My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — The battle to make an independent movie

One of the odd things about being an independent filmmaker is the battle to get into production. Those of us who don’t have well-to-do families or impressive connections to powerful people have to cultivate other ways to fund the production. This is especially true today with all the turmoil in the indie film biz and the economy in general, but it’s always been true anyway.

When looking back on many years of trying to get A FATHER AND SON into production (at one point the title was EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE–The Story of a Father and Son), I realize there were many experiences that I call “a fishhook in the eye.”

When logic and weariness would support walking away from the project, there would suddenly be people who notice the script and praise it. In effect, like a fishhook in the eye, shocking me into continuing, dragging me along through the sea of disappointment. (Neat turn of a metaphor, eh?)

And yet, the hope of those incidents never led to success.

Here is a sample of some of my experiences on trying to get the movie made.

+ About a decade ago, Jason Blumenthal read the first draft and called me to tell me what a great story it was. But…his Black and Blu shingle at Sony Pictures was pursuing big studio films, so there was nothing he could do with it.

+ John Ferraro, SVP Acquisitions at Paramount Pictures, liked the script and sent it over to Paramount Classics, where they wrestled with it for a few days. They liked it. But…they had a recent edict to only acquire finished films, not scripts. “Come back with the finished film.”

+ I sat in producer Hunt Lowry’s office on the Warner Bros. lot as he told me how much he liked the script and wanted to move forward with it. But…a short while later, he landed a huge fund of Arab oil money and now can develop only big-budget studio films.

+ In late 2007, we went into production on the film ourselves. There were interested investors, and we started production. But…the then-rumored recession hit the investors hard, and we shut down production immediately.

+ Mark Lipsky, formerly of Miramax and New Yorker Films, read the script and praised it online. He wrote,

“It was awesome. Michael’s script is one of the best I’ve read in a very long time. It’s got a terrific story (one that could have gone so wrong at least a dozen times but didn’t,) it’s got loads of heart (in a good way,) it’s got humor (I laughed out loud at least a couple of times,) it’s got genuinely interesting and appealing characters (the lead is especially well drawn and a great role.) Best of all, it’s actually full of good writing.”

(Light a Fire! Blog) But…Mark is now pursuing new goals in Seattle.

And now it has been more years than I want to think about. It’s a small movie, but too big to shoot dirt cheap. I wish I could!

The thing that had kept me passionate about the movie was, there’s this guy, see–he’s some good ol’ boy who stupidly destroyed the life of his son. I don’t know who he is, I don’t know where he is, but he exists. And I always had a vision that he’d sit in a theater in some small town that some girlfriend had drug him into. He’d see A FATHER AND SON and it would strike him hard how stupid he was and how he needed to fix his mistakes and make things right by his son, save the boy from the streets that he threw him onto.

Yeah, it’s crazy to be driven by the image of just one guy in the whole world’s audience, but that image is what kept me going.

MICHAEL R. BARNARD | IMDb | LinkedIn | Resume


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