From 110 Degree Shoot To Kickstarter and (Hopefully Not) Back Again

JAZ GAREWAL – FILMMAKER

Fact: Arizona gets hot. Like hot enough to make an iPad call it quits despite the appropriate amount of sunscreen (or maybe it was the sunscreen that messed it up … ah, another one of life’s little mysteries!). Knowing this fact, we set out to shoot the short that would become “BLAMBLAMBLAM, ClickClickClick” over a weekend in March of 2011. As March made its graceful, lopping approach, everyone started a slow-motion scatter. One of our producers was being wooed by Google for a potential job and the G-double-o-g had determined March would be the perfect month to fly him out to run a gauntlet of interviews. Our director of photography, Bryce Myhre, suddenly had his plate full with graduation looming, while, at the same time, planning on making it out to Austin for SXSW. Then our sound guru, Jim Waters (producer of such awesomeness as the bands “Jon Spencer Blues’ Explosion,” “Sonic Youth” and “The Little Rabbits”), had an out of town session come up. What was a writer-director to do? Say the script needed rewrites and the shoot needed to be pushed back! Problem solved; face saved!

Jobs were, unfortunately, not offered, schools were graduated from and sessions were recorded. In short, we had everyone back on board, a fresh new draft and everyone was champing at the bit to shoot. A few production meetings later, we had ourselves a fake hostage scene, complete with emergency vehicles (two city fire trucks, a decommissioned police cruiser, a couple of sedans and a 2012 Mustang that was the perfect car for our less-than-ethical hostage negotiators). We had our leads in suits, our supporting actors decked out in police and SWAT uniforms and the sun, giving us a harsh reminder why we wanted to shoot in March and not in June.

Despite the sweat, the heat and the sun-assaulted iPad, it was an amazingly fun shoot, and not just because we had the loaned fire trucks to play on. The actors, the props and the script (of course) made for a set that was brimming with action. The excitement and action seemed to continue after we wrapped, the momentum carrying the short to tie for first place at a local shorts festival, then showing at the Phoenix Film Festival sharing the slate with some of the best shorts coming out of Arizona.

Riding the buzz from the festival screenings and holding on to memories of a great shoot, we all agreed that the next logical step on the path toward perpetual bliss would be diving back into the world of hostage negotiators Lieutenants Leo Darden and Rick Carter. The head scratching question was, what form would that take? A feature? An attempt at a TV pilot? After slapping our hands clean of dandruff, the answer gave us a wink and a nod: a web series. A web series like none other, because it too would be called “BLAMBLAMBLAM, ClickClickClick,” and we are serious considering applying for a patent on naming things awesomely (patent pending). Excitement generated a season’s (used in the arbitrary web series sense to mean roughly 10, five-minute episodes) worth of scripts and carried us through the table read and rewriting process.

Throughout the process we chose to ignore the elephant in room, but once we had scripts we were happy with, it trumpeted loudly, spraying us with water and bits of peanut shell: How were we going to pay for this thing? Shooting a short over one weekend meant we could keep the costs down and only had to ask half the cast and crew to sell plasma. The web series was going to be at least five times the size of that in just shoot days alone, not to mention props and more extras now that I added riot cops to the mix.
After the elephant quieted down, we realized this wasn’t a path we’d been down before. We had a web series and even a feature under our belt, but the characters and subject matter of both didn’t require much more than found clothes, and a small duffel bag of handguns. A “BLAMBLAMBLAM, ClickClickClick” web series would need at least two prop shotguns and for that we’d need some money. Prop shotgun money.

Kickstarter seems to be the answer for everything these days and our case wasn’t any different. It was basically on the tip of our tongues as soon as we started meeting about ways to raise funding. Basically, everything added up to awesome when we threw Kickstarter into the equation.

The only con to hitching the “BLAMBLAMBLAM, ClickClickClick” web series to the Kickstarter wagon was there was a chance we might not hit our goal. We talked this through, discussed lowering our goal, about mixing funding from Kickstarter and from tried and true sources we’d relied on before. In the end, we decided to put our focus and hopes in Kickstarter, turning their “all or nothing” approach into our philosophy. If we didn’t hit our goal, well, we’d know that the audience for our series didn’t extend much beyond the table reads. Sure, our egos would be crushed, but not quite as thoroughly as if we released the series, our blood and sweat ground into it, to an empty internet.

So, here we are, nearing the end of our Kickstarter campaign (Act now! Operators are standing by!). We’ve been working as hard, if not harder, then any of our past productions to get eyes on our campaign, and more importantly, dollars where those eyes are. But, like our past productions, it’s hard work that’s not only rewarding (literally, if we hit our goal) but also really fun. The most surprising thing about Kickstarter was how it organically worked its way into our pre-production. It’s allowed us to really think our story through, to see the themes and characters tested in front of an audience. In a way, it’s a production unto itself, a piece that we work and rework to connect with people, which, luckily, we can run while under the chilly caress of some strong A/C.

BIO:

Jaz Garewal started Skinny Bones Productions with longtime friend Chris Wolf in 2004. SBP’s first feature, “On the Cutting Room Floor”, was released in 2006 and made a little bit of a blip for being the first (and maybe only?) movie released as a paid podcast. Each one of their new projects seems to make people happier and happier (just ask the New York Times!) to the point that felt it comfortable enough to bet on Kickstarter for funds for their next smile-inducing-yet-head-scratching project, the web series “BLAMBLAMBLAM, ClickClickClick.” Check it out here.