Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lance Weiler and Stefan Avalos on "The Last Broadcast"


How did this project begin?

LANCE WEILER: Stefan and I got excited about the prospects of being able to edit on your desktop, so we got the board and started messing around and built some systems and then started making this movie almost as a lark, to see how little we could make it for. And that's when we came up with the idea and the storyline for The Last Broadcast.

STEFAN AVALOS: We came up with a very detailed outline and we did script out a lot of scenes. But then we decided to basically do a question-and-answer role-playing game with a lot of the people for interviews. We would give them the answers to the questions and then we would keep asking them the questions in various ways, and sometimes ask them questions that they did not have the answers to. We would give them only as much information as their character in the movie would have. And since we were shooting in video we would just let the camera roll, and we were able to get some great performances that way.

LANCE WEILER: We wrote it knowing what we had access to, which I think really helped to keep it low cost. Everyone in it are friends and family. We knew that if we cast ourselves in it that we were guaranteed to show up. And we knew that we would work cheap. We also structured the movie so that we would be shooting and doing a lot of the sound work ourselves; a lot of the movie consists of us actually on-camera and holding mics in the scenes. So I think it was a very conscious effort to try to work within the limitations that we had. Stefan had already made a previous film, The Game, so he was well-versed in guerilla techniques and we applied a lot of those to the making of the movie.

STEFAN AVALOS: We joked that the first thing we tried to get rid of when we made this movie was film, shooting digitally, and the second thing were the actors, because you have to feed them and hope they show up.

None of the people in the movie were professional actors, so we didn't really want to script their stuff, we thought that wouldn't work at all. Including ourselves; I didn't think that I'd be able to pull off a serious acting role requiring scripted dialogue. But it was very tight improvisation; we knew exactly where the story was going to go--the beginning, the middle, the end--so it wasn't like we were just winging it on set.

A lot of people thought it was a real documentary when it came out ...

LANCE WEILER: I think a lot of time it's the details that convince people. There were things that would happen that helped, almost accidents. Everyone brought different things at different times; like the way Tony (playing a cop) put ATF on his shirt that day.

STEFAN AVALOS: We call it Theater of the minimal. The psychologist is a friend of ours who does high-end carpentry. But we brought some psychology books, just a couple little things here and there --

LANCE WEILER: And that birdhouse.

STEFAN AVALOS: Yes, the cuckoo clock birdhouse. It's amazing how little it takes to convince people. Which is something we were commenting on in the movie: What's reality, what do you believe? And I found it amazing how readily people believed the movie, based on just a couple little pseudo-realities within the movie. I think a lot of documentary filmmakers were perturbed by that.

So was the low budget a blessing or a burden?

LANCE WEILER: Not having any money made us be more creative. I think sometimes there's a tendency to fall back on money as an answer to a problem, where we found ourselves brainstorming and trying to find ways to make things work without the money.

STEFAN AVALOS: Having no money and really spending no money gave us a carefree attitude that I've never had before or since making movies. We didn't have a producer breathing down our necks concerned about a budget that was spiraling out of control. It's ironic that no having money gave us that freedom.

LANCE WEILER: I remember the shock when we totaled up the receipts, to see what the budget at the end. We rounded up, but it was very close, maybe within 28 cents, of $900. And that was the first time we really knew what we had spent.

STEFAN AVALOS: We had wanted to make a movie for no money, but we missed the mark by 900 bucks.

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