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Bayou Maharajah: A video documentary on James Booker's video poster

Bayou Maharajah is a feature-length video documentary on the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker. Read more

pledged of $1,500 goal
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This project was successfully funded on July 2, 2010.

Bayou Maharajah is a feature-length video documentary on the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker.

About this project

About the film:
Bayou Maharajah is a feature-length video documentary on the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker. Through interviews with friends and contemporaries, the film traces Booker’s life from child prodigy to his acclaimed work as session pianist, his solo career and infamous personal life to his early death and continuing legacy. Illustrated with archival concert footage, still photos and promotional material, the film paints a portrait of this overlooked genius. The soundtrack brings to life Booker’s distinct style and includes his early R&B hits, his genre-defying medleys, and the ‘spiders on the keys’ complexity of his music.

Bayou Maharajah will be shot and edited for broadcast on television and subsequent DVD release. All interviews are shot on HD cameras with 35mm lens adapters and multi-track audio, keeping the process affordable and manageable while retaining a high level of artistry.

About James Booker:
Booker is, first and foremost, a pianist unlike anyone you've ever heard. He's been called a lot of things- eccentric New Orleans character, overlooked legend, troubled junkie whose addiction kept him in the underground, flamboyant gay whose emotional highs and lows made him impossible to manage. But infinitely more fascinating is the music- medleys that combine Beethoven and Ray Charles, sets that begin with Chopin and Ernesto Lecuona, take you through the canon of New Orleans junker blues, and deliver you finally into the melancholy love songs of an orphaned soul aching with loneliness. His music is a story of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, a chronicle of human experience and emotion.

What the money will be used for:
Interviews, interviews, and more interviews! I have 40 people lined up to interview by November, 2010. To do this, I need to get 8 interviews a month. I am planning 2 intensive shooting days each month from June-November (there's an extra month in there to accommodate any extra people that I find between now and then) in order to record all these interviews.
I am seeking the bare minimum funding necessary to pay my wonderful crew. Watch the trailer at the top of the page for an example of our work together.

Oh, and one extra exciting thing.. I've found the last piano Booker played on! It's been sitting gathering dust for a quarter century, and needs some repair done before it can be played. I think it's appropriate that the piano should be in the film, so I'm including a little extra in my budget to get it repaired.

For a two day shoot, the budget breakdown is:
$500- camera
$500- audio
$300- piano repair and tuning
$200- food for 3, water (it's hot this time of year!), transportation, AA batteries, gaff tape, tape stock.

What this does NOT include:
Any money for me (everything goes directly into the project)
Equipment rental (equipment usage being donated by my very generous crew. All the more reason to pay them what they deserve.)
Swanky dinners, fine clothing, or new equipment

In the event that we (fingers crossed) raise MORE than the $1,500 request, those funds will go towards the next round of interviews. I would love nothing more than to be able to get all the filming done at once but because resources are limited, I've broken it down into small, manageable, bite-size chunks.


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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    2 backers

    Bayou Maharajah post card, signed by Lily

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    4 backers

    A thank you on the website and a hand-silkscreened notebook featuring Booker’s Creative International Associates business card

  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    3 backers

    Lily's own "Booker 101 mix CD" with written liner notes, plus all the above.

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    3 backers

    Hand silkscreened poster featuring exclusive Bayou Maharajah drawing. Limited edition of 200. Signed by artist Bunny Matthews and silkscreened by director Lily Keber. (plus all of the above!)

Funding period

- (29 days)