Roughly a year ago I was asked to write a short film for a prominent Hollywood production company after submitting my AFI Conservatory thesis film Dirty Laundry. I envisioned a tragically beautiful essay on the fragility of love and life, set against the backdrop of a barren planet Earth engulfed in an epic winter storm. I began to write what would be known as Olive.
After several discussions concerning the execution and scope of this ambitious short film, I could not convince them that Olive was the epic tale I believed it to be. “Of course,” I thought to myself. “This screenplay is literally crazy. Anyone willing to make this film would be insane.” But myself convincing could only mask my pain for so long. I still felt awful losing the opportunity of a lifetime. I literally had nothing.
Deep inside, I had gained confidence in my story and a strong passion for its message so I persuaded myself that this rejection had opened up an even bigger opportunity. Stylistically, I felt that the screenplay was a pot of gold. We live in the ‘comic film’ age, right? How difficult can it be to make a film like this? So I set out to independently produce a tragic, experimental, high concept love story with an environmental twist… Sounds easy enough, right?
I was met with immediate discouragement. It wasn’t because the idea was derivative, or that the message wasn’t incredibly timely, it was business. “What are you going to do with a short film?” People said… “Nobody watches shorts.” Or the very popular, “You can make a low budget feature for that money.” Time and time again, what I considered to be a passionate gesture of the undying hope and goodwill of humanity was reduced to the economics of filmmaking and profitability. I was crushed.
There was only one person I knew who could look into the dreariest of scenarios and find beauty, so I reached out to a good friend who also happens to be a brilliant cinematographer, Sara Ross-Samko. She loved the fairy-tale-like story and became my first ally in the crusade to produce Olive. If we had anything going for us at the time it was our complete naïveté and undaunted belief that a short film of this scope was possible and even urgently necessary.
We agreed that Olive was a very tender story, one with great lightness and vulnerability, so we decided this delicacy would best be captured on film. Kodak, Panavision and Fotokem saw the beauty in Olive and moved mountains to accommodate our shoestring budget. After gaining their support it was easy for us to build a team of key collaborators.
Production plan began to formulate until tragedy struck and we lost our production designer as she signed up for another project, sending our dreams to an unexpected, screeching halt…
In the second part of our series we will take a closer look at pre-production; how Olive’s initial struggles are put back on track to rebuild a team of filmmakers, as we prepare for actual shooting. Finally we’ll find a cast and crew, who are able to create a whimsical setting of the future to save the world we live in today. In the meantime, Learn more about this project on the website of Olive, and follow the adventures of crew and cast on Twitter and Instagram.