Filmmaker raising funds for first feature length filmPosted: January 5, 2010
Local filmmaker Ben Hicks is currently shooting his first feature length film titled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time. Funds have run out, and Ben Hicks is stranded in Japan. Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time is the sequel to his award winning short Pea vs. Carrot. Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time stars the same couple as they globetrot around the world (Japan, Taiwan, Germany) and eventually end up running into the woods. Hicks made a video on Kickstarter to raise funds for Kids Go Free, and as it stands right now, he just needs to raise 2,000 dollars by January 10th in order to continue filming. An interview via e-mail after the jump.
You went to Columbia College for film school. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience there?
The greatest thing about that school was that I met a bunch of super talented people that have shaped me as a person and have become some of my best friends; a crew of homies that are not only insanely good at what they do but also aren’t obsessed with film to the point where they don’t have anything else to talk about.
Columbia is also a wonderful technical school and I will forever be grateful for some of the teachers that taught and helped me truly understand things about lighting, cinematography and writing. But my biggest complaint about that school is how rigid they are to their own self imposed rules. There are no rules to filmmaking and it just seems silly that when you are in school, you are given so many limitations. A cinematographer friend (the super talented Eric Zunkley) had a project to do for school; since he had to shoot some 35mm film he asked if I’d write a highly visual short film that he could turn in for his cinematography project. I made a request to get some sound gear through the school so we could make it a short film as opposed to just a cinematography “exercise” and the school completely denied me. I got an e-mail from an instructor asking me not to make the film, he said that is was “just an exercise” and to not turn it into anything more than it was. Luckily I had a good buddy with his own sound gear and we did it anyway and the film (pea vs. carrot) was accepted into over 10 film festivals, won a few awards and was the film that really caught the attention of a producer in Japan who really helped us out with funding the Tokyo portion of our current film.
Was this all just some excuse to travel the world?
Ha ha, it’s hard to say. Kuba (DP), Carmen (actress/production designer) and I have been talking about this idea since 2004 but the original idea was far less ambitious. The story was about a couple from Chicago that went on a trip to the Canadian wilderness to escape from everything. The real meat and bones of the story is about what these two end up doing in the woods but I had a hard time creating characters that would seem like the type of people who would REALLY abandon everything and the idea of going to Canada just seemed cliche. Then around the time I was finishing up pea vs. carrot I met Rene Jermal, who is now the producer of the film. We started dating in 2007 and she asked me if I wanted to move with her abroad. At that moment everything came into place for me, both in my life and with the story. I knew that living abroad would be an amazing life changing adventure that would shape the way I looked at things, but I also knew that these characters had to be globetrotters.
How is living in Japan?
Some days I love living here and some days I hate it. It might sound a bit negative but it’s exactly how I wanted to feel before I started shooting here because I didn’t want to look at Tokyo as this strange foreign culture that is sooooooo different from the U.S. I wanted to treat it like a place that sometimes sucks and sometimes rules, a place that reminds you a lot like home.
One of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced was shortly after Rene and I moved to Japan. After working for 5 weeks, the enormous English Conversation chain that hired us went bankrupt. Neither Rene or I had any savings, we flew over to Japan on our credit cards and then we never got paid for 5 weeks of work. So we had no money, no job, couldn’t pay rent, we lived in a place we couldn’t speak the language and was now overflowing with unemployed English Teachers. Rene and I were literally starving. We lived off of rice and took naps constantly to make the hunger pains go away.
Our friends back home threw us a fundraiser party (which included eating contests) and that held us over until we found work. Looking back on it now I can laugh but they were some dark days, days that I hope I never go through again but I’m incredibly grateful for the perspective it gave me.
What is your living situation like?
I live alone in an apartment about that’s about 8 feet by 10 feet. But when we were shooting here we crammed everyone into two different apartments for about a month. I think we’re going to make sure we have at least three places to crash when we shoot in Taiwan.
(Most of the crew is scattered in the US. The funds Hicks is trying to raise will be used to develop and transfer the film in order to edit it. Once the Japanese portion of the film is edited, Hicks will post it online for free ˝to try and help build awareness and help fund the next section of the film˝.)
Have you gotten a job in Taiwan yet?
I’m in talks with a company right now. They are ready to hire me but I’m trying to live in one of two really specific small rural towns both for the film and for a completely different change of pace. Hopefully I’ll be in Taiwan by Feb. 2010 and be shooting part 2 in late 2010/early 2011.
What filmmakers (or other artists) have influenced you?
Jim Henson, Hayao Miyazaki, Paul Thomas Anderson, Howard Zinn, David Gordon Green, Derrick Jensen and David Attenborough.
Your main characters go into the woods at the end of the film, would you want to share the message you hope the audience absorbs after watching your film?
Can I say no? I don’t really want to talk about the message and to be honest I’m not very good at articulating my ideas into an easy to read blurb. For me personally, film is the easiest way to express ideas and ask larger questions in a way that I feel, isn’t compromised. I will say that I feel that this is a very pure, human and beautiful idea, and it’s an idea I’m willing to sacrifice years of my life trying to pursue.