Finding Kraftland

Reviews & Articles: San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Music Agent Crafts Movie of Bond Between Father, Son
Therapeutic Task Gets Film Festival Attention

By Mark R. Madler

Originally Published in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, February 19, 2007

At a typical birthday party most people would be satisfied with a cake, some singing and the company of their family and friends.

To celebrate his and his son’s birthdays, Richard Kraft made a $150,000 movie.

What started as a self-admitted vanity project has attracted the attention of programmers for film festivals. “Finding Kraftland” premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival earlier this month and is scheduled to play festivals in Sonoma in Northern California, and in Spain.

“Finding Kraftland” delves into the bonding between father and son amid roller coaster rides and collecting toys punctuated by observations from family, friends and business clients.

An agent for film composers by day, Kraft worked nights over a three month period with editor Adam Shell putting the film together, wrapping the work up one hour before it was shown to 750 people at the Paramount Pictures lot in March 2006.

The most interesting comments about the film didn’t come from close friends or business associates but from the guests of people invited to the party.

Funny. Very emotional. Inspiring. Those were among the comments Kraft heard that night.

At the Santa Barbara festival, Kraft said he was approached by other divorced parents who thanked him for showing there is life after a breakup and that parents can remain close to their children.

“This is the journey of how I got comfortable being closer to my son (Nick),” Kraft said of his film.

That journey had not been the initial subject of the film.

The original footage was about Kraft’s other life, his collecting life, the obsession to acquire old board games, bobbleheads, James Bond memorabilia, soundtrack albums, and pieces of Disneyland among other pop culture artifacts.

In his Sherman Oaks office, visitors are greeted by a large “Mary Poppins” poster, paintings that originally hung at The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, and a collection of plastic Halloween masks assembled on a wall. Other wall space is taken over by posters for James Bond movies and shelves holding the soundtrack albums.

Kraft’s collection at his Encino home is even more extensive, including an 800-pound elephant-shaped vehicle from the Disneyland Dumbo ride.

The material from a three-day shoot about Kraft’s collections – narrated by Stacey J. Aswad, who Kraft had first seen as a host of a promotional film shown at a Disney World hotel – was dull.

“It was like running through Hearst Castle and looking at everything and not knowing why there was a Hearst Castle in the first place,” Kraft said.

“Finding Kraftland” certainly isn’t the first film to be used as therapy; a psychiatrist’s couch made of celluloid. It was the Bakersfield native’s way of taking the sadness and grief of life and turning it on its head into something positive and happy. One reason Kraft thinks his film was chosen for the Santa Barbara festival was for that joyful quality.

The collecting is Kraft’s way to return to the innocence of childhood and specifically the time before his older brother David became ill with Crohn’s Disease. David Kraft died 10 years ago, and Kraft’s parents followed soon after that.

With the loss of his family came the realization that life was precious.

“I appreciated my son in a way I never saw before,” Kraft said.

Kraft and Shell structured the movie so that it shows that appreciation. Feedback Kraft received made him see it as an actual film with a story to tell and not just a self-financed vanity project shown at his birthday party.

Despite the positive reaction to the film, there are no plans to release “Finding Kraftland” commercially. If the film turns into a business it loses all its fun and charm, Kraft said.

Doing the film has given him a new appreciation for the work of his musician clients and their ability to stay within the confines of a budget and a timeframe.

Kraft loves being an agent for composers but not being a Hollywood agent. He’s certainly not one to take himself too seriously.

After all, he spent five summers riding roller coasters. Took 100 hours of dance lessons and won a competition in Las Vegas. Breaks into a smile showing off a billboard for the Bond epic “Goldfinger.”

“How much of a power trip can you get on with a wall of Halloween masks?”