CITY ISLAND COUNTDOWN: TFF-13!
Dig today's clip, posted below--it's a surprise even to me. Apparently they did a local news story on our shoot last summer and some wonderful youtuber actually taped it off their tv set and posted it. I get more screen time in this little piece than usual--even though I look fearfully tired. (I must have been--I don't recall actually taping this segment...)
Anyway, back to the making of saga...
So it's the spring of 2007 and Andy Garcia and I are sitting around LA with a lovely cast, a script we want to make and--as yet--no real money behind us. You get used to hearing a lot of stupid things when people turn down your projects, but there's no term I find more irritating then "tweener"--as in, "we like the project a lot but we're afraid it's something of a 'tweener."
Meaning: between two genres. Not artsy enough for art house, not commercial enough for mainstream fare. In other words, just the kind of film that made me want to make films to begin with.
Enter my friend Zachary Matz, veteran independent film producer. He loved the project and the cast we'd assembled and started talking budget with me: how could the movie be made for less, where could it be shot etc. Even though these questions didn't directly address the lack of funds, they filled the "reality gap" and got us all thinking about the practicalities of the project. Somehow this sort of thinking--following a positive line rather than a negative one--really does sort of shift the momentum of things. Though the summer was upon us and clearly we weren't going to be shooting a film, things somehow didn't seem entirely hopeless.
And then another old friend came to the party and suddenly the game changed. Lauren Versel, who I'd known for years, was a former performer and screenwriter who'd wisely given up show-biz to raise a family. But you can never truly rid yourself of this druggy pursuit and Lauren had started a production company called Lucky Monkey. While seeing her socially in New York, I told her about the project, who was involved etc. She asked to read it and--with remarkable alacrity--called me to say she loved it, wanted to help finance it and wanted to get to work right away. She had an investor who had committed some money to another movie she was going to produce that had fallen apart. That investor was now willing to switch projects and commit the money to "City Island".
By now it was the end of the year and soon the Berlin Market would be coming up (in February '09). Going to the market with a viable project that had cast and some money attached would give Lauren and her company a tremendous advantage in securing more interest (and funds). So many movies at these foreign markets are half-assed amalgams of non-scripts with one actor "loosely attached" and no real money behind it. We were not that. We were a viable thing that could--with the proper alignment of stars--actually come together.
And indeed our second big investor was found at Berlin. Even though we'd accumulated only about a third of our necessary budget, the momentum was suddenly on our side. Though these things can fall apart at any moment, I had a feeling they wouldn't; when you've done this work long enough, you get a weird, "gamblers feeling"--that the dice are about to shift in your favor. I remember telling my wife around this time: "This one is going to happen..."
Like dominos in reverse--rising instead of falling--the next thing to fall in place came about naturally as a result of the previous occurences. You could say it went something like this:
Because I had written a good script, I found a great actor.
Because the actor and I teamed up, we found other fine actors.
Because of the script and actors, producers who believed in the project appeared.
Because of their belief and skill, money began to appear.
Money and cast and script equal viable project.
Viable project attracts foreign sales companies who will pre-sell the film to different countries, creating enough cash to complete the budget.
And that's what happened. A number of different foreign sales companies were suddenly chasing our project, eager to become our partners. By now the Cannes Film Festival was coming up--a major market for pre-selling unmade films--and the pressure was suddenly upon us to pick the company we felt would do the best job. We picked Westend Films-a new company run by some of the best foreign sales veterans in the business. And the next thing I knew, I was on a plane going to Cannes with Lauren where, coincidentally, Andy Garcia would be performing with his band...
But before that happened, there was a slight glitch. Just a little matter of half of our cast suddenly disappearing from the project...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 6:59 AM