The STUCK! shoot was marvelous.
One of the best parts was the food. See, when the cast and crew are only a handful of people it is possible to go to someone’s home for a dinner party. You can eat superior food. Feeding 42 people on a traditional crew likely means scraps and bulk-made meals. And there is no intimacy about that kind of thing. With a set like mine we eat homemade slow-cooked masterpieces every night. We can sit around the same table. It becomes a far more rewarding experience.
Like WATCH OUT, the STUCK! shooting days were just as efficient. We’d work from 9 AM and wrap around 5 or 6 PM. We worked every day with no days off. It took less than two weeks to complete.
The reviews were amazing: Film Threat writes, “Balderson just doesn’t make simple films, and this is no exception. It’s not in the words, or the plot or the story; but it’s in the air, it’s in the beat, it’s in the very soul of the work.” The LA Weekly said it was “Revolutionary.” And UK Critic MJ Simpson writes, “Steve Balderson is the best-kept secret in American independent cinema. He makes his own films – which are unfailingly brilliant – and the rest of the world very, very gradually catches up with him.”
In February, 2010, the American Cinematheque hosted the LA Premiere of STUCK! at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The cast was there with me to present the film and do a Q&A after the screening. One of the people in the audience mentioned that because all the actors were there, talking enthusiastically about this new way of filmmaking, it spoke volumes about the process.
I signed a deal with a sales agent who is selling STUCK! to buyers around the globe.
In the fall of 2010, I put together another top-secret film shoot and produced my film THE CASSEROLE CLUB. A couple new stars joined the group for this shoot: namely Kevin Richardson (from the Backstreet Boys), Daniela Sea (from the L Word), and acclaimed stage actress Jennifer Grace. We made the film in Palm Springs in exactly the same way we made STUCK! and WATCH OUT. The entire experience is captured in director Anthony Pedone’s documentary CAMP CASSEROLE.
The shoot was a lot like summer film camp. We rented a few vacation homes that would serve as the locations, and also would house all of us. Staying together in the same place was magical. Each day we’d gather to film scenes, and if any actors weren’t working, they would lounge by the pool, read a book, and basically turn their time on the set as a vacation. This aspect of the shoot was the best. I made sure that we’re doing the work we need to do, but it’s just as important for me to create an atmosphere that is a rewarding experience personally.
Each evening we would have a meal sponsored by one of the cast or crew, or friends and family. Imagine being at summer camp and coming together over a meal and singing Kumbaya. That’s exactly what it was like! Only instead of singing Kumbaya, per se, several people would pull out their guitars and do an impromptu acoustic concert; or, there would be fun short films being made; or, night swimming and gazing up at the stars with a great conversation.
One of my favorite moments filming THE CASSEROLE CLUB came whenever we needed to do some exterior shots around the Palm Springs area. We’d just jump in my car and drive around until we’d find the greatest place, jump out, film it, then rush back to the car and speed away as if nothing ever happened. This is the kind of freedom I love work in. It’s exhilarating.
THE CASSEROLE CLUB premiered at Visionfest`11 in New York City where we were nominated for 9 Independent Vision Awards and won 5: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for Kevin Richardson, Best Actress for Susan Traylor, Best Production Design. And the most overwhelming compliment came in 2012 when the U.S. Library of Congress invited the film to be a part of its permanent collection.
Making films in today’s distribution landscape is drastically different than it was even a few years ago. It is very important to spend as little money possible to make your films. If your film cost $200,000 that’s fine. But maybe you could try to find a way to make two movies for $100,000 instead of putting all your eggs in one basket.
Be realistic when you’re planning your expenses. Regardless of the storyline, regardless of the actors, stars or location, if you think your project will make $100,000 in sales, your best bet at sustainability is to make sure that project costs less than that.
These are just some of the ways the distribution landscape has changed the way films are made.