TIGER TAIL IN BLUE: The joke’s on you!

Last week I flew home from Chicago, while most of my friends and colleagues were flying home from Salt Lake City. Although I missed all the hubbub that was the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, I was lucky enough to be a part of a truly inspiring and rewarding experience. All that, and I still got to go sledding!

Frank V. Ross, a completely self-taught filmmaker, has made seven movies in the Chicagoland area. Not only does he write, direct and edit his own films; but oftentimes he’s one of the lead actors, he runs sound, and up until his last few pictures, he’s operated his own camera. Essentially, he’s a one man movie making machine. He’s also waited tables for over ten years and has no idea how to do anything else.

I first met Frank after a screening of his fifth film, PRESENT COMPANY, at the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival. I was impressed with his ability to capture working people in real situations in an interesting way. Maintaining that balance between real people and the characters they play is key when creating a narrative meant both to convey the real world and to entice its viewers. Additionally, I’m fascinated in Frank’s remarkable ability to play jokes on his viewers and get away with it. He’ll often use suspense in humorous situations throughout his films to build the interest of the audience and then offer no real payoff. The audience will go along with it, oftentimes knowing they’ve been duped, because of his keen ability to distract and redirect.

As I read the script for AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK (our first collaboration), I found myself consistently amused, expecting something to happen and then chuckling when it didn’t. Frank even blatantly adds a title card, displayed after the main title while a supporting character has a tire blowout, that reads: “Or… These Things Happen in Threes.” Maintaining a pleasant vibe and keeping it fun for the audience, we ultimately get a payoff at the end – albeit, a non-traditional one.

In Frank’s latest incarnation, TIGER TAIL IN BLUE, he ups the joke’s-on-you ante. The film will thoroughly confuse some audiences and they’ll be constantly trying to figure out what’s going on. Whether or not the confusion over something so simple actually matters in the grand scheme of things is up to them. That being said, when discussing filmmaking over a glass of Scotch one evening, Frank said, “Movies aren’t a painting that you can stare at and make your own conclusions.” The endings don’t change, and the viewer can either accept that and go along for the ride, or not.

Some of the highlights in Chicago included reading an infamous John Wayne interview from a 1971 edition of Playboy Magazine, sledding down a hill on a snow shovel, Drew falling down the hill with all the sound gear (unscathed!), sausage and peppers, stares I got when I whipped out my koozie, realizing that I really enjoy slate jokes, laughing at how much fun it really is to count down the New Year over and over again in the middle of January. Somewhere in between all of that we made a movie. Follow TTIB on Twitter @TIGERTAILinBLUE.

In the meantime, the day before this edition of The SCENE Magazine rolls out, AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK will be screening in Los Angeles at UCLA. Towards the end of March, we’ve got a screening in The Netherlands. You can catch up with Frank while he’s waiting tables at Vincitori Restaurant in Westmont, Illinois – despite the fact that aspiring filmmakers should be paying him buckets of money to teach them how the heck to make movies.

Originally published in The SCENE MAGAZINE – February 2011

Find out more about TIGER TAIL IN BLUE, including links to still photos, Facebook and Twitter sites.

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That’s a Wrap on WUSS; Company Move to UNCERTAIN, TX

At this very moment, I’m surrounded by a comforting, slow-rolling breeze amidst the quiet air of the small historic town of Jefferson, TX. The birds are singing and I’m overlooking an overgrown backyard garden upon a second floor balcony at the Alley-McKay House Bed & Breakfast Inn. Attempting to clear my head, I’m mentally preparing myself for a chaotic nine day shoot for Eric Steele’s first feature length film, UNCERTAIN, TX. That much more intense, given we just wrapped on Clay Liford’s WUSS (previously MINOR IN POSSESSION) only a few days ago.

To be shot entirely on location in Jefferson, Marshall, and Uncertain, TX, news of the film shoot has already spread like wildfire in this small, tight knit community. While much of pre-production such as casting, preliminary crew hires and location securement, was initiated prior to principle photography on WUSS, logistics regarding photography, lodging, scheduling and general production were all tackled over the course of two fifteen hour days. In other words: we’re nuts!

But even in this brief, peaceful moment, I can’t help but reflect upon the absolute insanity that was WUSS. By and large the shoot went smoothly, albeit with ultra long hours. The actors really nailed it take after take and the entire crew was on point. Like all productions, however, the set of WUSS was not without its problems, culminating on the very last shooting day. Utilizing a “poor man’s” process trailer (i.e., a Uhaul trailer) we were filming all of the driving scenes. Down to the very last scene with two shots left, our trailer carrying the picture car carrying our actors was pulled over by Dallas PD. Fumbling to find something illegal with what we were doing, the stop ended up merely being an inconvenient delay―no tickets were issued and everybody went home.

Even more interesting and relevant, considering I recently joined the Kemah Volunteer Fire Department, was a small fire on set from the extremely hot exhaust of a generator. The fire started on the grass just behind the generator and ended up catching a furniture pad covering the generator to muffle the sound. Naturally, the location we were on did not have an accessible fire extinguisher; so we had to grab one out of the grip truck, parked in front. The fire department was called, as I put out the fire. Apparently, it was more amusing than shocking, given the fire was so small compared to the intense blast of the dry chemical in the extinguisher. All of this was caught on tape but then recorded over with footage of Tony Hale―probably a good idea.

Speaking of which, for those of you who are “Arrested Development” fans, Tony Hale is an absolute riot and a constant performer. There wasn’t a straight face behind the scenes during his time on set. Luckily, no one busted a take! Endearing, sweet and genuinely happy to participate, Hale was a welcomed addition to our cast.

Ultimately, even with some minor setbacks, a multitude of locations and complicated scenes with a lot of actors, we managed to pull off a great shoot. The wrap party took place at the historic Texas Theatre, where we showed a blooper reel and a rough edited assembly of about ten minutes to the cast and crew. All that behind us, we’re taking a break from WUSS in order to shoot UNCERTAIN, TX, where the small town vibe has created an interesting juxtaposition to hectic city life of Dallas.

It’s now 12:30 a.m. and call time is six and a half hours later. The house is silent, save for me, clicking away on my computer. Tomorrow we begin a brand new endeavor and my exhaustion is overcome by my anxiousness. I’m certain most of the crew is feeling the same way, having also just worked on Liford’s film. I’ll say it again: we’re nuts; utterly nuts.

Thankfully, we’ve got an amazingly talented group of individuals taking on this task. I’m once again partnered with my right hand man, Daniel Laabs―my production coordinator and friend. My wrap present to him after WUSS was a crumpled up one sheet for the film, TRASH HUMPERS, I found in the garbage at the Texas Theatre. While this seems odd to most of you, I’m sure―it meant a great deal to Daniel. Although I’m super happy with this serendipitous find (seriously, watch the movie and you might begin to understand why it’s so great), this time I might need to spring for a bottle of Jim Beam.

As silly as this will sound, I’m uncertain about where this film is going to go; although I’m quite certain it will be something great. Having a smaller cast and crew and a shorter shooting schedule in an intimate location will surely create an entirely different vibe. But that’s what movie making is all about. If it’s the same old thing every day, we wouldn’t be so driven to do it. This raw intensity is my passion and what fuels me―I can never stop making movies.

Originally published in The SCENE Magazine – August 2010

Back on Set with WUSS and UNCERTAIN, TX

Update: The film previously titled “MINOR IN POSSESSION” is now titled “WUSS.”

This month, we begin principle photography on a feature dark comedy, tentatively titled WUSS (previously MINOR IN POSSESSION). Written and to be directed by Clay Liford, the film is somewhat of a follow-up to the Sundance short, MY MOM SMOKES WEED. Nate Rubin loosely reprises his role as “Mitch,” an awkward late twenty-something individual with little direction in life. A high school English teacher, Mitch finds himself incapable of relating to his students, his peers or his family. Barely managing to get through life as it is, things turn from ugly to worse when he’s beaten up by a group of his own students. Too embarrassed to tell his fellow teachers and having no where else to turn, Mitch teams up with Maddie, a young girl feared school-wide because of a dark family reputation. Bonded in battle, the student and teacher form a friendship that stretches the use of the word inappropriate.

The Film, to be shot in Dallas and surrounding areas, features a hodgepodge of local talent and well-known faces, such as Tony Hale from “Arrested Development” fame and Alex Karpovsky, who starred in Sundance favorite LOVERS OF HATE. Set to be shot in HD on the Canon 5D Mark II with all sorts of fancy lenses, rigs and adaptors, WUSS will continue a recent trend in independent (and some studio) productions of utilizing low cost camera solutions to produce quality, high definition video.

I got my first dose of the Canon 5D the last weekend in June while producing the short film NEAL, which Liford shot, about a poolside escapade that turns deadly for two lovers unaware of what lurks beneath the crystal clear water. Adding into the mix some heavy underwater footage, I was really impressed with what this camera can accomplish with the proper gadgetry―in this case, underwater housing specifically designed to keep the camera water tight. Although the most rewarding experience on this particular shoot was spraying co-lead Dallas based actor Ryan Harper Gray with a water cannon filled with fake blood.

We plan to shoot WUSS in fifteen days―a very small window of time, relatively speaking. During that time, I’ll be staying with one of my producing partners, Eric Steele, whom I stayed with during the production of NEAL. Lucky for me, I’ve already bonded with his dog, Jimmy―I’m hoping that’s some sort of omen. Along with general producing, I’ll be acting as unit production manager (UPM); meaning, I’ll be the primary producer on set. In short, I will be living, eating and breathing WUSS. It’s really hard for me to comprehend the fact that it’s actually been over a year since I’ve been on set for a feature (and other than NEAL, the set of a short, for that matter). Although, between film festivals, small dealings with distribution matters, and preparing for future projects, I’ve somehow stayed fully engrossed in filmmaking.

That being said, immediately following MIP, we go into pre-production for a measly five days before shooting our next project (also on the Canon 5D), co-written and to be directed by my future and temporary housemate. The film, titled UNCERTAIN, TX, is named for the small Texas town, with a population of approximately 150, on the west side of Caddo Lake; and will touch on it’s rich history and eerie superstitions. Although our principle location is a bed and breakfast located in the neighboring city of Marshall, there will be plenty of footage filmed on location.

Much like LOVERS OF HATE, which was conceived during a stay at the principle location, the script for UNCERTAIN, TX was largely written because of the already existing bed and breakfast. The film takes place on the banks of Caddo Lake and follows two drifting con-artists who deceive the aged, blind proprietors of a cozy bed and breakfast and their semi-retarded son by posing as two guests who have made reservations for the following week. They all sing songs and dance around and fish and garden and everything is quite comfortable and nice. And then… Wham!

Steele is interested in the reality of sudden changing moments. Heightened and stylized in the script, these moments can be very real and truly horrifying. Most of us have been in situations in life that suddenly, for whatever reason, everything seems to change. Without warning, the good times are over and our gut tightens up. What if we could pin point these moments and prolong them in cinematic time for an audience? A thriller, of sorts, I read UNCERTAIN, TX in under an hour on my iPhone on my way to Chicago for three screenings of AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK. Upon landing I immediately emailed Steele (and co-writer, Hunter Wood) the following: “This is incredible! I’m overcome with a sense of dread after completing the script! I read it in like an hour―couldn’t stop. I’m super excited about this and totally creeped out! Thanks a lot guys―my night is ruined!”

WUSS and UNCERTAIN, TX are just two of many films on the horizon. In early September I plan to work once again with my old friend David Lowery, writer/director of ST. NICK, on his short, PIONEER; but can’t give details on that just yet. Later that month, I’ll be producing Michelle Mower’s THE PREACHER’S DAUGHTER right here in Houston―with locations in Alvin and other surrounding areas. PD follows the estranged daughter of a small town minister who is forced to return to the strict, religious home of her youth and face the demons she left behind four years before. A small break in October to produce the Houston Film Race and then it’s back to Dallas in November for John Wildman’s STRIPPED, a film following the events of a birthday outing that turns into a horrific fight for survival when two brothers and a friend become trapped in a house with a “family” of malevolent women.

More details on those films and others currently in development as they come. In the meantime, I’ll be reporting next month from high school and the following knee deep in Caddo Lake.

Originally published in The SCENE Magazine – July 2010

See more information, including synopses, press and other information for WUSS and UNCERTAIN, TX

Maryland Film Fest Wrap Up -or- Yeah, I’ll Continue to Produce Movies

It’s now officially been a year since I upped the ante and started doing film full time. Oddly enough, the Maryland Film Festival, which takes place in May, accurately marks this decision. Last year, ST. NICK screened at the festival and I flew in from Huntsville, Alabama. Upon my return, I immediately packed my belongings and drove back to the Clear Lake Area. Partly due to the fact that I wanted to be closer to my sweetheart and partly because the passion for selling storm restoration services (yep, that’s what I used to do) had completely fizzled out and died. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

This year, EARTHLING, LOVERS OF HATE and MY MOM SMOKES WEED all screened in Maryland. One of the coolest filmmaker hangout festivals in the country, the Maryland Film Festival knows how to show its filmmakers a good time. This year, I got in early enough on Thursday to enjoy some of the sights in the Mount Vernon Historic District before slamming headfirst into films and parties. Strolling through the historic square, I took a gander at the (original) Washington Monument and ducked into The Walters Art Museum before meeting up with friends (including fellow Houstonian, Kelly Sears!) for a relaxing dinner where I sampled famous Maryland crab cakes and cream of crab soup.

As most of you know already, I’m quite a food lover; and Maryland certainly delivers. Golden West Cafe once again catered “Tent City”―the center of festival happenings―where the filmmakers lounge and most importantly, where all the eats and drinks are located. Nonstop complimentary made-to-order food and drink service from around noon to nine is always a plus. I believe I engulfed three rare buffalo bacon burgers in three days. Other complimentary food opportunities included smoked salmon and mussels at the filmmakers’ champagne reception and a gluttonous feast of good ole’ fashioned barbequed brisket at the closing night party.

Along with gorging myself, I happened to catch some really great films as well. The screenings of my films all went really well and the response during Q&A was positive. Maryland is a noncompetitive festival and totally laid back, so it’s a really great forum to hang out with other filmmakers and see lots of films you haven’t had a chance to check out. I used this festival to play catch-up and see some films by friends or acquaintances of mine that I hadn’t had a chance to catch at Sundance or South By Southwest.

DADDY LONGLEGS, a film by Josh and Benny Safdie―ultra-DIY filmmakers with no concern for things like permissions or permits―premiered at Cannes and stars fellow filmmaker and friend, Ronnie Bronstein, as Lenny, a father who’s mastered the art of making life as difficult as possible. Needy, helpless and downright impossible to deal with, DADDY LONGLEGS takes us through a short annual two week period where this completely devoted yet utterly hapless father has custody of his two kids. Most intriguing is the fact that Lenny’s character is based on the Safdie’s real-life father. And so, the film is both a subtly empathetic character study and a disturbingly sentimental portrait of a reckless and irresponsible individual. Distributed through IFC Films, DADDY LONGLEGS is currently in theaters and on demand.

Also picked up by IFC was Aaron Katz’ COLD WEATHER, which bowed at SXSW this year. Katz is often attributed to the esoteric genre “mumblecore.” Sort of a filmmakers and industry only club, mumblecore describes naturalistic, highly improvised low-budget films that started popping up at SXSW circa 2005. COLD WEATHER marks a different approach to the oddly coined genre in that it’s shot beautifully on the RED ONE and mixes in a mystery element, giving the film a richer, more intense, feel. At the same time, the mystery element is really, and brilliantly, beside the point―this film is really dealing with personal relationships of “mumbly” twenty-somethings.

Austin filmmaker and mumblecore actor, Mark Duplass stars in MARS, a film by UT professor Geoff Marslett. MARS is an animated feature about a group of laid back astronauts on a mission to land on the red planet, MARS, amidst a world who doesn’t really care about space travel anymore. An ominous tale of what’s to come; basically, it’s pretty darn close to the world we live in now. With Kinky Friedman playing himself as the President of the United States and quirky sub-genius characters playing highly-skilled astronauts, the film is definitely Austin-based. Marslett actually developed the method of animation used in the film. The film has not yet been acquired.

After leaving Maryland this time around, I was greeted at the airport by my sweetheart and we drove home to Kemah. In an weird sense of justification for the choices I’ve made, I’ve recently become attached to several other projects coming up throughout the year. Even weirder, however, is the fact that AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK, which premiered earlier this year at SXSW, will be having its hometown premiere in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center this month; while the company I represented doing storm restoration is also currently in Chicago selling exterior services after a hailstorm ravaged the northwest suburbs. I’m really not sure what that means; but I am certain I’m too busy to worry about it.

Originally Published in The SCENE Magazine – June 2010

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Dallas Film Festival Loses AFI Affiliation, Gains Independence

The 2010 DALLAS International Film Festival (DIFF) was a tightly run, well-organized and managed event this year; contrary to concerns about the success of the festival sans its American Film Institute (AFI) affiliation. The Dallas Film Society clearly took its role very seriously in maintaining a well-ordered machine, in order to provide festival quality films, along with balancing out celebrity appearances. Now that the red carpet’s been rolled up and the dust has settled―and yet people are still talking about the festival―we can see it from a much clearer perspective.

Chairman of the Board and face of the festival, Michael Cain, has taken what began as a small, independent film festival (Deep Ellum Film Festival) and turned it into what it is today. Not only should a film festival screen amazing, cutting edge films; but at the helm should be all the filmmakers who make these films. Taking care of the individuals behind the films is of utmost importance with regards to festival experience. Dallas knows how to take care of its filmmakers.

This year marked my third anniversary of attending the festival as a filmmaker and I can safely say it’s been my favorite experience thus far. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that I’ve met so many people in the last three years involved with the festival, the press who covers the festival and Dallas film culture in general. But ultimately, I found myself at a festival where a filmmaker can screen his or her film and not get lost in the shuffle of A-list celebrities and big-budgeted films. Not that there weren’t a ton of A-list celebrities and big-budgeted films! There were. But this has to do with the organization of the festival as a whole. In Dallas, it doesn’t matter how successful you are; as long as you’re a filmmaker, you get the rock star treatment. Personally, my week was filled with red carpet appearances, interviews and publicity spots―and I didn’t even star in, write or direct the films I’m associated with!

This year I had two films I produced at the festival, LOVERS OF HATE and EARTHLING. While both films did really well, EARTHLING stole the show―probably having something to do with all the pre-festival press it received as well as being one of Dallas Observer’s most anticipated films of the fest. Not only did it sell out its two scheduled screenings; but received a third screening at the Dallas Museum of Art to accommodate those folks turned away. Several other films received the same treatment due to the foresight and flexibility of DIFF staff.

Aside from packed houses and successful screenings, DIFF cleverly balanced its festival-quality content with all sorts of celebrities, award-winning filmmakers and loads of events and parties. Texas native and Fort Worth regular, Bill Paxton, who I’ve met on several other occasions, was seen at all the events over opening weekend. I also had a great deal of time to spend with my friend, Jeff Scheftel (writer/director/producer “Biography” & “Modern Marvels”) who was there with a Darfur doc, THE LAST SURVIVOR. Bummed about missing WINTER’S BONE for the third festival in a row (it premiered at Sundance), I was relieved when I had a chance to catch up with lead actor and Texas lover, John Hawkes. Additionally, meeting Frank Darabont (writer/director THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION & THE GREEN MILE), Tim McCanlies (writer THE IRON GIANT), and actress Karen Black (EASY RIDER) were high points. The low point was meeting Clint Howard in an elevator and not recognizing him until long after I’d put my foot in my mouth―oh well, he silently forgave me by accepting my Facebook request!

Most of the official parties took place at the Palomar Hotel (across from the Angelika Theatre in Uptown Dallas, the venue for most of the screenings); and DIFF, who’s been known for its festival lounge in the past, certainly didn’t let us down this year. The lounge boasted three arcade machines (with tons of games on each), Billiards, a Foosball table, Wii, full service open bar all ten days, DJ, and “DallasFest After Dark” presented by Red Carpet Crash and Bigfanboy.com nightly coverage. Suffice it to say, the lounge was certainly a convenient destination point for filmmakers, press and festival guests.

Dallas has certainly come a long way with its festival; and as long as strong programming and a welcoming attitude continue to prevail, I’m certain the festival will thrive for years to come. Kudos to the DIFF staff. You can bet I’ll attend next year!

More coverage of film related stuff, with links to all the pics, on my blog at www.adamdonaghey.com and please follow me on Twitter @adamdonaghey and Facebook!

Look out for LOVERS OF HATE, still available On Demand from the Independent Film Channel, and EARTHLING at these film festivals in May: LOVERS at 360 | 365 (ST. NICK is also screening), both LOVERS & EARTHLING, along with MY MOM SMOKES WEED at Maryland, EARTHLING at Santa Cruz and a special screening at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

***Originally published in The SCENE Magazine – May 2010***

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2010 South By Southwest Film Festival

The South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas is consistently one of my favorite times of year. This year marked my fourth anniversary attending the festival and, with two films world-premiering (EARTHLING & AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK) and another screening (LOVERS OF HATE, which premiered at Sundance), I was certainly a busy bee! SXSW was jam packed with film industry folks, celebrities, distributors, press and publicity, festival programmers and movie lovers from all over the world. Unfortunately, as much as I love selling out screenings, people were turned away in droves―one issue, I believe, SXSW is remedying next year. As swamped as I was with my own films, I did have a limited opportunity to catch some other people’s films, along with sitting in on a few panels and attending as many parties and film-related events as I could.

The Houston area, in particular, was on the scene in Austin this year with its own party, featuring an appearance by former Houston mayor Bill White, celebrating Houston at SXSW. Several films at the festival were shot in the area and/or documented all things Houstonian; one of those films, FOR THE SAKE OF THE SONG: THE STORY OF ANDERSON FAIR, I actually caught a few days before SXSW, when I happened upon an invitation to a cast and crew screening. As the title suggests, the film documents legendary hippy folk music venue, Anderson Fair. With heartfelt testaments and rare footage from true troubadours like Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Townes Van Zandt and especially Lyle Lovett―who’s extensively interviewed―the film unfolds a story about an eccentric place where volunteers and performers were paid in spaghetti and the music was all that mattered.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Belgium, the town of MARWENCOL is busy drinking and dancing and fighting off Nazis. Made from 12” G.I. Joe figures and catfighting Barbie Dolls, the inhabitants of MARWENCOL, are mostly all named for real people who’ve interacted with their creator, Mark Hogancamp. Having suffered from brain damage and amnesia after a viscous assault, Hogancamp, in a bout of self-therapy, spends the vast majority of his time building his town, setting scenes, and coping with the horror he knows happened but can’t recall. Not only has Hogancamp built this town in his backyard, but he’s got thousands and thousands of amazing photographs and detailed stories to go with them. The intricate stories set him apart from other hobbyists and toy photographers, but what’s most interesting is that he’s doing all of this while investigating who he was in the past and discovering who he is now.

Other discoveries made at SXSW was painterly shot short doc, SELTZER WORKS, featuring the last bottler in Brooklyn discussing the finer points of bottling seltzer and why it’s a dying trade―women in the workforce, old folks retiring to Florida, one-liter bottles at supermarkets; super bizarre psychedelic trip, ENTER THE VOID, which takes several turns for the weird, culminating in the rebirth of the lead via his sister; and KICK ASS―probably one of the most intense, adrenaline-packed cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. But most appealing were the short festival bumpers―SXSW is notorious for having some of the best on the circuit―which preceded every screening. David Lowery (ST. NICK) was given the prestigious honor of creating four of the five this year. Each “handmade“ piece presents an idea that film, as we know is, is changing―the way films are made and the way films are presented. Most disturbing was a piece where a filmmaker’s head suddenly bursts into flames.

As far as my own films are concerned, we had a great turnout for all of them and most of the screenings were completely sold out. According to io9, EARTHLING is “destined for cult status” and Karina Longworth, film editor for the LA Weekly, writes, “Unjustly underbuzzed was AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK”―perhaps we should have hired a publicist after all! LOVERS OF HATE, which the New York Times called “viciously amusing,” was the feature of an NPR broadcast and became available on IFC On Demand concurrent with the festival. Each of the films has a long festival road ahead and LOVERS OF HATE will go theatrical later this year. Additionally, Lowery, my producing partner James M. Johnston, and I, met with our distributor for ST. NICK. We’re currently preparing deliverables in an effort to get the film out on DVD by the end of the year. A limited theatrical release is also in negotiations. Next up for me is the Dallas International Film Festival, taking place the second week of April; EARTHLING and LOVERS OF HATE will be screening and we’ll be announcing another project as well.

The year’s been great so far, dear readers; and I’m certain it will only get better. To prove this point, I’ll ask that you keep up with my endeavors, not only in The SCENE Magazine, but also on my website at www.adamdonaghey.com. And add me on Facebook; but when you do, mention The SCENE!

***Originally published in the April 2010 edition of The SCENE Magazine***

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Let’s Go Exploring!

Two years ago I wrote a blog entry using the title above. We were on the brink of shooting ST. NICK (my first feature film) and, in addition to the conventional impetus during the transition from December to January, I was feeling particularly inspired, partly because director David Lowery and I had just finished scouting the ranch location where, “along with prospecting the land for great shots, we made friends with the cows, the buffalo, and the horses – particularly an overzealous glass-eyed horse with a propensity for biting.” My response to our visit to the ranch had little to do with movie making and more to do with childlike experiences. A renewed spirit had overcome me and this playful mentality seemed to course through the veins of everyone involved with ST. NICK from start to finish. Now, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, that stimulating sentiment has returned, and I’ll set my sights toward newer projects on the horizon.

The year is looking promising already. In late January, I’ll find myself surrounded by snow in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival. Founded, in part, by Robert Redford, Sundance has long been the most prestigious independent film festival in the country. When I was in high school, making short films in lieu of doing homework, I dreamed of one day premiering a film at Sundance. This year I’ve got two films playing there: LOVERS OF HATE (written and directed by Independent Spirit nominee Bryan Poyser) will be making its world premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section and Clay Liford’s short, MY MOM SMOKES WEED, will be screening in a shorts block program.

A dark comedy, surrounding two adult brothers in love with the same woman, LOH relies on deep-seated sibling rivalry to present a convincing tale of deceit. Rudy Lucas is a complete and utter failure at everything. Recently separated from but still in love with his wife Diana, Rudy lives in his car, barely holding on to his job as a door-to-door fact collector for the U.S. Census Bureau. He showers at the car wash or at the homes of unsuspecting home dwellers, constantly bugs his soon-to-be ex-wife, and is all-too-obviously jealous of the success of his younger brother Paul. A children’s author of fantasy tales in the spirit of the Harry Potter ilk, Paul dedicates every one of his best selling novels to his older brother – his inspiration for the lead character and childhood co-collaborator. Oddly enough, upon watching the film you’ll get a few second’s glance at me playing the only “grown-up Paul Lucas fan,” as the author reads a selection from his latest novel. An opportunity arises and Diana decides to visit Paul at a mammoth ski lodge, incidentally located in Park City, while he’s writing a new book. Soon after, Rudy takes a road trip of his own, and, as the intimate moments between Paul and Diana play out, the unexpected visitor silently follows their every move, as he hides in closets and peeks around staircases. Upon discovering the sneaky housemate, tension rises and unexpected events unfold in a climatic, despairing finale.

MMSW premiered at the 2008 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. The film garnered the attention of critics and film programmers as it made its way on the festival circuit via some of the smaller, hip festivals. Sundance caught wind of this and invited the film to screen in 2010. While obviously the film centers around Marijuana, the story is thematically concerned with the unsettling relationship of a mildly resentful, uptight son and his loose, septuagenarian mother. Tension mounts from the very beginning as a disappointed son enters his mother’s smoke-filled room. Although happy to see him, his aging mother has difficulty rising up to hug her visiting son. As if it were a chore, he uneasily helps her up. The mood sets in and the audience is bombarded with awkwardly, uncomfortable situations throughout the film. Apparently, mom has set up a drug deal and her son is to provide transportation. Overly against the whole deal, he reluctantly agrees to drive, though mother and son argue about how to get there the entire way. Upon arrival at the drug dealers’ apartment, the son is filled with anxiety as the pot heads sample the product, and steps outside for some air. Paranoid and distraught, his only recourse is to spill the beans about he and his mother’s relationship, while one of the druggies listens. A moment of satisfaction turns completely topsy turvy as the situation culminates with consternation and the son finds himself in a most compromising predicament.

In addition to screening these two films, I intend to announce several other projects at Sundance, to be shot in 2010. I also have two other films set to premiere at later festivals and one other film currently on the circuit; although, dear readers, you’ll have to wait for another column or check my blog for news. The title “Let’s Go Exploring!” comes from Calvin’s final words to his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, as they embark on their final documented journey in Bill Watterson’s final Calvin and Hobbes strip, published December 31, 1995. The inseparable duo enter the strip, sled in hand, after a hard snow the night before. Hobbes remarks, “Everything familiar has disappeared! The world looks brand-new!” to which Calvin responds, “A new year… A fresh, clean start!” making it quite clear that despite the retiring of the comic strip, the journey will continue off the newspaper pages. As I type this, the year hasn’t quite ended and amidst feelings of complete satisfaction at where this year has taken me, I’ve got a childlike anxiety about entering the new year. It certainly is a fresh, clean start; and I’m ready to explore.

Learn more about Adam and his films at http://www.adamdonaghey.com

*** Article originally published in The SCENE Magazine – January 2010 ***