“This is a film that will be made out of love,” proclaimed JR Ralls about his new film, Citizen George, which is currently in the process of being funded on Kickstarter. “There’s a lot of things in the geek community that can get hostile and just mean,” he said, “but honestly, that’s never been my intention with anything I’ve created or wanted to create.”
This is a point that absolutely needs to be made, because the inspiration for Citizen George has often drawn a great deal of ire from the geek community. The film is to be a biography of a well known science fiction director, who “produced a space saga series in the 1970s that was very popular, and came out with a prequel trilogy in the 1990s that was less well received.”
In the strictest legal sense, Citizen George is not based on any particular person, Ralls said, “just like how Citizen Kane wasn’t based on William Randolph Hearst.”
Having achieved a great deal of success with his first feature, Dark Dungeons (he raised over twice his fundraising goal), Ralls has turned once again to Kickstarter to fund Citizen George. What makes this second feature unique, however, is the way in which he’s approaching audience control.
“I really do believe in the philosophy of crowdfunding,” Ralls said. “Crowdfunding is all about letting the audience decide what they want, so I thought, ‘why not take it to the next level? Why not all them not only to choose what gets made, but let them choose how it gets made?’”
To this end, backers of Citizen George have two options for where their money can go: Citizen George Team Drama, and Citizen George Team Comedy, with two potential versions of the film standing at the ready.
Team Drama represents the film as a serious biopic, following the life of our director as he goes from a veritable nobody to the most powerful man in Hollywood, in the same vein as Citizen Kane. Team Comedy sees the same director shuttled forward in time to save the future of his beloved franchise, a la Bill and Ted.
As far as Team Drama is concerned, Ralls noted the importance of Charles Foster Kane as a character. “Everyone talks about Citizen Kane’s writing and directing and non-chronological story,” he said, “and that’s all important. But if it didn’t have a character that people were interested in – someone who people could relate to and understand – it would have been forgotten, even with all of its technical tricks.”
Noting some of the similarities between Kane and the Director Who Must Not Be Named, Ralls pointed to the transformation from system-bucking youngster to system-embodying older man. “In the end, these two characters became so powerful and so filled with people who would not say no to them, that they became the very system they tried to fight,” Ralls said. “And I think that’s a fascinating story!”
On the Team Comedy side of things, Ralls noted the very human emotion of wanting to be able to correct something in the past through the application of present-day knowledge. “I’m taking it from the exact opposite angle,” he said, “where I’m having someone from the past go into their future and be more in touch and more able to handle something than their future self.”
Much like the Team Drama approach, this story addresses the issues of power and what happens when you gain it. The younger version of the director in the comedy version of Citizen George “is used to being told no,” Ralls said, “and I thought that could be a great story of him struggling with going from being a nobody to being the most powerful man in Hollywood, literally for him in one second.”
Both Comedy and Drama versions of Citizen George have scripts ready to go, but Ralls is waiting until the Kickstarter campaign is finished to finalize either one. “Both of them interest me, both of them are fascinating, and I honestly don’t care [which gets made]” he said. “Either one would be awesome for me to make.”
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