This article is from Issue 49

The Resurrection of Blue Like Jazz the Movie

In his most recent book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, author Donald Miller spends a lot of time talking about making your life into a good story. So perhaps it’s ironic that, up until mid-October, the making of Miller’s breakout book, Blue Like Jazz, into a film was shaping up to be a disastrous story.

“We finished the script in 2007. We did a reading and the reading went great, and honestly I thought this was gonna be really easy. I have experience in birthing creative projects, and I never had anything seem more obvious and an easier thing to raise money for. And I was wrong,” says Steve Taylor, director and co-screenwriter of Blue Like Jazz: The Movie. “I could not get anybody to sign on. I think the [connections we had] tended to be more in the Christian world, older and probably more conservative. People didn’t really get it—they didn’t know what Blue Like Jazz was; they thought the script was too edgy. It just didn’t fit their idea of what they thought a movie like this should be.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that people might be suspicious of the film. After all, Taylor practically started his career by making people in the Christian music industry mad. In his several albums as a solo music artist, Taylor took on sacred cows like televangelists and Christian political drama. And perhaps the most famous part of Blue Like Jazz is the part where Miller and other Christians apologize to rowdy partiers for evils perpetrated in the name of Christ. But Taylor, Miller and co-screenwriter Ben Pearson felt they were close to the start of the film ... several times.

“We must have had three or four different false starts,” Taylor recalls. “It was frustrating and baffling that we were having this much trouble. Everything came together except the money. The final blow was we had a deadline of September 15, 2009. The window came and we thought we had barely cobbled together the money, and then someone who was going to put in a quarter million dollars backed out.
That night I called Don and said, ‘You’re not going to believe it, but somebody’s pulled out.’ We were both really bummed out. That night he blogged about it, and I did the same on the movie’s website. We were both saying, ‘We’ve done our best, but we just can’t get this off the ground.’”