Interview by Jo Whitby.
Getting a project funded is no mean feat at the best of times but it takes even more guts to ask the general public to dip into their pockets for a film they haven’t even seen yet. Crowd-funding has given film makers the opportunity to approach movie fans directly which is risky because if they don’t think your pitch is good enough they’ll let you know pretty quickly. I’ve always associated crowd-funding with obscure indie films or slasher movies – probably more a signifier of the weird circles I frequent than anything else so when I heard that a favourite comedian of mine Josh Robert Thompson was starring in a new romantic comedy ‘Nowhere Girl’ and they were asking for help via Kickstarter I was intrigued.
‘A broken-hearted guy meets a girl who turns his life around – he’d be crazy not to fall in love with her’ is the tagline for the movie. On the surface it sounds like your bog standard rom-com – boy with broken heart meets girl, falls in love again, everybody happy, the end… except it doesn’t quite work out like that in ‘Nowhere Girl’ so we are led to believe by Jed Rigney, the writer and director of the movie.
Cat On The Wall caught with the award winning director via email to find out more about his passion for film making, script writing and the amazing RED Epic camera…
Cat On The Wall: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview! Before we talk about your new baby ‘Nowhere Girl’, could you give us an insight into your background? When did you first start making movies and how did ‘Zuko Films’ come about?
Jed Rigney: I’ve been writing professionally for almost a decade in a wide variety of media, but always humorous material ¬ or attempted humor anyway. And before that I used to make weird sketch videos for a community access show – just before the YouTube boom. Zuko Films was born out of a desire to synchronize these activities and have a company whose sole purpose was producing projects I had written.
We started off doing a short film and a web series to get our feet wet. And those productions led to me getting hired to write, direct and produce the award-winning humorous political documentary “Fools on the Hill.” And that film led to the production of my current project, “Nowhere Girl.”
COTW: Congratulations on beating your original funding target for ‘Nowhere Girl’ on Kickstarter! How does that make you feel?
JR: The Kickstarter process is really quite remarkable. I did about 40 hours of research on how best to present our film and then another 15 hours putting it together in a way that I thought would work.
And, man did it ever work! We reached our original goal in just over two days. As the pledges kept coming in, texts and emails were flying around the producing team and actors. We were all so excited ¬ not because of the money, but because of the positive response from people who weren’t involved in the film. All of us already love the film, but it was evident that the storyline and aesthetic were connecting with people in a way that we were all hoping it would.
COTW: ‘Nowhere Girl’ was already at post-production stage when you created the Kickstarter fundraising project. Why did you opt for the crowd funding route and was it an advantage for ‘Nowhere Girl’ to be nearing completion at the time of fundraising?
JR: Before we started principal photography, our production had grown to a point where we would either need to get more investors or take a shot at a Kickstarter project to cover our post-production costs. We thought about starting the Kickstarter before the filming, but at the last minute I put the brakes on that because I felt that if we could SHOW the potential backers what we were doing, we’d have a better chance of gaining support.
Based on the comments on Facebook and Kickstarter, it sure seems like it made a difference. Where I definitely know it worked is in creating interest from investors on my next project. When they saw what kind of work we were doing, they started coming to us asking how to get in.
COTW: What sparked the script writing for ‘Nowhere Girl’?
JR: After I had finished the film festival rounds with “Fools on the Hill” I met with my main producer Justin Workman about putting together a narrative feature. The challenge with a low-budget film is writing it in a way that can be filmed quickly but where the limited locations and cast seem as though that’s how it would be with any sized budget.
We were talking in his living room and his couch reminded me of a time when I was sleeping on a friend’s couch after a really bad break-up and I decided to start our story from there. I’ve always had a fondness for films about bad break-ups because I’ve had some real butt-kickers myself and as they say, “Write what you know!”
COTW: Can you introduce us to the cast and their respective characters? What was the casting process like?
JR: The lead role of Tyler is played by Josh Robert Thompson. He’s the man behind the voice and movements of Geoff Peterson, the robot sidekick on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He does a lot of voice work but he’s been doing more and more on-camera. I’ve worked with him on a few projects over the years and when I was writing “Nowhere Girl” I was hoping I could get him to play this part. He did a great job bringing that complicated role to life.
Playing the roles of his best friends whose house he’s crashing at are Jennifer Aspen and David O’Donnell. Their characters, Justin and Michelle, have a front-row seat to Tyler’s roller-coaster ride and Jennifer and David do a great job of bouncing between being funny and compassionate.
Ilana Guralnik plays the role of Katy, who comes along and helps Tyler emerge from the ashes of his bad relationship and get back in control of his life. Ilana was the perfect blend of cute, sexy and charming that we wanted for that role.
There are stand-out supporting performances from Beau Ballinger, Eliza Bayne and Andy Demetrio that account for the most hilarious scenes in the movie. All of these actors did an amazing job at elevating their characters beyond what I had hoped.
To cast the film, I went to Josh directly and he signed on just from the pitch. Justin Workman knew Jennifer, got her a script and she loved it. Then came the challenge of scheduling a shoot around these two constantly working actors. The rest of the casting process was made a lot easier by using Let It Cast.com to fill out most of the roles. We were surprised at the amount of talent available to us through their website.
COTW: On your Kickstarter page you emphasise greatly the use of a RED Epic camera. What¹s so special about it?
JR: The RED Epic makes beautiful shots with a deep, rich quality that gets really close to celluloid film. When our director of photography Justin Chin mentioned he had worked out getting that camera for the shoot, I’m not ashamed to admit that I did a little dance. At that moment, I felt like we went from making a movie to making a film.
COTW: What did you enjoy most during the making (from start to finish – not just the shooting) of ‘Nowhere Girl’? If you could go back and do something differently what would it be (if anything)?
JR: My favorite part of any project is always the writing — forming characters, building scenes and tying them all together in a way that tells a funny story that also has some depth. To me there’s nothing better than that moment when you come up with something particularly clever or funny or heart-felt that you KNOW people will connect to.
Our production went pretty flawlessly. The one thing I would’ve changed is sleeping at the house that was our primary location. There’s no way to sleep when the crew is banging around setting up at 6 a.m. I should’ve gotten a hotel or even a tent in the backyard.
COTW: It might be too early to ask but do you have any more projects on the horizon?
JR: It’s never too early to start on your next project. Even though I’m waist-deep in post on “Nowhere Girl,” I’ve got two other major projects moving ahead to shoot this year. One is a TV pilot for a variety show that harkens back to my early community access videos and the other is my next feature film, an ensemble comedy called “The Out of Town Wedding.”
The film is set to premier in Janurary 2014.