So this story could be a stand alone story or it could be considered a sequel to another story…. I made a short film. It’s the only one I’ve ever done, so I could just tell you about that, but there may be people who would wonder how you just do something like that with no background or experience. While my exposure to this world has been limited, I did act in a movie once, and if you’d like to hear that story first, you can read this link, therefore making this story a sequel.
For those that didn’t feel like reading all that, I’ll summarize in one sentence. 2 of my close buddies are aspiring filmmakers (Director – Trevor Juras and Cinematographer Othello J. Ubalde), and Trevor thought I’d make an interesting character in his first feature-length film “The Interior”, in which I appear in only one scene, but have considerable dialogue, I feel like I nailed it, the film was well received at festivals, got a distribution deal, and is now available at most online retailers which is not bad for your first Indie Film. (Hey, I didn’t say it would be a short sentence). It was a thrilling experience for me who never thought he’d have an opportunity to be an ‘actor’, but in an amazing turn of events I now have that great story to tell potential grandchildren while I’m on that rickety porch with rocking chair and a shotgun, chewing on toothpicks.
So what’s next? Well this all happened because of who I know. So I started to wonder what else could happen because of who I know. Careers are made from people leveraging who they know. What could I do? Some more acting? I’ve made myself available to the one director I know, yes, but what about writing? I write! I have a blog as proof. What if I wrote a script for a short film? If it was good enough, perhaps I could get Trevor to direct it, and Othello to shoot it. If I wrote myself into the script, then I could act in it. Seemed like the perfect plan. So I wrote a script called “To Do List”. I thought it was hilarious, so I passed it on to my guys one at a time. Othello liked it right away, and wants to work and get as much experience as possible since he didn’t start doing this until a few years ago. I think he was on board to shoot it. When I showed it to Trevor (hoping he would want to direct it), I didn’t get the response I was hoping for. Not to say that he wasn’t totally cool and supportive, but I think I was hoping he would be super blown away and want to direct it. He’s more interested in writing his own stuff though, and suggested that I should direct it. He even offered to help me. He even told me directing isn’t as difficult as I think which to this day I believe to be complete bullshit. Regardless, I was kind of discouraged, and “To Do List” got shelved for a time.
After “The Interior” had made its rounds in the Festival circuit, there didn’t seem to be too many projects on the go. Trevor started writing his next feature, but it was a lengthy process. Othello was trying to shoot as many things as he could while we all waited for Trevor to make another movie, and I just went back to my normal life, fairly content for a while until the creative bug started nibbling again. Othello had asked me a few times to join his crew to help them shoot some stuff they had been hired to do. I finally joined them on a short film set. It was a first time director, but he had invested some money, and taken a lot of time and preparation to get this project together. This was the second film set I had ever been on. Instead of being an actor, I was now working behind the scenes, helping set up cameras and lighting etc. It was only 2 days, but as this project was moving along, it became more obvious to me that this director was really green, and so I made a suggestion about something, and he went with it, and it worked out. So I made another suggestion, and another and another. I felt bad, because it wasn’t my job to be doing that, but he kept getting stuck, and nobody wanted to say anything to him. I would have kept my mouth shut, but he was open to everything I said, and even started looking over at me to see if I agreed with things he was doing. It was weird, as I was the least experienced person in the room in some ways, but the director was willing to be collaborative, and didn’t have an ego about it. I think he may have been in over his head slightly, but I respected the fact that he had gotten off his ass and pursued his dream of directing a film.
It got me thinking about whether or not what Trevor said about directing was bullshit or not. I dusted off “To Do List” and read it over. I still thought it was funny. I sent it to Othello again, and he still thought it was funny. I asked Othello if he would help me make this film and be willing to babysit me through the directing process. I felt like I would be pretty comfortable directing people to help my vision come to life, but on the technical side I knew (and still know) nothing about making a film. This is why Othello gets a Producer credit on this film.
We planned for a 2-day shoot. I had an editor lined up for afterwards, who was an old high school friend with some experience. Othello’s crew that had worked on all of the projects that I’ve mentioned here agreed to help out, and I needed 2 more actors. Jennifer O’Callaghan who is a friend of Othello’s plays the female lead, and Patrick McFadden who stars in “The Interior” agreed to a fun cameo in my film as well. We scouted locations, and settled on pretty much the only ones available. We rented whatever equipment Othello didn’t already own, went to San Remo’s bakery to get their incomparable Apple Fritters, and we were ready to shoot. Trevor even showed up for the first day to keep an eye on things. My character was on camera for most of that shoot, so it was nice to have someone to direct me, since directing and acting in the same project is REALLY difficult, particularly when you have no sweet clue what you’re doing.
I have great memories from shooting this. I also have some hilarious outtakes which made watching it after the fact just as much fun as shooting it. The interesting part about making a film and watching the footage a few times, is that there’s a possibility you’ll start to hate it. This definitely happened to me. It’s a comedy, so once you see the funny parts about 25 times, you start to forget that they’re funny. This is where editing comes in. I said I had a guy, right? The guy I went to high school with? I forgot to mention that he lives in Montreal. I also forgot to mention that this is a ‘Passion Project’ which is another way of saying I didn’t have money to pay anybody for this. Now I need an editor to clean up whatever directorial mistakes I’ve made, and make this a good film. This is where we got held up a bit. Crazy things were happening in my editor’s personal life at the time, and he does this kind of thing for a living, so in order to pay his bills, he had to prioritize paid work over passion projects which is absolutely reasonable. This started to drag out a bit. Just the logistics of getting him the hard drive involved me waiting for him to visit his family in Toronto so I could pass it off in person. It was starting to look like this would never get done. Then Trevor stepped up and offered to have a look at it for me. I was so relieved that we would get the ball rolling again. Sad that I didn’t get to work with my original guy, because we’ve been talking about working together ever since high school when we would be in writing and drama classes together, but I believe there will be other opportunities for us in the future. It took Trevor a little while to get around to it as well. Passion projects man….. You get what you pay for sometimes. If you can’t pay, you gotta be patient.
Trevor came through for me though. Just in time to submit my film to the Toronto International Film Festival which would have been my ultimate goal for this film. We didn’t get it in, so I had to re-adjust the goals. I started submitting to festivals that were either road trip distance, or had a theme that I thought this film might fit in with. I’ve been talking with Trevor and Othello about this, and I really would love just one festival to screen this film. It’s my first time. I have no directorial experience. I know there are thousands of films being submitted to these festivals right now, but I just feel like if I got shut out, that it would be really disappointing. JUST ONE FESTIVAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After many kindly worded rejection emails, I finally received word that “To Do List” will make its World Premiere at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival on December 1st, 2017. I’m super excited. Tampa Bay is a little far for a road trip right now, but I’d been considering that heavily as the festival approaches. I hope it gets in to more, but if it doesn’t, I can honestly say the experience of doing this has exceeded my expectations, and I don’t know if I’ll do it again or not, but the story keeps getting better.