Zac Cooper, whose feature debut It Happened One Weekend plays this weekend at Indianapolis’ Heartland International Film Festival, moved to Indianapolis six years ago at the urging of film-school friends. The Lexington, Kentucky native has found his adopted city to be a great place to make movies — in part because it hasn’t been over-filmed.
It Happened One Weekend focuses on two twentysomethings — played by Cooper and Merry Moore – who both go through breakups on the same weekend. They walk around lovely Indianapolis landmarks like the city’s canals and Monument Circle — shot in gorgeous black and white by cinematographer Taylor Dekker — as they contemplate their love lives and eventually begin to examine their own relationship.
Cooper, who wrote, directed and edited the film, was able to bring it to life by crowdfunding $15,000 via Seed + Spark, and borrowing equipment high-end equipment, including an ARRI camera, from Bloomington, Indiana’s Pigasus Pictures. He also went local in his search for music, turning to Indianapolis composer and performer Mina Keohane.
“There is a good film community here,” Cooper says of Indianapolis in a new interview you can watch above. “It’s small, but everybody is down to help out in whatever way they can. … I know how to make stuff here, and that’s what’s most important to me.”
Besides offering thriving films festivals — It Happened One Weekend debuted at Indianapolis’ Indy Film Fest in June, and screens Saturday at Heartland — the city offers a lower cost of living than larger film hubs, and takes seriously its nickname as “the Crossroads of America.” Prominent streets are named for other states, a competitive restaurant scene reflects an influx of chefs from all over the world, and the businesses are eclectic. Chicago is only three hours away by car — but Cooper found plenty of talent locally. Keohane, for example, went international to give the film a timeless, universal feel that nods to French and Italian films of the 1960s.
“She just blew it out of the water,” he says. “I gave her some inspiration of some ’60s Italian pop and ’60s French stuff that I was listening to because I thought it fit the film and it was really fun. She took that and ran with it. There’s a song in there about Indiana that she translated into French. I didn’t know she was going to do that.”
The film also pays homage to a ’70s classic, taking inspiration from Gordon Willis’ cinematography in Manhattan — but with the focus turned to a photogenic Midwestern metropolis. One reason Cooper thinks Indianapolis pops on camera is that “people haven’t seen it on film. You’re not used to it.”
“You do get a lot of mileage out of shooting in a place that has not been shot to death,” he says.
Cooper is so committed to making movies with his friends that his production company is called A Few Friends Films. But he’s careful to note that friendship is a two-way street.
“You’ve always got to encourage each other. It’s easy to feel like you’re not going anywhere, and I think if you have that community around you, to encourage you and to help you, that’s so important. And helping others, too. You want to make sure that you’re not the one always asking for favors — step in and help out however you can.”
Main image: It Happened One Weekend stars Merry Moore and Zac Cooper, overlooking downtown Indianapolis.