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In one review of Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here, Sheila O’Malley quoted a T.S. Eliot poem: And indeed there will be time/To wonder, “Do I Dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Well, folks, Braff dared. He dared to bring a small passion project to life via crowd funding. He dared to veer from the standard studio-sanctioned story arc to make the film he wanted to see. He dared to write, direct and act in it, though he lives a town that prefers ponies of the one-trick variety. He dared to share emotional, personal stories through his work, only to have both his means and material eviscerated. Maybe it’s no surprise one of his favorite lines from the movie (thank you, Kate Hudson) is, “At least I’m trying.”
While he never assumed bringing a small passion project to the screen would be easy, he also never assumed his quest to do so via Kickstarter would spark widespread, vitriolic backlash. With hard-earned hindsight and rare honesty, Braff discusses the experience of sharing very personal stories through his art. Maybe it was bound to happen to a hypersensitive, sports-eschewing theater geek whose vulnerability served him well for nine seasons on Scrubs, but less so as an indie filmmaker. But the audiences and critics who jumped on the poop-slinging bandwagon overlooked what Wish I Was Here did offer: a subtle, humorous look at family dynamics, modern masculinity, and what we owe our kids versus what we owe ourselves.
Read on for an engrossing conversation about his early introduction to theater, the horrible auditions that saved his career, and the parallels between his life and his films. He doesn’t mind taking a punch or two on screen, but says the virtual one he took from the Internet will shift his future work away from personal, heartfelt projects. That makes us sad, but also skeptical; Braff is a filmmaker not just by choice, but by unalterable DNA. We’re betting – and certainly hoping – he can’t keep his unique voice quiet for long.