Recently finishing an independent film entitled, “The Head Thieves,” it all got me to thinking about the whole world of independent movies. Many of you that have followed my career have seen me do my time with great characters in the studio system, like “Hook” or “Take the Lead,” and television, but a really big part of the industry, especially within the last few decades has become independent filmmaking.
Now you may know of this genre by the artsy little film house that plays them in your town or city, or flashy words like Sundance Film festival or something like that, and those are the things that made indies popular, but as I wrap another indie I find myself having a different feeling.
Look, I love working in the big studio films, I wish there was more work for me there, I love the pay checks and just the grandness of everything, from the sets to the trailers to the personalities, it’s an amazing world. But independent film is something else, and now I’m talking real indie stuff, not like some thinly veiled studio film made by studio folks slumming it for awhile, shooting a low budget 5 million dollar films. (Nothing against those, I love a lot of those) I’m talking about really guerrilla, no budget, you have to be insane to do this kind of film making. Straight up, someone has a script or an idea that one of your friends thought was great and somehow has convinced a small group of people join somewhat of a platoon, call themselves a film crew and go to battle to make a movie. It’s sounds funny, but it’s kind of what happens. I’ve been on both sides, several times now, being convinced to take a few weeks out of my life to help bring to life a vision a friend or a friend of a friend has, and I’ve been that guy, over drinks or a semi-lavish dinner, where in I will pick up the check, convincing friends or friend of friends to join me in the noble cause of making a movie.
Now, I’ve never been to war, but independent filmmaking is the closest thing I’ve had to it. Just this last film, I found myself signing on because my little brother came to me with 29 pages of a script of some guy he worked with in the past and said he wanted to do it and wanted me to do it too. I actually liked the script and asked where the rest was, he said he didn’t know and we are to play brothers and we’ll have another brother and this guy is white and he never met him, but he’s also the executive producer on the film… All this is usually bad signs in starting to try to make a movie, but I thought, hell let’s meet. I actually liked everyone on our first meeting, I asked if I can do a southern accent for the character, the director agreed and I said I can give you 2 weeks to shoot this flick. (It always takes more time than they promise you at the beginning)
Cut to… Now I’m sleeping in a trailer in a field somewhere in Modesto, in a field surrounded by cows, cows that I can smell from my bunk bed, an army of flies swarm around my trailer, I put up a strip of fly paper to capture some (I didn’t even know fly strips still existed) and to top it all off it’s raining and somehow there’s a leak, a steady stream of water dripping right beside me, I made a makeshift bucket out of some aluminum tray I found and as it pitter patters its rhythm, I lay next to it in my sleeping bag wondering what the hell I got myself into and how many hours do I have left to sleep before my 8am call time. This is real indie film making… too real.
But somehow we got through it and what happens is, this small troop of people band together, get through the long days and nights, little and sometime big fights and hopefully everything doesn’t fall apart and on the other side we have this movie. They don’t always turn out to be the best things we’ve ever done, but beyond what comes out on the end, the whole adventure of making it, the friendships and bonds you make and all the stories you live through, you never know if you’ll put yourself through it again… but sooner or later, someone comes to you with another great idea. So shout out to some of my favorite indies I’ve been apart of, “But I’m a Cheerleader,” “The Debut,” “Hang Loose,” “Extreme Days,” and here are some pictures from my last great adventure, “The Head Thieves.”