A documentary about the quest to become a Lego Master is this week’s Certified Film Threat in Progress. Filmmaker Jan Bednarz took some time to run the customary gauntlet of questions about his proposed documentary, “The 10th Lego Master,” currently looking for funding support on IndieGoGo…
Tell me about yourself: who are you, how long have you been making films?
My name is Jan Bednarz… well that’s a lie. My real name is Jan-Paul Bednarz, but i figured a double barrelled forename looks pretentious. However, it does serve me well when I deem it appropriate to identify my sex. I’m a musician, turned animator, turned documentary filmmaker, who for the last ten years has been freelancing in the TV industry here in the UK. I’ve made factual entertainment, and brand funded content too, but my passion is for pure documentary content. Some might say I’ve moved from manipulating plasticene, to manipulating people… but I strenuously deny the claim. Last year I started Buzz Films off the back of a NIKE funded documentary project, and am now developing a number of factual projects for an international audience.
This is the story of Duncan Titmarsh, as he bids to become the 10th Lego Master! There are only nine Lego professionals in the world, and Duncan is planning on becoming the tenth. We’ll follow his journey, whilst exploring the world of the AFOL (adult fan of Lego), as well as some of the wild and weird ways artists are choosing Lego as their preferred medium to express themselves.
What makes someone a Lego Master? What requirements must be met?
I’ve been creative with this title, as officially these are Lego Professionals – people that have turned their hobbies into a full time job. It is Lego themselves that decide who has the right skills to become one of this elite group, and the process to become one, is one of the stories that we will be exploring. Lego say they are decided by not only their building proficiency, but their enthusiasm for the brick, and their approach towards other Lego fans and the broader public.
Who are the other Lego Masters?
They are all very different… from Dirk Denoyelle, a flemish comedian specialising in Lego portraits, to Beth Weis in the US who uses Lego to help people on the Autistic spectrum. The others are equally as interesting, and have all found their own particular niche. Some build huge models of real buildings, others are creating micro models as art. In addition to this group, the world is also churning out fascinating ways in which Lego is being used, and we aim to tap into this global resource and find more interesting case studies and works of art. Lastly, we’ll be travelling to the birth place of the brick in Denmark, and discovering a town that’s had to live with the legacy. Whilst it’s celebrated, for obvious reasons, I’ve read stories that some residents are keen to disassociate themselves, and remind us of their other attractions… there’s more to Lego in Denmark! This is tongue in cheek of course, but I can’t help finding it funny… sort of the ‘dark side of Lego’.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
Most of my ideas are born of a mildly autistic need to explore the internet, and whilst researching ideas for a fun feature documentary, I discovered this elite club of Lego professionals. My natural instinct was to find out more about them, and having called Lego HQ in Europe, got a few leads that lead me to Duncan in the UK. The guy is a builder by trade… I sensed there was something in the story!
Where are you filming?
We’re starting in the UK, and hope to visit all of the professionals in the world. The trip will take us to the US, as well as all across Europe, and finally into Asia.
When do you start filming? How long do you intend to shoot?
Independent documentary development is a frustrating process of juggling funding deadlines, and researching opportunities that will kickstart the production. I’ve been very aware of lots of successful case studies where producers have done this through crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding, and I thought this subject matter was of global interest. We’ve only just put the project up on Indiegogo.com to start generating a buzz, and hope to get moving by the end of the year.
What format/type of camera are you using for this film?
I love my EX1, and have been using a tapeless format for a few years now. The EX1 shots HD, but is portable and unobtrusive. It’s perfect for my style of shooting… I really like to get close to contributors, and where possible keep crew to an absolute minimum. I’ve also been playing with the DSLRs, but I’m kinda sick of all the pretty timelapses, and at present, the camera isn’t at all friendly for the observational documentary director.
What problems/concerns do you already have or potentially foresee for the film?
My main concern is that the film might actually be the 12th Lego Master unless we get seed funding soon. But in all honesty, I think this is ok, as the idea runs deeper than Duncan’s story alone, and there are a number of funny angles I’m hoping to explore.
Why did you decide to crowdfund your film?
As mentioned, I think everyone has a place for Lego in their heart… it’s a unique product in that sense. Crowdfunding the start of this has many benefits, but most of all it’s about generating a community. Like all projects, this is scalable. We’d love to have supporting materials on the internet that encourages participation, and provide a place for people to share their stories, and although some stories are quite niche, this is a subject that everyone has an opinion on.
Do you have other financial resources or investors in place beyond the crowdfunding?
Like I said, these things are painfully slow sometimes. We set a target of $5000 on Indiegogo as this will help fund a trailer to then take to international festivals. The trailer itself is a tool to help sell the idea to all the international territories. Next month we’ll be at Sheffield Documentary Festival in the UK where we hope to start this process.
Why did you choose IndieGoGo and not Kickstarter or another crowdfunding solution?
I’ve got friends who’ve tried Indiegogo, and I like the interface too, but at the time I posted it up, Kickstarter wasn’t an option for UK based filmmakers anyway as you have to have a US address.
Where is the crowdfunded money going: production budget, travel expenses, post-production, etc?
The $5000 will go someway to help fund the trailer. As mentioned earlier, we’d ideally like to be visiting all of the existing professionals to be able to get a rounded portrait of who our key characters are. Although this won’t entirely cover our costs, we’re just as appreciative of input from individuals as we begin to build a community around the film. We’re being ambitious with the film, and want to produce a feature length production with the intention of a theatrical release. Alongside the Indiegogo adventures, we’re looking to source deals with brands, and foundations that might also assist us with the production.
One of the coolest components of crowdfunding campaigns is the list of different incentives that the investors/donators get depending on their investment/donation. What are some of your incentives?
We’ve been quite traditional with this. Small investments are generally repaid with eternal gratitude and love, but we are offering larger sums in return for a DVD upon completion as well as screen credits. Over the next few months, I’ll be racking my brains for other ways to tempt people too! Maybe your readers could offer us suggestions?
If you do not hit your financial crowdfunding goal, what then? Do you still film the movie?
Yes… I REALLY want to make this film. However, the time it takes to actually do this would be reduced by the generosity of fellow Lego lovers.
In a perfect scenario, where are you and your film a year from today?
I’d like to be introducing the film at it’s premiere, with a pocket full of Lego to throw at the audience.
Why should someone give your production money? Why does “The 10th Lego Master” need to be made?
I’m not very comfortable ASKING for money, but I think some people would just like to get involved as the film unfolds. I myself have done this for other productions, and for the price of a beer, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling in the knowledge I helped them along their way. This film NEEDS to be made as an antidote to all the doomsday documentaries… I wanted to make something that makes an audience smile, and I think Lego may hold the answer.
If you’d like to know more about “The 10th Lego Master,” or we didn’t ask all the questions you’ve got, go ahead and comment below or head over to the “The 10th Lego Master” IndieGoGo page and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at Jan Bednarz’s “The 10th Lego Master.”
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