Making a movie involves all sorts of headaches, including how to pay for the production and how to get the finished product in front of as many eyeballs as possible. This is especially true for low-budget indie films that can easily get lost amid all the theatrical, video-on-demand, iTunes and cable/satellite TV options.
That’s why the Mineral Wells-shot Three Days in August, opening Friday, stands out.
The film, starring Hollywood veterans Barry Bostwick, Mariette Hartley and Meg Foster as members of a family getting together for a stormy reunion, is based on a script that came out of a contest sponsored by the Dallas Film Society. Subsequently, the drama was guaranteed a world premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival in April, followed by distribution through the Dallas-based Studio Movie Grill chain. After its theatrical run, it will move to video-on-demand and iTunes.
For executive producer David Kiger, who made his name as the founder and executive chairman of the Dallas shipping and logistics firm Worldwide Express, finding innovative ways to get stories to the screen is paramount. But it all started with Dallas director Johnathan Brownlee and Shannon Kincaid, who had rented her house to director Jeff Barry to shoot an earlier DFW-set drama, Occupy, Texas, a film that Kiger and Brownlee helped produce.
Kincaid shared with Brownlee a personal story about an intense family reunion. “From that point, they got together, spent a lot of time together, writing down their thoughts about what this movie could look like,” Kiger said in a phone interview.
But instead of writing the script themselves, they decided to treat it more like an open-source project.
“They came up with the idea of the contest, which I think was brilliant,” Kiger continued. “It was not only a great way to draw attention to the movie, but a terrific way to get different perspectives.”
They approached the Dallas International Film Festival about sponsoring a screenwriting contest.
“I think DIFF thought it was very unique and a powerful way to bring other ideas into what they thought was a really good idea for a film, and agreed to sponsor the contest,” said Kiger, who footed the bill for the $10,000 prize for the winner.
The contest brought in 200 submissions from 26 countries. The winners turned out to be the team of Chad Berry and David Langlinais.
Kiger concedes that, at first, Brownlee was a little reluctant to open up the writing process to strangers, but he soon came around.
“He ultimately felt like the material that they got from these submissions, and ultimately from the two that they selected, was better than what they potentially could have come up with on their own,” Kiger explained.
And it was Brownlee who pursued Studio Movie Grill for distribution.
“The one great thing about Johnathan and why I like to partner with him is he’s got so many relationships, across the board,” Kiger said. “He knew who they were and they knew who he was. He took the idea to them. They jumped on board right away. … They appreciated the fact that DIFF was supportive and getting behind it.”
Kiger believes similarly unorthodox approaches can work for other indie films. “I think you could plug many films into this formula that he’s come up with.”
It was also Brownlee who went after the veteran actors to stock his cast.
“With my L.A. casting director, James Tumminia, I put together a list of my target ‘dream’ cast … which included Barry Bostwick, Mariette Hartley and Meg Foster,” he said via email. “I met both Meg and Mariette in L.A. and they both agreed to do the film. Mariette called Barry and told/ordered him to do the film … and he agreed.
“I was also able to hire veteran actor Cal Bartlett and several extremely talented Texas-based actors, including Mollie Milligan to play the very difficult and emotionally challenging lead role, Shannon.”
The Mineral Wells connection
While Three Days in August could have been filmed anywhere in North Texas, the filmmakers chose Mineral Wells because they knew it well.
“Johnathan was familiar with it and … we had 15 days to shoot it,” Kiger said. “Adam Donaghey, [one of the partners in Dallas’ Texas Theatre and] a co-producer, and the writers were also very familiar with it as well.”
Though the focus may be on the older cast members, one of the younger actors in the film is Colton Tapp, from Wylie though he now lives in Los Angeles, who plays Shannon’s son, Liam. He says being able to be part of an explicitly Texas story made him really want the part.
“I love Texas film,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of dedicated people. It’s cool to see that happening right now.”
He has also just co-directed, produced and starred in a horror short subject he shot here, 2% Evil.
It won’t cut back on what I do. It’s disappointing that that’s happened. [But] as far as I’m concerned, I’m not doing it personally for the tax credits.
David Kiger, executive producer, on state cutbacks
Supporting Texas film is an important element for Kiger as well. In addition to Three Days in August and Occupy, Texas, he has produced the documentary Signs of Humanity, which follows SMU professor Willie Baronet on his cross-country trip visiting the homeless.
“Personally, I think the more that we can sort of have that Texas element in it, the better,” he said. “I think Johnathan feels the same way. So, to the extent we can do that, I know that’s what he has in mind.
“We’re very pro-Texas … so the more we could do in Texas, especially around Dallas/Fort Worth, [the better]. That’s where I live and he lives. You’ve kind of got all the elements you need in that area. You’ve got a lot of power, you’ve got money, you’ve got all the natural elements. You just have to bring them together.”
He’s not put off by the fact that the state has cut back on its tax credits and financial incentives for filmmakers who shoot in Texas.
“It won’t cut back on what I do,” he said. “It’s disappointing that that’s happened. [But] as far as I’m concerned, I’m not doing it personally for the tax credits. … I believe in what Johnathan believes in, and that is there’s no better place to find the talent and to shoot in these amazing locations. You can just do it all right here.
“The more we do here, the more we’re going to attract attention to what we’re doing.”
Where to watch
Three Days in August opens Dec. 2 at Studio Movie Grill theaters in Arlington, The Colony, Plano, Lewisville and Dallas (the Northwest Highway and Spring Valley locations). For more information, go to www.studiomoviegrill.com.