On September 16th of last year, New York Times-bestselling author Donald Miller updated his blog with a post that began, “The book that swept the country will not sweep theaters.” The book in question was Blue Like Jazz, Miller’s influential collection of essays he had since adapted into a screenplay. Why wasn’t the movie happening? “It’s really hard to raise money for movies right now,” Miller wrote. “In fact, it’s worse than it’s ever been in the history of Hollywood.”
That should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t. Eight days later, two fans of the book — Zach Prichard and Jonathan Frazier — launched a campaign to save the film from oblivion. Their project had an audacious goal ($125,000 in 30 days), a strong set of rewards ($10 downloads, $100 associate producer credits, $1,000 cameos), and — crucially — the blessing of Miller and director Steve Taylor. As one of the rewards Taylor even agreed to personally call every backer — which he is still doing.
Stunningly, just eleven days later the goal was reached. By the project’s end it had raised a then-record $345,992 from more than 4,495 backers. An incredible total. But even bigger was what the project signaled: even when traditional funders like Hollywood wouldn’t support a project, the fans still could.
In the months since the project’s end, production has recommenced and principle shooting will finish in Portland next week. The film’s release — whether it be theatrical or other means — is still a ways off. But for the project’s backers, as well as the film’s cast and crew, the unique process of bringing this project back from the brink is already an unforgettable experience.
See the rest of the Kickstarter awards here.