After Kickstarter, he's going to Prague
You know what they say after winning a competition: "I'm going to Disney World."
Well, after successfully completing a Kickstarter campaign, Lehigh Valley native James Paul is going to Prague.
It was the start of a great weekend for Paul, a Saucon Valley High School graduate, Class of 2009, and a son of Lynne and Chad Paul. On May 12, he received a BS in Business Administration and Media Arts from American University.
Paul is going to Prague after reaching his $10,000 Kickstarter online goal to finance "A Distant Shot," a 10-minute narrative fiction drama he wrote and will direct.
Paul exceeded the goal, for which the deadline was May 10, raising $12,617.
Kickstarter is a private for-profit company for raising funds for creative projects through its website.
"We can now afford to record the music live," Paul says in a phone interview last week.
The music is to be recorded by a 10-piece ensemble in Los Angeles.
Paul departs next month for Prague, the Czech Republic, where he'll cast "A Distant Shot," shoot it in 35 mm and edit it at FAMU, the Czech Film and TV Academy of the Performing Arts.
He studied At FAMU in Prague during spring 2012. "That's when I became aware of the enormous production opportunities and savings," Paul says.
"A Distant Shot," an historical period piece, takes place in 1958 and 1938. The main character, Stepan, is a Czechoslovakian track runner. He recalls his childhood during the Nazi invasion, which began in March 1939.
Other characters include Young Stepan, Stepan's father, track competitors, soldiers and crowd-scene extras.
Paul says the runners became propaganda tools for the Soviet apparatus. "The runners were not always running because they wanted to, but because they were told to.
"Although now track is now not considered one of the sexiest sports, then it was a very big deal. Everyone would tune in on the radio."
The film's catch line is: "Everybody wonders why I run so fast ... But what would you do if you heard a gun?"
The line foreshadows what the story is about, Paul says. "At its core is how one's greatest fear can turn into the greatest strength."
Paul says he had the story idea for his film in mind for years.
"This story actually came up seven years ago when I was in high school.
"I ran cross country. I was at a meet. Every year, our team gets T-shirts made. The coach [Ed Kolosky] got a quote [for the T-shirt] from a female team-mate."
The quote on the team shirts, worn over their team track jerseys, was:
"Everybody wonders why I run so fast ... But what would you do if you heard a gun?"
Paul was wearing the T-shirt with that quote on it when, he says, "A stranger walks up to me and asked, 'Did someone from a war-torn country come up with that?' I said, 'No. She's right over there.'
"But I thought, 'What a great idea for a movie.' So I filed that away for later."
Paul wanted to know the origin of the quote. He asked the female team-mate, but he says she told him she didn't know. He Googled the phrase, he says, but couldn't determine the phrase's origin.
"From the track aspect, it's the starting gun," Paul says of the quote's implication. "But from the movie aspect, it's someone who's coming out of the environment that you grew up in during the World War II time period.
"I really want to be a period-piece film-maker. It's difficult to do in the U.S."
"A Distant Shot" will not be the first film that Paul has made.
"I've actually been making films since I was in the second grade, or seven-years-old," he says. In his junior and senior years at Saucon, his films won awards in the Saucon Valley Film Festival.
While studying in Prague, he made a seven-minute, 16 mm film, "The Last Judgment," a dark comedy about a man who died and whose "Book of Life" was being reviewed for good and bad deeds.
He said most of the Prague professors with whom he studied are surrealist film-makers. "I got to go learn an entirely different kind of film-making. These professors were the rebels in the '60s and '70s that were upsetting the Soviet establishment."
Paul describes Prague as "all very friendly, great people. I'm very excited to go back. One of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen."
He is working with several others on "A Distant Shot," including Lehigh Valley natives.
Ryan O'Connell of Los Angeles, a Saucon classmate and graduate of the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program at the University of Southern California, is composing the film's music.
Shelley Kensler, a Saucon classmate graduating with a psychology degree from Auburn University, works on the "look book" for the film's visual style.
Harrison Goldberg, graduating from Emory University, is line producer. Paul met the Pittsburgh area native during high school when they attended the Pennsylvania Governors' School for Global Entrepreneurship.
University of Maryland students Molly Ellison handles publicity and Sam Lang is doing marketing. Paul worked with the two women on the East Coast Student Film Festival, now in its second year at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Rodolfo Carlos of Los Angeles is set photographer.
James lived in Los Angeles for six months, where he worked for director George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food," 1997; "Men of Honor," 2000; "Notorious," 2009; "Faster," 2010). Last summer, Paul was a production assistant on Tillman's "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," released in January.
Paul expects to complete "A Distant Shot" filming in August, post-production in mid-September, submit the film to film festivals, and move to New York City to continue work as a production assistant.
"I really want to go make my calling card film," he says of "A Distant Shot."