behind the four-year-old scenes

Recently Movement and Location turned up on a list by Business Insider called “The 100 best science fiction films of all time, according to critics.” The film is #100, which means it’s the first film in the list you see. Number 99 is Serenity, which I’ve watched three times. Number 98 is Inception.

We shot MAL in February of 2013, but I started writing it more than a year earlier, and it didn’t premiere until May of 2014. Festivals went for a year and a half. All told, the film overwhelmed about five years of my life.

The farther away from production I get, the less possible it seems that it ever happened. So I dug up some behind the scenes videos we shot for extra features that never got much play, and put them up on Vimeo.

HOLY SHIT.

I’m going to go ahead and start with Dan Keezer’s, because it’s the one that best recaptures the vibe of panic that kept our three person production team in survival mode all month. A week before we started filming, I met with Dan in a Fort Greene coffee shop and hired him to 2nd AD. A few hours later, my 1st AD quit the project, so I called Dan and offered him a harder job with less support and no additional money. To my extraordinary luck, he said yes.

In this video, shot more than a year after we wrapped production, the trauma seems fresh as he outlines some of the ordeals, like shooting in the dead of winter (chosen because our outstanding crew was available—no one shoots in February for a reason), and that time one of our primary locations burned down (the entire building, one week after we filmed there).

This movie wouldn’t have been completed (or survived by me) without Dan.

He also mentions what a joy it was to work with Cat Missal, and that’s for sure. She had just turned 14 when we filmed, and she and her mom Karen were astonishingly cool about how insane it is to make a movie on credit cards in a freezing February with a teenager as the second lead.

But Cat is the heart of this film, and an absolute pro, and she made me a better actor. Some days we had to get through 10 pages and a few locations, and we couldn’t have pulled it off if every take wasn’t usable. But every take was. Cat brought it every single time.

Speaking of amazing actors, Haile Owusu and I met doing a play in NYC called Rag Fur Blood Bone by Michael Yates Crowley. Even though Haile, by training, is a physicist. After the play, he moved to San Francisco! I called him back for this project, and I’m so grateful he said yes. I loved working with him, and his calm energy on set helped me calm down.

Except for something he mentions below, which is when an entire scene had to be reshot. That day was hard.

A year after the movie wrapped, I ran onto a crowded 4 train, doors slamming shut behind me, and landed directly in front of Haile, who was seated with his laptop open. It was surreal and wonderful. Turns out he’d moved to New York because of an opportunity that came up because of his being here to film MAL. You’re welcome, New York.

Dan Tepfer is a gifted jazz musician who became a dear friend over the course of scoring this film. He was the first person to watch a rough cut, and he got it, which was so gratifying, because the edit was a slog, harder even than writing the screenplay. It wasn’t until Dan’s reaction that I thought, oh thank god, this debt and insanity was worth doing after all.

He won Best Original Score at the Brooklyn Film Festival. And he has a new album out with Lee Konitz.

This photo was taken after the announcement that I’d won Best Screenplay at the Brooklyn Film Festival:

best screenplay.jpg

The award ceremony happened to immediately follow our second screening, so many of my friends were around me, as were my parents. And of course Alexis, my partner in this whole exciting and difficult adventure.

Someone handed me a mic but I was crying a lot, so my entire speech was: “What an honor. What a fucking honor.”