FOUND Magazine, the brainchild of Michigan native Davy Rothbart, is almost like an unwitting PostSecret. People from across the country send random notes, photos, stories and scraps of paper that they’ve found to Rothbart, who then assembles them in a magazine.
The magazine is also a central subject in filmmaker David Meiklejohn’s new documentary “My Heart is an Idiot.” Meiklejohn, who now operates under the moniker Budget Fabulous Films, has worked on some smaller film projects – including collaborative documentaries and music videos – but this is his first full-length documentary.
“This definitely feels like my baby… it’s the first big thing I’m putting out in the world,” he said in a recent interview with The Badger Herald.
He is currently on the road, following the film as it is shown in various cities throughout the U.S. The tour began on April 22 in Michigan and it will stop in Madison tonight.
The story of how Meiklejohn and Rothbart met may very well have been something taken straight out of FOUND Magazine. As Davy Rothbart was out promoting his magazine, he met Meiklejohn at a bookstore in Portland, Maine. Coincidentally, Rothbart had already known of Meiklejohn prior to this through a funny piece he had sent into FOUND.
The two then grew to share a mutual appreciation of each others’ work, and eventually Rothbart invited Meiklejohn to join him on his tours. He hoped to document his cross-country escapades and provide an in-depth look into FOUND Magazine.
And so, over the course of two years, Meiklejohn filmed Rothbart on his North American promotional tours. Interestingly enough, this film took on a slightly different path than either Meiklejohn or Rothbart had originally expected.
The final product took on a narrower scope, focusing more on Rothbart’s turbulent romantic ambitions than on the magazine itself.
“It was both unexpected and completely predictable,” Meiklejohn explained.
While reviewing over 150 hours of footage, Meiklejohn noted that the conversations in the documentary often centered on love and romance. As Rothbart traveled across the country, he met up with various friends and acquaintances, talking with them about their ideas on love, dating and romance. Most notably, he spoke with the likes of Zooey Deschanel, Ira Glass, Newt Gingrich and even Frank Warren, the creator of PostSecret. In particular, he sought their advice as he contemplated romantically pursuing an old friend.
It was once Meiklejohn noted these recurring themes that the subject of the documentary became apparent. It was then that he took on the role of the storyteller.
“The real creative work in a documentary comes in the editing. The editing is where you make the real decisions that, in a scripted film, you would make when you’re writing the script,” he said.
“You sort of make the movie in editing when you’re doing a documentary.”
At turns dramatic, comic and ridiculous, the documentary seems to redefine what a “romantic comedy” can be. Meiklejohn has pieced together an interesting plot, replete with laughter, tears and a dramatic twist.
There’s also indication that Meiklejohn is not your average filmmaker with his heart on his sleeves. He seems well-read, and he has an eye for subtlety. In some “making of” clips on the film’s website, he quotes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. He also incorporates interesting visuals and animation throughout the film.
The film, which premiers at the Orpheum tonight, promises to be a treat for viewers. Meiklejohn believes there’s a universal appeal in the film and thinks many people will be able to relate to Rothbart’s situation – there’s a character for everyone.
“My Heart Is an Idiot” will be shown at the Orpheum Theatre tonight at 7 pm. Tickets are $7. Both Davy Rothbart and David Meiklejohn will be available after the screening for a Q&A session. To view trailers of this film or to get further information, visit myheartisanidiot.com.