Sep 24

0a2v6533After the location scouts, the investigations of the riders and intense research, including watching user clips on youtube, digging into the Ragbrai website, connecting with past riders on Facebook and reading a book called “Ragbrai: Everyone Pronounces It Wrong” written by John Karras one of the founders of Ragbrai, I started to envision what elements we need to capture to create a rounded and complete portrait of Ragbrai. Narrowed it down? Well sort of.

I decided that Ragbrai is an alchemical concoction–that the magic of the ride results from the combination of the rides unique aspects. So, in order to truly capture Ragbrai we would have to capture0a2v6517 these aspects combining to give our audience a taste of the magic.

It seemed to me that the elements of the magical potion that creates Ragbrai are:

Bicycles, up to 20,000 of them.
Iowa, the actual physical ride extending over 400 miles across the state of Iowa
Iowa, the small towns, 9 host towns and over 20 along the way
Iowa, the small town folk, 100’s of them
Bike riders from all parts of the country and world up for an getaway adventure, up to 20,000 of them
The support folk, vendors, bike shops, musical acts, volunteers, police, medics, etc., I don’t know… thousands?

I share my alchemical notion with my producers and with the documentary’s investor. Everyone agreed with this approach. Great. They like it. Phew. Now, back to earth. How do cover all of this? It’s pretty vast. And it’s a moving target. And it’s non-stop 24 hours a day. And there some insanely crazy challenges like:

No motorized vehicles on the road.
Insane sound hurdles (Have you ever been in a crowd of thousands, closed your eyes and listened?)
Multiple subjects, doing different things, in different places, simultaneously.
Long lines everywhere especially for everything including food and bathrooms.
Limited sleeping accommodations.
Crew size determined by modest documentary budget.
Equipment determined by modest documentary budget.

So how do we do this maximizing potential for success?


Sep 24

Lily Allen to Star in Neil LaBute Play in LONDON

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Today’s Filmaka Jury tidbit for all……

Lily Allen Thinking.....

Lily Allen Thinking.....

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Sep 23


All Content, Industry Insiders, Interviews Comments Off on BILL PULLMAN BROADWAY BOUND…

Filmaka Jury member, Bill Pullman, is about to open on Broadway in OLEANNA.  This David Mamet play also stars Julia Stiles.  Here’s a interview with Bill and Julia talking about Broadway, David Mamet and acting…..

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Sep 21

Werner Herzog Book Contest

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Could this be yours? Stay tuned to find out!

Hey everyone its Nicole from Filmaka here. We got a huge response for the Werner Herzog book! Thanks so much for your interest. The contest is now officially closed. So sorry!

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep checking the blog however. If you have looked around, you know that the Filmaka blog is kept up to date with all our announcements, and tales of our filmmakers. If you have an exciting filmmaking adventure to share please email us at to be featured on the blog. So please read, comment, and become active in the community!

Sep 21

Logan the Weimeraner Visits Filmaka

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Filmaka's newest employee, Logan

Hey, this is Jason. No, it wasn’t Take Your Dog To Work Day but my three year old weimeraner Logan recently spent the day at Filmaka. After spending the first half hour sniffing unfamiliar surroundings and terrorizing our designer Ryan, Logan settled into his comfy bed by my desk. Like our blue wall? Anyway, he had a peaceful day except for when the UPS delivery guy and the mailman interrupted his sleep. This test proved to be a success so Logan, no doubt, will be returning to the office soon.

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Sep 18
Filmaka Jury Member WERNER HERZOG

Filmaka Jury Member WERNER HERZOG

Filmaka Jury member, Werner Herzog, recently published his personal account of the making of his ground breaking movie Fitzcarraldo.  We have a limited amount of SIGNED copies only for Filmaka member’s.  Please send your email to to qualify.

This is a special opportunity for our community to celebrate Mr. Herzog’s best selling book.

Thanks and keep checking the Filmaka blog for more exclusive opportunities and info!


Boats, mountains, crazy celebrities! This book has everything!

Sep 16

On the Road with Varda Hardy PT. 6: Getting to know you

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caleClose to 20,000 bike riders participate in Ragbrai. So how did we find our subjects? Before I was brought on board, Susie & Talia two of the producers on the project had already launched into the search for subjects . They were given access to the list of 10,000 “official” riders who had signed up with the Iowa Register for the ride. (Because of carla5certain legal restrictions due to safety, etc. only 10,000 riders are officially allowed to participate Ragbrai. The remainder of the riders participate “off the record”).

The producer’s sent an e-mail out to all the official riders asking them if chris3they would be willing to participate in the documentary. Those riders who expressed interest in being in the documentary were then sent a basic questionnaire and asked to complete it. From the questionnaire, Talia and Susie narrowed the thousand plus submissions down to 150. They sent me the list of their top 150 choices. I looked themeric-in-green-shirt-23 over and put in my two cents.

I had learnt that there were “types” of riders, so I wanted to make sure that we were “representing” the breadth of unique Ragbrai riders. The types we pinpointed were: people who ride in teams and participate for james-3_3the team dynamic, party goers who are into the party aspect of the ride, people riding for a cause and people riding for the athletic challenge.

Crazy as it sounds, for me, each of my productions is a search for knowledge and understanding. I enter into a shoot as much from a place ray7of “not knowing” as “knowing”. I’ve discovered there is always something to learn from the subjects of my films, whether they be a fictional character born of my or someone else’s imagination or whether they be real people like the subjects of this documentary. So in my selection, I made an effort to choose people who I thought would be engaging and angela_2compelling knowing that whoever we chose, we were to find that if we could capture “who they really are” their stories would be compelling and engaging.

If any of you are familiar with my work, you know that I am very curious lanceabout how people engage with their lives. I want to discover as the cliche goes, “what makes them tick”. So I knew I was going to have lots of fun getting to know these people. (The risk of course, was that they wouldn’t want to be revealed. And as it turns out, this was a challenge since they were in a sense trying to escape their lives during the ride.)

chau-and-charlieI made my recommendations, but the final decision on who would be in the documentary was in the producers’ hands.

Ultimately, we arrived at an interesting and diverse cast of riders and as it turns out they were full of surprises and I learned a lot from them!

Sep 13


JUST ANNOUNCED!  Filmaka Jury member wins BEST ACTOR at VENICE FILM FESTIVAL.  Tom Ford’s directorial debut stars Colin Firth who just won Best Actor at Venice festival.  Film is based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel.
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Sep 09

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Filmaka Jury Member WERNER HERZOG

Filmaka Jury Member WERNER HERZOG

The Toronto Film Festival lineup includes TWO Werner Herzog films.   Both “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done” will be showcased in Toronto this week.

Sep 04

On the Road with Varda Hardy PT. 5

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imagedisp-94After discussions and interviews with past Ragbrai participants, it became clear that it would be important for us to capture the conversations and unique interactions that took place along the route between the town stops. But how do we shoot the fast moving bikers without using a motorized vehicle? We came up with all sorts of ideas: importing a rickshaw, backwards seat on a tandem bike, a modified child’s trailer, a modified bike cargo trailer, a modified bike trailer for the disabled, etc. For a short while, the vote was in for the modified cargo trailer, but ultimately we realized that riding on the cargo trailer for over 200 miles would be too harsh for the camera operator who would end up either injured or simply unable to endure the hardship of such a makeshift trailer. So our Producer, Talia Shakur-Rodriguez asked her father (who designs satellites) to design a trailer for us. He came through and a lightweight trailer to be towed by tandem bikers was custom built in Iowa.



I chose Cinematographer Mario Signore to shoot off the trailer. Chris Blanch had recommended Mario who was known for hanging off moving vehicles to get a great shot. Mario is also light and flexible so he as well suited to this kind of challenge. In addition to using the trailer to get shots on the route, we mounted lipstick cameras on our subject’s bike handles and helmets. We also got permission to shoot off of emergency vehicles which were allowed on the route, golf carts allowed on the route and even a gator or two.

All the effort to secure footage on along the route paid off. We’ve got loads of running footage, chats, dynamic visuals along the 400+ mile route and it’ll serve us well as we dive into our cut.