Making a super indie, that wins at Tribeca
In looking back on the making of the acclaimed genre thriller HERE ALONE (Tribeca '16 - Audience Award), Noah Lang (producer) is still a bit baffled at how it all worked.
"We had no real hard prep for this film. Not because we didn't want it but because we couldn't afford it. That was sort of a recurring theme - 'we can't afford that.’ Don't get me wrong, we were prepping whenever and wherever we could in the months leading up to the shoot but in terms of the traditional 4x weeks prep, 4x weeks shoot, we did not have anything even remotely approaching that. But we only went into OT once and we always found a way to make it work."
Hexagon Initiative Core-Member Rod Blackhurst and Noah first met over email while working on different projects on opposite coasts; but the collaboration fell into place quickly. The script was written by David Ebeltoft, a frequent collaborator of Rod's, who designed the story to be intimate, executable on a budget, and something they could make in David's small hometown of Corning, NY.
Noah remembered the beginning well. "Rod, David and I vibed from the start and the script was stellar. The creative development and research they had done was just all there so it was easy to say yes. It felt like lightning in a bottle and I couldn't understand how this wasn't a project being pursued by other producers. We agreed to make the film together in March of 2015 and that June, we were shooting."
Shot in two units due to the seasonal and atmospheric needs of the film's story, HERE ALONE was produced for peanuts. With no budget for a casting director (notice a trend here?) the film was cast by the filmmakers through their relationships with agents and Rod's aggressive use of Twitter (seriously).
Blackhurst reminisced on the rocky start of production, "It rained sideways basically nonstop for the first three days and there was no rain in the script. So we had a pretty anxiety-inducing start to production. We did what we had to do though. We rewrote pages on the spot, constantly tweaked the schedule and we were relentless. I honestly wonder if we could do it again, it was a beast. But we had a lot of fun, I'll never forget the feeling of watching the monitor and knowing how good it was while literally no one else in the industry did."
After wrapping the first unit (16 of the 20 total days) Rod set about editing the film including the flashbacks, which took place in winter and still needed to be shot.
"Rod slotted in the storyboards to those sections of the cut and we knew we were gonna be alright," Lang recalled.
Preferred Content signed on to handled sales representation based off of an admittedly rough first cut and helped position the film for a spring premiere after they returned upstate to film the final four days.
"That was rad. Wish I could do that on every film - get the band back together for just a few days," Blackhurst added.
After seeing the film's successful Kickstarter campaign, a programmer at Tribeca reached out and after screening it, offered the film a premiere.
Rod remembers it fondly. "We didn't waste much time. We said yes on the spot."
After an epic sprint to finish post and deliver to Tribeca, the film went on to have six sold-out screenings and in a total upset, win the Audience Award for Feature Narrative.
"We only went to the party to get the free mini-champagne bottles and eat some free food. The films that year were really good. There wasn't any part of us that thought we had a shot at winning. I mean, we weren't getting media coverage since we couldn't afford a publicist and by and large we were just being overlooked, so that was a moment where things felt truly meritocratic which, at that time, was something we all needed to feel."
After Tribeca, the film enjoyed an acclaimed festival run with stops at FrightFest, Sitges, Traverse City, Woods Hole, Napa Valley, and numerous others. Vertical Entertainment (OTHER PEOPLE, UNDER THE SHADOW) acquired worldwide rights soon after. "They've been great partners so far and we're hopeful they'll continue to support the film as it deserves, heading into our public release. As someone who has been burned by distributors before, I'm anxious but excited." Lang noted.
Blackhurst looks back on it with a sense of endearment, "We got to make a movie with our friends and that's one of the most humbling and beautiful experiences you can have. It's something we are driven to replicate many times to come."
Here Alone opens in select theaters and will be available on digital/VOD this Friday.