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updated: 7/17/2014 10:16 AM

5 questions with actor/director Zach Braff

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  • Director/cowriter Zach Braff said that his Kickstarter campaign to fund his movie "Wish I Was Here" forced him to honor 47,000 promises.

    Director/cowriter Zach Braff said that his Kickstarter campaign to fund his movie "Wish I Was Here" forced him to honor 47,000 promises.

  • Video: "Wish I Was Here" trailer


5 Qs for Zach Braff

Zach Braff is mostly known for the comedy series "Scrubs" and his 2004 directorial debut "Garden State." Now the 39-year-old actor is appearing in Woody Allen's musical "Bullets Over Broadway" and making the PR rounds for his new movie "Wish I Was Here." In Chicago, he answered five questions.

Q. Why so long between "Garden State" and "Wish I Was Here"?

A. I really couldn't get a movie made. I tried. I wanted to make an adaptation of a Danish drama that was moving to me. Then I dove into the studio system for years rewriting a romantic comedy. That kept falling apart. Nobody would finance a movie without a major celebrity. It was so frustrating. I could not get a movie made in this climate. So, we resorted to a Kickstarter campaign to finance our film.

Q. And it worked. How long did it take you to secure enough funding?

A. Our original goal was to make $2 million in a month. I knew the whole budget would be about $5.5 million or $6 million. I knew that with my own money and foreign sales I could finance it if we could raise the $2 million on Kickstarter. We had 47,000 people contribute.

Q. When you finance a movie this way, does it change your attitude as a director?

A. Of course. First and foremost, you have to do right by 47,000 people instead of just one person. Plus, you've got to fulfill 47,000 individual promises. One person gets a T-shirt. One person gets a free screening in Chicago. Another person you said you'd propose their wedding for them. So, you're running a finance campaign while you're trying to make a movie in 26 days. It's an extraordinary amount of work to do.

Q. What drives you?

A. I get to make people laugh. Whether it's telling Woody Allen jokes on Broadway or I'm sitting in the back of a movie theater listening to audiences watch my film. I get to make people laugh. Nothing brings joy to my life more than that.

Q. Do you think you've succeeded with "Wish I Was Here"?

A. I tried this giant experiment in crowdfunding to make a movie that I thought was true to the script my brother and I wrote. I'll do anything I can to tell the story, and it's so incredibly hard to tell it well. But I'll keep trying until they put me in the ground.

Film critics notebook:

• The Chicago Film Critics Assn. hosts a special screening of "Saturday Night Fever," the 1977 classic that made TV star John Travolta a movie phenomenon, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at the Studio Movie Grill, 301 Rice Lake Square, Wheaton. Tickets cost $2. CFCA member and Arlington Heights native Collin Souter will introduce the film and conduct a post-show Q & A session. Go to or (Trivia note: late film critic Gene Siskel bought Travolta's white disco suit for $2,000 at auction. Years later, he sold it for more than $50,000.)

• The Fifth Annual Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival cranks up with James Ward Byrkit's science-fiction drama "Coherence" at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 20, at the Star Cinema Grill, 53 S. Evergreen Ave., Arlington Heights. The festival runs through July 27 (with an awards dinner). Movies and events also will be at the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, 150 E. Wood St., Palatine, and at Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St., Palatine.

A full festival pass costs $70; weekend pass $20; evening screenings $8; 4 p.m. showings $5. Go to for schedules and tickets.

• The Silent Film Society of Chicago's Silent Summer Film Festival continues every Thursday night through Aug. 21 at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge. Movies begin at 7:30 p.m. with preshow events scheduled at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $9 per show. Fest passes available.

"Woman in the Moon" (1929) plays July 24. "The Whispering Chorus" (1918) plays July 31. "Robin Hood" (1922) plays Aug. 7. "The Lucky Devil" (1925) plays Aug. 14. "The Wedding March" (1928) plays Aug. 21. Go to for more information.

• Dann Gire's Reel Life column runs Fridays in Time out! Follow Dann on Twitter at @DannGireDHFilm.

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