In recent years, husband-and-wife filmmaking team Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin have journeyed to the center of the earth and “Nim’s Island” as Hollywood screenwriters, but their latest adventure raises the stakes – and requires raising money as well.
“We’re really interested in making a movie that has the potential to be shown at Sundance or SXSW,” said Levin, who previously directed the studio-backed “Island” and “Little Manhattan” with Flackett. “We’ve spent some time as advisors or mentors at some festivals and we’ve really watched these independent filmmakers and heard about their experiences and thought even though it sounded hard, the freedom that they got and the experience of making the movie was very powerful for them. It really inspired us to want to have that experience.”
Experience is the operative word when it comes to Flackett and Levin’s “The Man’s Guide to Love,” a project currently collecting funds on Kickstarter before an April 19th deadline. It not only describes the all-encompassing approach to media that the project has taken with a book on the way as well as the film, but also the foundation of hundreds of interviews on which the duo has based the premise of their new ensemble comedy.
Starting out with the single question, “If you had one piece of advice that you’d give another man about love, what would it be?” Flackett and Levin stocked up on film-grade Canon Mark 5D cameras and hit the road with three friends and collaborators to collect answers from up and down the Pacific and Eastern coastlines of America before heading to places as far flung as France and India.
“It’s one of the great subjects of life, and the idea of what men specifically have to say about it really compelled us because they so rarely get asked. It’s so associated often times with women,” said Levin. “The responses continued to fuel the project because the answers were so varied and so thoughtful and funny and introspective and honest and that really made us want to explore it in all these different forms.”
Initially, the form those pearls of wisdom took was “The Man Guide’s to Love” Web site, where the responses have been published daily since February 2010. But as Levin admits, “everything is fodder for our movies,” so it wasn’t before long that he and Flackett began to develop the story of some filmmakers not unlike themselves who set out to ask men for their advice on love and then carry those lessons into their own personal lives. Equally quick was selling the pitch to GK Films with “Dreamgirls” producer Laurence Mark onboard to shepherd the film, but Flackett and Levin didn’t like where their script was headed, so inspired by the community they had formed both through their interviews and online already, they set their sights on Kickstarter.
“It didn’t feel as honest as the guys that we had interviewed,” said Flackett of their early draft of the script. “And we really let them lead us. We wanted something that felt as honest as the guys.”
To do that, the filmmakers were “generously given the opportunity to make a more independent-minded version of it,” says Levin, and with Mark still behind them as a producer, filming is planned to start on June 4th with a shoot just shy of four weeks. While Flackett and Levin are still locking in their cast, they divulged that Lynn Chen (“Lakeview Terrace”), who previously appeared in “Via Text,” a short directed by her husband Abe Foreman-Greenwald, one of the original founders of “The Man’s Guide to Love,” will appear as one of the female leads and that “a great friend and a great actor” has committed to another part. However, the close-knit crew won’t just be in front of the camera or behind it, but extends deep into the moviemaking community Flackett and Levin have already built up and one that they hope to grow further through Kickstarter.
Combining the two, Flackett and Levin have not only created an opportunity for themselves with “The Man’s Guide to Love,” but also for their Kickstarter supporters, many of whom might be nursing a screenplay of their own. In addition to rewards such as the film’s DVD when it’s released, an early peek at the film’s script or even the chance to offer up your own romantic advice, filmmakers looking for their big break can have their work evaluated by Flackett and Levin’s own representatives at the Gotham Group or take a lunch with Laurence Mark at the Sony Studios commissary.
“I think everybody sees this as the future,” Levin said of crowdsourcing, adding that their friends in the industry didn’t need much convincing to be supportive of their plan. “When we broached it with Larry [Mark], we were like, ‘Larry, what do you think of doing this in such an outside the box way?’ And he said, ‘Well, the box is broken. We all have to go outside the box because it’s a different world now.’”
Yet even in this world, “Love” still is set to make it go round, with Flackett and Levin aware that in moving their work as storytellers from the small screen to the big screen and back again, their chief priority is to keep it moving for audiences. Ironically, part of that potential audience has already done that for them.
“Just the idea of having a group of people who love and support a project is so valuable to an artist,” said Levin. “It’s really the feeling of having wind at your back and that’s really meaningful, so no matter what, that’s been a great and unique thing. And the material is attracting a terrific group of people and together we’re making something that we love. That’s what ‘The Man’s Guide to Love’ turns out is all about.”