Alex Cox, screenwriter and director of acclaimed films Repo Man and Sid & Nancy is bringing novel Bill, the Galactic Hero to life with an entirely student run production team at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Cox, now an independent filmmaker and CU professor, has longed to bring the 1965 satirical sci-fi novel Bill, the Galactic Hero to the big screen since 1983.
“I optioned the book and took it around the Hollywood studios, and it was denied,” said Cox. “I was told it was too expensive, that it was too anti-war–I didn’t think that was possible at that time.”
Just a hair over thirty years later, Cox is finally able to bring his dream to fruition — through an academic license granted by Harry Harrison, author of Bill as it’s lovingly nicknamed on set, and a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $100,000 needed to produce the film through CU’s film department.
“Our deal with Harry is that we can’t pay anyone, and our deal with the university is we can’t make a profit,” said Cox.
Cox found creating a film under these premises to be the most honest filmmaking he’d experienced.
“It’s the first film I’ve ever done where money is not an issue, and it’s amazing,” he said. “There’s always anxiety because usually when you make a film you owe the investors their money back, but because this was funded by a Kickstarter campaign as an academic enterprise, the film doesn’t need to make a profit.”
Working with young professionals at CU is just as effective as well, according to Cox.
“Working with students on a film is no different than creating one with professionals and veterans of the film industry,” he said.
The completely student-run production’s birth at CU allows for future filmmakers on campus to gain footing in the film world.
As recent CU graduate and producer of the film Brigid Igoe enthused, students are treated like true filmmakers throughout every stage of Bill‘s creation.
“Alex is so great about letting us do our jobs. He lets us make decisions for him,” said Igoe. “He makes this our film.”
This is a product of the esteem in which he views his students.
“Obviously these people are only starting out, but most have done beginning production courses, and sound-recording courses,” Cox said. “People pick up really quickly. For me, it’s like working with a very energetic crew and very keen actors.”
Outside of opportunities created through the production of Bill, those involved are excited about bringing a novel to screen.
“It’s so important to be faithful to the intention of a book,” said Cox. “You have to be able to remove things from it and edit it well too, and stay true to the general intention of the novel, then people will be made happy.”
Cox hopes to see the film reach a broad audience online, where it will be primarily released.
“Since it’s being embarked upon as non-commercial enterprise and we’re not planning to make any money off it, I hope that when the film comes out that people find it on the internet, they pirate it and widely disseminate it among their friends,” he said.
Until then, Cox is confident the film will be realized “even if the angels came and took him tomorrow.”
According to Cox, “It’s this unstoppable thing that’s going to get made.”