We're Long Haul Films, a production company making films about innovation, disruption and change.
We make documentaries and branded content for founders, artists, inventors, educators and designers. Several of our recent projects examined the impact of innovative thinking on cities, a subject that fascinates us. That's what brought us to Detroit.
Other films looked back at what went wrong in Detroit, we all know that story. Restarting the Motor City is a film about the future of Detroit, and the role that entrepreneurs - from high-growth tech startups to the shop in West Village - play in rewriting this city's narrative.
We're working in collaboration with Ted Serbinski, a Detroit-based investor who is making an impact as the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility, an accelerator for startups focused on changing how we transport people and goods.
In the spring of 2015, Long Haul Films undertook a few days of pre-production filming in Detroit, to find out if the material was there to make a compelling feature film. We interviewed Ted and other folks leading the charge towards Detroit's future. We filmed with a small selection of local businesses who are reclaiming their neighborhoods.
We talked to journalists, architects, photographers, bartenders, people we bumped into on the streets, women who work in the Shinola factory. Every single person had a passion for Detroit, and an excitement about what the city can become. Some of their stories are captured in this short trailer, which scratches the surface of the energy and excitement around innovation in Detroit right now.
Making the trailer confirmed one thing for us: there's a compelling, untold story about innovation in Detroit and that's why we're setting out to make a feature film. As part of pre-production, we identified a number of potential people and stories to focus on. What stood out to us is that Detroit will be rebuilt by diversity: the future is not a one-industry, racially- segregated town, but instead a rich and varied economy that spans industries and mixes larger businesses with small startups.
We'll film with some of Detroit's leading entrepreneurs but also feature up-and-comers from the community who are rebuilding the city from the ground up.
Our aim is to leverage Detroit's built-in resources, and to that end we will work with local crew and engage local musicians to create a soundscape for the film that provides nods to the city's rich musical traditions - Jazz, Motown and house - and also showcase genres and artists that are part of the city's new musical vanguard.
While the film will present an optimistic view of what Detroit's future may hold, we won't shy away from addressing the current issues residents and businesses face: from high car insurance premiums to poor public services; as well as the inherent challenges that all entrepreneurs encounter when they gamble on their dreams.
But what better place to dream than in Detroit? The finished film will be a blueprint for how entrepreneurial thinking can transform a city, and establish Detroit as poised to become a global hub for innovation, creativity and positive change.
Production will continue this fall in Detroit, and stretch into 2016. Our aim is to premiere this film in 2017 and seek a robust festival run leading to wider distribution on television and online. This film will have strong appeal to modern, forward-thinking audiences who care about technology, design and cutting-edge business and are interested in current events, architecture and urban planning.
We have a bunch of great rewards for backers at all levels:
Melissa Dowler – Director, Producer, Cinematographer
Melissa is the Creative Director of Long Haul Films, setting the vision for the studio’s dynamic work with innovative brands. Along with her husband, the Director of Photography, Tom Dowler, she made 24 Hours At The South Street Diner, a documentary short which established Long Haul Films’ ongoing fascination with documenting the people and institutions that define cities.
Melissa is the Director of Letting Go of Adele, a documentary feature currently in post-production, and her other credits include Boston UpFront and The Innovation Games, both produced in association with Streetwise Media.
Favorite place in Detroit: Sundays at Cafe 78, MOCAD
Tom Dowler – Director, Producer, DP, Editor
Tom is an ex-pat Brit who started making films at the University of York, where he founded the University Cinematography Society and went on to a Masters in Feature Film Development at Goldsmith’s College in London.
Tom has co-directed and photographed all of the documentary projects produced by Long Haul Films, and in addition to his work on Restarting The Motor City, is currently developing a narrative screenplay.
Favorite place in Detroit: Sugar House in Corktown
Ted Serbinski – Executive Producer
Ted is the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility: Driven by Detroit. Ted invests in next-generation automotive, transportation, and mobility startups across the globe and he left Silicon Valley to build a legacy in Detroit.
A member of the board of the Michigan Film Commission, Ted has worked closely with Long Haul Films to bring the story of entrepreneurship in Detroit to life.
Favorite place in Detroit: Ford Field, home of Techstars Mobility
Megan Lovallo – Cinematographer
Megan is a product of Boston University’s film program and two-time winner of the prestigious Redstone Film Festival for her short film, Off To The Races. Megan’s cinematography work includes documentary shorts, branded content and promotional films. At Long Haul Films she was a Cinematographer for the documentary Letting Go Of Adele, currently in post-production.
Favorite place in Detroit: Sister Pie
Risks and challenges
Independent filmmaking is a challenging arena. Most artists spend half their time creating, and the other half seeking funding. That's a challenge we're familiar with, having raised funds for documentary films before, including a successful Kickstarter campaign for a documentary short called 24 Hours at The South Street Diner.
We're also the owners of a production company with offices in Boston, LA and London which works with innovative clients all over the globe, so we're very familiar with managing budgets, handling complex logistics and delivering projects on-time and on-budget.
With this Kickstarter campaign, we're aiming to raise a portion of our production budget, but even when this campaign succeeds, we will need to do more work to bring investors on board. As any entrepreneur will tell you, that's always a challenge. However, in addition to the creative development we're doing on the film, we are working in close collaboration with our Executive Producer, Ted Serbinski, on lining up further investment.
Risk: Timing for completion
We aim to complete production on the film in 2016, however because we'll be following real people, real businesses and uncovering real stories, that timeline could shift in line with unexpected life events.
The secret to making a great documentary film is like a Kenny Rogers song: you gotta know when to hold, know when to fold. Sometimes a story keeps going longer than you expected, and as a filmmaker you need to follow the path until it reaches its conclusion. It's a risk in terms of the timeline extending, but it's not a risk in terms of making the best possible film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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