Ahead of Screen: Righter playing at the Cannes Film Festival, we talk with [REDACTED]’s T.C. DeWitt and Chad Halvorsen.[Editor’s note: The following interview took place over separate emails which have been edited for clarity.]
Fresh off a genre-bending submission to the Wisconsin Film Festival, the [REDACTED] Media crew are gearing up for a much bigger festival. Later this month, members of the studio will travel to the Cannes Film Festival. A winner of 2016’s 48 Hour Film Project competition in Milwaukee, Screen: Righter first went on to play at Filmapalooza. Out of over 100 selections, it was just one of 13 chosen by a judges panel to head to France this year to play as part of the Court Métrage program.
Screen: Righter is a riot. It also hurts us with the truth, scoring blows against blockbuster drivel with the doofy entitlement of David Geisler’s executive as witnessed by his scribe (T.C. DeWitt). Here’s what we had to say about it last summer:
From perverting boilerplate romance (Candace Lauren Ostler, Anieya Walker) into a bloody showdown to turning one of its leads into a homicidal former circus clown (which, believe it or not, satisfies one of this year’s criteria), Screen: Righter matches the often ridiculous requirements of the 48 Hour Film Project with real-time edits and a sandboxy, animated style. It’s the kind of whip smart production we’ve come to expect from the likes of DeWitt and his team members.
We checked in with two of Screen: Righter‘s key creators, T.C. DeWitt and Chad Halvorsen:
Your “Michael Bay hero shot” is spot-on. How many takes before you nailed that?
Chad: I wish I had some awesome story to tell about that shot, but I personally wasn’t on set for it. Our DP, Tim Moder, pulled off,what I would call a “textbook” example of the Michael Bay swooping, telephoto hero shot. Bay’s entire career was built on that shot… so fingers crossed for us.
T.C.: We had some luck on that shot. We didn’t want to wander too far from our centralized location, and just outside the warehouse where we were filming our interiors was a draw bridge and lots of telephone poles. Michael Bat looooves poles in his shots. Even luckier, the bridge was malfunctioning and was stuck raised. The police had blocked off either side to redirect traffic. We were able to stand in the center of the street right near the bridge and do as many takes as Tim wanted to take a crack at swooping low with that telephoto. The most difficult thing was how damn hot it was in the direct sunlight.
Chad: To answer your question: 4 shots. (I checked the source files)
Screen: Righter is telling a story about revising and the creative process. What was it like actually revising your um, revisions?
Chad: It’s obviously an exaggerated but not far fetched scenario. T.C. and I have both been in those moments, it’s awful. Watching the creative train smash into your life’s work. This type of thing normally happens with a committee, but for the sake of comedy, we condensed many voices into one David Geisler. The irony is, David’s character ends up being right in the end, from a business standpoint. The crowd loved it, which means it made millions, probably trillions of dollars. So who’s the bigger hero? The writer who had a great idea, or the producer who made his company money? It’s obviously not about the money, but at the same time it is, especially if you want to do production for a living. Although, David making trillions off of his movie goes against the extended universe T.C. set up.
T.C.: The story within a story is a great place to play in. It’s an homage to Duck Amuck, one of the greatest Loony Tunes ever. Plus, the frustration is not too far from reality. Like Chad said, we’ve been in a room like this. I won’t say this is based on an actual development of a script with a producer, but I won’t say it isn’t. (laughs)
Apart from obviously playing at Cannes, what separates Screen: Righter from the other 48 Hour Film Projects you’ve done?
Chad: Everything clicked, better than it had before. That momentum carried through two more 48s. We had 3 shorts go to Filmapalooza this year, something we had never accomplished. Screen: Righter for me was the kick in the ass that I needed last summer. It confirmed why we do what we do.
T.C.: Every time we do a project, I set four goals: finish on time, be proud of our work, learn something, and have fun. Working with this team is always a blast, so fun is a given, especially because we tend to pick stories that offer a lot of chances for ridiculousness or excitement. Even our dramas have had fun elements that give us the thrill that makes doing what we do worth doing.
As for learning something, we always find screws we could turn better or tighter the next project. Screen: Righter is a culmination of a lot of learned tricks and tightened screws. Everything just fell into place, and everyone got behind the script and helped bring it to life. This movie was a wonderful achievement for all of us. The thing that it solidified in my mind was that this team, the group of us who have been consistently making movies together for so many years now, is the reason we’ve succeeded. As a group, we all know our strengths and rely on each other. When we all bring our best, our films turn out amazing. Screen: Righter is proof of that.
At past 48 Hour events, the post-Q&A with filmmakers has felt rushed simply because there are so many projects and that evening is booked so tightly. Are you getting a chance to talk about your film at other festivals?
T.C.: Oh certainly. We’ve been lucky to have Screen: Righter at a few festivals now, and being able to talk to other filmmakers after the showing or at a mixer afterwards has given us chances to share stories about our film and the team, as well as hear about other films and experiences.
Chad: Maybe it’s a Midwest thing. 9 times out of 10, there’s some bar crawl or after-party. Those are where I do most of my talking. It’s louder, but you can have a conversation about your film.
T.C.: Particularly in the Midwest, there is an enthusiastic film community. There is an eagerness to share and discuss and learn from one another. Getting a chance to chat about Screen: Righter with others has allowed us to talk about a lot of really great movies being made by other indie filmmakers like us.
How is The Princess Knight coming along?
Chad: We’re in post. It’s been a while, but we’re committed to finishing. [Our puppet] Troll showed test footage to some 3rd grade classes a few weeks back. We have about eight scenes close to being at edit lock, which means we can hand off that footage to the VFX dept. We also have some pick-up shots for this summer.
T.C.: As we all juggle our families and professional lives, our first feature gets closer and closer to completion. It’s so exciting to see scenes get locked, and we’re anxious to get it done, but it’s quite a process to tackle while still maintaining a steady flow of paid and professional work.
What else are you working on?
T.C.: I recently had a feature script optioned and have been working with the development team on that production while also in pre-production on a pilot for a comedy series I’m directing in June out in LA that I convinced some of our Wisconsin team to come work on. It’s been an exciting year so far. We’re even eying some bigger projects for the latter half of the year. We’re all eager and hungry to keep pushing forward and telling stories.
Chad: We’re registered for the Milwaukee 48 Hour Film Project… maybe Chicago. A few of us are helping shoot a pilot in LA at the end of Jun. I’m sure we’ll have more, it’s still spring.