Several years ago, I started this blog to chronicle the progress of “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” I was determined to direct my first feature film and wanted to share the ups and downs of the journey with like-minded creative types. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the set….
Turns out, I achieved my dream to direct my first feature film. Only, to my great surprise, that film turned out to be a completely different project than “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” “Guys Reading Poems” – a neo-noir, black-and-white feature – consumed my time and energy to the point that I wasn’t able to continue to blog here. However, now that the film is safely into post-production, I am returning to my original mission to get “Inside-Out, Outside-In” off the ground. But now the conversation is a little different. Instead of how to get a first feature film off the ground, I’m dealing with the (ever-so-slightly) better problem of how to get a second feature funded and produced. (ok so yeah, I’m bragging a little….I can’t help it.)
Let me explain.
In the beginning of 2013, I was taking meetings and pitching “Inside-Out, Outside-In” but having great difficulty raising the kind of capital needed to fund a story that takes place in both modern day Los Angeles and ancient India. I came up with an idea – almost on a whim – to combine classic poetry with an all-male secret society narrative and shot some footage relatively cheaply. The results were so good that many trusted friends and advisors suggested I continue developing “Guys Reading Poems” as a feature film. And so I did. Relatively quickly, private equity investors rallied around “Guys Reading Poems” and we were also able to crowdfund more than $40,000 to raise enough money to transform the original project into a feature. Casting also fell into place relatively quickly (actors love black-and-white, apparently, especially when the cinematographer is someone as talented as ours – Michael Marius Pessah). Patricia Velasquez (“The Mummy”, “Arrested Development”) agreed to play the female lead role and Alexander Dreymon (“American Horror Story”) – a former acting student of mine – signed on to play the male lead. Lydia Hearst (“The Face”) also liked the script and agreed to play a key supporting role and so did Rex Lee (“Entourage”) and Christos Vasilopoulos (“Banshee”). The rest of the cast was populated with talented up-and-comers Jerod Meagher (“ABCs of Death 2”), Jason Fracaro and Vincent Montuel (all of whom also took my acting class at StoryAtlas) and also Blake Sheldon (“Age of Reason”), Justin Schwan (“Cutback”), Daniel Berilla (“Kissing Darkness”), Megan Sousa and Gopal Divan. Of the entire cast, only Blake and Lydia were brand new to my life. The rest were either friends or colleagues from previous encounters on projects or in acting classes. In the case of Rex, well, he’s one of my very best friends in the world.
What can I say? I got lucky…but in a way that I could not have predicted.
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if there was some divine guidance that brought “Guys Reading Poems” up to bat first. Like I mentioned, the budgetary requirements are less than those required for “Inside-Out, Outside-In.” There’s a great tradition of directors starting their careers in black-and-white and the neo-noir feel needed for “Guys Reading Poems” allows me to knock on the door of that club. “Guys Reading Poems” is more daring in terms of its form, whereas “Inside-Out, Outside-In” is a much more traditional narrative. There’s nothing wrong with traditional narratives (in fact, I love them) but one could argue that a more experimental approach is more likely to convince festival programmers and audiences to give a first-time director a chance. Also, since 90% of the cast were personal friends or longstanding colleagues, there was enough trust on both sides to build the type performances I admire – where the dark side of the psyche and its vulnerabilities combine with human need towards a quixotic goal or dream. As a first time director, I needed personal access to the hearts and minds of the talent and “Guys Reading Poems” offered that sort of opportunity. Along the way, I developed relationships that are crucial for my future success not only with acting talent but also investors, fellow producers, department heads, creative collaborators and crew (and yes, Shpetim Zero did the costumes for “Guys Reading Poems” as well, see below).
But now, it’s time to finish what I started with “Inside-Out, Outside-In” so you’ll be hearing from me a lot more! Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to condense some of the lessons of “Guys Reading Poems” and how I feel they might set up “Inside-Out, Outside-In” for success. Then, I’ll move into chronicling the next stages of the project.
I planned for “Inside-Out, Outside-In” to take two years to finish and start hitting the festival circuit relatively soon. Sometimes, plans don’t work out…yet, somehow, strangely, even mysteriously, dreams do.
Hunter Lee Hughes is a filmmaker living and working in Los Angeles and the founder of Fatelink, an open source production company. Our filmmaking blog charts the progress of each of our projects. If you enjoy the blog, please support our team by following us on Facebook, Twitter (@Fatelink) or Instagram (@Fatelink).