Main | Victoria Loustalot »

Richard Tilkin of 'The Strange Name Movie'

by Justin Tucker

As you can see in the byline, my name is Justin Tucker. I share my name with the Baltimore Ravens kicker and Super Bowl champion. Someone makes a joke every so often, but it’s never caused me any degree of grief or embarrassment. My name could be a lot more strange. It could be Howard Schmuck, Ronald McDonald or, worse yet, Donald Trump.

Everyday folks with peculiar names are the subjects of The Strange Name Movie, an interesting short subject documentary by director Richard Tilkin. The film reveals how people’s various strange names have shaped their lives and built their characters, rendering them more resilient than the rest of us.

I recently exchanged emails with director Tilkin of Boston Digital Productions about the christening of his latest film and the current state of documentaries.

UR Chicago: What was the genesis of The Strange Name Movie?

Richard Tilkin: It was an idea I had had for many years, and based on our research, we were shocked that no one else had produced a film on the topic. As I would meet people throughout my life, I genuinely was curious how people with highly unusual, provocative or famous names would deal with the challenge in their lives. Clearly it's not a devastating issue to deal with compared to many hardships, but if your name is Cobbledick... What was it like during school roll call? What does it feel like when you are introduced for the first time? And what do people presuppose about you just because of your name?

UR: Did your vision of the film change from concept to final product?

RT: I didn't see the vision of the film change dramatically because we wanted to be open to what we would find and have it progress organically. We wanted true responses no matter whether they pointed to difficult life obstacles or something that was turned into a positive to improve their lives.

UR: Were there subjects filmed that didn't make the final cut? If so, what were the reasons for excluding them?

RT: There was one particular person who was very unsure about being involved, so we filmed his interview with the understanding that he could have veto power. I have never done that before. As it turned out, his family was uncomfortable with him being involved in the film. Then there was a location we filmed that was called Lake Chaubunagungamaug. We filmed a historian and interviewed people about it, filmed people trying to pronounce it and actually singing a song about it.  Our intention was to include more places with unusual names, but we really never got around to it—it could be part of the sequel.

UR: Despite having strange names, were there any traits that the subjects seemed to all have in common?

RT: I think the commonality was that for the most part many of them had to endure harassment as a kid, and that had a profound influence on their personalities and how they would deal with people later in life. I think generally, they tended to become pretty outgoing people because of what they had to deal with regarding issues with their names.

UR: The proliferation of streaming has opened the market for documentary films unlike any other time in history. Do you have advice for documentary filmmakers trying to navigate the current climate?

RT: It is really an unprecedented time in terms of how many platforms and venues are available for filmmakers; however, it’s difficult to go out on your own, so I would certainly suggest collaborating with a distributor who already has solid connections with platforms. And in many cases you need to go through an aggregator anyway, as you can’t go direct to an organization like Netflix. Making sure you deal with all of the appropriate paperwork, releases and legal work right up front is crucial, so you don’t have to go back and make time consuming corrections to the film. Most likely it will need to be vetted by an entertainment attorney and then scrutinized by an insurance firm for errors and omissions insurance. Adhering to high quality production standards is important, as the film will need to pass a rigorous quality control check.

The Strange Name Movie is currently available for rental or purchase on various VOD platforms including iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and many others.


Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>