...is the third and final chapter of what has become my Henry Fool Trilogy, or my Grim Family Saga... some kind of parallel neighborhood where I work out how the world feels to me.
I wasn't expecting this when I made HENRY FOOL in 1997. But the cast and I loved these characters and regularly wondered out loud what would become of them. So in 2007 I made FAY GRIM, continuing to use this lovable wreck of an American family to reflect on contemporary events. Though just by deciding to do that I committed myself to a third and (probably) final chapter about Henry and Fay's son, Ned.
HENRY FOOL (1997) and FAY GRIM (2007) are available on Netflix if you want to check them out.
And so here it is. I have this nearly completed saga of the Grim family of Woodside Queens and their love-hate relationship with the man at the center of all their lives: the demonic, preposterous, and exasperating Henry Fool.
In this swiftly paced conclusion, Henry and Fay's son, Ned, played by Liam Aiken, turns 18 and leaves a witness protection program. ("Rifle" is his maternal grandmother's maiden name—he's incognito). His mom has spent the last four years in military custody for alleged terrorist activities (see Fay Grim, 2007) and is transferred to a federal penitentiary to serve a life sentence. Ned, who has absorbed the Christianity of the well adjusted and devout family he has been living with, nevertheless sets out to find and kill his dad, Henry Fool, for the mess the man has made of Fay's life. But his aims are frustrated by the brilliant, sexy, and troubled Susan, whose connection to Henry predates even the great man's arrival in the lives of the Grim family.
NED RIFLE is the most accessible and rollicking film I've ever written while concerning things I care about deeply. Oddly, I suspect I've written a hit. If I can just get it made. (I felt this way about Henry Fool too which did in fact turn out to be my most financially successful film.)
It's also an opportunity to pull off something that doesn't happen everyday: to make three films over the course of a generation with the same actors playing the same characters. Liam Aiken, who I cast as Parker Posey's son in HENRY FOOL, was seven years old in 1997. Now he's a young man with a stack of acting credits to his name and ready to play Ned again. (He doesn't even remember playing Ned in 1997.) Parker Posey is on board as is James Urbaniak who plays her peculiarly poetic garbage man brother. And, of course, none of this can happen without the participation of Thomas Jay Ryan as the unseen hand in everyone's life, Henry Fool.
Well, I’m not the most popular filmmaker in the world. But I’m not difficult and obscure either. I like a good laugh, action, adventure, romance. And NED RIFLE has all this. But it’s not mainstream entertainment. Though it has great actors, they are not huge movie stars. Though it has action, it is not massive. And, anyway, my movies tend to acquire audiences slowly, over the years. They don’t break box-office records in one weekend. And so the current trend of financing through pre-sales made by distributors or sales agents based on celebrity attachment is not likely for a project both this commercially modest and this artistically ambitious.
That said, I feel very confident about the artistic, popular, and commercial potential of NED RIFLE. And Kickstarter is the perfect way to finance it. Why? Because I don’t have to ask anyone to assume great financial risk. I just have to convince all of you who have enjoyed my work over the years that you’ll love this new film and have fun participating in its production.
I’ll try to do that over the next 30 days with a string of videos and some essays on my website. And you can respond, if you want, by pre-buying a limited edition DVD or BluRay of the completed film. Or the published screenplay. Or a new book of my drawings. Or by becoming a co-producer. Whatever you can afford and whatever seems worth it.
Exactly two years ago I launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the distribution of my film MEANWHILE. A much more modest undertaking. But we were very successful. Hundreds of you from all over the world pledged what you wanted and received a new film by me, or the music, or a poster, or became a co-producer. The film is now out there in the world, available almost everywhere. But maybe the coolest thing about it all was that by doing it I established this direct connection to you. After 25 years of making films I now feel—after using Kickstarter only once—that I have a much better idea of who my audience actually is. You're all over the map, literally and figuratively. And that's good.
It's bigger than that...
First and foremost, this campaign is about making NED RIFLE. But if I can do that by reaching out directly, through Kickstarter, to all of you who follow my films, it will prove to me that there is a sustainable alternative to the established (and often arbitrary) norms of the entertainment business, a way for me to continue being a commercially viable creative artist in a manner well suited to my aims and temperament.
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges related to any film are always the same: do you have the time and the resources to make it what you want it to be. I've set a pledge aim that I'm confident about. I've made films for a lot less than this that have been distributed internationally and which I still see profits from twenty years later. I've also made films for much more. But the cost of equipment now is much less. And it's lighter. You can move faster. You don't need as many trucks. You don't need as many heavy lights and the people to move them around. World class motion pictures can now be edited, color corrected, and have their audio mixed on a desktop computer.
This is the way I wanted it to be when I started out in the 1980's.
Anyway, the big challenge here will be scheduling. Parker, Liam, Tom, and James are all working actors. I have to work around their other commitments. But that's ok as long as I'm in charge of the budget and there is no strict deadline to meet.
None of us will buy a house in the country as a result of making NED RIFLE, but we'll all do ok on payday and feel good about the work. Which is why we do all this in the first place.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter