Christopher Good & Megan Mantia of Mudjackin’

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Photo by Megan Mantia

RED BALLOON: First of all, what is Mudjackin’?

CHRISTOPHER GOOD: Mudjackin’ is my first feature film. It’s almost done. Essentially it’s about a brother and sister growing apart. Initially we were making a different version of the movie- it was like this really loose absurdist thing and it was two best buds instead of siblings. Eventually I kind of realized my script was terrible and so I scrapped it and rewrote it from like page seven on. Unfortunately at that point we’d already been shooting for weeks. But I’m glad we shut it down and started over. I like the movie now.

MEGAN MANTIA: In its most plain definition, it is the first narrative feature by Christopher Good.  But I would also describe it as one of the hardest/ craziest/most exciting endeavors I’ve ever been a part of.  

RB: Did this film begin with the Kickstarter?

GOOD: Pretty much. We had recently finished that short film “Holy Moly” and Kickstarter was still pretty new at that point. I just wanted to make a feature and with the emergence of that site it suddenly felt like maybe we could just get started right away. I sort of sold it to Megan by imagining it as this amazing fun-filled summer spent making a movie with all our friends. That’s like the story of this production: barreling forward with some naive and wrongheaded idea of what it could and should be like and then having reality slap us in our faces. But, you know, also teaching us some lessons. Not just hitting us.

MANTIA: Well it began with Chris’s writing- the script, but the Kickstarter was the very next thing to follow after some preliminary casting choices.  

RB: Was the Kickstarter beneficial to you?

GOOD: Yeah, hugely. Obviously as far as the budget was concerned but using a Kickstarter to raise money also simultaneously makes a lot of people aware of what you’re up to. It can be a drag of course to constantly be harassing everyone about it on Facebook and wherever else but once you decide to do it you just sort of have to commit.

MANTIA: Absolutely- I’m a huge fan of the opportunities and independence crowd-funding offers young artists and anyone with ideas.  It turns so little into a lot so quickly and opens doors, really showing group support.  I mean, the money we made seemed huge at the time, and only got us through a fraction of the movie-making process- but it gave us our entire start.  It also creates a lot of public awareness about any endeavor you’re taking on, and gets people rooting for you.  

RB: Did you seek other KC avenues for fundraising?

GOOD: Patricia Glenn of P&M Artworks at one point held a fundraising screening of Holy Moly for us, which obviously was really generous of her and helpful to us.

MANTIA: When we reached the end of our kickstarter-raised funds a generous couple I work for threw us a small intimate fundraiser where we showed a rough trailer of the film and had catered food/ asked for post-production help.  We raised a little there, but nothing like our original Kickstarter boost.  

RB: How has the production for Mudjackin’ differed from your previous films?

GOOD: To me there are some similarities between the productions of Mudjackin’ and Holy Moly, my second short film, because of the presence of Megan during both. My first short film, I was on my own, and it took me three years. For a short. That said, Mudjackin’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax just by being the first feature we’ve done. Everything’s bigger and more unwieldy and complicated. And it has well over two-hundred scenes in it, which I’m sure for a micro-budgeted indie or whatever we qualify as is rare, if not unheard of.

MANTIA: I’ve only worked previously with Chris on his 2nd short film “Holy Moly” and it was also just the 2 of us doing almost every organizational/ crew job.  But it was a much more easily wrangle-able animal than a feature.  The scale and detail of a feature is a whole new level in itself, but when you add the hyper-fast editing/narrative style of Chris- he basically shoots like 3 times more footage than a normal director because in the end he chops it up to play at break-neck speed.  He also really knows what he wants- so we go though everything with a FINE tooth comb until it’s right.  It can be an excruciating process, but you can’t argue with the results!

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Christopher Good. Photo by Megan Mantia

RB: How do you two share the workload of an entire film?

GOOD: Well we definitely have help. Mary Nichols, for instance, is an amazing fabricator in Kansas City who’s been really invaluable to the production. Any insane project we throw at her, she executes with aplomb. But the majority of the time, it is just Megan and I working on things. Generally we just go to Steak N’ Shake and talk over whatever needs to happen in the next few weeks.

MANTIA: Chris is the writer/director/cinematographer/editor. I am the producer who handles all coordinating of props/locations/actors+crew/wardrobe/transportation for talent/craft services. I do a lot of boom and dolly operation help and help load in and out all equipment.  We both share in casting duties/renting special equipment/documentation of behind the scenes, though generally he handles most technical aspects and equipment needs.

RB: How long has Mudjackin‘ been in production?

GOOD: I think I started working on that first version of the screenplay in like May 2011, and then we did the Kickstarter that July if I’m not mistaken? So all in all it’ll be about two and a half years from initial conception to the movie being finished. Which is actually pretty normal for a feature.

MANTIA: About 2 years in total including writing and fundraising.

RB: What kind of production support have you had?

GOOD: Lately Megan’s been compiling like a contacts list for everyone who’s been involved in the film and it’s over three-hundred people. It’s a pretty dense, detailed movie and we’ve had the luxury of being able to execute all of those little moments and elements with the help of lots of really talented, distinct, charismatic people.

MANTIA: We’ve had a handful of really incredible crew-members that we could not have made it through without: Jessy Abid, Alec Nicholas, Stuart Smith, Rachel Rolon, Marie Parker, to name a few.  

RB: Has the Kansas City community been a part of Mudjackin’?

MANTIA: Omg, who in KC HASN’T been a part of Mudjackin’??!  Honestly just about everyone I’ve ever met, I’ve dragged into the film at some point.  Those who wouldn’t be an extra or be on screen, I begged for audio recording/car-borrowing/ services trading.  We have had OVERWHELMING, staggering amounts of donated, selfless support from people of all walks of life, old and young, all over KC, The Ozarks and Smithville. 

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Jimmy Darrah, Wilson Vance and Alec Nicholas.  Arm by Tabatha Terry-Treml. Photo by Christopher Good

RB: What are some of the barriers you’ve faced in filming/producing in KC?

GOOD: I can’t really think of any.

MANTIA: Money (duh) to name one.  But really we’ve learned a lot about communication, and some of the pratfalls of our unorthodox practice of doing pre-production, production and post-production all at the same time.  We have lost shoots because of not having everything booked, being too tired to keep track of everything, each having way too many jobs because we can’t pay anyone to really do one full-on for us where it would actually help…We’ve had weather issues non-stop as we’ve filmed in unpredictable Missouri year-round.  We had a serious boom-mic curse that we had to deal with the last year.  

RB: What are some of the advantages to filming in KC?

GOOD: To me the primary advantage is all those talented, distinct, and charismatic people I mentioned. That’s probably like…I don’t know, eighty percent of what a good movie needs? I guess another thing is that while probably plenty of people in KC have had some sort of experience with or exposure to independent filmmaking it’s not ubiquitous to a point where it’s become an annoyance and so people are generally very helpful and eager to help you out. And the police are pretty laid back about it.

MANTIA: Huge group support from all of the art-sympathetic people here that don’t question the seriousness and fun of what we’re attempting to make.  People donating so much time and talent to help make this one piece- it’s going to mark an incredible place and time. Never in any other city would you be able to do what we’ve done with the amount of people and such little money as we’ve gotten away with here.  We are so thankful. 

RB: How do you see the future of filmmaking in Kansas City?

GOOD: I don’t know, it’s pretty wide open. Whatever any individual filmmaker in Kansas City wants it to be, she can probably make it that.

MANTIA: It’s hard for me to say- I’m more immersed in the fine arts scene here personally, which I feel is going through a bit of an identity shift right now….it seems like there are several people asserting themselves as filmmakers here, who are all very proud about working here in the Midwest.  

RB: If you could change one thing about Kansas City, what would it be?

GOOD: Nothing really comes to mind.

MANTIA: I think this is an incredibly cheap city to live in, and it makes people cheap.  I think there needs to be greater patronage- and more blind trust in the incredible young weirdos that stay and work here.  And patronage goes beyond money….Kansas City has an incredible amount of empty buildings and open spaces that could be more openly used by artists or donated to the arts. I know people who own property need to live and protect their spaces so they might rent/sell them eventually, but people need to be less scared about giving to the arts.  More opportunities that aren’t choked to death with bureaucracy and paperwork.

Cheyenne Elizabeth Craig, Erica Peterson and Leone Reeves. Photo by Christopher Good

RB: Why is Kansas City important to you?

GOOD: It’s important to me because a lot of my friends live here.

MANTIA: I think it is a really strange place where you can sort of have it all.  You can really work on your art almost full-time with the kind of jobs you can keep here and survive rent/life-wise.  For me, personally, KC is important because I can live cheaply and pour my money into travel and other life-experiences.  I am not slave to my job like I’d have to be if I lived in New York. 

RB: Who are some of your local heros?

GOOD: Does Bill Self count?

MANTIA: Cody Critcheloe (of SSION who now is in NYC but still a huge part of/advocate for KC), Christopher Good and my main artistic collaborator Leone Anne Reeves.  These are my favorite people to work for and with.  They are each insane idea-machines and all really value my work with them.  I hope to work for all of their talented-insane-o brains forever!! 

RB: Looking forward, what do you guys have in store for Kansas City?

GOOD: I don’t necessarily think of myself as having things in store for people or cities but now that you mention it I’m definitely looking forward to a time when I don’t even have anything in store for myself beyond watching basketball and hanging out with my girlfriend.

MANTIA: My brain can only go as far as the Mudjackin’ premiere later in the Fall.  I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IT, and see everyone else lose—their—-MINDS.  

Christopher Good and Megan Mantia. Photo by Mo Dickens

Christopher Good is the writer, director, cinematographer, editor of the short films Return of the Gumshoe Kids, Holy Molyand music videos including the Appleseed Cast’s “Great Lake Derelict” which premiered on The Nerdist July 2013.

Megan Mantia is a documentary photographer and artist living and working in Kansas City, MO.  She is a trained printmaker, bookmaker and experienced performance artist as well.  Megan documents full-time for band/collective SSION, and local non-profit Whoop Dee Doo.  www.meganmantia.com.

Follow Mudjackin’ on Facebook.

 RBKC

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