In 2007 The Man From Earth took the internet by storm, introducing a mind-boggling, completely compelling science fiction concept to an unexpectedly wide audience. It was writer Jerome Bixby’s final work, and the film wasn’t made until almost a decade after his death. Now, six years after the film’s release, the filmmakers are listening to the audience cries for more and are making a sequel titled Man From Earth Millennium.
The first film’s director, Richard Schenkman, is back at the helm for this outing and I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about the project. We discussed getting the first film made, the struggles of funding this sort of movie, what can be expected from Man From Earth Millennium and much more.
Check out the full interview below.
WGTC: How’s the Kickstarter campaign going so far?
Richard Schenkman: Regarding the campaign, we’re just three days in. I don’t really know how we’re doing right now in comparison to how we need to be doing if we’re going to reach the goal. I do know that a lot of people hang back when it comes to Kickstarter. Even if it’s something they’d like to support they hang back until they get a sense that the campaign is going to succeed. Then they make their pledge. If we have a lot of people doing that, it could get really scary. Even though the money we’re trying to raise is pretty low in the universe of feature films, it’s still a very large goal in the universe of Kickstarter. It’s very rare that any sort of project goes over $10,000 to $15,000 on Kickstarter. A very small percentage of feature films that are looking for over $100,000 have succeeded. I think one generally only hears about the successes, but there are many, many failures. Most feature films fail in their attempt on Kickstarter.
WGTC: I know with the Veronica Mars film and Braff’s project, a lot of people contributed after the funding goal had already been met.
Schenkman: Exactly. It just added a lot of gravy to a dinner that had already been cooked.
WGTC: With The Man From Earth, how’d you end up directing it and getting it made almost a decade after it was written?
Schenkman: I first saw the script not that long after it was written. A producer friend of mine had an associate who was a producer and was also managing Emerson Bixby. Emerson had this script that was his dad’s last script. He had helped him write it. Literally sitting with him in the hospital, transcribing things Jerome would say. His father would scribble on napkins and Emerson would type it up and bring it back to him the next day. So he helped facilitate the writing of this script quite literally on his father’s deathbed. So when you say it was the last thing Jerome Bixby ever wrote… I don’t even think it was quite finished when Jerome died. When I saw it a couple years later as Emerson was shopping it around, there were definitely things in it that a writer of his skill would not have left. I had this meeting with Emerson and his manager/producer, at which I expressed how much I loved the script. I honestly went through my notes on it and Emerson thought I was on the money with everything I was saying. I thought we were in business, but what happened was the producer/manager said, “Heck Emerson, if this guy — who’s only made one or two movies — likes it, we can probably get somebody big, somebody who’s got a real career going.” So he instructed Emerson to not talk to me anymore.
They shopped it around for a while, but of course, everyone who wanted to make the movie wanted to have what was in the script basically be the first act. For the rest of the movie, John Oldman would be on the run from the CIA who wants a sample of his blood, or there’d be flashbacks where John would be leading an army of Huns or riding on the back of a sabertooth tiger. Emerson didn’t want to do any of that, understandably. Those deals never got made.
So back in 2005, a buddy of mine named Dean Alioto had made a movie for about $110,000 that he had shot literally on a DVX-100 camera. He shot it at 24 frames and he cut it at home on Final Cut and it looked like a real movie. I thought, “Oh jeeze, I can do that.” So I was talking to Eric Wilkinson who was a friend who wanted to get into movie producing. I was telling Eric about what Dean had done and how I thought we could get a script together and find $100,000 and make a movie. And he said, “Great, do you have any scripts that can be done for that money?” And I didn’t really, everything I had written was bigger than that, but I said, “There’s this one script I read that’s 8 people sitting in a room talking. We could do that for this kind of money.” So at his encouragement I called Emerson and said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but…” He said, “Remember you? You’re the only director who wanted to make the movie the way my dad wrote it.” So I said, “I’d still love too, but we’re talking about doing it for almost no money so that means I can’t pay you, I can just give you a piece of the action and a credit. No one is going to get paid anything but at least we’ll get the movie made.” And he said, “Yeah, I’m in.”
So I took some time, I slowly did the rewrites. I didn’t want to do it in one swoop and shock Emerson, so I kind of did it in layers. He liked it, he loved it actually. He gave me the greatest compliment, he said, “My dad would love this rewrite. He would think you made it a better script.” So that was great. Then we took some time to raise the money and put the movie together and finally in 2006 we shot it, and it came out in 2007.
Head to the next page for more on crowdfunding this sequel…