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Young filmmaker showcases When Jeff Tries to Save the World at Bentonville Film Festival

Kendall Goldberg has been working on "When Jeff Tried to Save the World" for five years, most of the time when she was studying film at Chapman University in California.

It’s the 22-year-old’s first feature film. She wrote and directed it.

It stars Jon Heder from "Napoleon Dynamite", who plays a 30-something manager of a bowling alley, Jeff, and tries to save it from going out of business.

Showtimes

• 9:15 p.m. Wednesday at Honey Been Theatre

• 8:45 p.m. Thursday at Marvel Experience in Skylight 3

The Thursday screening is sold out, according to the Bentonville Film Festival website.

Source: Staff Report

The film recently premiered at the Sarasota Film Festival and has been shown at two others before coming to the Bentonville Film Festival, where it will show Wednesday and Thursday.

It’ll be Goldberg’s first visit to Arkansas. She recently visited with Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about what it took to create the film, her expectations for this week’s festival and advice for young, aspiring filmmakers.

How did you get the idea for this film?

It started as this idea where I wanted to make a film in a bowling alley. It was as simple as that, and it grew into something much more.

It’s a story with a pretty universal theme. It deals with change. It’s something that we all go through in our lives, many times.

For the character of Jeff he’s loosing his home and this place where he has this very strict routine. He lives this comfortable life, and it’s all about to be taken away. It’s the story of his journey as to whether or not he fights the change or whether he learns to embrace it.

And it’s a dramedy?

We wanted to be clear to people they’re not going to go see Napoleon Dynamite 2. John gives a really great dramatic performance in this film.

It’s about a guy who is in his 30s. He’s working at a bowling alley. He’s struggling. He loves what he does, but he’s embarrassed that he loves what he does because he got a degree that could have taken him so much further.

What has your experience been being a woman trying to get into this industry and being 22, no less?

It’s a good question and it’s something like I imagine my answer will grow, largely as I continue on in the industry and have had more time working on more projects, have more experience and meet more people.

Luckily the people I’ve surrounded myself with, by choice, are really supportive of women filmmakers. We all have a common goal, and that’s sort of what it was, a big-family-on-set vibe when we made our movie.

When we were actually making the movie I really didn’t have to deal with anything unwelcome. Along the way, yeah sure, there have been people who didn’t believe in me.

There were times where I would have meetings with men who would not take me seriously because of my age or my gender or a combination, I don’t really know. It was just like if they didn’t take me seriously, then I would move on and go to another person for find a way to work a way around it.

What did you do prior to making this film? How did you get to this point?

I think it was about the end of freshman year at Chapman University when I came up with this idea with my writing partner. She was going to college in the midwest so we lived cross country and we would Skype weekly, maybe bi-weekly and talk about our ideas. We started forming the idea for this feature narrative, and we basically wrote the script together through Skype in like a month.

Once we got the script written, we started sending it out to collaborators, friends and family and started rewriting it and we thought we’d be making the movie within a year, but that was obviously not the case.

I had a lot to learn, experience wise, financing wise, we had lot of rewrites to do. I was trying to make this movie while I was in school. As each summer passed, I didn’t have what I needed financially, cast-wise and all that jazz to make the movie. My mentor kept saying it’s not meant to be this year, it’ll happen when it happens. He was right and it ended up being so perfect that it happened.

It happened right when I graduated. I graduated last May, and we shot it in August. Part of the process to get to that point was in the summer of 2016 I took a step back and decided to condense the feature into a short script.

We shot the short in Chicago in the same bowling alley that we shot the feature. We shot the short for four days. We shot the feature for 18. We shot the short, and that sort of ended up being the missing piece of the puzzle to get more financing and production companies to back us.

How did Jon Heder become involved?

Jon Heder became involved three years ago before the short was ever an idea. It was an initial casting search and he came in to audition, and we were all really stoked. He was awesome. I basically was just like, ‘I want to give you the role, but we don’t have money to make the movie.’ He was like, ‘ok, well just let me know.’

I just kept in touch with him. We formed a friendship. When it came time to shoot the short, I told him we were going to shoot the short in Chicago over four days and see if he was interested. He did, and we and the rest of the cast was on board for the short and the feature. It was really great, and we had that working relationship and friendship and the trust and respect that was there we started to form with that short.

Do you have any expectations for the Bentonville Film Festival?

I really hoping to meet some cool female filmmakers. I have a lot of male mentors, and they’re all great and they’re all super helpful, but it would be super helpful to meet someone who is female and has gone through some of the issues I expect to go through and be able to bounce ideas off of.

What advice would you give to any high schooler who is an aspiring filmmaker?

It’s really for everyone, which ever industry you’re in. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Don’t ever give up, and don’t take no for an answer. I guess I’m proof of that because I didn’t take no for an answer and I made a movie at 22. It’s cool…I worked really hard on the film, and so many other people put their heart and soul into this movie.

What are your career aspirations?

To get to a place, and I don’t know if this place exists or will ever exist, but I would love to just get to a place where I can keep making movies, independent films the way that I want them to be made and not have to struggle — I think it’ll always be a struggle and there will always be different kinds of struggles, but I’m hoping to find a way to find money easier and not have to wait five to eight to 10 years every time I want to make a project.

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