Usually for this site, I’m charged with pointing out offensive things or analyzing the latest stupid comment from this celebrity or that celebrity. That’s why it gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to do the exact opposite, and give you dear readers something to support. And to make the deal even sweeter, the film in question was made by yours truly!
On Friday “Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” opens in a limited theatrical release. The film stars Christopher Lloyd, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Mia Sara, Ethan Embry, Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, Paulie Rojas and Eliza Swenson. You can check out the trailer over atApple Trailers where it was (ahem), in the top five most popular trailers of the week.
Making this movie has been both a labor of love and the most personal and financially trying experience of my life. I’ve been lucky to have a great support system, and a team of people who share the vision and “dare to dream” with me. My producers Chris Campbell and Eliza Swenson have always managed a way to find the time, and the money, to somehow make it happen.
Being the patriotic, all-American guy that I am, I’ve always been bothered by the fact that all the great fantasy films have been set in some nondescript, British location. I have always wanted to see an American “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter.” L. Frank Baum’s world of Oz seemed like a perfect fit.
On top of that, Baum’s books were thinly veiled political allegories.
The bad witches were from the East and West (New York, D.C. and California). The good ones were from the Heartland, the North and South. The heroes were a spunky farm girl from Kansas, a Scarecrow who represented the farming interests of the plains states, and a Tin Man who represented the industrial workers. The Lion was there to symbolize Baum’s preferred presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan, often depicted as a Lion who had a great roar, but lacked the courage to follow through with his bite. Bryan of course, would go on to win the famous Scopes Monkey trial as the lead attorney for the prosecution.
The world of Oz is peppered with other references to economics and politics. The “Silver Slippers,” “Yellow Brick Road” and the “Emerald City” all represented different aspects of the currency debate that took place at the turn of the 20th century. The Wizard of Oz, when finally revealed, is not some great sorcerer or wise sage, but essentially a con artist, a little man hiding behind a curtain. Baum felt that this was typical of most politicians, specifically the president.
And that it is dangerous to put your faith, or too much control, into the hands of men that we do not truly know in far away cities. Any of this stuff sounding familiar?
Ultimately, the moral of the Oz stories revolve around self reliance and the perseverance of the individual. In the book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the main characters go on an adventure to the Emerald City to get what they believe they lack from the Wizard. In the end, they discover that they already possessed the very things they thought they needed. All they had to do was believe in themselves. Again, very appealing subject matter for a guy who yearns for a country based on liberty and self-reliance.
We incorporated a lot of this subtext, and the basic themes of the Oz books, into our film. Dorothy Gale is a successful writer living in Manhattan. Initially, she believes that her popular books based on the world of Oz are just the product of her imagination. She quickly discovers that her books are based on her childhood memories, and that nothing about her life is what she has been led to believe. In the end, she has to look inside to find the answers and defeat the evil that threatens not only her, but our entire world!
Stylistically, we aimed to make the film reminiscent of the great, fun, family-friendly adventures of the 1980s. Basically all those great movies produced by Steven Spielberg at the height of his magic, films like “Gremlins,” “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future.” Plus, we added a little bit of the sass and comedy of “Ghostbusters” (as an inside joke, The Wicked Witch of the West actually lives in “Spook Central”). We cast actors known for their work in that time period, and matched the camera work, musical score, and limited some of our visual effects to make it a perfect complement to my personal favorite era of Hollywood.
The entire film, from the production all the way through the distribution, was completed independently. No studios. No executives. No Hollywood. When it came time to release the films in theaters, we simply picked up the phone and started calling the major chains. And remarkably, they called back! For years, we’ve heard about the changes that the industry would go through due to the advent of digital technology. Since the 1990s, analysts have hypothesized a de-centralized and “democratic” film industry. But few have pushed the envelope. Most filmmakers are so beaten, broke or demoralized by the time it comes to distribution that they end up letting their work get co-opted into the system. But you can’t have a revolution without revolutionaries. So we girded our loins and pressed on into the unknown.
As I mentioned earlier, we need your help. If you live in the Phoenix, Kansas City or Louisville areas, you’re in luck. Beginning this Friday in Phoenix, “Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” begins its theatrical run. If it does well, we will continue to add theaters and expand the release. So, check your local listings, and take the whole family!
The Good Guys have a chance to win here. With even a small amount of success, we will be able to make more films and release them in a similar fashion. We make the films that Hollywood USED to make. The films you want to see!