Zach Weintraub here. You may know me as the kid behind Bummer Summer, which you can get a little taste of in the above video. I'm happy to report that the movie is doing just fine. I recently presented it to sold out audiences at the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, where it was programmed in competition alongside all sorts of huge, daunting movies from Cannes, Sundance, and Berlin. It was an honor and a humbling experience.
But enough about the past. Let me tell you about the future.
The festival run will continue for Bummer Summer, but frankly, the movie is finished and I don't have the patience to sit around and babysit its afterlife. I want to make another one already, which is why I'm here on Kickstarter.
This new film in question is called The International Sign for Choking, and it takes place in the wild concrete jungles of South America. Specifically, Buenos Aires, Argentina. My partner Nandan Rao and I are here in search of $8,000 to cover travel and living expenses for our tiny core crew to spend two months on location putting this thing together.
Intrigued? Please, read on and become acquainted with The International Sign for Choking.
Ben is twenty-four years old and since graduation his bachelor’s degree has landed him exactly one unpaid internship, four temp positions, and six months in a retail stockroom. Frustrated, he seeks out a job teaching English in the last place his life felt exciting: Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he studied for one semester during his junior year.
But this second incarnation of life in Buenos Aires is a feeble disappointment relative to his memories of the first. Ben begins to worry that his growing malaise might be rooted in something other than place or occupation. Without a group of gringo classmates, he is cripplingly shy and unable to establish a social life. Furthermore, the Argentine love of his life with whom he’d expected to reunite (Martina) is mysteriously unresponsive and seems to have left the city. He develops a quiet, detective-like obsession with tracking her down. His efforts are consistently fruitless.
Ben rents a small bedroom in an old woman’s home. In the adjacent bedroom lives Anna, a fellow North American, twenty-two years old. She’s bubbly and outgoing, and she’s also very pretty. Despite a slow start, the two of them become friends and through Anna Ben is introduced to a number of interesting local people. He finally begins to experience the city in the way that he’d initially hoped to.
Romantic tension mounts between Ben and Anna, eventually breaking when a cross-country bus trip nudges their increasingly ambiguous dynamic into physical territory. Almost instantly, his internal preoccupation with Martina begins to put a strain on things. He irrationally resents Anna, perceiving her as possessive and irritating.
Back in the city, Ben grows cold and dismissive and Anna soon senses his attempts to distance himself. She is confused and hurt. Logically, he calculates that he ought to like her, but he can’t will away what he’s feeling. Emotionally caught up in a past that he can’t re-access, Ben puts his most valuable friendship in jeopardy, and thus the very foundation of his entire social life and his prized, momentary happiness.
When I started pre-production on my first film - Bummer Summer - just one year ago, it was with little to no idea whether what I was doing would result in a coherent, watchable movie. I felt disadvantaged to be undertaking something so huge with so little experience, but I also felt excited. For me, every new filmmaking endeavor needs to involve some aspect of experimentation, rather than the machine-like execution of some proven formula. The International Sign for Choking is no exception.
Even following the success of Bummer Summer, I feel no inclination to simply repeat the process. Having developed a distinct style and method of working, I’m now eager to learn how I can translate this style and method into a movie that is more tonally dynamic and emotionally complex. Most exciting and challenging of all, I’m eager to do it in a foreign setting.
In 2008, I spent five months living and studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During this time I became acquainted with and attracted to the city and the rhythm of day-to-day life therein. The most interesting experimental aspect of making The International Sign for Choking will be exploring how Argentine idiosyncrasies are transformed via the lens of a North American protagonist, and conversely, how this protagonist (a very distinctly North American young person) is transformed within an Argentine context. International co-productions have always fascinated me and I’m thrilled to be developing one of my own.
Regarding the specific events of the film, its plot is a sort of amalgam of the situations and emotions that I faced personally while living in Argentina and the hypothetical experience that I might have if I were to return in the protagonist’s shoes. On a fundamental level, it’s a tale of the bird in the hand versus the bird in the bush. It’s widely accepted that we want what we can’t have, but I’m much more baffled and frustrated by the fact that I often find myself disinterested in and even repulsed by what’s readily available to me. This is the protagonist’s essential problem in The International Sign for Choking.
I understand that to create a quality work of art is a lofty endeavor for anyone, no matter how brilliant and/or powerfully funded. Success can never be guaranteed. To claim otherwise would be arrogant and shortsighted. The best and most realistic reassurance that I can offer is the following promise, which I humbly submit: to apply myself as fully as can be with complete sincerity, enthusiasm, and all the best of intentions.
The plan is to re-located to Buenos Aires in March 2011 and spend two whole months there shooting the film. This may seem like the distant future, but in making my last movie I learned the value of allowing oneself time to prepare. We'll need to make all of our travel and living arrangements far in advance. The story can and should be re-worked many times over. A cast and crew needs to be assembled as early as possible so that we can all get on the same page in terms of how this movie will look and feel. Countless rehearsals, discussions, and ice cream sandwiches will be necessary before the project is ready to take shape.
I appreciate your time, and hopefully your support. You are so, very awesome just for making it this far.
- (65 days)