How Social Media Saved a Movie

As you may know, Donald Miller is the author of the bestseller, Blue Like Jazz. A few years ago, he and a few friends decided they wanted to make a movie based on the book. (Don wrote about this process in his most recent book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.)

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They developed a great script, recruited a stellar cast, and then began the arduous process of raising the money to shoot the film. But soon after they started, the Great Recession hit. Investors got nervous, making the fund-raising process even more difficult than usual.

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After two years of chasing every possible lead, Don announced on his blog on September 16th that the project was dead. Although they had raised a good deal of money, they were still short of the minimum budget they needed to make it happen. It looked like a disappointing end to the story.

But evidently, God wasn’t finished. Neither were Don’s fans.

Two guys from Franklin, Tennessee, Zach Prichard and Jonathan Fraizer, refused to let the movie go. They weren’t investors. They hadn’t even met Don. They were just fans of the book and wanted to see the movie made.

So they got creative.

After a little research, they discovered that that movie could still move forward if they could raise at least $125,000 before October 25. After that, the actors, production crews, and equipment would have to be released for other projects.

They got busy and created a Web site called Save Blue Like Jazz. They used a funding platform for creative projects called Kickstarter. It allows individuals to pledge money toward a project in whatever amount they want. If all the money gets pledged, the project gets funded and moves forward. If it doesn’t, the would-be donors get their money back.

Zach and Jonathan launched their Web site on October 1st. They included the video embedded above. It quickly went viral. People used blogs, Twitter, and Facebook to get the word out. It took on a life of its own. By October 10th, they had raised $125,000.

But they decided to keep going. The movie’s budget was ridiculously low. The $125,000 could get the movie made, but on a shoestring. They thought, If we could raise a little more money, we could really make this movie great. So they kept going.

So far, Zach and Jonathan have raised more than $240,000 This is more than anyone has ever raised using Kickstarter! CNN has picked up the story, as has The Atlantic. Even a producer from The Today Show has called Don.

This is nothing short of a miracle. I am amazed. It shows the incredible impact social media can have when you have a cause that people truly care about.

Today is the last possible day you can donate. The project closes today at midnight. This is your last chance to be part of this incredible movement.

I want to encourage you to do so. Why? I think there are three reasons:

  1. Blue Like Jazz is a great story that makes the Gospel relevant to a generation that largely ignores it.
  2. It is probably the only opportunity mere mortals, like you and I, will have to invest in a Hollywood movie. You can invest as little as $1. For most Hollywood films, the minimum is several hundred thousand.
  3. It provides you with the rare opportunity to make a difference and participate in something historic. Blue Like Jazz is not just a book—or even a movie—it is the story of a generation who is desperate to connect with authentic spirituality.

I think there are lots of lessons here for authors, artists, and other creatives. Sometimes, your dream has to die before it can be resurrected. It is also a wonderful testimony to the power of social media and raving fans, who can—and have—made a difference.

Will you help us make history? If so, click here to donate.

Question: Why do you think people have rallied around this project in such a phenomenal way?
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  • Timothy Fish

    I don’t know why people rallied behind this particular project because I haven’t had much interest in reading the book, but I think fans like to be part of something special. I’m sure they’ll enjoy telling their friends how they helped get that movie made.

    But I would like to ask a silly question. If the book sold 1.3 million copies, how is it that there wasn’t money available to meet a movie budget of $125,000? It makes me wonder if the people behind the book think people won’t actually watch the movie.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The $125,000 wasn’t the movie’s budget. It was what they had left to raise to meet their minimum budget to begin production.

  • Michael

    I think they rallied behind it because of how important the book was/is. I literally had been in the dark and read it last week for the first time. I think Don struck a chord with people because stuff he said is what a lot are thinking…they just hadn’t said it.

    • Vicki Small

      Okay, now I’m hooked; I’ve gotta read the book!

  • Chris Jeub

    Donated $25. Thank you for posting this. It would be great to see this project move forward!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for that. Chris!

  • BarbaraBoucher PTPhD

    Great story, Michael. Thanks for your concluding sentences, too.

  • Phillip Gibb

    This is great.
    Obviously there was an already well established fan base. Most of whom have enjoyed Don’s books. To involve the fans in bringing this project to light is great – everyone want to be a part of something the can relate to. Man I even contributed :)
    Also some of those contribution options were downright funny.

  • Gail Hyatt

    I love the story about how this movie is coming together, ESPECIALLY in light of Donald Miller’s latest book, A Million Miles in A Thousand Years. In A Million Miles he talks about the why and the how of making your life a great story. Here, with the saving of Blue Like Jazz, these elements are being lived out in real life, in real time. Very exciting!! And every bit of it is true. These things really can happen.

  • John Richardson

    Blue like Jazz is a great book. Donald Miller is a great writer. But what got me interested in the project was reading about the whole “story” in A Million Miles In a Thousand Years. If you have read A Million Miles, you know that most of us aren’t telling exciting stories with our lives. But this project is different. This gives each one of us a chance to be a part of an amazing story with just a small donation.
    I can’t wait to see how the project turns out and of course be one of the first in line to see the movie.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. A Million Miles was part 2. I think the making of the movie—particularly the funding—will be part 3!

  • Kerry Dexter

    Blue Like Jazz hasn’t been one of my favorite books, but it has both a wide audience and a defined one — and two dedicated fans who were willing to take some risks to get the word out and ask for help. ask and ye shall receive? I know it is often less straightforward than that, but a lesson in there that’s good for me to remember.

    I like the kickstarter model, too. I’ve a friend who recently raised the funds she needed to complete recording an album that way — it went to the wire on deadline to raise the funds, but she did. she’s mentioned several times that while she is very happy about that, even if it hadn’t succeeded she has felt uplifted by the support she received from those who were able to contribute funds as well as from those who were not able to do that but sent good wishes and passed the word along to others.

  • Gregory Scott

    I think people have rallied because Blue Like Jazz presents a picture of authentic Christianity and not the caricature presented in Hollywood and the media. I loved the book and look forward to the movie.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. It’s about time.

  • ThatGuyKC

    I’m so glad people have banded together to save this film. BLJ was the book that started me down the path of thinking differently about faith, spirituality and what it meant to be Christian.

    I think people have rallied behind this project because it is a book that they connect with on a personal level. It’s hard to have read BLJ without it stirring something within you.

  • Jenny

    I wondered what all those tweets were about, now I know. How cool!

    Loved Blue Like Jazz and though I don’t always agree with some of Miller’s “relationship” blogs, he is right on the money with how to make the gospel relevant to the next generation. Love his heart and his honesty.

    Blue Like Jazz spoke to my heart in a way I needed at a time I needed… I would guess a lot of folks feel the same, which may have something to do w/why they are rallying.

    Plus, folks like to be a part of “saving” type movements :)

  • Renee Swope

    This is incredible!! Loved Blue Like Jazz because it’s so unique. But even better, my 15 yr old son Josh loved it!! He’s such a deep thinker and asks spiritual questions that leave my jaw hanging because I’m amazed by the things he thinks. After reading BLJ Josh said it was the first time he read something spiritual and felt like someone else thinks like he does. So thankful for Don and the impact he’s made on my son’s faith in Christ! And to the rest of these guys for doing this amazing fund raising project! I’ll be gifting my son Josh the incentive so now I need to pray about how much to give. Like Gail said, this is an illustration of the very things Don talks about in A Million Miles.

  • Vicki Small

    I’m not trying to be argumentative; I simply don’t understand why the project will close tonight. Far more than the minimum required has been raised, so why isn’t it already moving ahead?

    As for shoestrings, that’s what we’re on, now, with my mom in an Alzheimer’s facility, so I cannot donate. I hope the movie goes forward, though!

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s two-fold: First, Kickstarter requires a deadline when you set up the project. Second, the production crew and actors have been booked, and they have to move forward with they have collected.

  • Chuck Bryce

    I joined the effort. Michael, can you track back and see what time your post hit and what happenned donation-wise after that? It went up nearly 10k between the time I read your blog then went over and donated.

  • Abby

    I think people have rallied around this project because, if they are like me, they have read and been deeply impacted or moved by the book, and hope that the movie will do the same for people. That’s what I hope. I remember buying “Blue Like Jazz” in college, and everyone was talking about it. I couldn’t put it down. It was the kind of book I wanted to pass on and recommend to people. I am so excited about the movie. Knowing that I can be a small part of it by donating is so cool. Probably a once in a lifetime opportunity! I think God is moving in the hearts of people.

  • Jay

    Somebody needs to alert Malcolm Gladwell. :)

  • Laurinda

    I think it’s cool to be on the ground level of a movie. And when it’s a fan that’s pushing it rather than the author/producer, it doesn’t come off as “I need your money to make me rich.” I’m sure that wasn’t Don Miller’s intention, but that’s how a lot of people take any kind of Christian fund raising.

  • Kyle Reed

    I think one of the main reasons why people got behind this campaign and movie was because they have seen themselves in the book. They recognized the character that Don was talking about and wanted to see it played out on screen. I know for myself I read blue like jazz and said several times, “I know exactly what he is talking about, I feel that way all the time” and so the chance to see the story played out in front of our eyes has to happen.

    BTW, love that you are on the standard framework now and glad to see Intense Debate disappeared :)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Did you find Intense Debate slow? What didn’t you like about it? I am having some withdrawal, though I love Standard Theme.

      • Kyle Reed

        I just didn’t like how it slowed things down on blogs. The only thing I missed was the ability to know that your comment has a response. But i also love the native comment system.
        I just wonder if people subscribe to comments or forget they have even left them?

  • Daniel Decker

    Love this. Been following along since the beginning. I think people have rallied in large part because they believe in the story and because, as momentum builds, we love the Rocky Balboa aspect. Knocked down but able to get back up and come from behind for a win. Most of us crave to be a part of a story like that and when we know we can actively contribute and that we matter, it ignites a dynamic movement that is hard to stop.

  • Tom Martin

    I think initially most who had read & loved A Million Miles saw this opportunity as our personal application to put ourselves in the midst of a bigger story. But nothing goes viral without raving fans & the multiplicity of social media…..and Don’s body of work lends itself to creating passionates who made sure they engaged their network to make sure this movie got made.

  • Cristiane Ferreira

    Michael, thanks for this post. I remember reading a while ago that the movie project was in trouble, but I had no idea about this pledge. Thankfully, I saw your posting today and I had time to submit a contribution.
    BTW, I haven’t read the book yet. I did it for the “cause”. But now, after reading people’s comments about it, I just HAVE to read it!

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  • Kenny Silva

    I spent 30 minutes last Saturday teaching on the power of social media for building a platform, recruiting a community of engaged supporters, and accomplishing real, tangible good in this world. This movie is going to impact a lot of lives in ways that we can’t even begin to quantify. The fact that God was able to move a few to rally many is a testament to the times we’re living in and the incredible tool we have, in social media, to advance Him and His message.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree. It has never been easier to connect with fans—and connect them with one another. Thanks.

  • Dan Johnson

    Certainly there are enough unique elements to this story to get all of our attention and perhaps have a serious impact. But the answer to your question I believe is that there are hundreds of thousands of young adults that are so bored with the media, politics, government…and the church…and this come along and captures their imagination and allows them to create a difference…right now….right here. They are sending us a significant message! Good article!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think they are sending us an important message to. It is a wake-up call. I love the non-traditional message and the funding!

  • Larry Hehn

    I think we all love the feeling we get when we are able to make a contribution to a cause or event that is larger than us as individuals. For me, Blue Like Jazz was a very influential book. It gave me a different perspective on things. To take advantage of an opportunity to pay that forward was a no-brainer. The added incentive of being able to show my name in the credits as an “associate producer” to my children, and eventually my grandchildren, was icing on the cake!

  • Brad

    An excellent example of how great things can be done via the internet and how certain things just “tip”.

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  • Andy Wittwer

    Hey Michael-
    Cool to see you passing this on. I’m surprised you labeled this method of fundraising dead on arrival:
    “It is probably the only opportunity mere mortals, like you and I, will have to invest in a Hollywood movie. You can invest as little as $1. For most Hollywood films, the minimum is several hundred thousand.”
    Seems like we’re moving toward this model, not away.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m not sure I follow your comment. Where did I label it dead on arrival? I think this method of fundraising is awesome, but still very unusual. I think we’re along way from it being the norm. It was an option for Don, because he had an enormous fan base built around the book.


  • Larissa

    It is truly amazing to see what happened as the deadline was reached. I literally was sitting next to my computer, pressing refresh every few minutes, being amazed as the number kept growing bigger and bigger. We all have things that we connect with more then others. This was a book that I connected with, and was grateful to get to support. I have a feeling this is only the begining of this story!

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