A long time ago, my ex father-in-law told me a fun saying, “Give me patience! And give it to me now.”
That saying has stuck with me because if you know me, I am just a wee bit short in the patience department.
Boy, is this quite a process. I knew that getting something produced in Hollywood was a huge undertaking. It took over 5 years just to get Planet Sheen past the excitement of the execs to actual production. Just planning a greenlit movie takes at least 2 years. I thought that doing something independently would speed up the process…
But I was wrong.
There were a series of missteps along the way. Failed partnerships. Misunderstandings. People being fired and dropping out. It’s been a very interesting process.
But first, I have to answer a question that I’ve been asked time and time again.
Why a short?
Here’s the long story.
I have over 20 years of experience…in animation. I live between Columbus, OH and Pittsburgh, PA – not exactly the hot bed of longer form animation. So after moving from southern California, I had to reinvent myself, so to speak. The only other thing I knew to do was live action.
And so I set out to write a feature film. My lovely fiance told me of a story, one day, about a parking lot attendant. I looked it up, did a ton of research, and then set out to write the script. It got a lot of interest around town. It was a fun idea with a great central character that had heart, a little comedy and a solid story. The hard part was done.
So I set out to figure out a budget. We had an experienced producer look at the script and made an educated guess of $500k for a budget. Ok. Where do we get that type of money?
I reached out to my good pal, Tim League, of Drafthouse Films and asked what I could do. He liked the budget but asked who the star was. I replied, “There isn’t one.” He told me to double the budget and add a star and then I could sell it.
How easy could that be? Therein lies my dilemma.
I could go to someone like Sam Rockwell (my dream actor for this movie) and ask him to be in it but there’s a slight problem. Am I experienced? Yes. In live action? Nope. I was afraid to waste Sam’s time or mine by asking a moot question. Since I didn’t have experience, Sam, probably, wouldn’t give it a second look.
So I was suggested to do a short film. That way I could show my experience with something shorter and therefore much less expensive. So I set out to write a short version of the script.
And I hated it. It was basically the feature except shorter. It felt rushed. It didn’t feel right. But there was something else. I didn’t want to taint Sam’s idea of what the character could be. I didn’t want someone else playing Sam’s character.
So I went back to my buddy, Tim. He had said that although I would need a star for a drama, I didn’t need one for horror. He runs a festival called Fantastic Fest in Austin, that specializes in indie action and horror films. He knows what he’s talking about.
Cue to writing a feature for a horror film. I talk a little bit about why horror, Day 280 From Jimmy Neutron to Horror, that’s the way to do it, right? The same problem applied here though because now I had a $2 million film! How the heck was I going to raise that?
A short film.
This one was way easier though. This short is actually the PREQUEL to the feature film. I know that sounds weird because we haven’t shot the FIRST film yet but hear this one out. If you think about just the feature itself, it’s a story about a girl who goes looking for her missing friend. A friend who did a ghost hunting adventure at an asylum and hasn’t come back. The short film is ABOUT the friend who went missing. In other words, it’s the backstory for the feature.
Here’s what I like about this. One, it sets a tone for the feature film. It shows a little of the look and the idea about how we see the ghosts. It also creates a following. Now people can watch the short and WANT to see more. I ended it with a question, hoping the audience is slightly disappointed because they want to see more. If you watch the short, you are kinda in on a little secret. You are in the “in crowd”. That creates a buzz.
Not to say you HAVE to watch the short first. The feature will still be solid on it’s own. It’s just an added layer of interest.
So now the idea of patience falls back to the audience. It’s going to premiere in September. All you have to do now is wait.
I’ve had to wait this long…you can wait a few short months more.