We’re pleased to announce that Blue Like Jazz, The Movie, is partnering with Wild Goose this year.
Blue Like Jazz (The Movie) is a film adaptation of Donald Miller’s New York Times Best-Selling Book by the same name. Prior to its opening in theaters on April 13th, Don and the film’s director, Steve Taylor, are traveling the country to promote the movie and offer special previews of the film. [You can look for a screening in a city near you here.]
Below, you’ll find Wild Goose’s interview with Director Steve Taylor, then later tomorrow, you can check back for a few additional words from Don.
Q: When did you first start talking to Don about the movie? And what drew you together to begin with?
Steve: It was 2006. I had just finished my last movie and someone gave me Blue Like Jazz over Christmas. It’s not a book you put down and the whole time I was reading it, I could visualize it as a movie. I wanted to make the film immediately and could picture it ending with the confession booth scene.
Not long after that, I pitched it to Don. Sort of unexpectedly, Don indicated he was open to the idea but he wanted to help write the screenplay. This is usually a bad idea to get writers involved in the screenplay process because, often times, they can be really protective.
But Don went and saw my last film that had just been released. And I told him my reservations and suggested, if he was serious about being involved, that he go to the STORY structure seminar by Robert McKee seminar.
And it ended up being this great experience where Don was so impacted by the principles of a good story, that he literally started changing the way he lived life while writing the screenplay. He started making choices he normally wouldn’t make. He wanted, more than ever, to live a good story. It was amazing to watch the transformation.
Q: And then in 2012, Don announced on his website that the funding wasn’t going to come through, saying the book that swept the nation wouldn’t be sweeping the theaters.
Steve: Yeah, from 2006 to 2010 we tried to raise the money.
We didn’t want to go the studio route and lose control of the project, so we had to rely on private equity. But it just didn’t happen.
In four years, we cobbled together enough money to shoot the film but not finish it. And just when we were making progress, one investor dropped out.
It was bad. I just felt infinite sadness. Here I was, a veteran … with some notable successes … with a great screenplay … with a writer on board. And I couldn’t get it funded. It was such an obvious win. It had such great potential. It was so frustrating.
By the time Don wrote his blog post, it felt like a mercy killing.
Q: But something unexpected happened via some fans and kickstarter. Can you explain how that breathed new life into the idea?
Steve: After Don’s post, people started writing back. They were saying “We believe in this” and “This is is important.” They started offering us money. “I could get you $25. My friends could get me $100 more.” Then these two guys in Franklin, TN sent us a video proposing they’d start a “Save the Blue Like Jazz Movie Campaign”.Don called me up and said “What do you think?”
I went and met with the guys and Don conference called in. The guys had their stuff together and passionate. They seemed a little naïve, but had a good idea. I’d checked out Kickstarter and it’s built with integrity. They send the money back if a goal isn’t reached. I liked that. But the one drawback I saw, and I mentioned this to the guys, is that no movie had ever raised more than 40-50k.
They basically asked me, “Do you have better ideas?”
And I didn’t. But it was a crazy attempt because time was an issue too. We literally had to start the movie within 30 days. If we didn’t make that 30 day window, we would’ve lost our lead actor to True Blood after having him attached for two years.
Q: That’s intense. So when did you find out you could seriously go ahead with the project? When did you start casting and then shooting, for example?
Steve: 30 days. It was remarkable. It still makes me smile thinking about it. 2 or 3 days in, it was already looking good. But then, the guys made their goal in 10 days. By 30 days, they had blown way past the goal.
Q: That is an inspiring show of support. Now Don has talked publicly about how you had to adapt the book to help it translate to the big screen in a way that would engage the audience. In fact, it spurred his A Million Miles In a Thousand Years book. Tell us, though, has it changed so much that readers of Blue Like Jazz are going to be shocked by the final product? Will they still see Don’s story in it?
Steve: Well, now that we’ve spent six months or so screening the movie with some test audiences and making some edits, I can say with confidence the vast majority of people who’ve read the book are really into the movie.
It’s about life and a person’s journey, so viewers don’t go into it with these vast expectations that you would for like Harry Potter. And when most people go into a theater, they are a little prepared for a different experience than reading a book. So they really like it. The film still conjures up the same feelings as the book. Plus we got a really good cast. The actors really brought things to life. That’ll take you a long way.
Most people walk away saying, “Finally, a movie I can take my friends to.”
Q: So 2 years later, Wild Goose–and I’m sure many other partners–are joining in what you’re doing as you promote this film. What can you tell us about these efforts?
Steve: Right now, we’re on a 30-city bus tour and going to every city where the movie will be, offering a sneak preview screening. Part of the goal is to give our Kickstarter backers the chance to see the movie before it releases in theaters.
Plus this helps spread the word, since we have limited means to get the word out.
The movie will debut in theaters Friday, April 13th. We feel great about what’s happening. Our distributors did Winter’s Bone, Margin Call and Albert Nobb so they’re really good, especially with smart movies. They have great taste. And then, another highlight is we’ll be at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, which will be the World Preview.