Ben Powell has raised more than twice his original Kickstarter goal of $10,000 for a documentary on Phil Collins’ obsession with the Alamo. “Phil Collins and the Wild Frontier” follows Mr. Collins on a 5-day tour as he answers questions about his Alamo collection and his retirement from music. This film is about celebrity culture. By observing the impact his music career has on his life and the more painful realities of being a celebrity, what unfolds is an examination of mankind’s obsession with artifacts. Mr. Collins, a man absorbed in a collection of objects from a bygone era, is himself a relic of 80’s pop culture and objectified by his stardom.
AMFM: What are you planning to do with the film once it’s completed?
BEN: Obviously take the festival route and see where that takes us. Its going to be around 20 minutes, a short documentary.
AMFM: How did this all come about?
BEN: I was hired by a company in Abilene TX to photograph a book they were publishing, “The Alamo and Beyond: the Collector’s Journey.” Mr Collins wanted to write about his collection and needed proper documentation of his artifacts for his book. When the book was finished he would take it on the road and introduce it to locals in Texas, so it was a Texas book tour. We went to all the major cities, and I went along because I was interested in the idea of going on a tour and documenting it from beginning to end. That at least gave me an arc to the story, and I was basically granted complete access to shoot whatever part of the tour I wanted.
AMFM: What makes this different from a reality show, or permformative documentary?
BEN: It’s not like reality shows at all, personally I find it hard to digest all that information and be OK with being told exactly when and what I’m supposed to feel like in a particular moment. The sort of back and forth between the camera and the talking head, where its supposedly like a real moment and then you have commentary to direct you where to look at. During both shooting and editing I was definitely interested in not having in formal sit down interviews. I also tried to not interact with with the whole tour and just tried to shoot it as it happened, so I could tell it in a way that it would be a linear story.
AMFM: So it’s a “Fly on the Wall” template, an Observational documentary?
BEN: This is just a different approach. I’m interested in -those- different kinds of films. Back to people like Frederick Wiseman and people who have carved their own style of storytelling. I feel that reality TV blends that style with a more scripted and polished approach.
As far as how it’s shot, leaving in a few of those mistakes, and moments that happen either with the camera movement or with people I’m shooting add to the reality of situations and make for strange or even uncomfortable scenes.
I didn’t photograph Phil Collins as much as following a character and the people around and it was more about that actual event over 5 days than it was about this person who has a past. The movie is about the experience over the 5 days. It’s getting to know Texas in 2012 more so than it is getting to know Phil Collins. It’s pretty much in chronological order.
BEN: DIY approaches to the film industry are unbelievable, I’m so excited about the possibility about being able to sell a short film. That market doesn’t really exist. It’s so difficult to make a feature film when you’re by yourself and you haven’t made a film or you don’t have any funding. Making shorts is I feel like the future of web content – The intimacy and the accessibility of it. One of the goals of the Kickstarter campaign was to be able to build an audience for this particular story. After it’s finished, they can actively help spread the word about the film they helped make and hopefully we can reach an even bigger audience that way.” Let’s see where it goes. To create a market where I can take something I’ve worked on, put time into and package it into a DVD and say “Here ya go.”
Who’s working on this with you? Matt Bryan has contributed original music, a sound track to the trailer, and Ryan Gould is the editor.
AMFM: Congratulations on reaching your goals, and good luck with your project.