The Grouch is out of the can. Our next film is a documentary titled I AM BIG BIRD and it’s about Caroll Spinney, who has been Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969.
At the end of last week, we had the pleasure of meeting Ryan Roe and Joe Hennes of Tough Pigs, a fansite that describes itself as “Muppet fans who grew up.” They had joined us for a screening of BROWNSTONES TO RED DIRT and, undoubtedly of more interest to them, a preview of our next documentary, I AM BIG BIRD. Joe and Ryan shared our website with their fans on Friday morning and since then, we’ve heard from tons of Muppet fans. There are LOTS of questions and we’re here to answer some of the more common ones we received:
WHEN CAN I SEE THIS?
Great question. Right now, we’re in the midst of production. We’re targeting a mid-late 2013 festival run with a nationwide theatrical release to follow.
OK, SO WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME ABOUT THIS NOW?
You guys ask great questions! As you must know, making films costs lots of money. One of the ways we are financing and promoting the film is through the use of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-sourcing website that helps artists raise money from individuals in exchange for products or experiences and has not only helped raise $45 million for film projects, but also financed three documentaries on the Academy Award shortlist this year. It has truly become a great way for documentaries to get made. When we launch the campaign in the upcoming months, its success is going to rely entirely on the mobilization of the Muppet fanbase and thankfully, we have loads of cool incentives to get the ball rolling. We’ll be announcing all of them at a later date, but we can say that among them will be a copy of the film (essentially a pre-order), an original illustration by Caroll and an opportunity for a group video chat with Caroll.
WHERE CAN I SEE THIS?
LOTS of people have said that they want to see this in their local theater. We can’t release details yet, but we’re in discussions with several distributors. We promise you this: we’re doing our part to make sure it gets the widest release possible. Of course, for those that want to guarantee they’ll get to see it, the Kickstarter campaign will offer a chance to pre-order the film.
WHO’S MAKING THE FILM?
Copper Pot Pictures is made up of Clay Frost, Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina. Chad & Dave are going to direct and produce together with Clay also on producing duties. You can read more about their background HERE, but know this: they love Muppets (and Dave interned at Sesame Workshop back in the day).
WHAT AM I GOING TO SEE?
Caroll and his wife Deb are amazing archivists. There is no way we can possibly list all the amazing stuff we have here, but some of our favorites that they’ve shared with us include behind-the-scenes footage (shot by Deb) from Follow That Bird, Big Bird in China and A Muppet Family Christmas. The stuff is unreal.
HOW WILL THIS PARALLEL “BEING ELMO?”
We love Being Elmo. The truth is that when we first reached out to Sesame Workshop in June of 2009, the first thing they said to us was that the delightful Constance Marks had already been working on a Kevin Clash documentary for several years. The revelation didn’t deter us. We looked at it, as we do many things, through the lens of a sports analogy. Just because someone made a documentary about Roger Maris doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be one about Mickey Mantle: sure their time in pinstripes overlapped, but their lives, careers and accomplishments were vastly different. We felt the same applied here.
WAIT, WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY CAROLL IS “THE LAST OF THE ORIGINAL SESAME PUPPETEERS?”
Some of the more astute Muppet fans have pointed to the line in our trailer that cites Caroll as the last of the original Sesame Street puppeteers. They cite the work of legends like Fran Brill and Jerry Nelson, both of whom still work with the show, and, of course, Frank Oz, who is synonymous with the Muppets. We are fans of all of their work (and every other name bandied about). But, as filmmakers, we are drawn to the fact that Caroll was one of the three puppeteers on the first season of the show (the other two obviously being Mr. Oz and Jim Henson). Ms. Brill and Mr. Nelson’s tenure began in the second year, so that’s what we meant when referring to “original.” Mr. Oz does still occasionally perform on the show, but, as the Muppet fans surely know, Caroll is a regular performer. Our intent wasn’t to overlook these (and other) remarkable Sesame Street puppeteers, rather, the line in the trailer was meant to be a tip of the cap to Caroll’s Ripken-esque run on the show. But thanks to the fans for keeping us honest!
NOW, A QUESTION FROM US!
Since we started this production, we’ve frequented Muppet message boards and websites–not as posters, just as observers. We know the passion that people feel for Sesame Street. It’s crucial to us that we get this film right. We want to make sure it’s the film that fans want to see. We want to shed new light on Caroll’s remarkable life and show you even more reason to love the man behind the bird. So please, keep emailing us, keep posting questions and let us know what you want to see. We want this to be an interactive process that engages the fans throughout the making of the picture. Get in touch! What do you want to see? Hit us upHERE.