posted Oct 28, 2010, 3:06 PM by Ross Bigley
1.) Where did the idea for the film come from?
My writing partner and I have been working on a feature film screenplay for about a year and a half. When the project finally started to materialize; moving from scripting to packaging we found ourselves bored to death looking for ways to pass the time until we get to pre-production. At that point rejoiced by our recent collaboration, we both knew we wouldn't mind delving straight into another project together. So Josh came up with this challenge where each of us will write down 3 ideas for short films and send it to the other writer to choose one pitch and write the script for it. Once we had two finished scripts in our hands, we narrowed it down to the one we wanted to film. So there you go, Vegas baby! Just spin the roulette wheel of ideas and wait for it to land on a good one! Of course this process sounds very random, but when we finally had a tight script version for 'Spare' we realized that once again we are exploring the frail human condition, particularly father-son relationships, using our branded mix of genres.
2.)How much did the project change from concept to final edit?
Well, originally this story took place during the Chinese revolution in the turn of the 20th century, and was about two older life long friends: Chinese women, who finally found the courage to confront each other about a dark secret from their past. Just kidding :) The story line for 'Spare' has not changed much from inception to finished film. We knew that we wanted our gangsters to challenge each other in a desolated environment, mano-a-mano, and so initially we picked the desert for the scene of the crime. However after a couple of rewrites and location scouting it turned out that filming in the woods will be the perfect setup for our reveal. Without giving away too much of the film's final twist I will say that we set out to explore the codes of honor between mobsters and as we were digging deeper uncovering layers and trying to fully understand our characters conflict, we reached the magma layer of their relationship and found out more than we bargained for..
3.)Were there any challenges during production?
The production was a one day shoot due to budget constraints. We had everything figured out in pre-production down to the finest, tiniest details, thanks to our amazing producer, Gabrielle.
We had a fancy 'Sopranos' like Cadillac donated by a friend, and we had an ongoing debate on how to most efficiently create flat tire effect without damaging our prize cadi. The day of production had arrived, we got everything and everyone on location at 5:30am, looking forward to spend a 14 hour day of productive film artistry... it was also my first time directing a red camera shoot, needing to cover 4 locations and 27 setups in slightly less than 14 hours. Add in the fact that my actors are working professionals and we were not able to make any rehearsal time prior to the shoot, and that this is a flick that involves quite a bit of action sequences, and there you have it - a beautiful mess!
...and then the vehicle's battery died on us...
We tried to jump start it for about an hour, then wasted the next two hours debating... trying to figure out the best way to recharge it without having to call AAA and waste even more precious time. Then someone got in the car and turned the key on in the ignition nonchalantly... we heard the roar of a powerful metal beast, and to our awe the car sprang to life...
The rest of the day went fairly smooth, despite the fact that we almost lost our AC, when he had an uncomfortable encounter face to face with a rattle snake. Did I mention that the AC's path was the same exact path Andy Davoli one of our leads, used 60 seconds earlier during the 7 takes we had him run down hill... oh, we also had to change locations around 4 pm for our final scene... there was simply no way for us to get to the other location, setup and get all the shots we needed. As it turned out, I think switching locations in the nick of time only helped the final look of the movie. But of course we will never know the truth.
One thing that was fairly easy to achieve on this shoot was directing the actors to put on a 'real' mafiosa performance. Both our actors had their basic training growing up in NY, and then later on honing their mobster skills with re-occurring roles in the "Sopranos". Al Sapienza (Leo) played the character of Mikey Palmice and Andy Davoli (Frank) was Dino Zerilli. Getting them to break their characters' armor and show genuine non-gangster feelings towards one another was a totally different experience and quite the challenge. Hopefully we have captured this subtle and fragile relationship well. Did I already mention that we had no rehearsal time prior to the shoot???
The wonders of low-budget film-making, it is all a labor of love as they say, and if love is a beautiful thing then with so much love that was put into this one - you guys out there - you better love it, or... we do know where you live...
4.) With the film completed, what has been the most rewarding thing about the whole experience?
Audiences reactions to the film, for sure. There is simply nothing more rewarding than sitting in the darkness with other people, sharing cinephiles camaraderie. Whether there are 8 or 250 people in the room, you hear them feeling the movie as it unfolds in front of their eyes. You hear them crack up or gasp, maybe shed a tear. They are being real in a dark room watching a fictional story, and that is truly miraculous, and I must admit slightly beyond me...
Spare screens Saturday October 30th, 5pm. Lubar Auditorium, Milwaukee Art Museum. Tickets are $10.