What's with Phoenix Falling, Phoenix Down, The Blue Light? Are they all the same movie? A series of films with the same characters? What the heck is going on? Let me explain....
Some years back on an overnight flight to Argentina I couldn't sleep, and the prospect of 10 hours staring into the back of a semi-dirty seat and listening to people speak proper Spanish didn't help. Some Int'l flights serve free wine. After downing a few of these little suckers and listening to very loud Tango music, my right brain took over while the left slept. There was a dad (same age as me), and his daughter (same age as mine). And a loving mom who dies. Eight months after this tragedy they're still trying to cope: He hits the bottle and can't hold a job for more than two days. She escapes into a delusional fantasy world where she sees and plays with her mom. Well, her dad thinks it's delusional (wouldn't you?). She thinks it's magical. So they both escape in their own ways. I tried to shoot this from both perspectives. The kid's perspective was fun as I got to play with some cool CGI environmental programs in order to create her world for the movie goers! You can catch a glimpse in my previous post with a link to the teaser. I'm not giving any more of the story away, but I promise it is heartwarming. So much so, that the screenplay won the GAIA Award at the 2006 Moondance Film Festival (ie, "the American Cannes").
Here's Moondance's description of their GAIA award....
"MOONDANCE GAIA AWARD:
This award is to encourage and inspire contemplative, meditative, spiritual and inspirational films and scripts. The award is presented to the person who seeks to elucidate and improve the spiritual quality of all life on the planet, and contributes to the betterment of the world spirit."
It's February 2010 and The Blue Light is finally complete at 25 minutes! And I've submitted it to a number of film festivals worldwide. I handle the US and the "Mom," played heroically by Claudia Winfield, is submitting to the rest of the world from her home base in Switzerland. Knock on wood!
That's the story so far of The Blue Light. After we shot it, I wanted to do a feature. I had story ideas from two shorts I shot: 40 Seconds and The Blue Light. 40 Seconds had a "Twilight Zone" flavor to it whereby a mysterious man owns a watch which tells him the future 40 seconds from now. Think of the possibilities! (40 Seconds also won a few screenwriting awards.) I couldn't make up my mind so I asked my lead in both shorts, Derek Latta, his preference, and he chose to extend The Blue Light into a feature. Good choice as I'd much rather touch people's hearts than wow them with Outer Limits type material.
It took me the better part of a year structuring this tale. It's really two parallel stories... one taking place when the kid (Jenny) is 7 and the other when she's college age. During this process I am forever grateful to our casting director and lead actress (she plays older Jenny) Stephanie Greco because I literally bounced all my ideas to her. She made sure I didn't go overboard in writing certain elements! After a phone book size worth of notes back and forth, the script was completed. I broke a major "rule" that most screenwriting gurus teach; and that was I should NOT write my first script with different timelines, and in inconsequential order to boot. I hate rules. So I sent the script to a few script reviewers in LA, and they blessed it saying it works! Whew!
Buzz is a strange thing. For some reason, when we put out a casting call for the feature, we received over 700 actors' resumes! It was crazy. We had two days to audition, and unfortunately we were unable to invite everyone in. But thanks to Stephanie's great organizational skills, and my wife's patience, and my AD John McGilvary's constant upbeat attitude we got through it smoothly. There was such great talent! I've always told people that I love every single aspect in the filmmaking process. That changed. I found something I hate, and that's turning great actors away.
The name Phoenix Falling: My daughter came up with Phoenix and Stephanie with Falling. Our hero's Navy call sign is Phoenix and you can say he falls a lot in this movie; more ways than one.
When asked, I tell people this is an emotionally charged family drama, laced with commercial elements. In other words, it has heart and it's definitely not boring! Just look at the trailer (upper right - youtube link), and some of the scenes in my previous posts.
The prologue itself is a heart pumping action sequence where our hero, a Navy Fighter Pilot has a confrontation with a Chinese MIG over the South China Sea. Their conflict continues on sea, then on land. This scene is very important and pays off later in the story. I wrote it with some trepidation. I mean a dog fight? On my budget? It was only after some folks told me it was impossible, that I got the courage to pull it off! But not by myself. I had the best crew imaginable and fantastic talent. It came out pretty good so I decided to make this into a short 7 minute film and submit it to festivals with two goals in mind. 1 - I wanted to see how my CGI jets held up on the big screen. 2 - I wanted to use this as a means to promote the feature. So we decided to call this short Phoenix Down. Original huh? I couldn't think of anything else. But it works! Look at my previous post "Jets!" for an earlier version of this short/prologue. Phoenix Down is screening at 4 film festivals; it's already won an award (in Hawaii), and I'm looking forward to seeing the Florida premier in late March at the Delray Beach Film Festival. I hope to see you there too! I'll post dates when I receive them. Oh, and a film festival in Texas has invited to fly me and some cast out to their festival in the Fall!
Well there you have it. Now when someone asks me about all these titles, I can direct them to this post! You can too!