DCIFF Filmmaker Series: Ron Judkins

Leading up to this year’s festival, we will be highlighting the fascinating stories behind our 2014 filmmakers and their submissions.

For director Ron Judkins, the phrase “it takes a village” could not have been truer than during the production of his feature film Finding Neighbors. Ron’s village consisted of those near and far with the help of 313 different backers on Kickstarter and his local neighborhood of Atwater Village in Los Angeles.

“Our original goal was to hit 200 Kickstarter backers, assuming family, friends and crew members would contribute. Then it started expanding and we began gaining support from people we didn’t even know,” Ron explained. “One of our largest backers was a complete stranger; Sam’s story really spoke to him.” Finding Neighbors follows a stay-at-home graphic novelist, Sam Tucker, battling a mid-life crisis and forming new relationships with his next-door neighbors, while trying to preserve his marriage.

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Ron also felt a personal connection to his main character. After winning two Academy Awards® for Best Sound (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan), Judkins brought his first directorial film The Hi-Line to Sundance in 1999 and gained a distribution deal with Showtime. He hoped his success would parlay into some larger films but instead, they were continually delayed in development.

Ron decided to take matters into his own hands. He approached his longtime Atwater Village neighbor, Judy Korin, with a finished screenplay and she immediately agreed to join the project as a producer along with his wife, Jennifer Young. Judy wasn’t the only one in Atwater Village to embrace Finding Neighbors. “When obtaining film permits to shoot the film, we would go door-to-door and apologetically explain we were shooting Finding Neighbors throughout Atwater. We expected people to be upset but were surprised at the moral support and offers of help from the neighborhood,” Judy said during a phone interview.

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One such example was makeup artist Kelcey Fry, whose work appears in The Artist and The Pirates of the Caribbean films. Kelcey volunteered her time to mentor Finding Neighbors’ makeup artists, both of whom were just getting started in their careers. Another neighbor had a sound studio in his backyard and helped saved post-production costs by letting the crew do some of their ADR work there. Says Judkins, “This film would not have been possible without the generosity of our Atwater Village neighbors.”

Finding Neighbors will be making its East Coast première at DCIFF on Sunday, February 23rd at 5pm. Be sure to check out the Finding Neighbors website for great behind the scenes clips including a look into how animation was integrated into the film, as well as a listen in on the soundtrack. You can also sign up for Ron’s production sound masterclass at DCIFF, starting at 2pm on Sunday.

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