Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bijou Game Change

For the past six years the Bijou Team and Festival Films have worked with distinguished classic film industry pros around the country in seeking a network and/or sponsors for the Matinee at the Bijou sequel series. From the outset PBS was aboard to broadcast the series, but only if we could supply the funding.

We have tried pitching other broadcast networks and potential sponsors but rarely even received the courtesy of a response. We have learned this is because Bijou Productions is a small independent production company based in Oregon and thus considered by the major networks and sponsors to be an "unaccredited agency." Therein lies the conundrum that, try as we have, we have thus far failed to overcome. We've concluded that by ourselves we cannot effectively negotiate both the production and the marketing aspects associated with delivering the Matinee at the Bijou sequel series.

Now for some good news! The Cavalry, metaphorically captained by Philip Hopkins, a man with a passion for classic movies himself and co-founder of Film Chest Media Group, has arrived on the scene to save the day. Phil and his Film Chest team have agreed to become our exclusive distributor and manage the marketing aspects, while the Bijou and Festival Films teams concentrate on content creation. Film Chest specializes in the restoration of classic films for broadcast markets, DVD sales and online streaming.     

When we recently announced we were turning to Kickstarter to fund the first 13 episodes of the Bijou series revival, we underestimated the challenge it would pose getting the necessary social media platforms in place in advance of the Kickstarter launch to assure we raise a sufficient budget. In addition to costly HD transfers and film restorations for the many cartoons, shorts, serial chapters and features involved, there are also the costs of film print acquisition, the host and original production sequences, the new theme song and media promotion campaign.

Phil wisely proposed that we first launch a more modest Kickstarter project to raise Bijou awareness while restoring some of the short subject content that can later be integrated into Matinee at the Bijou episodes.  As it turns out, we have been working for some time on developing just such a project in association with Ron Hall and Festival Films called The Edgar Kennedy Show.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign called the Edgar Kennedy Restoration Project to fund the far less costly The Edgar Kennedy Show, we will then return to Kickstarter to seek funding for 13 new HD episodes of Matinee at the Bijou. The Edgar project will gain us Kickstarter experience while simultaneously solidifying the existing Bijou fan base and expanding and stimulating interest among classic film affinity groups everywhere in preparation for the larger Matinee at the Bijou campaign.

Film Chest Media Group recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign of their own for funding film restorations. Phil and his Film Chest team will coach us on our Kickstarter campaigns and upon funding will then oversee the worldwide marketing of The Edgar Kennedy Show and the Matinee at the Bijou revival series.  Success with these first two projects will be followed by a continuing series of original film-based productions from Bijou Productions and Festival Films.

Here is a NATPE 2012 interview with Phil Hopkins and Film Chest co-owner Ralph Stevens discussing their work and their shared passion for preserving and perpetuating classic film content around the world.

Edgar Kennedy was America’s first sitcom star. He played himself in 103 two-reel (16-20 minute) short subjects produced by RKO Radio Pictures between 1931 and 1948. In each short, Edgar is surrounded by a zany dysfunctional family consisting of dizzy wife, meddling mother-in-law and shiftless good for nothing brother-in- law. Sound familiar?

Edgar suffered for all of us in his wacky 2-reel short subjects. His exasperated hand-over-face and trademark "slow burn" gesture epitomizes the frustrations shared by all in an increasingly dysfunctional world. Reminding us that a good belly laugh is always good medicine.

Each short revolves around a typical sitcom plot with Edgar at the center of the action and caught up in domestic discord, a household emergency, or the latest get-rich-quick scheme certain to bankrupt the household ~~ or put one of them in jail. As the tension mounts, Edgar’s pent-up impatience boils over until he finally ignites in anger, and resigns himself to fate by slowly wiping his head and face with his left hand. This symbolic white flag of defeat and “Slow-Burn” made him one of the movies’ most recognizable faces.

Edgar Kennedy has created a character as universally comprehensible as Chaplin’s little clown, and twice as real.” - B.R. Crisler, New York Times.

“Everyone in the business knew Edgar Kennedy was a genius.” - Doris Day

While actress Florence Lake portrayed Edgar's wife in most of "The Average Man" RKO shorts, actress Vivian Oakland played the role numerous times, and Irene Ryan (best known as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies) played Edgar's wife in two shorts. Guest stars also included Lucille Ball and other such sit-com alumnae as Hugh Beaumont (Beaver's dad on Leave it to Beaver) and Walter Brennan (Grandpa on The Real McCoys series).

Each half-hour episode of The Edgar Kennedy Show will feature one of Edgar’s entertaining and timeless short subjects, most of which have not been seen by the general public in over 60 years. Following each short Edgar Kennedy biographer Bill Cassara will moderate a lively reminiscence of Edgar’s remarkable career featuring rare and amusing archival film clips.

Each show will be produced in High Def and the series will be promoted by a comprehensive website and blog, along with a myriad of other Web 2.0 bells and whistles to help stimulate the buzz. Edgar had featured roles in many Our Gang, Laurel and Hardy and Marx Brothers films, whose fans are legion and will surely want to help us restore Edgars cinematic legacy.

Today we are simultaneously launching The Edgar Kennedy Show page on Facebook to gather fans in advance of the Kickstarter campaign later this summer. Please visit and "Like" Edgar on Facebook and get updates on our progress. Consider posting a comment. Then revisit FB for the Edgar Clip of the Week.  A weekly dose of Edgar is sure to tickle your funny bone. Tell your friends and help further spread the word by sharing a photo and link on your own FB page.

Here to whet your appetite for The Edgar Kennedy Show is an unrestored work print of a wacky Edgar short called Hold Your Temper (1943), this one featuring Irene (Granny) Ryan as Edgar's dizzy wife. 


No comments: