What is the current project you are working on?
We are right at the beginning of a feature-length documentary on the life of Jason Escape, an escape artist living in Boston. We previously made a 15-minute film about him, which is now screening at film festivals. Based on the warm reception that film received, we've decided to look deeper into the many fascinating aspects of Jason's life, including the challenge of being both a street performer and a family man.
We think the title will be "Escape/Artist" -- based on that duality of work/life, and street performer/artist, that we see in his experience of the world.
Why is the documentary being shot in three different cities?
In Jason's show, he says "Ladies and gentleman, my name's Jason Escape. I travel around the world doing this show …" So it made sense to us to go along with him on that journey, as much as possible.
Boston is Jason's home, and we need to show him there. He has an amazing life-work balance, performing not that far from where he lives. But as with most performers, going on the road is a challenge. Beyond just being away from his wife and child, Jason's type of performing also requires gaining the attention of an audience he encounters on the street. That's incredibly tough in the context of a performance fair in a far-off city.
He's performing in San Diego, a city that contrasts greatly with Boston, so we want to make sure we film him there. Then in Boston, on home ground. Then, we hope, we'll go along with him for one additional road trip. We think this will give us a chance to see all aspects of his life, and to see both what he does and how he sees the world.
Why did you choose Jason Escape as the subject of your documentary?
[caption id="attachment_2985" align="alignleft" width="199"] Jason Escape[/caption]
Jason's positivity is a key reason we're making this film. The first short documentary revealed a theme of facing a challenge and overcoming it. In a way, that's what an Escape Artist does. But we were amazed to see how this connected directly to Jason's view of the world -- positive effort overcoming the negatives in life.
Also, after we finished the first doc, Jason got married, and now we get to meet Baby Escape, Jason's son. So we think the challenge of Jason's intense career meeting his new family life is something everyone will relate to -- and we think it will make a compelling story.
What is it like working with your spouse?
Well, just like Jason, we face the challenge of balancing life and work. Karen is finishing her Ph.D. in the History of Photography, so that balance includes work, school, and everything else -- in a moment of change. Adding the creation of a documentary into the mix is a crazy idea, but our collaboration on the first documentary showed we can make it work.
[caption id="attachment_2988" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Karen and Ted[/caption]
In a way, documentary production is often the effort of small teams -- and lately we've discovered that many married teams thrive in the field. If you are going to be stuck working closely with someone, often working for a long time without visible reward, maybe that shared sacrifice works well with couples.
Why do you think your crowdfunding campaign was successful?
Well, we watch a lot of documentaries. So we know there are all sorts of different approaches that can be very appealing -- a film might connect to an important social issue, or it might present a great mystery, or it might be very funny. Almost always, though, introducing an amazing character is key. And that's the strength of our project at this point. Jason is a fascinating guy, what he does is amazing, and the idea of balancing work and family is something most people can relate to. So we think that people clicked with the project once they met our main character -- they want to know more about his life, and they want to go along on his journey.
Beyond that, however, we felt we gave really enjoyable and valuable rewards -- and in a timely manner. For example, many people supporting our film will get the new film as a download -- but that's obviously a long wait. So we made sure that our backers would get to see our original 15-minute documentary, and that we'll be delivering that quickly. We think that's going to give our backers a chance to really engage with our project -- they can watch the original film and really have a sense of where we are going with the feature.
Why do some campaigns fail?
We don't see ourselves as crowdfunding experts -- we have a lot to learn. But we have looked at a lot of projects, and have backed some. The positive experience we've had has been the feeling of getting involved with a project, and making a connection to the filmmakers. So those projects which had every reward off in the distant future, or priced out of our reach, just made it hard for us to be supportive fans. You can buy a DVD or Blu-Ray or get a film on Video-On-Demand. Crowdfunding has to go a step further toward that personal connection. Let us peek behind the scenes, let us talk with you, open up the process. That's what can be given in independent production, and that's something fans (and other filmmakers) might support.
Who is your favorite up and coming independent filmmaker?
We were really impressed by Danfung Dennis and the way he adapted the tools of photojournalism into a filmmaking approach in "Hell and Back Again." That model may be the future of documentary production.
Do you know any magic tricks?
None. But there's a connection between performing magic and editing that goes back to the earliest days of film. Directing, or misdirecting, someone's attention works in the same way in both fields. So, whenever we hit an edit that actually surprises the audience, or provokes a laugh, or has an emotional hit -- that's a lot like pulling off a magic trick.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Because we both have a background in the arts -- fine art and art history -- we think that's going to be the direction for us. We've always been attracted to films that have some connection to art or performance. Sometimes, though, we've seen things where we thought the filmmakers oversimplified, or maybe even missed the point, or just didn't have the background to make the best film possible. So, that's what we hope to do -- bring our background in the arts along as a tool to help us make great films about the arts.
Thanks so much Ted for doing the interview. I'll be following "Escape Artist" as shooting progresses. I look forward to seeing the finished film.
Checkout the following links to stay updated on all things "Escape Artist"
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/458278032/escape-artist-the-jason-escape-documentary (as of this interview the campaign only has 63 hours left)
http://tedfisher.com/hangingdowntown/ (The documentary that started it all)