His latest project is, in many ways, his most aggressive yet. It’s also potentially a game-changer for him, and many of the crew members who worked on it as a labor of love last summer. With “The Boys at the Bar,” he created an opportunity for 23 aspiring producers to learn every aspect of the filmmaking process. It was a dream and a goal of his for several years.
“I was just really examining the way that independent filmmaking has changed so rapidly over the past five years,” Dutcher says. “My films were starting to get bigger and more expensive, but then the economics just dropped out of independent film.”
It led him to thinking about making his next film on a shoestring budget, “because I’m a filmmaker and that’s always been my attitude. Filmmakers make films; with whatever you’ve got, you do whatever you can.”
Dutcher wrote the screenplay for “The Boys at the Bar,” set in St. Louis but filmed “after hours” at the Poundcakes restaurant in Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square. The film follows a group of friends as they joke, drink and celebrate the birthday of one of their own at their local Irish pub. Then he came up with how to make it—he founded his own guerilla film school where aspiring producers could work completely hands-on through the whole process. He just needed to find those “guerillas.”
“So I just put the word out on Facebook,” Dutcher says. “And I always said that if I could find 20 students that were willing to do it, then I would do it. I really didn’t think I would. So I was surprised when, at the end, I had 23 people that wanted to do it. We just organized and started the journey.”
A few weeks later, in November 2011, they met for the first time in a law office in Salt Lake City. They called themselves Project 23. Their goal was to raise $150,000 for initial production costs, a goal they met in less than 90 days. Dutcher immersed them in every facet of the process—key crew positions on set, creation of a plan for marketing and distribution, and particularly the fundraising.
“I told them that if you want to be a producer, you have to learn to raise money.”
His reputation within the industry helped land legendary cinematographer Bill Butler to the digital production (Dutcher’s first digital effort). Butler’s credits include “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Jaws,” “Grease” and “The Conversation.” Veteran actor Bo Hopkins came on board for one of the lead roles, as did actress Scarlett Keegan. Other veteran crew and cast members added their expertise and guided the student crew as the film began shooting right on schedule, in May of 2012. The film is set in one location, was shot in the course of a single week and includes a full 25 minutes of improvised material.
“By the end of filming,” Dutcher says with pride, “these students were no longer students—they were film producers.”
There remains one last challenge, however, before “The Boys at the Bar” can go to market. And it’s another example of Dutcher’s passion for his craft in general, and this film in particular. He has begun a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $30,000 to complete the movie–the link is http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2076544505/the-boys-at-the-bar-a-richard-dutcher-film
“It needs color correcting, sound editing and mixing; a score, music rights to purchase, a key special effects shot to be created, and graphics work,” he says. “Candidly, we need more than $30,000, but that’s the goal I’ve set to raise to finish the film.” He has to raise the money by May 19, or none of what has been pledged towards that goal will be realized. As of today, he has a little over one-third of that amount pledged.
On April 28, Dutcher started a 21-day fast (running through the Kickstarter deadline date), where he will consume water-only until the goal is met. He has no illusions that the heavens will open up and pour money down for the project due to his fast. “My only reasons for the fast are to draw attention to this project, and to help me focus completely on the fundraising efforts,” he says.”
As far as Project 23 is concerned, it’s an unqualified success in his mind.
“Those that [stuck with the class] learned how to make an independent film and did make an independent film,” he says. While Dutcher is proud of the film and proud of his students’ educations, he also hopes that Project 23 won’t stop here.
“What I would be incredibly pleased to see, if this story got out there, is someone like Paul Schrader taking 20 new filmmakers through this process. Or Hal Hartley, or whoever some of the guys are from my generation who stopped making movies. That, to me, would be the icing on the cake. It’s this wonderful, beautiful hybrid–an economic and educational model, and I would like to see catch on.”
To contribute to Dutcher’s efforts, visit the Kickstarter website and make a pledge by May 19. A number of gift packages are available for those who contribute to this effort.