SOLDIER, the latest project by Justin Zimmerman’s Bricker-Down Productions, looks to tell the story of a real-life superhero, down to his experiences with post-combat post-traumatic stress disorder. Justin, the director, is turning to Kickstarter not only to help fund it, but to draw the audience into the journey alongside him and his team.
We had a chance to sit down with Justin to chat a bit about the Kickstarter, which is live today and can be found right here.
Katie Cardwell: How did you meet Daniel, and what made you both decide to tell his story?
Justin Zimmerman: I believe I met Daniel when I was teaching at the Willamette Writers Conference in 2018. I was brought in to talk about script and comic writing, and Daniel attended a couple of my courses. His essays really blew me away, and he enjoyed my teaching approach, so we kept in touch.
One of the first real memories I have of Daniel outside of class was meeting up at my local coffee shop to talk about his plans for writing a comic. In the middle of the meeting, he got a text that one of his friends had driven off a cliff on his motorcycle. This was not an isolated incident in his experience, and right there it all came together for me. The weight of this stuff. The extent of these losses. I mean, Daniel has a list of almost 100 folks who are no longer with us that he knew from the field. That’s a story that needs to be told. But it took me a little while to figure out how to tell it.
What inspired you to start this project?
It’s interesting, because I had to work to get here. Now, my MFA is in Film and I’ve been directing for almost 20 years. Daniel was really interested in me checking out his burgeoning armored combat team, a visual spectacle if ever there was one. And I kept circling around the topics of trauma and loss. I couldn’t quite make it all fit.
I’m going to be very honest with you here. On December 4th, my first dog, Buddy, a love of my life, was put to sleep. He was 13 years old and he lived the best life a dog could live. But I was broken. Just so unbelievably sad.
I couldn’t sleep, so I would get up at 3 in the morning and just walk in the dark. I cried the first half of my travels, but then cold and clarity would set in, and I could simply think. Though this happened for weeks, it was just a couple days after Bud passed that it all became clear. “Just bring the two worlds together, and focus squarely on Daniel.” Another gift from Bud, I think. In essence: I could use Daniel’s amazingly visual life to compliment his personal journey. And through his eyes, I could begin to understand this larger world of conflict and loss his friends were experiencing too.
I called Daniel up and he said yes and thank you. I called up some of my extended Bricker-Down Productions family – Tory, Scott, Jordan, Brandon, Matt and more – and they said yes and let’s go. So, here we are!
If you had to distill what you’re hoping to convey through this film into a couple sentences, what would they be?
SOLDIER is an explosive documentary about a modern-day superhero: firefighter, former sniper, amateur MMA champion, father of five… and PTSD survivor.
Why have you turned to Kickstarter to help fund this project?
I’ve headed up multiple successful Kickstarter projects in the comic realm, but never in the world of film. And SOLDIER is, to me, the perfect project for crowdfunding. It’s a containable project that still has a ton of exciting visual possibilities. It’s going to be a journey – heck, it’s already BEEN a journey – that people will want to follow. And that’s the coolest thing about Kickstarter. It’s not just a way to collect money, it’s a way to invite the audience to see the behind-the-scenes of actual creation.
And while I’m writing grants and all that fun stuff, I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t even wait on the Kickstarter. EVERYTHING we shot for the three videos was in 4K. Every moment of sound was professionally recorded with multiple microphones. Thousands of pictures and old video moments have been archived. We even have two shoots scheduled before the Kickstarter ends.
I need help to make the film I want to make. But I’m leading the charge, and I hope I made my case. I’m a show don’t tell person, so I hope everyone enjoys the Kickstarter Intro, Septic, and Fight videos.
What are your hopes for the final film, once the project is done?
First, I want to make a film we can all be proud of. That’s exciting and captivating and intense and helpful and true. Second, I want it to be finished by the time film festivals open up again in 2022. I want it to be showcased on the big screen, where it belongs. Third, I want it to answer a number of questions I have, because that’s why I direct. I find something I need to know, and then I work as hard as I can to learn.
But mostly, I hope folks find the project through Kickstarter and decide to back us. Because we have a lot of work to do before SOLDIER is done, and I’m so excited to be making this film. Onward!
Be sure to support Justin, Daniel, and Bricker-Down Productions by checking out the Kickstarter and pledging today!