I got in contact with U of I alum James Moore about the music documentary he and his friends made as they took a 5,000 mile road trip called Can I Sing You a Song?
Having a fairly obvious theme, they loaded up in a car and drove from city to city singing and playing songs to strangers they met along the way.
Smile Politely: Besides yourself, who else was involved in the making of Can I Sing You a Song? and what was the inspiration for making it?
James Moore: Myself, filmmaker Jimmy Kurzawa, and photographer Wade Stofko went on the trip. We had a lot of help along the way and during post-production as well. To name a few: Nick Morelli, Peter Knudsen, Jake Snyder, Stephen Shirk, Tim Pierzchala, Mitch Dinello, the Riebe Family, and of course Mama Kurz who lent us her car. I'm definitely forgetting some people, my point is though we had a ton of support.
The inspiration for making it was kind of a combination of things. First, we made a "prototype" for CISYAS last May or June. Jimmy and I had the day off from work and wanted to make the most of it. Our objective was to create something that day that would benefit both our creative careers. I came up with the idea to walk up and sing to people hanging out in public places and Jimmy was crazy enough to run with it. Later that summer Jimmy was talking about trying to go on a road trip to make a documentary, that's when we came back to the idea of Can I Sing You a Song? It was a perfect storm.
SP: What were your backgrounds? Were you always involved in music? What about during your time at U of I?
Moore: Jimmy and Wade both studied their respective fields in universities. I was in grade school and high school band, but I've learned most of what I know about music from my dad. He came over to America to play music about 40 years ago and has been playing ever since. As you can imagine, music has been a pretty big part of my life.
At U of I, I got into the music scene because of a show at the Canopy Club called Piano Man. At the time, the show was this one guy who played piano, sang old classics, and partied with the crowd. In the middle of my sophomore year though, he up and quit. Canopy Club was looking for a replacement so I decided to try out. The couldn't really make me the Piano Man since I didn't play piano but the management liked me so they made me the opener for the show. I was a part of that show in one way or another until I graduated in 2014.
SP: What were the goals in mind when making this documentary?
Moore: We each kind of had our own goals at the start. Jimmy wanted to make a documentary, Wade wanted to build his portfolio, and I wanted more content to support my music career. After our first day though we reevaluated what the trip was going to be. We decided it had to be more about telling a story, we didn't know what the story would become but we knew how we wanted it to feel. In the end, we found that this was a story about chasing your dreams, going out and trying to make it in whatever way you can. We hope that when people watch this maybe they can work up the courage to go out and do something they've been too afraid to do up til now. At the very least we hope that they are entertained by it and maybe had a few laughs with us along the way.
SP: This was a road trip, was there a specific destination in mind or do you just start heading in one direction?
Moore: I personally only contributed three cities to the itinerary, Jimmy was the mastermind behind the rest of the stops. I had friends in Portland I'd been wanting to visit for a while then had gigs booked in Butte, MO and St. Paul, MN.
SP: How long did this trip last?
Moore: The trip was 12 days long and we drove about 5,000 miles
SP: What were some of the challenges along the way, both in terms of making the film and the actual road trip?
Moore: In terms of the actual road trip I'd say the balance of driving, working, and sleeping was the most challenging. We had a couple 15 hour driving days in there, those days took a toll on us both mentally and physically. In terms of making the film I'd say the hardest thing was figuring out the best way to tell the story we wanted with the tools we had at our disposal. We had 20 hours of footage from the trip, hundreds of photos, and dozens of performances we wanted to fit in. After we decided how we wanted the story to play out it became a matter of deciding what to cut and what to keep. There was also the challenge of telling parts of the story that we didn't have on film.
SP: Were there any huge takeaways from going on a journey like this?
Moore: For me it was mostly a confidence booster. Going into the trip I was half terrified of the sheer size of the endeavor. The amount of work that had to be put in during the trip alone was daunting, never mind the amount of post production work we had to do to make it into something consumable. After 10 months of working on this and finally finishing it I feel fucking great haha
SP: How did the making of this documentary affect your personal life?
Moore: Fiscally I was hurting a little bit after taking two weeks off of work to film it but otherwise it hasn't really. My family and friends have been very supportive.
SP: Is this something that you think will inspire other films/creations or more of a one time thing?
Moore: I hope it inspires other people to follow through with their own endeavors, especially in nontraditional fields like film and music. We've also talked about a "season two" for Can I Sing You a Song?, I don't think we'll revisit that until we finish up with the release of this season though
SP: How were/will you be funded? When will the series be released and on what platform?
Moore: We funded the entire thing ourselves actually, we are certainly open to funding though if any channels out there are interested. We will release the series on Jimmy's Channel on Youtube July 6th.