Financially, times are tough for nearly everyone in every industry. Films that are produced independently of a major studio are no exception. So when Portland’s own New York Times best-selling author, Donald Miller, announced that a highly anticipated independent film based on his memoir “Blue Like Jazz” wouldn’t get off the ground, it came as no surprise.
Nearly 4,500 people pledging $345,992 to ensure the film would be made came as a shock to everyone, particularly director Steve Taylor, co-writer Ben Pearson and Miller.
“You can’t possibly know how many people you’ve inspired, how many people you’ve made smile over the last month,” Miller said to those who rallied to support the film.
Shortly after Miller announced the film’s premature death, two self-proclaimed fanboys, Zach Prichard and Jonathan Frazier, created a page on Kickstarter.com – a fundraising site for creative projects – asking for other fans to help get the film made.
Supporters would need to contribute a total of $125,000 for the film to receive the green light for production.
Kickstarter requires that projects meet 100 percent of the requested target in order to receive funds. If a project does not meet its goal within a specified timeframe, pledges by supporters are voided.
All or nothing.
The “Save Blue Like Jazz” project met its goal in just 11 days, nearly three weeks before the due date, and ultimately raised 275 percent of it’s goal, shattering previous fundraising records on the website.
Four years ago, Taylor, Pearson and Miller began writing a screenplay based on the 2003 memoir. Subtitled “Nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality,” the book is the story of a college student from the Bible Belt transplanting himself to Reed College in Portland – often referred to as the most godless campus in America – to escape his religious upbringing.
“The theme of the movie is about a kid who is ashamed of his faith, both for selfish reasons and for very good reasons,” Miller writes on his website.
The memoir resonated with many Christians, and others who considered themselves spiritual but not religious.
“It was a book that dared to call the church out,” said Barbara Galbraith, a staff member at First Baptist Church in McMinnville. “He was living a story many of us can relate to … one the church wasn’t connecting with.”
“We decided to make a movie that obeyed a story rather than a message, and the story was about a kid transitioning out of a faith that had all the supposed right answers, to a faith that stayed with him through the confusion and the doubt,” Miller wrote in a blog post on his website. “This movie is a movie for people who identify with the faith of the church, but our questions and our journey doesn’t seem as clean or neat.”
Production of the movie began on October 27 in Nashville, will continue up until Thanksgiving and then resume in Portland in January. Hopes are high for a late 2011 release.