A calling: "Audience of One" stars pastor and filmmaker Richard Gazowksy, here pictured with his son, Sonny Gazowsky at the Christiwan WYSIWYG studios. (Photo by Paul Trapani, copyright 2006, courtesy Larsen Assoc.)

Michael Jacobs 'Audience of One' at the Roxie

Susan Gerhard March 30, 2009

When the question is "What would Jesus do?" the answer is rarely "Make a $200 million feature film." A spiritual quest becomes…questionable in Michael Jacobs’ Audience of One, which follows Pentecostal Pastor Richard Gazowsky and his flock engaged in the creation of an ambitious, multi-million dollar sci-fi-feature that answers not to any studio head, but to God. Like Chris Smith’s American Movie, Jacobs’ Audience captures an unlikely independent auteur chasing a directing dream. That it sometimes turns into a nightmare is only to be expected. The film, which follows the group from Ocean Avenue HQ to Italy to Treasure Island, played SXSW, New Directors/New Films and the SF International in 2007, and made its Roxie debut last week. We caught up with San Francisco-based filmmaker Michael Jacobs over email.

SF360: I’d love to hear about your experience making this film in San Francisco. Were there any peculiarities and/or advantages to following a story here?

Michael Jacobs: I think the biggest advantage was that there was this incredible story taking place just a few miles from my apartment, so I was able to chip away at the film, waiting for the story evolve for a relatively low cost. I also think a story like this and characters like this could really only be in San Francisco. Most importantly, I found a tremendous amount of support from within the San Francisco filmmaking community. Everything from advice, to production support, to employment, I could never have completed this film without the help of Henry Rosenthal, Jim Granato, Dan Krauss, George Rush, Arne Johnson and so many more.

SF360: It’s been two years since you debuted the film at the SF International. Have you kept up with the subjects at all?

Jacobs: Yes, we speak on occasion. They were forcibly removed from the studio on Treasure Island but nothing has stopped their determination. The last time I checked in with them, they were holding nightly services to keep their spirits up and the tithes coming in. I assume its only a matter of time before they are back at it, either picking things up with Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph, or onto a new project.

SF360: How did you find the story? And what was your own personal way in?

Jacobs: I first heard about them through an article in the SF Weekly. From there, I attended a Church service and approached the Pastor immediately following that service and asked him if I could make an observational documentary, chronicle his filmmaking quest. He said yes right away but it took a few weeks of my persistently showing up in hopes of becoming just another fixture within their community.

SF360: Have you explored other religious groups making and distributing films?

Jacobs: Yes, I found a Mormon sect trying to put on a Broadway revival of Cats…. Actually no, this one pretty much exhausted me.

SF360: What surprised you most about the Pentecostal Church as you experienced it in the making of this film/ the documenting of this project?

Jacobs: That’s a big question. I had never seen prayer like this before. I had never seen so much uncontained emotion inside a Chruch (or really anywhere) before. Their celebration of God is so raw and intense. It was hard not to be affected by that.

SF360: A lot has happened in the realm of film distribution since you embarked on this project. Can you see niche markets for films like the ones Pastor Gazowsky wants to make?

Jacobs: For our opening at the Roxie, and on the DVD extras, we are showing a few clips from their film and they’re fantastic, really beautiful and bizarre. If he actually completed his film I think it would be a cult hit. I could see his flick doing well in midnight screenings like Jesse Hawthorne Ficks Midnites for Maniacs and the like around the country, or at horror/fantasy film festivals, and emerging digital distribution platforms that are looking for extra special specialty stuff.

SF360: What are you working on now?

Jacobs: I recently finished a character driven documentary web series called ‘American Dreamers’ that’s available on Crackle.com and am currently in production on a series of video installations for a hotel in NYC.

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