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“Why Not Just Try to Shoot an Entire Feature Film in Four Days?”: Director Andrew Hyland | The 4th

The 4th

In every film, there is the story that you knew you were telling, the story the audience perceives. But there is always some other story, a secret story. It might be the result of your hidden motivations for making the film, or, instead, the result of themes that only became clear to you after you made the movie. It might be something very personal, or it might be a story you didn’t even know you were telling. What is your film’s secret story?

The “secret story” of The 4th, without hopefully taking too much away from the audience’s own interpretation. I’d say an unspoken story of sorts is how about how if people in general were about 25-30% more reasonable with one another, most petty conflicts would just be squashed very quickly, with all parties getting what they want or need.

As for making The 4th, that’s its own story. Over the past year I had been working with a group of producers on finding financing, casting, etc. for a feature film I had written (different project from The 4th). Which I was going to direct and had planned to edit as well, I had been using Final Cut Pro the past several years and knew I’d have to switch to the new Premiere if I were to edit this film we were working towards.

I thought it would be a good idea to shoot a video to have something to cut on Premiere, then I thought I should try to make a proper short film that’s a little bit more complicated than what I’d typically make (more characters, more scenes, etc.). That way it’d be like a scrimmage match before I got funding for the bigger project I was working towards. This project would allow me the chance to fail without any major loss or pressure. My manager Michael J. Rizzo, who has produced a number of projects with me over the past five or six years via his company HotHouse Productions got behind the project and financed it. After I wrote the script in April, I thought it might be a fairly lengthy short, which at that point we were planning on shooting over the course of two days at the end of May, with a pick-up shoot day in July for fireworks b-roll.

That’s when I thought… instead of shooting a short film over two days; why not just try to shoot an entire feature film in four days (which I knew was a super tall order and not very realistic)? Michael was totally supportive and down to give it a shot. We figured we might as well try and just approach it as an experiment. What’s the worse thing that happens, we make a shitty film that nobody ever sees? This way it allowed me to make the film with almost zero pressure and be able to create it in a very comfortable familiar way on my own terms.

We also pulled a bazillion favors from friends in the comedy and production community that we’d been working with over the years. DP Shane Bruce Johnson, who shot my last Sundance film Funnel came down from San Francisco to LA a number of times to shoot as well as produce, and our other DP Charlie J. Gibson and are I friends from Cincinnati originally, plus Eric Binns from HotHouse wearing many hats on the production side. Johnny Pemberton, Brent Weinbach I originally met doing live comedy shows together jumped in to play characters, plus others like Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings), Matt Peters (Orange Is The New Black), Matty Cardarople (Jurassic World) along with regular collaborators Paul Oyen, and Anna Lee Lawson, played roles. Lots of situations like that happened to help create a great cast.

After we shot those initial four days, I realized we had like 70% of a feature film in the can, so we decided to shoot additional three days over the fourth of July weekend instead of just grabbing b-roll of fireworks. After that shoot I had enough to create a rough cut of a feature film, and from there we began to piece meal together a handful more pick-up shoot days to really bring the film together. Ultimately we shot the entire film in 12 days over a five and a half month period. Followed by HotHouse prepping the footage for me, then me becoming a hermit and editing it mostly at my apartment.

After the second cut of the film was complete we decided to submit an in-progress cut to Sundance. Then I went back to cutting the film every night. Then one day I got the phone call that The 4th had been accepted into Sundance!

So it looks like the experiment worked way better than I could have ever hoped for. I got to shoot a feature with a bunch of my friends (who all totally kicked butt) and I also learned how to edit on the new Premiere program.

[PREMIERE SCREENING: Saturday, January 23 at 8:30pm — Prospector Square Theatre]

Sundance Responses 2016

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