MAKING CITY ISLAND: PRE-PRE-PRE PRODUCTION PT.3
Now, if you were looking to finance a movie what would you think of the following package:
Star actor (Andy).
Highly well-known and super respected actress: (Marcia).
Super hip indie-queen (Chloe).
Very hot up and coming guy with big movie coming out (Steven).
Script that people love because it's both accessible and smart, warm and clever. (You know...)
Director with some awards behind him. (Me).
My thought would be that based on the projected budget--somewhere under ten million dollar--this is a pretty good risk.
The name value of the actors alone should protect your investment even if the film doesn't turn out too well. Add to this that the directors films have won festival plaudits and that he always delivers on time and budget (and I do, I really do--I'm simply not built to be an Antoine Fuqua...having grown up in the indie film world, I always make my days and respect my budget). The whole thing sounds like as good an investment as can be made into the notoriously difficult, if not disastrous, movie business...
But still, no money was forthcoming. For a minute or two, we had the interest of the notoriously prolific Elie Samaha--a producer/financier of literally hundreds of movies and somebody who has certainly earned the respect of the business by doing things his own way and continuing to get movies made. But something about the deal we were being offered didn't sit right; we had the feeling that the movie itself wasn't really of any interest to his company--it had more to do with our cast and budget, which to me meant that the movie was probably headed straight to DVD once it was done.
So more reality needed to be added to our still notional movie equation. Having cast the main roles, what more reality was there to add? The answer was: a budget.
Enter my old friend, veteran indie producer Zachary Matz. Zach and I go back twenty or so years and were often, in our so-called salad days, to be found hanging around various dimly lit lounges in LA trying to figure out how to make movies together. Over the years our personal friendship outlasted our never-quite-professional one. But he'd read the "City Island" script and loved the cast that we'd assembled and was no stranger to the awfully strange process of literally willing these movies into existence. Zach suggested that a real budget and shooting and post production schedule were in order: if nothing else, we would all find out what the actual number was--budget and shooting days--of this movie.
Zach and I went to New York and I showed him the real City Island. We cruised the city and I showed him the other locations--Roosevelt Island, Tribeca, prisons etc. We talked though the script and how many days it could comfortably and efficiently be shot in. And he did a budget and schedule--all of this, as they say, on spec. No guarantees that any of us were making a movie. But once we were done, I showed the work to Andy and arranged for him and Zach to meet. Andy is no stranger to budgets and schedules and had plenty of detailed questions to ask. But what emerged from this exercise was one more piece of what felt to me like an ever growing...argument, I guess I would say...a case that we were making for the movie that we were willing into existence. Zach's participation at this point was crucial; no money was in place yet, but somehow we continued to build a field on which we would play our game. And if you build it, they will come...
Or so they say in that Kevin Costner basball movie that isn't "Bull Durham"...
...which is more or less precisely what happened a couple of months later when another old friend of mine, Lauren Versel--a screenwriter turned producer-called to say hi to me and instead got an earful about my field of dreams.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 5:40 AM