Typically, film financing and the kindness of strangers — the kindness of anybody — go together like 3-D and Ibsen. But since its inception, there's been nothing typical about the planned movie version of Donald Miller's hard-to-categorize bestseller Blue Like Jazz, a book of essays and autobiographical reflections that's become the kind of touchstone for contemporary Christians that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was for children of the 1960s.
The movie's been a long-gestating pet project of Nashville musician-turned-filmmaker Steve Taylor (The Second Chance) and his writing partner Ben Pearson, and its progress has been closely followed on the Web. The news hit hard, then, when Miller announced Sept. 16 on his blog that a snag in financing — a matter of $125,000 — would sideline the project perhaps forever after three years of work.
What happened next will set off light bulbs over the heads of struggling filmmakers the world around. Two fans of the book who live in Franklin, Jonathan Frazier and Zach Prichard, contacted Taylor and Miller with an idea to save the film. They would appeal directly to the book's fans via Kickstarter — a "crowd-sourcing" site that allows friends and total strangers alike to contribute amounts of any size toward a posted financial goal. On Sept. 27, they issued a plea for the book's fans to help raise the needed $125,000 by the established production date, Oct. 25.
Within 48 hours, Frazier and Prichard had raised more than $20,000 in donations, been featured on the local news, and drawn more than 36,000 hits as word rippled across the web. As of midnight Tuesday, with 20 days left, they had amassed more than $95,000 — and any extra raised within that time will go toward the production as well.
"Don Miller and I compared notes yesterday on the week that was," Taylor posted Monday on the film's website, www.bluelikejazzthemovie.com. "We agreed that the only negative from the last seven days is that our faces hurt from smiling so much." To check on their status or contribute, visit www.savebluelikejazz.com.
UPDATE, 10:30 a.m., Oct. 7: Not only has the movie reached its goal, its total at the moment stands at $138,196. With 18 days of fundraising left, Frazier says their new ambition is to beat the current Kickstarter record of $200,641.
• The Belcourt's "Doctober" series spotlighting some of the season's most striking documentaries continues this weekend with the Sebastian Junger-Tim Hetherington war dispatch Restrepo (through Oct. 10); the acclaimed Stonewall Uprising, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner's account of the 1969 Greenwich Village riots that gave birth to the Gay Rights movement (Oct. 10-11); and Lee Storey's Smile 'Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story, which examines the cult-like underpinnings and co-opted optimism behind the kitschy choral group (Oct. 11-12). Director Storey and former Up With People member Linda Cates will attend the 7 p.m. show Monday, Oct. 11 for a post-film Q&A.
• The event of the fall season in New York is the launch of the Metropolitan Opera's first full production of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle in more than two decades, starting with director Robert Lepage's $16 million mounting of Das Rheingold. Eva-Maria Westbroek, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel and Deborah Voigt star, with James Levine conducting. Want to see it live for a $24 ticket? Regal's Green Hills 16 will broadcast it digitally starting at noon this Saturday, Oct. 9.
• Opening this weekend at local theaters: the Katherine Heigl-Josh Duhamel comedy-drama Life As We Know It; Diane Lane, John Malkovich and James Cromwell horsing around in Randall Wallace's biopic of Secretariat; and the new Wes Craven shocker My Soul to Take.
• A free event you shouldn't miss, especially with Halloween coming up: Sarratt's "International Lens" screening of the rare alternate Spanish-language version of the 1931 Dracula, filmed on the same sets at the same time as the Bela Lugosi version (but without Lugosi). Best of all, author and occasional Scene contributor Michael Sims, editor of the new compendium Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories, will lecture on the historic appeal of the undead. It starts 7 p.m. at Vanderbilt's Sarratt Cinema. Also this week at International Lens: the 2008 Tunisian drama The Wedding Song, presented 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Sarratt by lecturer Lisa Weiss from the Vanderbilt Department of French & Italian.