EVER BEEN ON A BUS OR THE SUBWAY AND WONDERED ABOUT THE LIFE OF THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU? Of course you have. It's human nature. Most of us are curious about one another.
But thanks to smart phones and media-stoked fears, that bridge between the desire for conversation and the connection actually happening seems more difficult than ever to cross. The machines that were supposed to connect us are driving us apart.
You may have heard about the epidemic of loneliness—most notably among young people—we're experiencing in America. Then there's the spike in suicides. I personally have lost no less than three people I cared deeply about to suicide, including my sister, and I've got friends who've suffered far more losses than that. Not to mention the rampant depression, isolation and opioid addiction.
Clearly, something is wrong here.
WELL, WE'VE MADE A MODEST LITTLE FILM—A COMEDY, NO LESS—THAT TOUCHES ON SOME OF THESE SERIOUS ISSUES. But it's also a movie that offers up a beautifully simple antidote to the scourge of disconnection. An analog solution in a digital age.
My name is Bob Makela and I'm a 57-year veteran of life, a lifelong listener on the verge of finishing my first film. As you'll see from our Kickstarter video, I've been around the block a time or two. I'm a creative sponge who's been on the cusp of making something like this happen for a long time. So I'm eager to offer up this film and the concepts behind it to a culture hungry for help. In our film's protagonist, an Aussie backpacker named 7 Goodwell (Hannah McKechnie), I've created a character who shares many of my beliefs and embodies a few of the key truths I've learned during my time on the planet. A few of them are:
1) Open-hearted traveling nourishes the soul and is a fantastic teacher.
2) Most people are good.
3) By listening we can offer comfort and potential healing to those who are lonely, depressed or bullied.
I CAME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THIS MOVIE—WHICH ACTUALLY BEGAN AS A TV CONCEPT—AFTER I MOVED TO BROOKLYN IN 2014. My wife Molly and I came from Austin, Texas, one of the friendliest towns in America. So when we began riding the subway, I was struck by how nobody was talking, despite being shoulder to shoulder with a million other lonely hearts.
I assumed there had to be a certain percentage of people like me—strangers willing and eager to chat with a fellow human. That number turned out to be a lot higher than I ever could've imagined, according to this University of Chicago study. (Most people are ready and willing to talk to strangers, the study reports. And they're much happier after their gregarious rides than the people who sat in solitude.)
Over the years I've experienced countless moments of exhilaration and hilarity, grace and connection, by simply listening. Being present. Giving the other person the respect of my undivided attention. Conscious, compassionate listening can be one of the most powerful, healing gifts we can give to another person. I've learned this time and time again. Talking to strangers actually makes you happy too.
So I created a character—and a story—that reflects these truths. A character who comes up with an idea to help get people talking.
In early 2017, after writing four half-hour episodes that would eventually be re-fashioned into a feature film, we had over 650 actors submit to play our four main roles—despite no pay (for now). We love the actors we ended up choosing, and by the fall of 2017 we were shooting the bulk of the film, mostly in Brooklyn. We flew my cinematographer nephew, Josh, out from California, where he'd been working for three years on the HBO Dr. Dre/Jimmy Iovine documentary, The Defiant Ones, mostly as a cameraman.
We've also been able to get some great music from talented artist friends like Eddie Elliott (whose song plays in the Kickstarter video), Phoebe Kreutz (my wife's cousin), Toby Goodshank and Josh Halverson (who had a nice run on season 11 of The Voice).
BY FEATURE FILM STANDARDS, WE SHOT GREEN THUMBS ON A SHOESTRING. But despite our budget limitations, the film looks great. The acting, the music and the production quality are all solid. Plus the movie has a positive message and an idea that's got the potential to connect strangers, comfort the wounded and build real connections.
And we could use some help getting across the finish line.
We still need to pay for things like a sound mix...color correction...music rights. (There's a Bob Schneider song—"The World Exploded Into Love"—that's perfect for the opening credits.) We need funds for marketing. (We want to distribute postcards with green thumb rings, make more Green Thumbs t-shirts, etc.) We need to pay for film festival entry fees and associated festival costs. (We're hoping to get into many festivals.)
And we've got some cool reward items for those of you who decide to pitch in. Everything from these green thumb rings (see below), to our custom-made Green Thumbs "Real Life Listening" t-shirts. (With new designs to come.)
THE BOTTOM LINE IS, WE CARE DEEPLY ABOUT THE SUBJECTS OF THIS FILM—TRAVELING AND LISTENING. We firmly believe that if more people did these two things with more regularity and gusto, the world would definitely be a better place.
Make that, will be a better place.
We just need to finish making our movie and getting the message out. So thanks for helping us make that happen.
And thanks for listening.
Risks and challenges
While there are obviously many low-budget films being made these days, the good news is we've already finished shooting ours. And we see a crowded marketplace as a huge opportunity—not something to fear. There are more than 60 cable networks and streaming services where our film could land. While that may seem like a crowded field, it also represents a steady need for fresh content. And we're committed to making it happen because we'll be overflowing with gratitude once we hit our goal and we are eager to share this idea with the world. This film WILL get completed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (28 days)