When Zahra Zomorrodian first proposed the idea of flying me over to the UK to work on THE STAGG DO, part of the hope was that she'd be able to find other European productions for me to work on, kind of a tour through the old continent. None came forward. Well, not exactly.
There were, of course, the Germans.
One thing people always find surprising is that a sizable chunk of the "Film Courage Community" (as we've started calling it) is in Germany. There's Movie Angel, of course, and Spoxx. But it's even bigger than that. I think for the original A Year Without Rent Kickstarter campaign, Germany had the 3rd most backers, behind the U.S. and the U.K. (maybe Canada was 3rd, but whatever).
In fact, without Spoxx we never hit that goal.
So it's not surprising that when the Germans heard that AYWR would be crossing the Atlantic, they found a way to get something for me to do.
That's how I ended up on the doorstep of a person I've never met before in my life, either in person or online, with my suitcase and duffel bag, ready to stay at his apartment for a couple of days.
This is unusual, even for me.
I should back up.
Spoxx picked me up at the airport. We saw the Statue of Liberty (no, really), and the memorial spot for the Berlin Wall. And then we walked over to the apartment of the person I've never talked to.
Gerold Marks is a German film blogger who specializes in 3D movies and my host for my stay in Berlin. Five minutes later, Gerold, Spoxx, and I are walking around Berlin as Gerold gives us a tour of the city. And not a short, "oh, here are some places a couple of blocks away" tour, but a full-on tour. I want to say we walked miles around the city. We saw the museums (well, the outside of them), statues, and probably 4 different parts of the Berlin Wall. I learned how to tell if I was in East or West Berlin (you have to look at the traffic lights). I saw monuments the Soviets built to themselves and ones that survived their reign.
It was undeniably cool.
The idea for my visit was to have me give the "keynote" speech for a crowdfunding event organized by Wolfgang Gumpelmaier followed, the next day, by a matinee screening of my first feature BLANC DE BLANC (which you can watch via VOD at the previous link)
The working title for my speech: "No One Gives a Fuck About Your Project".
(I'm at around the 2:45 mark)
The thing about the German market (and other European markets) is that since they don't have Kickstarter, everything else seems to lag behind. This makes some sense. Over in the States, Kickstarter really drives the conversation and innovation. Take them out of the equation and the market penetration of crowdfunding goes down significantly and, by extension, so does everything else. In a way, it's like stepping back in time 2 or 3 years. People like Spoxx and Wolfgang are entwined with happenings from across the pond and, as a result, kind of serve as prophets who tell hesitant Germans that everything will be ok. It's kind of like getting in a time machine and talking to Red Sox fans in 2003.
It'll be fun to watch these emerging markets catch up.
But all this is a precursor to the real reason I came to Berlin: for the beer. Ah the beer. Thing is, people are ordering for me in German, so all I know is that I'm getting German beer. And that it's good stuff.
It's 4am when I get back to where I'm staying, and later that morning, I have to be back across the city for the screening of BLANC DE BLANC.
For days I've been trying to get my computer to burn a PAL version of the film, but it keeps crapping out on me. Still, Spoxx had his computer hooked up to the projector yesterday, so it seems like we'd be able to use that. Except when we get there, we realize the audio won't work. Oh, and the theater could absolutely play a NTSC DVD, if I had one, which I do. It's just in my car, which is in Seattle.
And since it's Sunday, nothing is open. We can't burn a NTSC DVD because there isn't a blank DVD for miles around. So we start digging for solutions, finally settling on hooking the video up to the projector and then running the audio through some detachable computer speakers we found behind the cash register. Is it a perfect solution? No. Hell, it isn't even a good solution. But it's a solution. And it's better than people not seeing the movie at all.
The exception maybe being if one of them thinks you ended the movie wrong, like this guy:
Maybe we did. Maybe we didn't. See for yourself.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.