Hollywood in Toto

The DYI Movie Experiment That Made All the Difference

I began making motion pictures as a result of I hated “Napoleon Dynamite.” I began performing in motion pictures so I may begin making motion pictures once more.

Early on, after I truly needed to be an actor, I keep in mind noticing movies being directed by recognized actors. I by no means understood why somebody would wish to be behind the digital camera after they may very well be in entrance of it.

I lastly understood after I directed my first movie — as arduous as it’s, the fun of embarking on telling a narrative and seeing it come to fruition was as deeply satisfying because it was terrifying.

And I completely beloved it.

It was then that I began to ponder one other query: Why would anybody try and star in and direct the identical film?

I’d watch movies like “The Bridges of Madison County” or “Little Man Tate,” imagining the quantity of labor that had to enter each helming and performing.

I’m positive individuals who do each have their causes, as I did. But mine wasn’t one thing as romantic as, “it was a component that referred to as to me in a narrative that I simply needed to inform.” No.

I did it as a result of I “needed to.” Period.

But that was the final tumbler within the sequence. The first started in 2010, proper after I completed my fourth function – a documentary on OBX seaside closures and the impact it had on the folks and the financial system. I truly acquired paid to make that film. I needed to receives a commission to make extra. My spouse, Vickie, was on board, and we discovered ourselves with a strong, above-the-line group, connections to first rate manufacturing keys and a rising pile of strong scripts.

The solely factor we didn’t have was the cash. (You hear that infrequently on this enterprise.)

Making Movies Is a Humbling Experience

Probably one of many hardest classes for me to return to grips with was this: no person cares what you say you are able to do. They solely wish to know what you have got already finished — and whether or not or not it made cash. So, all of it boils all the way down to your previous successes (and award-winning video work — which I had finished for manufacturers like Aveeno, Neutrogena, Band-Aid, Listerine and Rogaine — didn’t rely). 

We had already given up on our $1.5 million challenge – “Among the Shadows” – which we had been growing for almost 4 years on the time (not a sufficiently big forged or monitor report for the finances). So we got here up with one other script – a thriller, titled, “Addison Chained” — and a decrease finances. Then, a fair decrease finances. And, nonetheless decrease.

We went from $900Okay all the way down to $500Okay, then needed to transfer on, as we couldn’t make it for lower than that, except we went with “no names.” But we knew that the one style you may produce with no names – and nonetheless have an opportunity for first rate distribution – was horror (and perhaps sci-fi).

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So, we got here up with extra concepts, and wrote extra scripts. Fewer areas. Fewer characters. Shootable in 10 days or much less. Our budgets sunk from mid-six figures to high-five figures.

As the years handed, our producing associate acquired a really time-demanding “day job.” We had spent almost 15 years receiving the continuous ass-kicking that’s inevitable on this business. At one level, a pal stated to me, “oh, you’re nonetheless making an attempt to try this?”

Yes. I used to be. And, over time, the need simply intensified on a number of ranges.

The Winning Formula, Explained

Then, I lastly got here to the conclusion that the one technique to make one other film was to just do that. Make one. There simply didn’t appear to be another technique to “get there from right here.” Put up or shut up.

Throw out all of the “can’ts,” and begin itemizing all of the “cans.” Basically, what assets did I’ve that might value me little or nothing? It didn’t take lengthy to complete the checklist, as a result of it was a fairly brief one: I had my home and my fast household.

“Doppel” was my fifth function movie. It value $3,000. It had no script. It starred me and my spouse. We shot it ourselves. On a cellphone.

It would get picked up for distribution inside two months of completion.

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My spouse and I had each had some earlier performing expertise, so it wasn’t a very far-fetched thought. Neither of us felt like memorizing pages and pages of dialogue so we determined we’d method it organically. We shot the film found-footage model, improvising scenes based mostly on an in depth define.

And, whereas that solved the “no memorization” factor for probably the most half, the natural nature of our method would lead to a number of occurrences of reshooting to “repair” story points that might inevitably pop up.

We set out with the preliminary concept that the story could be about one thing taking place to me – “Kevin” – and it might principally be instructed by Vickie’s character, “Vickie,” who could be unwittingly documenting the disintegration of their lives as she units out to shoot footage for an anniversary video celebrating their new life chapter as empty nesters.

That had only recently occurred to us for actual.

Shoot What You Know

That was the opposite factor – as a result of we weren’t positive how nicely we had been going to do on the efficiency finish, we selected to maintain all the story’s particulars as near “actual” as potential. As Twain as soon as wrote, “in case you inform the reality, you don’t have to recollect something.”

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So, apart from some artistic license with our relationship and particular person particulars, the one massive factor we made up was a 3rd little one, who could be vital to the story.

Even although we had been principally embarking on an experiment – making a film with no assets, no skilled expertise, and no script — I nonetheless needed it to be nearly as good as potential. Despite all romantic sentiment, you don’t simply hit “report” in your preloaded digital camera app. Not in order for you it to have an opportunity to go anyplace.

First factor I bumped into was the truth that the cellphone we had been utilizing solely had one mic, and it pointed within the unsuitable route. So, we wanted an exterior recorder. We additionally wanted to keep away from a whole lot of “noise” that you simply get when cameras artificially “brighten” the image. External lights. Suddenly, our “digital camera cellphone” was a five-pieced rig (a lot for “costing nothing…”).

We undoubtedly gave our neighbors some fats to chew as nicely – like me working throughout my property whereas altering my shirt (again and again). Or digging random holes within the again yard. Or yelling at invisible folks in our driveway in broad daylight.

The clincher was most likely once we had been taping black luggage over our basement home windows, whereas explaining to one in all our neighbors to not fear if he heard screaming from inside the home – we had been “capturing a challenge” within the basement. (That screaming wouldn’t be taking place till round 2AM the following morning, so it was most likely the subject of a dialog or two within the neighborhood.)

Why the Final Puzzle Piece Mattered 

Once we had been about 95 p.c finished, we nonetheless thought that it was a bit flat. We determined to rent my pal, Lonnie Park, to truly rating the film. That was a key choice, because it turned out. I’m undecided how a lot which will have helped us get distribution, nevertheless it undoubtedly added a vital dimension to the general present, as soundtracks all the time do.

Post turned out to be a bit arduous, as patching story holes would all the time require further capturing in some capability. “It could be so a lot better/clearer/extra dramatic if we simply added…” gave the impression to be how we began most of our sentences for a few month as we fine-tuned issues.

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Our “premiere” was a comfortable banquet with half a dozen family and friends. They all appeared to essentially prefer it. One of our buddies confessed she had been making an attempt to determine “properly” inform us the reality, anticipating that our little film was going to be an enormous catastrophe.

Not desirous to go the competition route, we went out to distributors instantly. It was fall now, and TIFF and AFM had been proper across the nook, so once we didn’t hear, “we don’t contemplate discovered footage,” we heard, as an alternative, “circle again on the finish of November.”

As it turned out, inside just a few weeks we heard from the Director of Acquisitions for Freestyle Digital Media. They appreciated the movie and needed so as to add it to their catalogue. We had been past ecstatic.

Between paying the others concerned and the purchases that had been crucial, Doppel ran us about $3,000. Ironically, it might value about twice that to cowl deliverables (CC, subtitles, E&O insurance coverage, authorized, and so on.).

Lights! Camera! Distribution!

“Doppel” was launched on a number of main platforms on April 14, 2020 – simply shy of 14 months after the concept had been conceived.

The main objective of our little “experiment” was to leap begin a decade-long stall – and to get us to the “subsequent one.” It did simply that, and extra.

As of the writing of this, we’re in ultimate preparations for the discharge of “Dead Air” two months from now, and are additionally in the course of put up of our seventh function, “The Forever Room,” which we wrapped capturing on the finish of October. Both of these have their very own tales, for one more time.

In “Moonstruck,” Olympia Dukakis tells Cher at one level, “it ain’t over until it’s over.” By pivoting in a route that we’d have thought of “unimaginable” just some years earlier, we made three options in slightly below two years, for somewhat over $50Okay complete.

My takeaway from “Doppel” is straightforward: you possibly can nearly all the time get there from right here – you simply should be open to different routes and be keen to construct just a few of the roads your self.


Kevin Hicks is a full-time video producer, author and movie director. Owner of Hark Productions (industrial video) and co-owner of Chinimble Lore (movie & leisure manufacturing), he lives in Lansing NY along with his spouse, author/producer Vickie Hicks.

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