Producing the Indie Thriller: An Account of the Misfortunes and Disasters Which Befell Guy Clark
Attending film festivals and by just being huge movie fans, Drew and I were eager to make a film that aimed to entertain late-night audiences.
We were also interested in making a film that spoke to our love for classic Hitchcock and De Palma thrillers, but updated with Drew's own modern sensibilities. Because we would not have a big movie star in the film, we put all our efforts into making a film that people will love for its suspense and stylistic choices. Rondo isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for a film that mixes humor, graphic violence, nudity, and the formal visual style of a Hitchockian thriller, then Rondo is the perfect movie for you.
Rondo is the type of movie people discover and share with their friends late on a Friday night. We hope people relish the unusual tone and twisted humor. We didn't want predictable plotting. We wanted the other thing.
How did the film get made?
We had been frustrated with efforts to get productions going through the traditional Hollywood channels. We had been roommates in college and had each grown up making no-budget movies in our backyards. Rondo was a chance to get back to that purity of filmmaking while capitalizing on lessons learned from our more professional ventures. Certainly we had to make compromises for budgetary and technical reasons, as one does on any production, but creatively we did not have anybody over our shoulder.
What influenced your approach to the production?
Drew and I had noticed a trend in independent films that depended on lazy handheld camera techniques and non-sensical fast-cutting as a replacement for good visual storytelling.
The visual grammar of the Rondo is thought out to elicit specific responses from the audience. Rondo was not discovered in the editing room. Every element was carefully planned and considered through the entire production process.
How long did it take to shoot?
The film was shot over 18 days with a small crew of Colorado professionals. It was an ambitious schedule, but Drew had done a detailed shot list for every setup, so there was never a question of what was needed. Cinematographer John Bourbonais brought with him an amazingly tight-knit crew that delivered every day.
What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
The climax was the most challenging, because it required several company moves, much of the cast to be present, a transition from day to night shooting, as well as expensive practical effects. We spent the first fifteen days of production shooting eighty-three pages of the script. During the last three days of production we shot a page a day. Up until the last moment, it wasn’t clear if we were going to be able to pull it off. We had lost our key location, an effects house had blown us off in favor of working on a Fast & Furious movie, and some of the cast had to leave a day earlier than planned. Fortunately it all came together in the end.
What is your favorite scene in the film?
The most satisfying sequence to film was the scene on the balcony in the third act that involves an intricate camera zoom from characters on the twelfth floor of a high-rise to a character on an eighth floor terrace, and then finally to a character down on the street below. The shot required careful coordination between all the actors and crew to pull it off, and it’s a great moment of suspense and humor for the audience when it plays out in the film.
Who composed the score?
Ryan Franks wrote the music with Scott Nickoley. Ryan is also from Denver and went to high school with Drew. They have been collaborating on projects for many years. Often when it comes time for the music to be written for an independent film, the producers have run out of time or money and the score suffers. We knew the music would be integral to Rondo, and that we could not compromise. Ryan and Drew spent over a year working on the score until every note was perfect.
Where was it shot?
The film was shot on location in Denver, Colorado. Extensive filming took place in the Washington Park neighborhood as well as lower downtown. The script was written specifically for locations that were available to the production. As the script was being written, we would walk the locations and discuss camera shots. The main house in the film is Drew's childhood home. The high-rise condo was lent to us by one of our producers along with the therapist’s office. We were particularly fortuitous with some of the exteriors that were shot guerilla-style. A perfectly timed plane passed overhead for one such shot near the high-rise.
What was it shot on?
When talking with would-be filmmakers, this always seems to be a common question. Much like the type of knives a chef uses, the camera a filmmaker employs does not ensure quality. However, I am pleased to report we used the Ettinauer 226XL. Made in Holland. Only six of these cameras were ever made. Only five of them ever worked. We had one of them.
Who's in it?
For two of the leads, we called upon two actors we had worked with in the past. Reggie De Morton and Gena Shaw both starred in Drew’s short Herbie! Reggie has a wonderful dry comedic style that fit the character of Lurdell. And Gena Shaw is just damn funny. Gena really brought the therapist character to life.
Brenna Otts and Luke Sorge were both cast locally in Colorado. We were nervous that some of the extremely frank sexual talk in the script might scare away talent, but the actors immediately understood the humor and sunk their teeth into the material.
You can find the entire cast and crew list on our IMDB page.
What's the running time?
A lean 88 minutes or one half of an Interstellar.
When and where can I see it?
The film is being submitted to film festivals. Soon...