[KHTS] – The product of a Santa Clarita man’s desire to make a documentary with his friend is now ready for the silver screen with a private screening of “Bert Kreischer: I am the Machine” at the North Hollywood Laemmle.
The tale about comedian Bert Kreischer’s life on the road about 40 weeks a year was a compelling story for Jeff Johnson, 39, of Santa Clarita, offering him a chance to fulfill his documentary dream. He’s also hopeful for a wider audience for the project, something he’s also pursuing when he’s not busy with family and the production studio he runs.
Johnson described their independent operation as a “two-man band,” a collaboration with his buddy Jeff Hinman. More than three years of work by Johnson and Hinman will be on display May 6, Johnson said, but it’s been a longtime goal.
“We both always wanted to make a documentary, and we both kind of talked about it but never did it,” he said.
Both have extensive experience in the filmmaking industry, but neither had much experience behind the lens shooting or directing, he said. Johnson’s company,Outpost Media, is a Burbank-based business that makes trailers for major Hollywood entertainment companies like Lionsgate, and Hinman has years of experience as an editor with major studios, such as Lionsgate and Disney.
Usually, when Johnson gets his hands on a project, the filming is already done, Johnson said, because his company cuts trailers for major motion pictures.
But after learning Hinman’s wife was friends with Kreischer’s wife, the group got together and discussed a potential project.
“I’ve always been intrigued by what life was like on the road,” said Johnson, who performs stand-up comedy at J.R.’s Comedy Club.
Kreischer expressed interest in being a part of the film as something to show his two young daughters when they were older, as an insight to what their father was doing and thinking while on the road.
Hinman and Johnson funded their project on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform where someone sets a fundraising goal online and if they don’t make it, those who donate get their money back.
Filmmaker Jeff Johnson
That was one of the film’s first obstacles — if they set the amount too high, they might not get anything, but if their goal was too low, then they might not be able to afford to produce the film.
After deciding on $20,000, the pair ended up with $31,000 almost three years ago, and the process began in earnest.
The pair had help from Kreischer’s media connections, landing spots on Joe Rogan’s podcast and a popular Florida morning show then known as The Cowhead Show, Johnson said.
After researching the idea by watching hours of documentaries to figure out what the two did and didn’t want their film to be — they began in earnest with a trip to Arizona in 2011 for one of Kreischer’s shows, and screened a rough cut for a first screening in December 2013.
“We followed him to Phoenix, a trip to Amsterdam, and London for a Showtime special he was doing,” Johnson said, listing a few of their film sites, which also included Chicago, New York, Columbus and Tampa Bay.
The experience was an eye-opening one, Johnson said, describing how he would watch Kreischer transform into his stage persona, and always be “on” when it was time to perform.
“You can definitely see the different level between someone achieving that kind of level of sustained success and you can see why,” Johnson said, referring to Kreischer’s career and success on Showtime, Comedy Central and most recently, a book he wrote “Life of the Party: Stories of a Perpetual Man-Child.”
While the 90-minute film includes about 30 minutes of Kreischer’s performances from around the world, it’s also more of an introspective look at the life behind all the laughs, Johnson said.
“There’s a lot of fun moments,” Johnson said, “but theres’ also some low moments where he’s missing his kids. He’s not always sure if its worthwhile for him to be gone as much as he is.”