Lantern jawed and handsome, Rocketman 69 stands atop a Ballard building looking out over the Seattle skyline. His gaze is focused. His feet are steady. He looks good in his faux leather flight jacket. And like his classic rock counterpart, this Rocketman is not the man they think he is at home.
“People are like, ‘who are you?’ I say, ‘I’m a Rocketman,’ and they’re just like, ‘oh…okay.’”
Rocketmen are a ragtag bunch of rooftop rent-a-cops keeping Seattle safe from evil. Part of the city’s Department of Municipal Rocketry, they scan the skies for imminent threats.
“But so far we haven't had to do much more than rescue cats from trees and help people get their kites off of roofs,” said 69, whose real name is Basil Harris.
Harris stars in “Rocketmen,” a new web series being shot atop buildings across the city. “I get to strap on a jetpack and act like a superhero,” said Harris. “Pretty cool.”
The low budget project is set on both Seattle’s streets and in its skies and while the locations are eye catching, it's the way this production is funded that's really attracting attention.
“It's a unique opportunity that we don't often get as actors,” said Basil.
The bulk of the budget -- some $30,000 -- was raised from a Kickstarter.com campaign, where strangers essentially invest in project they believe in.
“When you find out someone who lives in New Zealand donated $25 to your campaign just because they think what you’re doing is great and they want to see it coming to fruition, the feeling is unbelievable,” said producer/actress Alycia Delmore.
Filling out the funding is a recently revived state incentive program that reimburses up to 30 percent of the project’s production costs. That’s money that could keep the 40 member cast and crew perched on our parapets for a second season.
“Usually when a film is finished, you’re all out of money,” said Delmore. “The reimbursement allows us to market it and get people to actually see it. That kind of funding for a low budget, independent project is very rare.”
The partnership of private donations and public subsidies also allows local movie makers to pursue their passion in the place they live and love.
“We don't have to wait for the next big Hollywood movie to roll through town,” said Harris. “We can actually get the work that's generated here.”
Local lobbyist group Washington Filmworks says for every dollar spent on film production in the state, $2.75 is pumped into the economy. Alycia Delmore believes, if not for this brave new world of investing in the arts, countless projects like Rocketmen, that provide both jobs and entertainment, would never take off.
“Rocketmen is about people trying to find their place in the world,” she said. “We’re kind of doing the same thing by pursuing our love of entertaining people.”