When 24-year-old Oswego native Taylor Jacobs was first introduced to the classic comic strip Calvin and Hobbes as a kid, it didn't take long for him to develop a deep appreciation and love for the characters and stories.
The comic, illustrated by American cartoonist Bill Watterson from 1985 to 1995, is centered on Calvin, a precocious and highly imaginative 6-year-old who spends much of his time with his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. Although Hobbes is seen as an inanimate toy by all other characters, to Calvin, he's a real-life friend and partner in crime.
"I think Calvin and Hobbes was just something a lot of people could relate to," Jacobs said. "It's entertaining, but there's always a deeper message about life and relationships."
Jacobs, an aspiring film and television producer, still enjoys reading the comic as an adult. Like many life-long fans, he has often wondered what it would be like if Calvin and Hobbes were to grow up.
"I always knew Calvin as a young kid who had this really strong bond with his stuffed animal, but what if he was my age?" Jacobs said. "What if he was 24, just out of college and had maybe lost touch with some of the people from his childhood?"
Those questions were the inspiration for "Reaching Autumn," a live-action short film Jacobs wrote to explore what would happen if 24-year-old Calvin reunited with Susie Derkins, one of his former neighbors and classmates, after both went to college and became adults.
"For fans of Calvin and Hobbes, like myself, the film is about these characters we know and love, and paying homage to everything Bill Watterson created," Jacobs said. "It was fun to put Calvin and Susie in my shoes as a young adult, and imagine what they would be like and what they would be doing."
At its heart, Reaching Autumn is a love story, Jacobs said.
"It's about life and relationships and the influence people have on our lives, sometimes without us even realizing it," he said. "You don't have to be a fan of the comic to relate to those things."
Jacobs, who holds a film and media studies degree from Northern Illinois University, has already cast the movie and begun principal photography near Joliet and Yorkville. He recently dyed his hair blond to play the lead role, and created a hand-stitched Hobbes as his sidekick.
He also partnered with three friends he studied with at NIU: Nate Mack, and brothers Tom and Brian Conlon. The trio's company, A Really Good One Productions, will assist in all production aspects of Reaching Autumn, Jacobs said.
"We've been good friends with Taylor since college, so we were excited to work with him, but it was really about the opportunity to tell a great story," Tom Conlon said. "We loved his script."
To cover the costs of production, Jacobs has started a flexible funding campaign through the website Indiegogo.com. For every $10 contribution, donors will receive one raffle ticket to win the hand-stitched Hobbes, plus a credit in the movie. The perks by contribution are:
- $25: Download of the film, plus all previous perks
- $40: Hard copy of the film, plus all previous perks
- $75: Official poster of the film, plus all previous perks
- $100: Official thank you video, plus all previous perks
- $150: Signed poster and DVD, plus all previous perks
- $250: Behind-the-scenes footage, plus all previous perks
- $500: Executive producer credit, plus all previous perks
- $1,000: Two tickets to the wrap party, plus all previous perks
As of Monday night, the project was still more than $3,000 from its goal of $7,000. Donations will be accepted through Oct. 29.
Jacobs said he is fund-raising strictly to cover costs, not make a profit.
"This project isn't about making money for me," he said. "It's about collaborating with my friends, and making something we're proud of."
When he's not making short films, Jacobs works as an IT technician to pay the bills. But working in the entertainment industry is still his dream.
Jacobs recently completed a training program through the Second City in Chicago, and is preparing to audition for the theater's more advanced conservatory next month.
Regardless of the auditions, Jacobs hopes to continue in the film or theater business for years to come.
"At the end of the day, I just want to be doing something that allows me to be around creative people and tell amazing stories," he said. "That's what this is all about."