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Five Productions iW is Rooting For: Bowling Com “Split,” Anti-Comic Crusade, Nixon Home Movies, More

Five Productions iW is Rooting For: Bowling Com "Split," Anti-Comic Crusade, Nixon Home Movies, More

indieWIRE is heading to the bowling alley for this week’s lead profile in our in-production column. Jamie Buckner’s bowling comedy just finished its Kickstarter campaign last week, and is ramping up for an even bigger fundraising push. iW talked to Buckner about his strategy of targeting Kentucky, bowlers, and Kentuckian bowlers, and more. Also, in this week’s column, iW profiles four projects from Kickstarter: a history of the fight against comics, archival footage of President Nixon, nostalgia for small-town West Virginia, and tragedy in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.


Raising money is not the most glamorous part of filmmaking, but for “Split” writer/director Jamie Buckner, going to Kickstarter to raise $20,000 is only the first financial hurdle to making his feature.

After producing a short on a shoestring budget based on the first seven pages of his feature-length script for the bowling comedy “Split,” Buckner took the film to Kentucky, where the film is set, to get a reaction from the local crowd. The Louisville crowd loved it, so Buckner took to Kickstarter to raising money to get to the next stage of the production process — paying the legal fees and overhead to incorporate the production company needed to make the film and raise more of the budget for the film.

The film centers on a young woman (Tracy Weiler in the short) who realizes that she can only fall for guys who are rabid bowlers. The short features “30 Rock” co-star Keith Powell (Toofer) and was advised by professional bowlers John Petraglia and Pete Weber, who has a role in the feature script. “Split” takes place in a Louisville bowling alley, and Buckner plans to take the production on location, saying the Kentucky legislature just passed a law to give tax breaks to productions in the state. The short, which happens indoors, was “faked” in a bowling alley in the Rockaway neighborhood in Queens.

“I grew up in a bowling alley,” confessed Buckner. “I grew up bowling with my parents and watching it on TV.” “Split” started off as a script Buckner wrote for a senior year film class nine years ago. “It was long and terrible,” Buckner confessed. He’s spent nearly a decade working on the script off-and-on, knowing it was his passion project. “I knew it was something that I wrote that was close to my heart. I didn’t ever want to give it to another director or do it on my own for $20,000. It’s important to me that I did it right, that I get the right people involved and make the right contacts.”

“There’s two key elements I’m targeting: I want to get the bowling community and the people in Kentucky to get behind it,” Buckner continued. “I’m making choices because I want the fans to be involved first.  I’m making a film for everyone.”

Other Projects:

“Diagram for Delinquents”

A publicity image for Robert A. Emmons, Jr.’s “Diagram for Delinquents.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: In 1954 two things changed the face of comic books: The publication of Fredric Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent,” an indictment of comics and their impact on children, and the hearings before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Both have made a lasting impression on comic book authorship, comic book readership, media censorship, and media studies.

Production team: Director/Writer/Producer: Robert A. Emmons, Jr.; Producers: Julian Darius and Mike Phillips, Peter Gambino; First Assistant Director: Justin Emmons; Post-Production: Stephen McMaster

About the film: “‘Diagram for Deliquents’ is a documentary about 1950’s America. It’s about the social, political, and cultural climate of that transitional decade. Using Fredric Wertham and his 1954 book (‘Seduction of the Innocent’) about comics as a cause of juvenile delinquency as the launch moment for the documentary, the picture explores the historical development of comics from the 50’s to present day. I believe Wertham’s impact on comics can be seen even today. Wertham and the Senate Subcommitee on Juvenile Deliquency yielded the Comics Code. The Code was an industry created body that regulated what appeared in comics. Its creation ended the reign of crime and horror comics and it influenced how and what types of comics were created as well as who read those comics. I was inspired to tell this story because of the larger themes present: defining art, media violence effects, censorship, and the creation of American popular culture.

“The timing is perfect as this past August the Wertham Archives held at the Library of Congress have been made fully available to the public and even more recently the Comics Code has been abanoned by the major publishers that still adhered to it. The Code is now an artifact of the past. Also, we are living in a time when comic books are the inspiration for some of Hollywood’s biggest films, they have shown to be mature, thought-provoking pieces of art capable of winning the Pulitzer Prize. They are not only a child’s ephemeral past time. They are a rich and important American art form. I have been luck enough to secure many the top people on these topics including Bart Beaty (‘Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture’) , Amy Kiste Nyberg (‘Seal of Approval: The History of the Comics Code’), Steven J. Kirsh (‘Children, Adolescents, and Media Violence: A Critical Look at the Research’), and Stephen O’Day (seductionoftheinnocent.org).” – Robert A. Emmons, Jr.

Current Status: “Diagram for Delinquents” is in the research, writing, and pre-production stage.

For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $6,000 by the end of the campaign (April 24).

More projects on the next page…

“Our Nixon”

An image from Penny Lane and Brian Frye’s “Our Nixon.” [Image courtesy of filmmakers.]

Logline: The forgotten Super 8 home movies of H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and other staffers offer a surprising new look at the Nixon White House.

Production team: Producers/Directors: Penny Lane and Brian Frye; Archival footage: H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Larry Higby and Dwight Chapin; Film restoration: BB Optics; Telecine by ColorLab

About the film: “The Nixon presidency was a pivotal moment in American history that is still in some ways poorly understood. It is just recent enough history where you can almost feel the complexity and nuance of ‘the story’ draining away. The Super 8 home movies offer a totally new perspective (quite literally) on the historical events. The home movies, in their almost heartbreaking naïveté, allow us to inhabit the story as it unfolded and as it appeared to some of the young men at its center.

“Another striking thing about the home movies is how different they look and feel from the popular conception that has sprung up since that time. Once, Penny said to a friend, “There are no bad guys in home movies. Everyone smiles and waves at the camera, even Kissinger.” In the footage, you can see what story Nixon’s men (our protagonists) thought they were a part of. They were certain they were part of a presidency that would change America forever. The tragedy is that they were right.” — Penny Lane and Brian Frye

Current status: The team is currently in post-production (most of the production for the film is in post houses). They are waiting on a few essential audio elements to flesh out the edit before moving into fine tuning and scoring.

For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign (May 6).

“Angel’s Perch”

An image from J.T. Arbogast’s “Angel’s Perch.” [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: A man returns to his small West Virginia hometown to deal with his grandmother’s worsening Alzheimer’s only to find that his own tragic memories are the one thing keeping him from moving forward in his life. Set almost entirely in the small, historic logging town of Cass, WV, “Angel’s Perch” examines the delicate relationship between past and present, memory and loss.

Production Team: Producer/Writer: J.T. Arbogast; Producer: Kimberly Dilts; Director: Charles Haine

About The Film: “West Virginia is so often depicted in films as a place where terrifying hillbillies come down out of the mountains to kill college kids who made a wrong turn. But that’s not the West Virginia that I know, nor is it the West Virginia that is known by the people who call it home. It’s a state full of beautiful landscapes, small towns and proud, hardworking people.

“In 2004, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and over the next few years I watched as she slowly lost her memories. Through it all, however, the one thing that she always held on to was the little town she had helped to save so many years before. She was so proud of the place and the people. And there was something very poetic about her struggle to hang on to her memories while living in a place that is a preserved memory and that will also pass away in time. With this film, I hope to take people back to their own “emotional home,” exploring all the complicated joys and difficulties that accompany that journey. And, I want to share with them a place where people still sit on their front porch and wave, cake walks still happen in the summertime, and that lonesome train whistle still blows as it climbs up Back Mountain…and there are no hillbillies waiting there to kill you.” — J.T. Arbogast

Current Status: The film is currently in development, and is scheduled to begin shooting late summer or early fall of 2011.

For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $25,000 by the end of the campaign (April 4).

“A Rainy Day for Earthworms”

Logline: Eight year old Matt’s days in summer school turn for the worse after a tragedy shakes the Chinatown community.

Production team: Writer/Director/Editor: Gary Mei “Jia-Li”; Co-Editor/Assistant Director: Peter Phan; Co-Editor/Cinematographer: Dennis Mo; Producer: Eric Tso; Associate Producer: Andrew Xia Fukuda; Executive Producer: Alex Wu; Cast: Jonathan Luu

About the film: “‘A Rainy Day For Earthworms’ is a feature film we’ve been working on since May of 2010. Although we’ve been writing stories and running cameras since high school, this is our first full length movie, so it’s safe to say we’re pretty psyched about it. Without revealing too much, it’s a coming-of-age story that follows the summer of a little boy while exploring the theme of guilt during childhood. Guilt is an emotion that everyone dreads, but for especially for child, it can be a life-changing drama. For inspiration, I drew from my own childhood experiences in Boston’s Chinatown, and since we’re filming in authentic locations in and around the neighborhood, you could say the film is a first-hand account of the world and time I grew up in.” — Gary Mei

Current Status: The team is just over half done their production.

For more information and to support the film: Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $5,000 by the end of the campaign (April 18).

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