One of my favorite parts about being married to someone who works in the arts is that we are surrounded by artistic people.Â Always have been.Â When Chris was growing up, he had a tight group of four guys that he hung out with.Â In high school, they were inseparable, but in college, they all went off and did their own things.Â And part of that drifting meant they all found the path that they were best suited to.
Chris pursued technical theater.
Gary went into music.
Justin moved to New York for acting.
Brett made movies and went into film.
And Robert served as a Recon in the Marines.
A few years ago, Robert passed away unexpectedly and while it was the hardest thing any of them have had to deal with, one shining ray of goodness emerged.Â The boys became ever closer.Â It was the first time I heard them refer to each other openly as “my brothers.”Â Now, through Robert, they have become a family.
And when someone in your family achieves something great, you share in that.
Last month, our friend Brett achieved something great.Â His feature film, The New Year, premiered at the Sarasota Film Festival and right out of the bag won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.Â That award meant so much to Brett because it was voted on by the people and when you’ve spent your career with your best friends telling you how amazingly talented you are, I imagine its nice to have complete strangers validate that, too.Â And as of this morning, Brett got even more good news.Â His film as been admitted to the LA Film Festival, one of the most competitive and nationally recognized film festivals.
Chris and I saw the movie over Christmas and I was so impressed with Brett.Â It is such a heart-warmingly honest story about a girl who stays in her small hometown to take care of her sick father.Â I couldn’t let such a good movie and such a great person pass by without sharing the experience with you all.Â Because I married someone who has a really unique job, I really love hearing about different career paths.Â I love knowing how people ended up where they are.Â And Brett has a great story.Â He also has a beautiful girlfriend, Lovely Linda, who has been by his side since college.Â And as someone who is married to a person fully committed to their career path in the arts, I know first hand that it can make for interesting relationship dynamics, and I was particularly interested in how Brett and Linda make it work while Brett is making movies.Â I emailed him and asked if he would answer a few questions so that I could put the interview on my blog.
Here we go…
What is your film about?
It’s called “The New Year.” It’s about a young, intelligent twenty-something named Sunny who was forced to return to her hometown to take care of her father who is dying of terminal cancer. She finds herself working at a bowling alley and living a life she never imagined for herself. With her life on hold she settles into a routine – complete with a sweet boyfriend and a best friend – but, in the meantime, she’s given up some of the things she was most passionate about. Sunny is then taken off guard when she runs into an old high school rival who is home from New York for the holidays. She finds herself at a crossroads between chasing her old dreams, or creating new ones that she never believed she would have.
How long did it take you to make the film?
I started writing the film with my sister-in-law Elizabeth Kennedy in July of 2008 and we finished editing and post production in July of 2009. We shot the film over about two weeks in January in Pensacola.
(FUN FACT:Â Brett’s sister-in-law is married to best-selling author, Joshua Ferris, one of my favorite authors.Â I begged Brett to bring me to his book signing a few years ago.Â I felt very cool.Â And then I forgot the book I was going to have signed and I had to run out and buy one at 9:00pm in Manhattan.Â And then I felt not so cool.)
Aren’t films expensive to make?Â How much did yours cost?Â And where do you get the money for something like that? (I am very concerned that all of our friends are going to starve to death and yet they continuously surprise me by being well-fed…)
The budget from start to finish was $8,000. I saved up money from a film I worked on in 2008 and spent all of that, plus credit cards, plus plus money from friends and family that were generous enough to help me out. We got so much for free, though – equipment, food, lodging – so many people helped me along the way. I couldn’t have made the film without so many people’s time, energy, money, and belief. It was overwhelming to have so many people pitch in for no other reason
than to help me.
What is the timeline like for making a movie?Â What was the timeline for The New Year?
The timeline for my film went like this:
1. I called my sister-in-law Elizabeth to pitch the rough idea and see if she would help me write a movie about a girl who works at a bowling alley in her hometown.
2. We wrote the script.
3. I finished work on “The Road” then headed straight to Pensacola to start pre-production work on “The New Year.” I basically talked to every business owner in the area to either shoot at their place of business or convince them to give me free food.
4. I then secured a living situation (Thanks to the amazing Muddie!) and got everyone tickets to come down to Pensacola.
5. After the real new year we started shooting and had the best time I’ve ever had on a film.
6. Back to NY for editing and post-production (sound mixing, color correction etc).
7. Final output and submission to festivals.
How did you get into film?Â What is that like as a career?
I work in the business but I wouldn’t say I’m “in” it quite yet. I started making films when I was really young. I made my first feature film when I was 16 with friends in Pensacola. I’ve made lots of films as I think it’s the best way to become a better filmmaker. I went to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for film school and graduated with a BFA in directing. I worked in LA as a production assistant after that for about a year then moved to Brooklyn where I’ve been ever since. I got a job as a director’s assistant on a film called “Reservation Road” and then I went on to work as an assistant to director John Hillcoat on the film “The Road.” I now work with him whenever he has work. We just finished a Levi’s ad in Pennsylvania.
Otherwise, I work on my own stuff and other odd directing or editing jobs here and there.
How and when did you choose this career?
I knew as soon as I knew what a “director” actually did. I think it was in 1994 after I snuck in to see “Pulp Fiction.” I was by all
accounts too young to see that film but it really changed the way I looked at films. And, in fact, it had a hugely positive effect on my life. It was so good that it made me want to find out “Who came up with THAT?” So I found out there was this thing called a director on films and they got to tell whatever kind of stories they wanted and that – as they say – was that. I was 11 years old.
Does working in film require a lot of travel for you?Â You seem to hardly ever be home.
Working in the film industry constantly puts me out of town. I’ve been gone for up to 8 months at a time before.
What does that do to your relationship?
It’s tough on my relationship. I think, honestly, because I’m the one that’s away and working like crazy in some far away place it’s a bit easier for me. I’m distracted and don’t really have a personal life when I’m working and on a film you’re always working. I don’t really have much time to stop and think about anything other than the work. It’s harder for Linda (I think) because she has to stay behind and go about life as normal in our apartment and with our friends etc. I think it’s tougher because it’s her normal life just minus me while I’m off having completely new experiences.
So how do you guys make it work?
We talk multiple times a day and try to iChat as much as possible. So far we’ve managed to have her visit pretty regularly because all of my jobs have been in the US. There’s a possibility of the next project taking me out of the country for a while and that’s definitely an exciting/scary thought. We’d really have to figure out how to make that work. I feel like we always figure it out, though, hard times and all.
I took a lot of things away from this interview.Â First was how incredible it is that we are all made individually.Â How many people could actually live the life that Brett and Linda are leading?Â Not too many.Â But how many people could live the life that Chris and I are leading?Â Not many of those either.Â And how many can live the life that YOU live every day?Â Probably not many.Â We are all so different and I think that is just incredible.
Secondly, talking with Brett just confirmed that relationships – like people – are all so unique.Â What it takes to make one tick is never the same thing it takes to make another tick.
And finally, I was reminded after talking with Brett of how important your friendships are.Â We naturally take on traits of those closest to us, and what a responsibility that gives to the people in our lives.Â They are shaping us and helping us become who we are.Â I am so glad to have people like Brett in my life.Â He teaches me that one of the most important things in life is loving what you do and who you do it with.Â And while what I do might look incredibly different than what Brett does, I can still learn from him to be happy and to love the life I am leading.Â That is a truly uplifting friendship.