EXCLUSIVE: Roadside Attractions has acquired U.S. rights to Blue Like Jazz, the Steve Taylor-directed film that will have its world premiere in the Narrative Spotlight section of SXSW on March 13. The film is based on the Donald Miller semi-autobiographical bestseller. It was adapted by the author, the director and Ben Pearson. True Blood‘s Marshall Allman plays Don, a pious 19-year old soph at a Texas junior college who leaves the shelter of his conservative religious upbringing to attend Portland’s Reed College, a progressive campus. The culture clash forces him to discover himself and what he really believes. Claire Holt and Tania Raymonde also star, and Taylor, J. Clarke Gallivan and Coke Sams produced. Lionsgate will handle DVD, VOD and TV through its output deal with Roadside. They teamed on Margin Call. Roadside’s Howard Cohen made the deal with the director and V.T. Murray for the Tennessee-based The Panda Fund. Roadside releases it April 13.
This was a project that would not have gotten off the ground if not for the avid fans of the book. The filmmakers were short of cash, but then fans started a website looking for donations. That led to an alliance with Kickstarter, the online matchmaker between filmmakers and financial backers. The filmmakers went well past their $125,000 goal and raised $345,000, a Kickstarter record.
The grass roots barnstorming continues. The author and filmmaker kick off a 30-city bus tour on February 29, and there are initiatives involving Kickstarter volunteers and faith-based websites that have embraced the film will promote it online. “Roadside Attractions has been our first choice for a distributor ever since I told Howard and Eric d’Arbeloff about the project five years ago,” Taylor said. “They’ve got a great track record bringing eclectic movies to the widest possible audience.”