Four years ago, Steve Taylor, Ben Pearson and I sat down to write a movie. Steve and Ben flew out to Portland and we spent hours in my living room, plotting out a story on a white board. It was the most exhilarating writing experience I’d had yet. We threw ideas around the room and entertained each other as we added to the story. And we laughed. We laughed so hard we fell out of our chairs. There were also somber times, when we realized one of our principal characters had been abused, and we had to bring it out in the story. There were times when we literally cried as we wrote a scene. It’s a very strange thing to talk about, but sometimes fictional characters become real, and it’s a trick in the mind that you love them as though they were your friends.
We knew we had something special. We hoped we had a story that could change everything, that could, as David Dark says, increase the talkability of the issues the average American evangelical deal with. We knew we had a good story.
We wrapped up the screenplay and began raising funds. But this was right at the beginning of the recession, and nobody was investing in movies. We’d hear somebody was interested, and then they’d back out. People would promise us they’d invest on a specific day, sometimes the next week, and something would change at the last minute. It was a difficult time for all of us.
Imagine writing a song that nobody would be allowed to listen to. Or a book nobody would be allowed to read. Imagine discovering a great piece of music, but you could only listen to it when you were alone, and you’d never be allowed to share it. Imagine creating a piece of art in your mind, but not being able to afford a canvass on which to paint.
Art becomes even more beautiful to it’s creator when they share it with others. It’s like God, as He goes to prepare a place for us. Creation is best when it’s purpose is to move somebody else, to love somebody else, to enlighten somebody else.
The time came to call it quits. After two years, and having written a book about writing the screenplay (all the time thinking the book would come out with the movie) we had to face the truth. The movie was dead. So on September 16th, I wrote a blog stating we would not be filming Blue Like Jazz.
What you don’t know is just before I wrote the blog, Steve Taylor and I had a long conversation in which we talked about the fundraising effort. We talked about how much heart we’d put into the film, and even how much heart I’d put into the book, but the fundraising story wasn’t nearly as magical. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I told Steve we needed a good fundraising story, something as meaningful as the story itself, something that invited people to be part of the story. And that’s what happened. The only catch was, Steve and I didn’t have anything to do with it. What happened next played out like a miracle.
My friend Randy Williams called and said he had a couple friends in Nashville who had an idea. His friends were Jonathan Frazier and Zach Prichard. Their idea was to crowd source the movie. We needed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we honestly didn’t believe we’d get anything close. We set a low goal at $125k, but we only did this to be realistic. We had another investor, so technically, we could get a very low-budget movie done with that money, but we certainly needed more.
Ten days later, the movie was alive. When Kickstarter topped $125k, we were shell shocked. Steve immediately ramped up production, and every day, as the kickstarter campaign grew, he was able to afford a better camera, or better set design. Production companies heard about the campaign and offered their services at a discount. Locations began to offer their building for free. Each of the three writers waved our compensation. And as the total continued to rise, we sent offers to more and more talented actors. Amazingly, after being pronounced dead, the movie was alive and well, and even making the news.
The hero of this story is you.
But what you did was more than save a movie. You made history. This is the first American film to be crowd sourced. It certainly won’t be the last, but it will always be the first. How cool is it that all 3271 of us (on the final morning) are the first people to ever do something in all of American history? Blue Like Jazz will always be remembered as the first major release American movie that was crowd sourced.
If you’ve not yet joined us, please do. There won’t be another chance after midnight tonight.
WE are making a movie. WE have already made history. WE are telling the world a better story.
Today you are giving to us. Tomorrow we will start giving back.