MIKE: Before Geographically Desirable, I made a smaller feature called The Nextnik. It's a comedy about personal and professional reinvention after 50. Originally it was a web series that seemed like it could be expanded. It turned out well. Got into a few festivals and is now being distributed by SnagFilms.
Before that though, not much when it came to making narrative films. I had spent 29 years working as an editor for ABC News in Washington, DC. The news business is downsizing. They offered me a buyout. I thought this was a great opportunity to try something new.
I originally thought that with my background in news, making narrative films would be easy. HA! There are certain aspects that can transfer, but I was basically starting from scratch. I was fortunate to have a cast and crew for The Nextnik that really held my hand in the beginning.
Where did the idea for the movie come from and what was the writing process like?
MIKE: The idea came from my experience working with people in Washington, DC who live for their jobs. There's a lot of that here. I wanted to create a situation where the lead is forced to be away from the thing she loves. Her job. Suddenly given responsibilities she didn't seek and doesn't want.
Once I came up with the idea, surprisingly, the writing process went pretty smoothly. The story idea--who the characters would be--was the hardest part. The writing was very exciting once the basics were in place.
I went though 14 drafts before I was happy. The biggest change was the lead. Originally the character "Nicole" was a man. As I wrote though, I found that having the lead be a woman gave me all sorts of new directions. Biological clock, having to be extra tough at work to get noticed etc. I also worked with an amazing screenplay consultant in L.A., Dara Marks, who really helped me tighten and focus the script.
MIKE: The money for the film came from an inheritance from my father who passed away in 2012 at age 100. The budget was $90,000. As a result, he is the only Executive Producer. After he passed, my brother and I were going through his things and found that in the late 1960's he was a really prolific, if unpublished, poet. So I decided to name the love interest for Nicole after him, Joe, and have Joe woo her by reading her "his" poetry.
MIKE: I just held open casting calls in the DC area. There were also actors from The Nextnik that I wanted to be in Geographically Desirable. They didn't need to audition. I already had them pegged for their roles. DC has a very large theater and film acting community. I got a lot of support from local organizations like The Actors Center, DC.
The script didn't change after we casted. That being said, if the actors had a better idea while on set, I listened. I really wanted this to be a collaborative process. Quite often during the shoot, if someone had a good idea for a reaction, or a better way to do a line, we generally did it both ways and when I was editing, I made a choice. Quite often, the actors’ instincts were correct.
What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?
MIKE: We used a Canon 5D. I liked it, but the decision to use it was based on budget. After color grading, the images really popped. Eventually I'd really like to work with a Red, a Canon 300 or something similar when the budget is bigger.
MIKE: I don't know about smart, I'd define it as lucky. I was lucky to work with great actors and crew. I was lucky to find the most amazing locations and have good weather for the exteriors.
I'd say the biggest dumb thing I did was not budgeting shoot time better. Although we rarely worked more than a 12 or 13-hour day, it was stressful because we only had a 21 day shoot schedule. If I had it to do over again, I would add more days off and a few more days to shoot.
MIKE: First. Time. More time.
Second, make sure the food is not just pizza. We had the best producer, Vicki Yung, who insisted we have real food and that we take a real break to eat.
In the end it didn't cost that much more and it made everyone happy.