We’re going to try something new.
I want to give you a real-time look at how a micro-budget movie is made. This will be chronology; it will be insight from the inside, the life and making of the movie CHAT.
Self-serving? Sure. This is SCRIPT GODS, I am happy to cop to selfishness. I hope to get you, Good Reader, interested in my project. To build an audience, to work social media magic in advanced promotion, to generate buzz and do all the things movie-makers have to do in today’s DIY world.
I am the writer/producer of CHAT. If you check the IMDB profile of my producing/directing partner Boris Wexler, you’ll see he has a seven year history making movies here in Chicago. He recently made his feature directorial debut with ROUNDABOUT AMERICAN, which just had multiple screenings here at the Siskel Center. This will be our fourth project together.
And you care about any of this, why???
From Day 1 at SCRIPT GODS I’ve been talking about proactivity. About not letting the bastards tell you no. Who are the bastards? They’re the folks manning the front gate of the Hollywood Hotel—that gated community of cosmococcic beauty. It’s the agent’s assistant who sent you out a form rejection to the query letter you spent a week writing; or the rejection from some mid-level screenwriting contest without a single reason given, the promise of “industry connections”, and don’t forget to send that $40 check with the script. It’s the bored “boutique” agent yawning at your Pitchfest pitch no matter how many hours you practice; or the bullshit producers who make promises and lie, pushing for free options and rewrites; or the gurus who make promises and lie, taking your hope and time and $$$$$$$$ without getting you one centimeter closer to actually getting your movie MADE.
It’s time to get your movie made.
Going from idea stage to micro-budget movie is not brain surgery. In the age of the Canon 7d, the Alexa and the Red…making a digi-feature is something tens of thousands of folks are doing. Maybe the process of documenting this movie will be of interest to you. Some life lessons gleaned when it comes time for you to make your movie.
Not to say that CHAT will be the next PI, but we do have some ambitions on this one…
You can say you were in on it from the beginning.
As I write this a day before Thanksgiving, the Kickstarter campaign has just wrapped. We’re funded, through Kickstarter and outside investors, with the grand total of $35,000. Ridiculous, to have such high hopes come from such a pittance.
But we do.
The Past is prologue. Here’s how we got here:
- CHRISTMAS, 2011
I was in the lobby of the Portage theater. A movie was screening I had done additional dialogue for, Roundabout American. There were 300+ people in attendance and I watched with joy as the few parts of the movie I had actually written screened. If it was a rush for me, it certainly was for Boris Wexler, the director. A former student of mine, he had come a long way from the back room of Chicago Filmmakers where we first met seven years before. We had worked together on a short (The Group), and a web series (Pillow Talks). This was special though—the premiere screening of his first feature. As we toasted the movie, Boris was already looking for his next project. “I want to do a thriller,” he said in that French tongue. “Ah, oui?” sez I.
Simple as that.
A week later I’m throwing a dozen ideas on a page, ship it off to him. He rejected all 12. Ooooook. I dig deeper, look into new ideas, and some very old ones. Send another half dozen ideas his way. One of them, DREAMSCAPE OF THE FALCON, might be of interest. This was a play produced by igLoo, my old theater company back in ’86. The story is of a man whose girlfriend dies in a car accident. The man is unable to handle it, creating a Dreamscape of his own imagining. It ends with the man dead in a bathtub, victim of a sado-masochistic ritual.
“Hmmm….not sure about the SM ritual,” said Boris. “Yeah, might be a bit much,” sez I.” But we keep the core story: A man who can’t handle death of a loved one. Seed planted, just in time for Christmas.
- JANUARY, 2012
I brainstorm. This is a movie, not a play, so it obviously has to be expanded out. 90% of the dialogue needs to be reworked. The play’s POV character loses his lover in a horrific car crash and I fight to keep that plot. Boris reminds me that recreating a car crash will involve all sorts of hellish consequences to our micro-budget. Oh, that’s right…we have to pay for this. It’s one thing to write it for the page. It’s another to actually film it, and pay for it. With this in mind, the story undergoes some major changes. Car crash, gone. Got to find a new world to center this movie in. Emails are exchanged, ideas bounced. No answers.
- FEBRUARY, 2012
The idea morphs. It’s not about the husband losing a wife in a car crash. It’s not even about a husband and wife. Let’s try a father and daughter. If there’s no car crash, let’s have her disappear. Let’s have him search for her. Let’s keep the trippy Dreamscape and write it for micro-budget. What can be shot cheap? What locations can we shoot that we can control? Limit the characters, limit locations, limit exteriors and night shots, go heavy dialogue scenes. It’s a thriller so we need about a dozen twists. Make it sexy, make it verbal, and make it something we’ve never seen before….
Wait a minute.
How about the world of cybersex chat? Has that ever been done? I check IMDB and online, find a movie or two but nothing close. HARDCORE with George C. Scott explored a father searching for his daughter in the world of 70’s porn. My movie would be more than an updating for the Cybersex realm. It had something else going for it…
I have a friend with a light disease called Photophobia. This was not a from-birth disease. It came upon him in his 30’s. He hadn’t watched a movie top to bottom since—believe it or not— E.T. He can’t stand light, has to wear heavy contacts and in bright sun, sunglasses OVER the contacts. What if the father had this light disease? What if he was unable to even look into a computer? And what if his daughter disappeared INTO the computer?
The story was gaining traction. Boris liked it, liked the father character, liked the cybersex world. It’s a natural for micro-budget. Sexy, heavily verbal, cheap to shoot (apartments are readily available and free). The world hasn’t been done in a major movie and the disease the father had, likewise, never been done.
We were onto something.
I start writing.