Independent movie maverick Hal Hartley is once again turning to grassroots fundraising for his next film project, “Where to Land.” Hartley is currently seeking $300,000 on Kickstarter to fund the production, which will be anchored by Edie Falco in the lead, and the filmmaker and his team at Possible Films have until Saturday, January 4 to reach the goal. At the time of publication, he’s reached $266,440, which means he $33,560 to go. The film will also star Bill Sage, Tatiana Abracos, Robert Burke, Jade Golden, Aida Johannes, Elina Löwensohn, DJ Mendel, Parker Posey, and Jay Thomas. (Head over to the Kickstarter page for more details on the film, and details on nifty prizes for those who do end up contributing to the effort.)
The film tells the story of a 58-year-old director of romantic comedies (not unlike 60-year-old filmmaker Hartley himself) looking back on his life, and looking to become the assistant groundskeeper at a local cemetery. Hartley, whose oeuvre includes quirky, offbeat character studies like “Trust” and “Fay Grim,” has always worked on a smaller scale.
Hartley recently spoke with IndieWire about the project by phone. The filmmaker said that his first experience raising funds on Kickstarter, for 2014’s Aubrey Plaza vehicle “Ned Rifle,” yielded positive results. “I mean, it was terrifying,” he said. “It was a big roller coaster ride, but it did pretty well financially. There was a Netflix deal that got us a lot of money. New York State tax rebates. All in all, dollar for dollar, I made more money off ‘Ned Rifle,'” than on any of his previous efforts.
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Staying in New York has enabled Hartley to continue coloring outside the lines, and he plans to shoot “Where to Land” domestically as well, and “within six blocks of my apartment and my office. There is a very beautiful old cemetery near my office and my home,” he said, with the setting providing an autobiographical anchor point for the movie.
Hartley said that Kickstarter was always the way to go for “Where to Land.” “I did have some conversations with smaller production companies who approached. They were wondering, ‘What are you doing right now?'” he said. Hartley’s last foray was as a director for hire on the Amazon series “Red Oaks.” He helmed eight episodes of the coming-of-age web series for co-creator Gregory Jacobs, who worked with Hartley as an assistant director on films such as “Amateur” and “Simple Men.” “It was nice not to be the boss,” Hartley said.
Over the years, he has clarified his priorities. “I never think about the corporate model,” Hartley said. “From the early 2000s on, I was trying to figure out how to keep something of the quality of how I worked back in the ’90s, and continue that on somehow because that model fell apart gradually. I was paying attention to the internet, and thought there must be opportunities in getting a direct line to my audience around the world.” Notably, the Kickstarter page for “Where to Land” includes text about the project in several languages.
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Hartley added that with “Ned Rifle,” “subtitling was key,” and getting the film captioned in multiple languages enabled his work to reach more territories. “That’s really made it a viable business,” he said of his filmmaking output. The foreign territory most responsive to his work is Japan. “There really is an audience out there, but it’s not all in one place,” he said. “You’ve got to think globally.”