"My Best Day" >NEXT Category
"My Best Day" is about a young woman who goes looking for the father she never knew in a small town on the 4th of July. To get to him she'll have to first navigate her new trailer park family, including a sister addicted to off-track betting, a grade school brother who wrestles the neighborhood mailman and a charming but suspicious buddy, Eugene, who is "just sleeping on the couch".
The inspiration to make the movie was based on wanting to touch about deeper themes in regards to identity; all the characters are searching to be their truest selves in spite of their perceived status. Comedy is often my weapon of choice to bring the "pain" and what better place to bring mishaps than a tight trailer? Shooting in a small town harkens back to my roots as I grew up in Missouri.
The seed of the idea for the plot has been in my head since 2005. The script was written two years ago. We raised money and applied rewrites concurrently. I had the good fortune of having the script in IFP's "Emerging Narrative Category" at their IFP 2010 Project Forum as well as part of a Dialogue Study panel in IFP's 2011 Script to Screen Conference. Both these experiences were transformative to the rewriting as I had access to feedback from other filmmakers, writers and audience members. We preproduced for 3 months, shot principal photography in 18 days and edited the film immediately for a couple months while scoring with our composer.
How did you finance your film?
The film has been financed through a few angel investors, friends through a Kickstarter campaign and my own money.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process and how did you overcome it?
Having faith that is was better to make this movie with what I had than hanging onto the hope that more money would come. My budget kept ascending in concept but no more money or resources where coming in. I therefore kept reconfiguring possibilities and I was going crazy "If we shoot with THIS camera we wont have money for THIS. But if we shoot HERE we can't afford THAT. But if we have THIS much money we need to do THIS…."
Finally a producer friend put the brakes on and said, "Stop. How much do you have? That's what you are shooting with. Now walk the production backwards from that. The budget does not change from this point forward."
THAT is when you finally get to be creative because you know what you are truly working with and can strategize with your team and make your own decisions. For a director, that is very freeing. And for every department, they knew what to ask for and could get excited with solutions. Locking the budget created strong and specific choices creatively. It unified our overall vision towards the movie.
Tell us about your experience getting into Sundance. Are there any pointers for filmmakers for getting accepted?
Getting the call that your film was accepted to Sundance is the instant buzz you would imagine and then the stakes immediately get higher "Sure I got into Sundance but what if it doesn't (insert worry here over and over)". This points to a deeper truth; that acceptance from the outside is gravy. As a director, I have to be the one to know I did the best I could with my film.
I have been rejected from Sundance countless times over the years. Everyone has. One year I was desperate. I begged a friend to "get me in" (he was in a lab and knew programmers). He (gently) laughed and said "I can't 'get you in' and your movie isn't ready yet. Even if I could get you in, would you really want to be seen with work that isn't your best? Keep editing and make it right for YOU." He was right. I spent months editing the film and till this day I can watch it and feel proud, regardless of whatever festival it went to.
If you had to make the film all over again, would you do anything different?
No. Not because there weren't mistakes I made but because I learned from those mistakes and they will take me to the next round but DIFFERENT set of mistakes on my best movie. We learn from failure and learning brings us to "success". Success doesn't teach us anything-it's just nice to have. I really stayed the best I could in the moment of fixing mistakes or at least not repeating mistakes instead of dwelling on them. I imagined a figure skater falling early in her routine. At that point it is all mental. Yes, you just fell on your ass but you can do the rest of the program solid-get up!
Can you provide any advice to other filmmakers who dream of getting their films made and into Sundance?
As someone who has been crushed by rejection and tortured by expectations of success; Don't dream about getting into Sundance. Reason being, if you don't get in (and you have roughly a 95-98 percent chance of not getting in) that rejection suddenly invalidates your entire movie and might stop you from making the next one. Visualize your movie and take one action that creates another action to get it done and you will suddenly find yourself saying "How the hell did I end up on this set? This is great!" Stay in the action of making your art. It's hard to believe but your art is the most coveted thing already because you MADE it.
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