the tale of Astor, a man who enlists the former best friend of his lifelong crush to teach him how to attract women. As he awkwardly goes through the motions of trying to pick up women, the film promises to confront the "conceptions about love" on the part of Astor, the woman who earned his affection, and her former best friend.

The film actually debuted on February 1 at the Harmony Gold Theatre in Hollywood. But Friday it reaches a wider audience via distribution through the major cable providers and online video services such as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, YouTube, Xbox Live, and Sony's Playstation.

The film found most of its funding thanks to Kickstarter. Launching his fund-raising campaign in 2011, King was able to surpass his goal of $70,000 by getting $101,030 from supporters. Kickstarter helped get "Lust for Love" off the ground, but the director had to rely on additional sources of money, including himself and other people making the movie.

"Lust for Love" is also a reunion of several performers known for working with Joss Whedon, creator of such cult classics as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly" and the director of "The Avengers." In particular, the new film reunites several of the cast members from Whedon's 2009 TV series "Dollhouse."

The lead of Astor is portrayed by Fran Kranz, who played geek scientist Topher in "Dollhouse." The former best friend of Astor's lifelong crush is played by Dichen Lachman, one of the dolls in the dollhouse. Other "Dollhouse" castmates in the film include Enver Gjokaj and Miracle Laurie.

Also appearing in the film is Felicia Day, known by many Whedon fans for her role in "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," but who also graced a couple of pivotal "Dollhouse" episodes. Maurissa Tancharoen, who wrote several "Dollhouse" episodes and now co-produces "Agents of SHIELD" with her husband Jed Whedon, also pops up in the movie.

King shared some insights with me into the film's journey from Kickstarter to online debut in the following Q&A.

Q: What gave you the idea to turn to Kickstarter to fund the film? Were you confident you'd meet your funding goal or did you think it was a long shot?
Anton King: I was developing the film and had the cast in mind and then I discovered a discussion about Kickstarter on screenwriter John August's Web site. I immediately knew that crowdfunding would work for "Lust for Love," in particular because of the social media following of our actors. Once I was happy with my Kickstarter pitch video I felt confident we'd meet our goal. A lot of people thought it would be a long shot, but the "Lust for Love" cast are blessed with incredibly supportive fans.

Did you raise most of the money for the film through Kickstarter? Did you have to kick in funding from other sources?
King: We raised significantly over our goal on Kickstarter in 30 days and spent it in less than 30 days, as we went right into production after the Kickstarter campaign. We had to obtain funding from other sources for post production and delivery, including putting in a significant amount ourselves.

How did you get so many of the Dollhouse folks to do the film? I know you had worked with some of them before, and I see Dichen Lachman is listed as a producer. Was it just a natural evolution to rally them all to do the film?
King: I've known Dichen Lachman for years and met the "Dollhouse" cast through her. I also directed a music video for "Dollhouse" writers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon's song Remains, which starred Maurissa and Fran Kranz, so I'd worked with some of them a little and we're all friends too.

Was a theatrical release something you had ever considered, or was it your intention from the get-go to release the film through online sources?
King: I always knew that most people would see the film online or through cable on demand, but I would have liked a small theatrical run as whether or not a film has a theatrical release is still often used as a benchmark. Although it is slowly changing with amazing films like "Behind the Candelabra" skipping theatrical. I've discovered that producers of smaller independent films will often fund their own theatrical release, hoping it will lead to increased sales in other channels, but we didn't have the budget for that.

What was the experience like shooting the film? Was it relatively smooth? Any hiccups along the way that you could share?
King: The film was produced by Dichen Lachman, Jack Wylson, and myself. Jack used the analogy that the shoot was like being on a high-speed train and the bridges are not yet built and the tunnels are not yet dug. Because we had to negotiate everything at below regular cost, we had numerous locations cancel on us at the last minute, which not only meant finding new locations, but also meant that we went into many locations cold and had to make spontaneous decisions on how to make it all work. It was great fun and often led to better results. We ended up shooting all over LA.

How would you describe the film? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing it?
King: On the face of it, "Lust for Love" is a fun story about a guy learning how to meet girls, but underneath it's a coming of age tale for the three main characters and I think in that way it has quite a bit of heart.