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A storytelling film featuring legendary character actor Stephen Tobolowsky.

It Started with a Storytelling Podcast...

My name is David Chen and in 2009, I created a podcast called The Tobolowsky Files, which features incredible stories from the life of character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. Stephen has appeared in over 200 films and TV shows including Glee, Memento, Groundhog Day, Heroes, and Californication. But in the podcast, he plays himself, and shares profound, fascinating, and occasionally mind-boggling stories about life, love, and the entertainment industry. Stephen's folksy delivery and heart-stopping eloquence have always struck me as a compelling storytelling package that wider audiences would enjoy if given the chance. 

The podcast spawned a radio program by Public Radio International, a book, and several sold-out live shows. Now we'd like to bring Stephen's stories to even more people by filming a movie. And we need your help to do it.

Stephen Tobolowsky's sold-out show at the Neptune Theater
Stephen Tobolowsky's sold-out show at the Neptune Theater

Some actual testimonies from people who've listened to the podcast

"I always learn something and I am always entertained. But it's the fact that I laugh aloud that stands out to me."

"I wish I could tell you how much your stories have touched and inspired me. I can only hope that you will keep sharing your knowledge with the rest of us."

"Thanks again for all of your wonderful stories. And please keep them up, because the days of the masterful raconteurs are all but faded away."

Find more reviews and download the podcast here.

Movie! Fun! Stories! Backstage Passes!

Stephen's stories have been heard and read by tens of thousands of people around the world. But as someone who's seen his storytelling live in front of an audience of a thousand people, I can say that it's one of the most incredible theater experiences I've ever witnessed. I want to share this experience with the world by creating a concert film of Stephen's stories, and I'd be honored if you would be a part of it.

We have some great Kickstarter rewards, including the opportunity to meet Stephen backstage at one of our live shows, as well as the chance to have Stephen perform a private show for you and 20 of your friends in person. In addition, every reward tier $15 and above will receive a link to stream the movie when it premieres!

Stephen and David on set, filming the Kickstarter video. Photo by elldubphoto.com.
Stephen and David on set, filming the Kickstarter video. Photo by elldubphoto.com.

What's the Plan?

The plan is to shoot several of Stephen's live storytelling performances in Seattle, then edit them together as a film. To do this, we are working with a local production company called Super Frog Saves Tokyo, which has made a diverse variety of videos for both large corporate clients and small non-profits. We hope to complete principal photography in March, April, and May, then edit the film and have it ready to submit to the Sundance Film Festival in the summer. If we get in, we hope the film will be acquired for distribution.

Regardless of whether we get into Sundance or any festival, we fully intend on getting the movie out to as many people as possible. Should we be unable to find a distributor, there are several great options for self-distribution, including VHX and Vimeo on Demand.

Where's My Money Going?

Your money will go towards making and marketing this film, which includes expenses such as:

  • Hiring a production company to do a multi-cam shoot of a live performance
  • Renting out performance venues
  • Editing
  • Color-grading
  • Graphic design
  • Animation
  • Poster design
  • Original music
  • Festival submissions fees
  • Various other costs for labor and supplies

It is really challenging to make a great-looking, great-sounding film for $40,000, but we are confident we can make it happen. However, any amount we raise above and beyond the Kickstarter goal will go towards more technical resources, and to offer compensation for creative contributors' time and skills.  

I intend to blog about the entire experience of making, marketing, and distributing the film at www.slashfilm.com. /Film is the site where the podcast spawned, so it seems like the best place to share its evolution. Along the way, we'll learn together what it takes to create a film and get it seen by people. 

I hope you'll consider helping us create a movie that will bring the art of amazing live storytelling to a bigger audience. 

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Stephen Tobolowsky is a seasoned veteran from show business who has both acted and directed films and live performances for several decades. However, making a movie is a challenging task and we will undoubtedly encounter setbacks in the process. Everyone involved is committed to bringing this movie to fruition. It is highly unlikely that we will fail in making the movie completely, although it may be on a different timetable than originally planned.

With regards to the distribution strategy, these are ambitious goals on a very aggressive timeline. It is a long shot to get into Sundance, which in 2013 accepted only 1.6% of all submissions. It's also likely that even if we get in to Sundance or another film festival like SXSW or Tribeca, we won't get picked up for distribution; storytelling films don't have an immediately obvious home beyond places like HBO, Netflix, and Hulu. We are willing to mitigate these issues by self-distributing the film if it comes to that.

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  • Pledge $15 or more
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    206 backers

    At the time of the film's world premiere to the public, you will receive a "digital movie ticket" (i.e. a promo code) that will allow you to stream the film online. Our streaming experience will be powered by VHX. [Note that we cannot promise when this will happen, but if we get into Sundance, then the online screening will be in January 2015. Otherwise, we anticipate you will receive a code some time later in 2015.]

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  • Pledge $25 or more
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    271 backers

    Wow, you've really kicked up your game here! If you back us for $25 or above, you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits of this film! Just think of it: Your name, immortalized for all to see in our awesome movie! Hopefully this will not be a decision you regret, like that tattoo you got in high school. You will also receive a promo code to stream the film when it premieres.

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  • Pledge $40 or more
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    89 backers

    Receive a special, backers-only bonus episode of The Tobolowsky Files audio podcast! An episode full of Stephen's stories, created just for the backers at this tier. You will also receive a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section in the credits.

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  • Pledge $60 or more
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    195 backers

    Receive TWO special, backers-only bonus episodes of The Tobolowsky Files audio podcast! Two episodes chock full of Stephen's stories. Note that one of these episodes is the same as the episode in the $40 reward tier. You will also receive a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits.

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  • Pledge $130 or more
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    20 backers All gone!

    The VIP Package - BE PART OF THE MOVIE! Get TWO TICKETS with exclusive premium seating for the live recording of one of Stephen's performances near downtown Seattle on the evening of Saturday, May 3rd, 2014. You will also receive 2 bonus backers-only episodes of The Tobolowsky Files, plus a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits. (Travel and lodging not provided.)

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  • Pledge $150 or more
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    35 backers Limited (15 left of 50)

    Receive a signed copy of THE DANGEROUS ANIMALS CLUB, Stephen's book based on the early episodes of The Tobolowsky Files podcast. You will also receive two backers-only episodes of The Tobolowsky Files, plus a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits.

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    Ships within the US only
  • Pledge $200 or more
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    9 backers Limited (31 left of 40)

    Stephen Tobolowsky will record a 20-30 second audio message of your choosing. This can include voicemail greetings, marriage proposals, or line readings from your favorite films. Use your imagination and you will receive the (audio) desires of your heart. Note: Let's keep this PG-13 rated, please! You will also receive a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits.

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  • Pledge $300 or more
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    5 backers Limited (15 left of 20)

    Stephen Tobolowsky will record a 20-30 second VIDEO message of your choosing. This can include marriage proposals, impressions, line readings and re-enactments from your favorite films, etc. Use your imagination and you will receive the (video) desires of your heart. Note: Let's keep this PG-13 rated, please! You will also receive a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits.

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  • Pledge $400 or more
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    6 backers All gone!

    The VIP EXTREME Package - BE PART OF THE MOVIE! Get TWO TICKETS with exclusive premium seating for the live recording of one of Stephen's performances near downtown Seattle on the evening of Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 PLUS you and a guest will be invited back stage for a special meet and greet with Stephen after the show. You will also receive 2 bonus backers-only episodes of The Tobolowsky Files, plus a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits. (Travel and lodging not provided)

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  • Pledge $600 or more
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    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    Stephen Tobolowsky will participate in a 20-minute Skype chat with you. Use this time to discuss podcasting, storytelling, acting, his most profound movie experiences, etc. This man's mind is a national treasure. This reward tier is your opportunity to take advantage of it! You will also receive a promo code to stream the film when it premieres and you will be named in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits.

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  • Pledge $3,500 or more
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    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    You're an amazing supporter of Stephen's storytelling. THANK YOU SO MUCH! At this tier, you will be named as an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER in the film! This title does NOT come with any responsibilities or equity in the film, but it certainly could look nice on your IMDB page! You will also receive a signed copy of THE DANGEROUS ANIMALS CLUB, two backers-only episodes of the podcast, plus a promo code to stream the film when it premieres.

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  • Pledge $10,000 or more
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    1 backer All gone!

    PLEASE CONTACT US BEFORE CLAIMING THIS REWARD TIER - Stephen Tobolowsky will travel to your location in the US or Canada and perform a one-hour show for you live! Private parties only please (up to 20 people) and no recording is allowed. You must provide reasonable travel and lodging in addition to the $10,000 amount. This reward tier is PERFECT for a group of people interested in pooling their money for a private show. Again, please get in touch with us BEFORE you claim this reward tier so we can work out the details! You will also receive two backers-only episodes of The Tobolowsky Files, a promo code to stream the film when it premieres, and your name in the SPECIAL THANKS section of the credits.

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Funding period

- (30 days)