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Queers, Fears and Crocodile Tears

Queers, Fears and Crocodile Tears

Articles - Directing


Brian O’Hare and Bill Salyers in Crocodile
Tears
.

The concept of making Crocodile Tears as an independent
film came about when I saw Richard Glatzer’s film, Grief at the Seattle
International Film Festival almost two years ago. After the screening
I turned to my friends and said "I’m going to make a film." I
decided to adapt my play Satan and Simon DeSoto into a screenplay.
It is a contemporary retelling of the Faust story which I wrote in
response to my own HIV+ status. The story prods viewers to ask themselves, "How
far would I go to spare my life if I faced an imminent, horrible
death?"

The concept of making Crocodile Tears as an independent
film came about when I saw Richard Glatzer’s film, Grief at the
Seattle International Film Festival almost two years ago. After
the screening I turned to my friends and said "I’m going to
make a film." I decided to adapt my play Satan and Simon DeSoto
into a screenplay. It is a contemporary retelling of the Faust
story which I wrote in response to my own HIV+ status. The story
prods viewers to ask themselves, "How far would I go to spare
my life if I faced an imminent, horrible death?"

I had sent the play to the Sundance Institute and
was encouraged by being designated a finalist out of over 1,000
entries. I wanted to play the leading role and began talking with
a local theatre director about the possibility of helming the feature.
She agreed and the ball started rolling. Two years, five producers
and three directors later, we are in the can. What I’ve learned
from the experience is that you must have a good story/excellent
script and terrific actors; money or access to thousands of dollars
of in-kind donations; passion and a singular tunnel vision that
compels you to make the film with whatever resources you can muster.
We ultimately shot in 25 days, had 19 locations, 99 people on the
crew, 35 in the cast, and nearly 200 extras by the time we finished.
I’m not going to tell you what it cost because you wouldn’t believe
me. Considering the scope of the project it is phenomenal that
this film was made. Each one of the approximately 350 people who
worked on it for deferred or no salary gave blood; donors gave,
vendors gave, children gave. I can only think that people felt
that the story’s message was important – yes, this is a "message
picture" – albeit with dark humor. Everyone’s generosity and
benevolence was indispensable – we are only halfway done. We need
thousands more to do post. There are myriad post-production creative
decisions to be negotiated, festivals to attend and deals to be
cut with distributors (if we’re lucky). It is a most exciting time
and a terrifying one. But we would do it again in a flash. We made
an independent film and no matter what the consensus of opinion
about its artistic value, we got it done and that’s what it’s all
about. – TS

"All you need is a dollar and a dream." So
went the ad campaign for the New York State Lottery several years
ago, and so goes the mantra of the independent filmmaker today.
It seems everyone wants to get in line to claim their ultra-low-budget
film was made for less money and more insanity. It’s time for
us, the producers of Crocodile Tears, to get in line. With the
film in the can, our intentions are to raise post production
funding, develop distributor interest, and see the film all the
way to the festivals, the popcorn and the big screen.

This is a movie and, therefore, a miracle. Here comes
the " less money and more insanity" than anyone else
part. In a world where anything can be commodified, guerilla filmmaking
is no exception. But beyond the romance and hype lies the fact
that the chances of producing an ultra-low-budget film that will
actually get distribution are slim. How slim? In the year of the
Vegas film, it’s difficult to avoid gambling analogies. They say
it is more likely to be struck by lightening than it is to win
Lotto; for the ultra-low-budget filmmaker the odds of getting from
concept to distribution are probably about the same. (And when
all is said and done you can count on your body feeling as if it’s
been struck by lightening.) What do you suppose the chances really
are are that:

  • You can write or find a good script; I mean a
    really good script

  • You can raise enough money to get your film to,
    at least, rough cut

  • You can find a quality cast, crew, equipment
    for FREE!

  • You can secure locations, permits, and everyone’s
    time simultaneously

  • You can count on the generosity of hundreds of
    people for food, money, in-kind donations and time

  • You can get a church to agree to filming with
    over one hundred drag queens, leather queers, and a lesbian
    crew – or accomplish some similarly outlandish artistic requirement

You get the picture – I mean those odds have got
to be at least 100 to one. Now, in the case of Crocodile
Tears, it is as if your odds were bettered by being able to count
cards at a Blackjack table. We had the support of Pacific Grip
and Lighting, Kodak, Costco, the Q Patrol, and Starbucks just to
name a few. We also had an unbelievable crew and cast that endured
grueling schedules, uncomfortable locations and somehow managed
to be the "one-take" cast that almost never cost us film
because of flubbed lines. Their performances are extraordinary.

A great script is the categorically essential element
of any outrageous film attempt – period. If you can couple it with
indefatigable passion and intensity, with a single-mindedness that
no matter what happens, you will get this film made, then you’ve
really got a hand to bet with. They say that the harder you work,
the luckier you are. Because of our film’s message, we had the
support of the gay and lesbian community. That support translated
into extras, production assistants, food, money etc. On any given
day, the set for Crocodile Tears was the model of gay/straight
relations.

We have our share of tales of woe: the generator
that ran out of gas at 4 am; the trolley that ran over our heads
for five days; the time our film stock had to be flown in minutes
before our first shot, the inordinate amount of tomato sauce we
ate because free food means pasta; the kitchen ceiling that fell
in on our location; not to mention the born-again Christian who
tried to talk me out of working on the movie while we were filming
at Greenlake (she might want to call me now.) But mostly, out tales
have been of good times, good will, and good fortune. MM

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