UPDATE: Our 1st Behind the Scenes!
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Zach? What is this?
I was about to sign a typical financing deal in order to get the money to make "Wish I Was Here," my follow up to “Garden State.” It would have involved making a lot of sacrifices I think would have ultimately hurt the film. I’ve been a backer for several projects on Kickstarter and thought the concept was fascinating and revolutionary for artists and innovators of all kinds. But I didn't imagine it could work on larger-scale projects. I was wrong.
After I saw the incredible way “Veronica Mars” fans rallied around Kristen Bell and her show’s creator Rob Thomas, I couldn’t help but think (like I'm sure so many other independent filmmakers did) maybe there is a new way to finance smaller, personal films that didn’t involve signing away all your artistic control.
Financing an independent film the traditional way often means having to give away your right to “the final cut,” casting choices, location choices and cutting down your script to make it shoot-able on the cheapest budget possible.
What if there is a different way?
"If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree." - Jim Rohn
Ok, I'm intrigued. What's the story?
"Wish I Was Here" is the story of Aidan Bloom (played by me), a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He and his wife are barely getting by financially and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he'd always dreamed he'd be as a little kid.
When his ailing father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids (ages 5 and 12) and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to attempt to home-school them.
The result is some funny chaos, until Aidan decides to scrap the traditional academic curriculum and come up with his own. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn't find.
It was written by my brother, Adam, and me last summer.
The Soundtrack to "Garden State" was more popular than I could have ever imagined. The album went platinum and won a Grammy. Music and score are very important to me, and I'll be using them in the same way in "Wish I Was Here." One of the cool things about being a backer is that you can get access to weekly song picks by me, and be the first group to stream the soundtrack.
I don't have the rights to put any cool music on here, but here's me doing a fairly decent beat-box:
I am lucky enough to be friends and collaborators with one of the greatest pre-visualization artists in the business, Colin Fix. Artists like Colin help filmmakers establish the look and tone of the locations and characters before going into production.
"Wish I Was Here" has some very unique characters, and mine in particular has elaborate fantasies that I want to try to bring to life in a very specific way. When operating on a tight budget, it's super helpful to be able to gather around the art Colin and I have come up with in order to make sure the entire creative team is on the same page.
*Note: The film is NOT ANIMATED. These are character design sketches.
Colin painted these two frames as research for the look of Aidan's opening fantasy sequence. Aidan's fantasy-self has a flying robotic-squire:
Since he's the only crew member that's already working, I put all my direction into Colin:
Larry Sher has agreed to shoot the film. Larry shot "Garden State" and has since gone on to shoot all the "Hangover" movies, along with many other big comedies. Larry and I have very similar taste and together we established the look of GS.
We were able to shoot Super 35 millimeter film on GS. In today's digital age, it's become harder and harder, and more expensive, to shoot film. If the budget permitted, I would shoot "Wish I Was Here" on film as well. There are several amazing digital systems we'd use if we couldn't afford film, but as a camera geek who went to film school, I'm sad film is going away. Only the biggest directors these days get a chance to shoot it.
A Production Designer is in charge of the overall look of the movie. They collaborate closely with the Costume Designer to ensure the film has a cohesive tone. They oversee all sets, set decoration, locations, props etc. If all goes as planned, "Wish I Was Here" will be designed by Judy Becker. Judy is one of the most amazing designers in the business. Here are some of her most recent production design credits:
- Silver Linings Playbook
- Girls (Pilot)
- The Fighter
- Brokeback Mountain
- Garden State ;)
Ok... Why Kickstarter?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
I want you to be my financiers and my audience so I can make a movie for you with no compromises. I know it's risky, and I don't know if it's going to work, but here are a few reasons why I think it's worth it to fund via Kickstarter.
"Final Cut" is the industry term for who has the final say on how the movie will be edited. A lot of financing deals require that the final cut go to the money people, NOT the director. Most films these days are tested in front of “test audiences” to see how an audience likes what you’ve made. This is sometimes very helpful, as you can get a sense of when the pace is too slow or when certain jokes aren’t as funny as you thought they were. However, it can also be destructive, as a financier with final cut may use a note from the test audience to force you to make changes to the film that go against your gut. You ultimately have no right to fight against these changes because you have signed away those rights in order to get your money. As a film-lover myself, I always want to see exactly what the filmmaker intended.
Traditionally, in order to procure your financing, a filmmaker will often have to choose from a list of pre-approved actors with whom the financier is willing to make the movie. Although there are often many wonderful actors on these lists, you may not see the actors you had in your mind to play those parts. The lists are compiled of actors who’ve been in films that have had large successes overseas. Their names are put into an algorithm, and a computer calculates how much money the financier will be able to pre-sell the foreign distribution of the film for based on that actor’s past successes. Bored yet? Basically, you have to cast who they want, not who you want.
This film is set in Hollywood. Bizarrely, it is very expensive to shoot in Los Angeles. So unless I have the budget to afford to shoot here (where it takes place), I’ll have to shoot the film in Vancouver or Georgia or Louisiana and fake it to look like LA. I was told we’d just “roll a few palm trees around.” This happens all the time, and we could make it work... and no offense to all those places, but wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to shoot the film where it takes place?
Cuts for Budget:
Every film makes cuts to trim the budget; that’s completely sensible. But there are always places where, with a little extra money, the film could be better. In “Wish I Was Here,” my character's elaborate fantasy sequences are one place that extra money would strengthen what shows up on the screen, as I could shoot those in the amazing and surreal locations I picture in my mind.
Wrap it up, Braff, I have stuff to do...
I look at it like this: Come join this little club. Join for whatever you can. And then, together, this lil club's gonna make a really cool movie, and you'll have made it happen. If you've liked the stuff I've made so far, I know you're going to love this.
Whether you end up with a rad t-shirt (soft as a kitten's taint) or an invite to a special preview screening, you'll know that without you, this movie never would have gotten made. (*Yes, there will be a secret handshake and code word for the club.) (No, it's won't be "Eagle" or "C-bear".)
"You had me at Hello," what do I do?
To become one of our backers, just click on the big green button to the right of our video. Kickstarter will ask you for your pledge, which reward you want, and how you want to sign up. Signing up is easy; you can even do it through Facebook.
Adam and me giving "Blue Steel":
Always close with a cute dog:
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge is distribution – "Wish I Was Here" does not have a distributor attached yet. The producers and I are truly doing this all ourselves. Lack of distribution can also be a blessing. We want to make this film the same way we made "Garden State," without a distributor or financier demanding we adapt it to fit their needs.
Our goal is to debut the film at the Sundance Film Festival. If you fund the project, we intend to start pre-production right away, shoot this August, and finish the film in time to submit it to the festival. There's a very accomplished team behind the scenes: two of my producers from "Garden State", Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, and a supremely talented cast and crew including Larry Sher and Judy Becker.
Your goodies like t-shirts and posters for helping us make this possible will be sent out by a professional fulfillment company. Many elements of the rewards will be fulfilled well before September of 2014, which is when we hope to release the film and have all of our premieres and screenings. For those of you who are attending an event or joining us on set, we will do our best to keep you in the loop on our schedule.
THE FINE PRINT (stuff my lawyer wants me to say)
• For those of you visiting our set, we anticipate shooting in August in Los Angeles. However, this has the potential to change. We will keep you updated so you can plan ahead to visit us.
• If you become an extra ($2500 reward) or receive a cast credit ($10,000 reward), you must be a US citizen or have a US work visa, and not be a member of SAG/AFTRA.
• You must be over 18 or accompanied by a parent or legal guardian (who will count as your plus one) to attend the premiere or visit the set. Extras must also be over 18.
• The content of the voice and video messages are at your direction, but at my discretion. I reserve the right to refuse to say or do what you request if I find it inappropriate.
• Some rewards may require additional paperwork. If you are appearing in the film, you will have to sign a release.
• My final cut of the film may have to be further edited in certain cases to adhere to the laws in the country which it is being viewed, or for different types of media.
• All shooting locations, including Comic-Con, are subject to change for a variety of reasons, including the amount of money we are able to raise and the particular locations giving us the right to shoot.
• This fundraising campaign is all subject to applicable Kickstarter rules/regulations, movie guild rules and applicable law. if any of this conflicts, we will work with you in good faith to give you a substitute reward.
To sum it up, movie making is a crazy business, with a lot of unknown factors. We start with a script I'm really proud of. Then, we assemble the best team possible, get insurance, and make contingency plans. It's impossible to guarantee everything will come together exactly as planned, but in the end, we will have created a movie that hopefully all of us can be proud of. It's a great journey, and I thank you in advance if you can help make this ride possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter