When Jessica Edwards ran into a creative wall as she began to think of ideas for a full-length feature, she brought together some of the world’s best filmmakers in to help – only their collaboration won’t be a new film and the advice she received won’t be limited to her own personal edification.
“When you’re in the middle of doing something creative, I was looking for something that you could thumb through quickly that would inspire you,” says Edwards. “You want to step into a museum for a few minutes or listen to some music that will reframe your thinking about something.”
Lacking such a resource as a filmmaker, Edwards consulted friends and fellow documentarians ranging from legends such as Albert Maysles and Barbara Kopple to up-and-comers including “Indie Game: The Movie”‘s James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot and “The Muslims Are Coming”‘s Negin Farsad and if nothing else, at least one good idea has emerged: “Tell Me Something,” a collection of advice, which is currently raising funds on Kickstarter before an April 6th deadline. Filled with the same kind of out-of-the-box thinking that led to its creation, the book, which will be available both as an elegant e-book and a clothbound hardcover, has already surpassed its initial crowdsourcing goal, but with additional help, Edwards’ initial plans of speaking to 50 filmmakers will grow accordingly, though she’s careful to stress it’s a book that goes beyond filmmaking.
“It’s really for people who do any kind of creative endeavor,” Edwards says of “Tell Me Something,” which will place its pieces of advice next to portraits of those giving it from a place where where they feel most comfortable. “I gave [everyone involved] a variety of topics they could explore between five and 500 words and really left it wide open. Of course, there will be a lot of filmmaking advice in it because that’s who they are, but there’s also a lot of life stuff too — interesting advice that pertains to lots of different things.”
Already, Edwards has dropped some hints for the variety one can expect from the book, whether in a Kickstarter update that provided “The Tillman Story” director Amir Bar-Lev’s indispensable “Five Best Techniques for Crashing Film Festival Parties You’re Not Invited To,” or in a first-person piece for Filmmaker Magazine where she relayed “First Cousin Once Removed” director Alan Berliner’s insistence to “follow your fascination.” She’s also excited about the foreword, which will be penned by Thom Powers, the “documentary superhero” who she believes will be “able to frame the book in a way that is going to be really unique and special.” Still, with all these great insights, has Edwards actually found the inspiration she first started out looking for?
She answers with a resounding yes.
“James Marsh’s advice about the difference between being an ambitious failure and a mediocre success really resonated,” says Edwards. “I’ve made many short films that I’m proud of and I really love, but when I expanded my thinking to other creative pursuits, I really needed to give myself the space to take risks regardless of the outcome, to me that speaks volumes.”
“Tell Me Something” may wind up speaking volumes itself, literally. If the advice guide, which Edwards expects to take to the printers this summer in advance of a planned release in the fall during the height of fall film festival season, is successful enough, Edwards would like to expand into other professional arenas for additional chapters. Even if she doesn’t, she’s taken away quite a bit of the Kickstarter experience on “Tell Me Something,” finding inspiration not only in her fellow filmmakers, but from people she didn’t know before the process.
“I was most surprised that somebody from Manila would write and say this is such an amazing idea,” says Edwards. “That they would just take the time to get in touch about that, to show their confidence has allowed me to also have more confidence in myself as well.”