Who we are:
(Frankie with actress Karen Black, photo by Maryann Bates)
I’m Frankie Krainz. I was born in Pittsburg, Kansas and raised on a small farm with cows, chickens, pigeons etc. You know—the usual small town life. I was very young when I realized that I had “voices” speaking to me, inside my mind. I began to draw and write at a very early age and I lived in a very enclosed world. Growing up different in small-town Kansas, my imagination was my only salvation. It was a way to escape the alcoholism; abuse and bullying that surrounded me. I created stories—taking in everything around me, witnessing others and how they related to the world, and then writing it all down. That was my life growing up.
I became an actor, I did stand up, and I toured the country with a comedy troupe. I wanted to understand why we create fictions for ourselves. And during it all, I experienced depression, the mania, and the “voices” weren’t far behind. They were chasing me, creeping closer by the day. Turns out, I had been struggling with brain illness for many years though no one believed me or knew what to do. But I pushed through. It wasn’t until after watching the events of 9/11 on the TV for 14 straight hours, that I walked into the bathroom, shaved my head and promptly had a nervous breakdown
The breakdown changed things. I was thrust into a world of hospitals and doctors and “diagnoses” followed by pills, pills, and more pills. And nothing worked. Well, nothing except my work. Always writing, always drawing.
I had been on disability and the psychological treadmill for six years when I met Steve Balderson. Immediately we connected. His enthusiasm for his work inspired me. I wanted to be a part of that drive. He wanted to make a Women in Prison movie. I wanted to write it. I went home and wrote all day long, every day for two weeks. The act of writing became my key to mental health. That’s how our first film together (“Stuck!”) was born.
I began to understand that work could bring me back. That despite the doctors and the pills and the naysayers who told me I could never make anything of myself—that I was “all the way broken”—I realized that it was up to me. I realized that a person with brain illness could participate fully in life and be a success. Steve was always there as a cheerleader, showing me the importance of collaboration of building a village for oneself. Our second project, called “The Casserole Club” is coming out later this year. We just finished it.
In addition to finding comfort and health in my screenwriting, I collaborated on a musical called “Goodbye, Kansas.” I wrote a dance called Disability Romp about my experiences on disability. I saw how many people related to my experiences. There are so many people out there caught in their own struggles, so many people who have stopped believing. I saw that I had a responsibility to others like me. I have to show them that WE CAN DO IT!
It is a life of small steps. Where art has saved me in a way. My medication is my work and the connections with Steve, with the actors in our films, the producers—anyone charged and excited by the process of filmmaking.
Of course, the “voices” are still with me. I struggle with this disease every day. But I have my imagination. And I have Steve’s voice and energy in my ear—always pushing me, like the very best coach, toward the finish line. Calling out, “Imagination is health! You can do it!”
(Steve Balderson, photo by Alan Mercer)
I’m Steve Balderson. I’m from a small town in Kansas called Wamego. Filmmaking is the only place I’ve ever felt at home. When I craft a story visually, and create a movie, everything seems to click in the right way. I’ve always known that it is my destiny to be a filmmaker. I went to college to study Live Action Film at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts).
My parents were always very supportive of my dream to be a filmmaker. After I left CalArts, my dad taught me how important it is to make a business plan. Making a movie is a big artistic enterprise but it IS a business. There’s a documentary that was made about our process. It’s called “Wamego: Making Movies Anywhere.” We proved that it’s possible for anyone anywhere to make a movie, and to do it well. You can watch the whole doc at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EouCltpsVo
DIY Filmmaking isn’t without its fair share of roadblocks. Sometimes it’s really hard to get people to think outside of the box. In film school we don’t have the resources to make big budget movies. We have to be creative and find ways to achieve the same effect with the resources we have. As an artist, it is inspiring to figure out HOW to create within the confines of a limited budget.
To keep costs as low as possible, we decided to use our resources to enhance what goes into the image in each scene of a movie. When a person is watching a movie they can’t see what kinds of snacks are on the craft service table, or if any of the actors had personal make-up trailers. So why waste money on frivolous stuff that doesn’t enhance the image?
All that preparation really paid off. Film Threat reviewed one of my films, saying, “(Balderson) makes movies that are so gorgeous that it’s not unreasonable to say that, cinematographically at least; he’s the equal of an Argento or Kubrick in their prime. Some people have perfect vocal pitch, Steve has perfect visual composition.”
What a comment! I can’t take all the credit, though, because half of filmmaking is about the script. And I was incredibly lucky to have met screenwriter Frankie Krainz in Kansas City. We hit it off instantly. His writing reminds me of Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, only more to the point. He’s an absolute genius.
Frankie and I have made two films together. One is a B&W women in prison noir called “Stuck!” starring Karen Black, Mink Stole (John Waters’ regular), and Jane Wiedlin (from the Go-Go’s), which just came out on DVD. Our second collaboration is called “The Casserole Club” which we just finished. It’s coming out later this year and stars Susan Traylor (A River Runs Through It), Kevin Scott Richardson (former Backstreet Boy) and Daniela Sea (The L Word).
I was amazed that we were able to get such incredible actors and musicians to work on our DIY-style guerrilla projects. But they love working with Frankie and me and are ready to work on another one!
This is where you come in.
Frankie and I need your help so that we can develop and make our next film. We have a long list of actors who want to be in it (people we’ve already worked with and also other famous faces we haven’t yet). Now we just need to finish the development, plan it, and shoot it!
Being a part of one of our films is a one of a kind experience. No long hours. Good food. Making art. Plus… it’s incredibly fun. It is a family!
The new era of independent filmmaking is here. It just might be a filmmaking experience unlike any you will ever have so long as you live.
Thank you for helping make our dreams a reality!
Come join us!