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ZEN DOG is an independent feature film about one man's quest across the United States to potentially OFF himself with a coin toss atop the Brooklyn Bridge. It's about abandoning the comforts of the modern world in order to press into the unknown and truly live. ZEN DOG will follow Mud Takashi, a complacent man in his late twenties who was adopted and raised by Japanese parents. Mud's dissatisfaction with life is fueled by circumstance and the idea that there must be something greater than himself out there to discover. Having never left California, Mud decides to sell everything, pack his bags and head out to the road less traveled. Along his path he encounters his own set of trials and tribulations and eventually meets Bel, a cosmic spark of energy equally lost in a world of her own. If Mud represents the past and the future, Bel most certainly is the idea of the NOW. She teaches Mud the true meaning of detachment and ultimately becomes the focal point of both desire and suffering.
In order to get to his final destination, Mud purchases a used 1969 Volkswagen from a reformed ex-hippy at the beginning of our story. While on his journey, he discovers a box of leftover cassette tapes in the trunk. One of the tapes happens to be a spoken-word mix tape of the late philosopher ALAN WATTS. Watts soon becomes the pseudo-narrator throughout the film and propels Mud as well as the audience into a world of self-discovery and actualization.
From the West to the East
Unlike most Hollywood road movies, ZEN DOG will be shot entirely on the open road. We will actually shoot from the West Coast to the Brooklyn Bridge so that we can keep the experience and the film as authentic as possible. ZEN DOG will employee REAL people from small rural towns in America as we make our way to the East. ZEN DOG will also be shot in chronological order while we are on the road so that MUD can grow out his facial hair to subtly emphasize this theme of transformation. We plan to shoot for ONE WEEK in either Los Angeles or San Francisco and then THREE WEEKS to Brooklyn. Some cities we plan to pass through are Reno, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Chicago, Philadelphia and many smaller, rural towns. ZEN DOG walks the line between what is constructed and what is real and in some ways borrows the examples from the Dogme 95 movement with its technical execution.
The Universe on tape
I've always been a huge fan of the work of Alan Watts. He was known throughout the West in the 1960s and 70s for his lectures, publications and contributions to Eastern philosophy, namely Zen Buddhism. Watts brought the ideas of the East to the West during a time of cultural self-discovery and spiritual metamorphosis. I enjoy Alan Watts not only because of his delicate, yet cinematic speaking voice, but also because of the words and ideas he can so easily convey. Watts has a way of breaking things down and making them easily digestible without coming off as authoritative or pushy. He makes you think and just like Mud in ZEN DOG, I want the audience to come out of this film thinking differently and having a greater appreciation for this man's works. Never before has a narrative feature film attempted to utilize the works of Alan Watts in such a creative and telling way.
My name is Rick Darge and I've been a filmmaker almost my entire life. I started making little short films and claymations when I was 12 years old. Encouraged by my loving family and with the help of my grandpa's borrowed videocamera, I made hundreds of little shorts all the way through high school, eventually breaking my first camera with all of the wear and tear. When I was 17, I gathered as many willing high school participants and made my first indie feature film entitled BROKEN STRINGS. I learned many invaluable lessons from that process that would later be applied to my 4 years of film school education at USC. Upon graduation I worked as a professional editor for 3 years, working for the likes of Madonna, MTV & HBO. Unhappy with sitting behind a desk all day long, I took my life savings and purchased a Red One digital cinema camera. My true passion was behind the lens so it wouldn't take long before I was operating and directing music videos, commercials and short films, eventually winning an EMMY award back in 2007 for my work as a cinematographer.
Clouded by the working world of production, I always wanted to jump back into the pool of narrative feature filmmaking but I must admit, I was scared. I wanted the next movie that I would eventually set out to work on to be totally worthwhile. It took a few years of cultivation but eventually the idea of ZEN DOG hit me in the face like a brick. I knew what I had to do and it's been a non-stop rocket ride ever since. KICKSTARTER is the natural progression of this process and I truly believe that crowd-sourced financing is the future of filmmaking.
Fueling ZEN DOG is a talented roster of crew members that have been working in the industry for many years. We so far have locked in our DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, EDITOR, PRODUCTION SOUND, COSTUME DESIGNER, GAFFER & SUPER P.A. There's still a lot to be done but we have our core team and that's what's most important. Our crew share a passion and drive that will not only make ZEN DOG an amazing experience but also a one-of-a-kind film.
One amazing aspect of our shoot is that we don't have to worry about renting expensive camera gear or compromise on quality in any way! For a 4-week shoot, this gear would easily cost us $39,000 in rentals. Money saved!
Between myself, Rick Darge and the cinematographer, Richie Trimble, we have more than enough high-end gear to make this film amazingly beautiful.
Our official gear list for the technically interested:
• (2) RED EPIC Cinema Cameras
• (1) RED ONE MX Cinema Camera
• (2) ANGENIEUX OPTIMO Zoom Lenses
• (5) Vintage Superspeed Prime Lenses
• (20) Canon EF Still Lenses
• LED Panels, Kino Flos, Sliders, Tripods, Matteboxes, Car Rigs
To give you perspective, the gear we are using is the same exact camera gear that was used to shoot THE HOBBIT movies, Prometheus, Total Recall, The Social Network, Flight and many others... Visual Quality, thanks to Red Digital Cinema, is something that will never be sacrificed on ZEN DOG.
Money, Money, Who's got the Money?
Every film has costs no matter what the story. We are looking to just cover our BARE MINIMUM costs to get us out the door. After crunching all the numbers, we found that we could squeak by with a limited budget of $30,000. That might seem like a lot of money but in actuality it's nothing. That $30k will quickly be eaten up by our lodging & food costs. We plan on staying at the cheapest motels possible and with a core crew of 6 people, that means everyone will be sharing a room. We also need to feed the cast and crew while we are on the road. When you are making a low budget feature film, especially on the road, you need to make sure that everyone eats well. A nice meal goes a long way to boost morale and spirits, not to mention energy levels. Our other costs for this film will be the rental and fueling of a 15-person passenger van. This van will function as our home base that will not only transport the crew and cast, but also our luggage, camera gear and other basic necessities. Our fuel costs are estimated to be roughly $3000-$4000 which will provide enough fuel to get our PICTURE CAR and the passenger van to Brooklyn and back. We will also be using this money to purchase all of the hard drives that we will need to store the film on. Since the RED EPIC shoots 5k resolution to digital magazines, we need a place to store all that footage and part of this budget will be going towards that. Things that are not in this $30,000 budget are camera rentals (absorbed), my fee as the director/writer/producer, money for post-production, music licensing fees... We will cross this inevitable bridge when we get there but for now we just want to get this film in the can anyway we can. We think we have a truly great idea, intense passion and a drive to succeed and fully believe that all the cards will fall into place as long as we keep DRIVING to our destination. Of course if we are able to raise more than the $30k with this Kickstarter or outside sponsorship, we would be overjoyed, but for now we want to keep this as modest and simple as possible. Every single penny will go back into this film because its people like YOU that make this all possible.
What's been accomplished? What's left?
We've accomplished quite a bit so far but still have a lot to do before we begin principal photography. So far we've written the script and are undergoing revisions that will probably take us all the way through the actual shoot. It's my belief that a script should never be stamped as finished and should always be transforming organically depending on how the shoot wants to go. I believe in fluidity and with a title like ZEN DOG, we must stay fluid and open during this entire process.
We've secured the use of Alan Watts' work throughout the film. Mark Watts, Alan's son, has been very generous and forward with helping us in anyway possible during this process. He was responsible for the compelling and very fitting sound byte that you will hear / heard in our trailer-test-shoot for ZEN DOG.
We recently bought the picture car that Mud will drive cross country in. Originally we wanted a Vintage Volkswagen Beetle, however because of that car's tight quarters and popularity everywhere, we went with a car a little more off the beaten path. We found a beautifully restored 1969 Volkswagen "Squareback" instead. The Squareback is perfect for ZEN DOG because it allows for more creative shots being a hatchback and it's also unique and something rare that you normally don't see in a movie like this. In a sense, the vehicle becomes a silent character in the film that will literally propel and change the direction of the story.
Over the course of these past several months we've been auditioning many talented actors in the Los Angeles area for the lead roles. We are currently about to begin the callback process early next year to narrow our search. We are considering anyone and everywhere for these roles and won't begin the film until we have the PERFECT fit.
What we must accomplish before we say "action!" are the logistical things such as fundraising, location planning, map direction, final casting, scheduling, etc. We have much to do, however, fear not, we've been working hard at ticking away all our checkboxes each and everyday. Pre-production is always a full time job on any production.
Digital Copy, Blu-Ray, Insider Access, Tickets...
We've come up with a lot of really cool rewards for you guys if you decide this is something you want to be a part of. Checkout the REWARDS on the side bar and pick a level that you feel comfortable with. You can always change your donation at any time during our campaign and remember, if we don't meet our goal, you're charged nothing. Now the deeper question is, What kind of ZEN animal are you?
- First thing, make a donation of any size. You can change your donation amount anytime before the campaign ends and you will not be charged anything unless we meet our fundraising goal.
- After you back us and completed your transaction, Kickstarter will give you the option to send a message out to your friends/followers on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The message will say you just backed us and it will included a link to our project page (you can edit the text). Please send these messages! It only takes a second and will help tremendously!
- Find at least one other person to make a donation. We want to make this movie available to everyone and that's why you can see it before anyone else, just for $10.
In closing, NONE of this would be possible without supporters like YOU and websites like KICKSTARTER. We thank you all for your time, energy and money and it is with our great hope that ZEN DOG will be a film that will not only change the way in which you view the world, it will inspire you to do the things you always wanted to do. So please sit back, relax and enjoy the ride... I know we will...
Risks and challenges
ZEN DOG cannot be stopped. Just like Mud's drive to get to Brooklyn, the crew of ZEN DOG is determined to complete this film by any means necessary. There are a couple of key things that DO need to happen before we begin. The first being the financing which is why we are doing a Kickstarter. The second being the final casting. Who portrays these characters, their chemistry, their scheduling and several other logistical factors will all determine who we finally choose to portray our leads. This process takes time and patience and we want to make sure we have the perfect match before we set out on this adventure.
Once these two aspects of production are set in stone, we will be on the road like a lightning bolt. After we wrap principal photography, we will more than likely have to raise more money to complete editorial, license music and finish the film but we will cross that bridge when we get there. If we get delayed while on the road, rest assured that we will keep you informed the entire way through. We are committed 100% at finishing this film and making it the best we can possibly make it! One thing is for certain and that is it will be an exciting adventure that will never let up. We are glad that you can be apart of this process in anyway possible and sincerely appreciate every ounce of support we get!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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