MAKING CITY ISLAND: INERTIA PT.1
A good Monday to you and welcome to my on-line book-in-progress, about the making of my movie "City Island", which opens in theaters on March 19 in limited release (New York and LA) and in ten more cities in the following weeks. Please avail yourself of the contents of this blog in the archives or just follow along as I tell the tale of how the movie got made--soon to include production stills, clips from behind-the-scenes stuff, call sheets, angry e-mails and other ephemera.
And look for our trailer, debuting on-line later this week (more info tomorrow, I promise).
And mega cheers to our leading lady, Julianna Margulies, on her Golden Globe win last night!
By far the worst state your as-yet-unmade-unfinanced movie project can fall into is one of inertia. This is generally the death knell for most would-be projects, the state of mind that causes everyone to lose interest, hope and faith. It generally comes either at the outset of things (as in: nobody's interested in your script to begin with) or, more disastrously, after a good start yields no real "traction."
And that is precisely the state "Make Someone Happy" (the original title of "City Island" for those of you new to this site--and I sure as hell hope there are two or three of you out there) found itself in, following the departure of Michael Chiklis. We had announced ourselves in the trades, we had gotten the agencies all souped up on our upcoming movie, we had an actor committed...and then, slowly but with the inevitability of chocolate melting in the sun, we turned to goo. Instead of seizing the moment and pushing ahead, inertia gripped us. My proudcers weren't as concerned with this as I was--they reasoned that, having quickly attracted the interest of one actor, we would soon have the attention of another.
But something told me we were a balloon that was deflating. Much as I personally liked my producers, they exercised so much caution in every decision that nothing seemed good enough to go ahead with. I came to think of their condition as "Fear Of Photography"--as long as we didn't make the movie, nothing could go wrong. Which is correct, of course, but doesn't really explain how movies DO get made...just how so many of them don't.
Anyway, they were still convinced that a major name would bail us out and so the first stop was the major agencies to tell them what a wonderful opportunity we had for some of their A-list middle-aged male stars; a genuinely emotional and funny and complex acting role for a male old enough to have sired a son in his early twenties. Harrison? Bobby D.? Al P? Bruce? Travolta? Whose running to the plate first? Come on, fellas, better hurry...
The sound of crickets chirping...
Nobody could have cared less. Calls went unreturned. Eyes glazed over. People avoided us on the street. Yawns were stifled when the project was mentioned--and then, more seriously perhaps, yawns started not being stifled. When this happens--when torpor and disinterest set in--the blame usually falls on the script. Time for a rewrite. Thankfully, my producers didn't ascribe to this philosophy. They loved the script and stood by it. Good for them! What they did do, though, was talk about lowering the budget.
This may seem odd given that the budget was pretty low (about three million) to begin with. And that we were somehow talking about attracting actors whose quotes were in the seven to eight figure range. There really isn't any way to explain it except to say that pursuing two completely opposite goals simultaneously in the hope of achieving one unified goal is business as usual in movie-land.
And yet I knew. We were going nowhere fast. This was no longer a movie waiting to be made. It was a "project" we were all "involved" with each other on. "Devloping". "Exploring". Whatever you want to call it, we were now on the bottom of each others piles as well as everyone elses.
And then I got a phone call that I'd never before gotten. The late producer Bobby Newmyer was putting together a movie from a screenplay by TV mega-star Paul Reiser. Paul wrote it for himself and Peter Falk to play father and son in--and Falk was already committed. The money was even in place. All they needed was a director--and somehow, they'd landed on me as a likely candidate. This sounded too good to be true. All the crap I'd been going through--casting, budgeting, what-iffing...none of it was an issue! The movie was ready to be made. All I had to do was say yes.
So I did. It got me out of the depressive grind of making "Make Someone Happy", earned me a few bucks and gave me another credit. It also provided me with the pleasure of working with Paul Reiser and the honor of working (if you could call it that--other directors will know what I'm talking about) with the legendary Peter Falk. The film, "The Thing About My Folks", was prepped in five weeks, shot in six weeks and edited in four. By the time we were wrapped, it was Christmas and I was ready to have our "Make Someone Happy" fortunes turn around.
And that's just what happened. "Turnaround" in Hollywoodspeak means: we no longer want to continue with your project. Echo Lake had passed up renewing the option on the script. I had to start all over again.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 10:54 AM