Calling All Film Music Geeks!! ScoreKeeper Exalts The Ginormously Stupendous Documentary FINDING KRAFTLAND!!
Published at: May 10, 2007, 11:12 p.m. CST by merrick
Greetings! ScoreKeeper here trumpeting a splendiferous new feature documentary that is sure to indulge hoards of movie music fans and film geeks galore.
FINDING KRAFTLAND (2007) is the feature film directorial debut of Hollywood film music super-agent Richard Kraft. An unapologetic geek of movies and their music, Kraft’s client list reads like a Hollywood Who’s Who of A-list film scoring stars, many of whom are recruited to participate in Richard’s leap into the director’s chair.
Accompanied by his teenage son Nicky, Richard embarks on an adventure of near irresponsible proportions to recapture his own childhood through amusement park rides, zero-gravity simulations, maniacally obsessive collecting, and the brazen transformation of their home into “Kraftland.”
The film begins with a kaleidoscopic credit sequence. From there we’re introduced to an orgy of toys and movie memorabilia from films including MARS ATTACKS! (1996), THE SIMPSONS (1989 - ), GREMLINS (1984), WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971), the Oscar winning animated short film FERDINAND THE BULL (1938), and all things pertaining to Mr. 007 himself, James Bond.
Among the crown jewels in Richard’s collection is an original stop-motion puppet from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993); the one that bellows “I am the one hiding under your stairs. Fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair.” He also owns the original lyrics and a treatment written by the Sherman Brothers for MARY POPPINS (1964) which Richard acknowledges as his first cinematic experience. But the crown itself is surely the “holy grail of movie collectables” suspended above his staircase; Pee-wee Herman’s original bicycle from PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE.
His collection doesn’t just focus on toys and movie memorabilia. He tours a bathroom filled with cartoon-characterized bubble bath bottles aligned neatly along multiple shelves like an infantry division of giant Pez dispensers. There are rooms full of retro food packages, fast food paraphernalia, advertising novelties, and stacks from floor to ceiling of vintage board games. One couldn’t possibly forget his collection of 1960’s period tampons…or in this case I should probably just reuse the word “vintage”.
Hoarding trinkets and doohickeys is small potatoes compared to the meticulous art of collecting authentic Disneyland ride vehicles. Among Richard’s prized rides is a forty foot keel boat from Tom Sawyer’s Island, a flying Dumbo vehicle suspended from his living room ceiling, a Mr. Toad car in the library, and a thirty foot serpent from Submarine Voyage out by the pool.
Richard fanfaronades about his heart warming collection of authentic advertising personalities. The menacing cowlick and cherubic smile of the Bob’s Big Boy statue in Richard’s foyer would send most mortals screaming for their lives. His life-sized Colonel Sanders on the other hand, is a delightful ray of sunshine that warms the soul like a twelve-hour heat lamp.
Finally, there is the flagship of his collection; the many thousands upon thousands of score soundtrack albums constructing a vinyl cocoon around his office which I hear protects him from nuclear fallout. Many of these soundtracks were composed by Richard’s childhood heroes including Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Georges Delerue, and Henry Mancini, who eventually became his clients.
The hour long documentary features interviews from many of Richard’s famous clients including Danny Elfman, John Ottman, Christophe Beck, Graeme Revell, Jon Brion, Alan Menken, and Trevor Rabin. Marc Shaiman highlights the film with an uproariously hilarious Broadway style ditty roasting Richard and the maddening world of film music.
This five minute soliloquy set to the tune of “Holiday for Strings” introduces us to a darker side of Richard as Shaiman exclaims prophetically that “…he’d rather fuck a pig than see James Horner get a gig.” When Shaiman confronts his own monstrous schedule he exasperatingly professes “…I won’t work in groups like Hanzy Zimmer and his troops” and laments his agent always answers “Yes!”
In addition to the composers interviewed in the film, Kraft and his partner Laura Engel represent many other major film composers including John Barry, Devotchka, Philip Glass, Maurice Jarre, Alexandre Desplat, Javier Navarrete, Rachel Portman, John Powell, Ed Shearmur, Alex Wurman, and Aaron Zigman.
Richard spares no expense when confessing his most intimate personal experiences like when he was deflowered in the office of a movie theater while John Williams’ music for SUPERMAN (1978) bled through the wall of an adjacent theater, or bickering with his wife over his wanton lust for a Pretzel Jetzel, or revealing his own mad desire to will his own skull to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
There are a fair number of films sporting one-sheets designed by uber-artist Drew Struzan, but how many films can boast different movie posters created by Struzan, Matthew Peak, and Jack Davis of MAD Magazine fame?
If this film were only about a geek and his toys it would almost certainly capture my full attention for the complete hour. In fact this movie offers so much more than that. At the heart of this documentary is a story about a father’s love for his son. Whether it’s riding the latest roller-coaster or acquiring the latest plastic knick-knack to complement a collection, their experiences together hallmark a relationship that is as inspirational as it is meritorious.
Amidst this whacked out celebration of life, there’s a darker facet to the film that Kraft would be remiss to ignore. A major catalyst behind Richard making FINDING KRAFTLAND was the loss of his brother David to a rare and incurable disease he battled since childhood. Deep within the core of Richard’s passion for life lies the most valuable message of the film. It’s through the discovery of this message that audiences will learn to define within themselves the boundaries of mortality and sketch the blueprints towards their own joie de vivre (joy of everything).
In his first filmmaking endeavor, Richard Kraft has successfully achieved a very difficult task in documentary filmmaking. Along with his co-director, Adam Shell, they have created a niche film that appeals to an unabridged audience. This is not just a film for movie music lovers, nor is it merely a film for obsessive toy collectors, thrill seekers, or cinema addicts. It’s a film about life and why it’s imperative to love it. It’s this approach which makes it universally attractive.
Richard warns us early in the film that spending 365 days in Kraftland would equate to approximately 365 days worth of therapy.
Your warning has been duly noted.
Now let me in!
I had a chance to speak briefly with Richard Kraft about his experiences making FINDING KRAFTLAND.
ScoreKeeper: Lots of people want to make films but few actually take the steps to actually do it. What was the one thing that propelled you to take that crucial first step?
Richard Kraft: The thing that propelled me was a deadline. I knew I was going to have a huge birthday party for my son's sixteenth and wanted to do something special. Once I locked on the idea of making a film for the party I committed to my "release date" and then slammed into production. Declaring to the world that you are really going to do something makes you a lot more accountable.
SK: Who wrote Marc Shaiman’s song? It’s pure comedic genius! Where can I buy the single?
RK: Marc Shaiman wrote the lyrics. It is based on a great old song by David Rose called "Holiday for Strings." It is available for viewing on my website (www.findingkraftland.com).
SK: Where has FINDING KRAFTLAND screened? Has it picked up any accolades?
RK: It premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It has subsequently screened
elsewhere including the Newport Beach International Film Festival. My favorite screening so far has been at the Sonoma Film Festival where I invited the entire audience to join us after the screening at a great local five-and-dime store called, Tiddle E. Winks. Everyone was literally treated like a kid in a candy store stuffing their faces and having a great time. I have not picked up any official accolades but I have met incredible people at every screening and remained in touch with them.
(ScoreKeeper’s note: Since this interview, FINDING KRAFTLAND was selected to screen this summer at SONCINEMAD 2007 in Madrid, Spain and at the BSO Spirit International Film Music Conference in Ubeda, Spain. For more information visit http://www.soncinemad.com/)
SK: Is there any plan for distribution? Where could one hope to see the film in the future?
RK: No plans for a commercial release. This is basically a very overproduced home movie showing at a few film festivals. It has no commercial intentions which is one of the things I love best about it.
SK: What has making this film taught you about yourself?
RK: A lot. First, it reconnected me to memories of my family. It encouraged my creative side. It pushed me to be a better collaborator.
SK: There's a lot of footage in this film. Some of it shot recently and some of it collected from old home movies. How many hours of footage would you say your poured over and assembled into its one hour running time?
RK: There was about 50 hours of newly shot footage and about 20 hours of home movies and other archival footage. So about 70 hours of footage was condensed into an hour.
SK: Any more filmmaking endeavors on the horizon for you?
RK: First of all, I still love being a film music agent. It is my great passion. Getting to work with so many of my favorite composers is such a thrill and an honor. In my afterhours I am thinking about my new creative pet project tentatively titled, WHY LIFE DOESN’T SUCK: A CINEMATIC SYMPHONY. I want to do it in collaboration with other filmmakers around the world to celebrate the joys and wonder of being alive.
SK: What's next for you? How about one of those Russian space flights?
RK: My travel agent is trying to push me towards a $200,000 space flight. Shockingly, I'm not even considering it. I think working as an agent and playing with filmmaking is a much bigger adventure.
SK: What’s the one thing atop your wish list for Kraftland? What do you get the guy who has everything?
RK: I am jonesing for a Disneyland ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) caterpillar-mobile. I love that guy. He is so smug and dripping with distain as he drags you across giant metal leaves.
SK: What cool things have come about because of making FINDING KRAFTLAND?
RK: It has given me a better appreciation of the kinds of pressures my clients constantly go through and filmmaking in general. It has become yet another experience to share with my son. And it has given me the chance to achieve two life goals. First, to be profiled in “Geek Monthly” (we are in the current issue #4) and second, to be interviewed on Ain’t It Cool News! What more could a film nerd dream of?
If you’d like more information regarding FINDING KRAFTLAND, check out the official web site at www.findingkraftland.com.
On behalf of Ain’t It Cool News I’d like to thank Richard Kraft for taking the time to speak with me and we wish he, his son Nicky, and FINDING KRAFTLAND great success in the months to come.
And don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted...