Indeed. Still kicking!
The marathon has continued now for 10 months, since we started principal photography in El Paso, Illinois. I can say it now. This is the movie that was impossible to make…We were not low budget, we were NO budget. It was an absurd undertaking. A sprawling road movie musical with crowd scenes and locations, original music that hadn't been composed yet that had to be performed in the film, and a journey that spanned from Moon, Mississippi to Chicago and back…And Moon, Mississippi doesn't even exist.
In Hollywood the cost would have been $2.5 million, or even $10 million, and considered an under budgeted risk at that. We started on January 8 with less then $5,000 and a few credit cards (don't ask but praise the Lord), and some Southwest Airlines mileage. A couple days after we started, already exhausted from the less then 5 days of preproduction we had (normally you preproduce for six weeks), I was reminded that this was a musical and we needed to compose and record the original music to be performed in the film. OK….I threw a dart at the yellow pages and a little studio in a Bloomington, Illinois strip mall came up, Eclipse Studios, and its owner Erik Nelson ended up being kind of a Quincy Jones, a magician that surprised and totally energised the musicians.
And made the music sound great, made the music sound BIG budget...
The songwriters, all of the cast, went into action. In their rooms, over breakfast, late into the night, and after and during a day's shooting...lyrics on napkins...people dashing from one Super 8 hotel room to another...a lot of creativity was going on....
Still, with a crew of only 6, how could we make a movie that needed a crew of 30?
Well…we did it. A small group of investors dug deep and funnelled in more money in little bits and pieces, usually after frantic phone calls from yours truly, they did as much as they could, and over the months of production we got there.
And if you have a great photographer, as we did, one Joshua Sampson, who responded to a classified ad, and a great sound person, as we did, Jen Kienzler, then you can make a movie, even a great one. These two managed the jobs of their departments, and a few other departments, literally by themselves...as the other 4 crew were deluged with other work.
Its a long crazy story…and maybe a book someday, but we shot the body of the film in January in 21 days, returned to Atlanta in April to redo the final concert scenes over a week, and I just wrapped up the finishing touches on a Sept. road trip from Chicago, to Baton Rouge, and to Atlanta in a car with a camera mounted to the hood. Putting a little "road" into the road movie as it were, "entering Mississippi leaving Mississippi entering Chicago leaving Chicago entering St. Louis...leaving Memphis", etc.
Destiny is on our side. After we wrapped Boogie Long was tapped to open, at age 23, for B B King to sold out crowds across the country. A star is born! Boogie was a human dynamo in the recording studio during the production. Here's a song he'd say. Need another one? Half an hour later there'd be another song. Bianca Ryan continues developing with amazing songwriting talent, she and Boogie collaborated on several songs, and her original songs will shine in the film. An old R & B recording of Rita Graham's has sparked a rabid cult dance following of her in the Northern Soul Movement in Britain. Sammy Blue's acting ability, proven up in We Are Kings, has attracted major Hollywood interest, he's as magnetic as Samuel Jackson, and Pryce Watkins is signing with a major label!
Check out this link to Boogie Long performing this summer at the Montreal Jazz Fest...this song is in the movie!
We got incredibly lucky with it all. No one got sick, no one got injured, the Blues Bucket started up in the sub zero record and steamed along, the little town of El Paso rolled out the red carpet, the high school kids pitched in, the locations were all offered for free, the Indian hotel owners where we stayed let us turn their hotel into a studio (one day we shipped the whole contents of a room to a location), Woody's restaurant where we ate home-cooked food let us film multiple scenes in their kitchen and amidst the mystified famers, the cast rehearsed their lines which I'd touch up at dawn each morning, the songs are just great, you're going to hear them soon and you'll hear them first, and we became the toast of this little farm town.
Just crazy…crazy luck…After we lost Magic Slim in December it was so depressing it didn't look like there was going to be a film without him. I was thinking right up until Jan. 3 when I met for the first time with our director of photography in Los Angeles, Joshua Sampson, maybe time just to go home, live to fight another day, there's not enough money, not enough time.
I think that's when I found out I had the Southwest mileage and I just started booking plane tickets to fly people into Chicago...Bianca and her Dad from Philly, Boogie from Baton Rouge, Pryce and Sammy and Rita from Atlanta, Joshua from LA, Pedro from Seattle. I was thinking, I can always call them at the last minute and tell them its crashed...its not happening.
Then Alyssa Waltrip, the associate producer, drove all night from South Carolina. Matt Pierce and Courtney Chavez answered classifieds in Chicago. And Jen Kienzler drove her sound bucket down from Chicago. Show time! At some point I thought well I can't stop it now.. and not much later we hit the "record" button on the camera...
It was chaotic, seat of the pants filmmaking, racing from one location to the other...a lot of improvisation...a lot of glazed people...but every day we knocked down 5 or six pages of script...day after day.
Now we go back into the editing room starting Nov. 4 for the final race to the finish. To say that the Producer's pockets are tapped out is an understatement. Lets just say my pants have been literally burned off my body. But still…the film has progressed continuously, never stopping, since Jan. 8. My regret has not to have been more in touch with you, our original Kickstarter backers, because its you that put us on this road that has led to the finish line…Its been a jungle fight with our heads barely above the racing water...but now as the smoke clears and we have a good film, and hopefully better then that, we can start to deliver on our original Kickstarter promises and make it all worth your while.
There will be a lot of fun stuff in the pipeline. The signed material, the DVD's, the music, the movie posters (in the works) all of it, and we'll think up some new stuff too as a bonus. Stay tuned.
One thing's for sure. No one's ever made a film quite like this.
So keep the faith!
Here is the first public look at the first trailer! (please don't post the link until the web site's up next week...we want it to be a surprise...)
There will be more coming…And there's talk of a spin off tv series, and an adaptation to a stage musical.
Well...so did we make that little piece of rock and roll history I talked about in the first Kickstarter raises?
Lets say...maybe...I think so...maybe...and if we did, you had a big hand in it. It wouldn't have happened without you guys...
Indeed, the Blues Bucket rolls on!
The new web site will be up next week and you'll be the first to see it so watch for the link!
And we are doing a final crowdsourcing raise, our completion financing, and you'll find it next week on Indiegogo, I will mail you the link, so please spread the word when it arrives, we're heading into the last mile help us cross the finish line!