Denver Women Friends Become Movie Producers !
Independent Film Comes Alive
Movie Making Not for the Faint of Heart
These Two Denver Women Have Been Friends and Partners for a Long Time, but now they are about to Release the Independent Film - “Walk Ins Welcome” - A story about "Alien Visitation" in a small town Colorado setting, filled with characters, wild events and true not so alien Romance.
In 1988 Christofer French (aka Christofers Flow) met Kim Ricotta in the Denver Legal World. 25 years later she and a friend brought their creative forces together to produce an Independent Film of Romance, Humor, out of this world “alien love” in a Colorado village full of strange characters. Not forgetting that Christofer was raised in the theatre, Kim and Pam got together and gave a “reading” to Chris for a genuinely kookie and fascinating character to fill out the cast.
This interview is a chat with these two women. As the two prime movers in this marvelous arduous film project, Christofer thought that an extended chat with these two principles would be enlightening and inspiring. Take a trip with them down their long road, filled with challenge, determination and creativity and art.
Is “Walk-ins Welcome” your first production?
Pam - It’s our first feature film. We’ve done other things -- some music videos, short films, a short documentary. But our primary interest has always been features.
How did your interest in movies come about?
Kim – It’s always been there – at least, as far back as I can remember. Movies have always held a kind of magic for me.
P – Ditto there. I lived in Paris as a kid, and my father would take me to see all the American movies. He was a fan of westerns, but other genres as well. When we moved to the States, I discovered all the old movies – the classics on TV. Like Kim said -- magic.
How did you two end up as a production team?
K - We kept running into each other at screenwriting and filmmaking functions and started realizing that we shared a common vision. We got along well too, so I guess it was inevitable that we would eventually work together.
Some say that producing an independent feature film is an act of either courage or foolhardiness. What made you believe you could do it?
P - Like you said, you have to be willing to step out on that limb. The desire has to be strong. Otherwise, you’re bound to fold at the first sign of trouble.
K – Foolish is what people call you when things don’t work out. Brave is what you are when things go right.
A lot of people talk about wanting to make a feature film. But actually making one is a different story. What was that like for you?
P - – Let’s see… grueling?
K - Daunting.
P - Exhilirating.
K - Deeply satisfying. There’s so much more to making a film than most people imagine.
P – I completely agree. Movie-making isn’t for the faint of heart. It helped that Kim and I share a never-say-die spirit. Not all filmmaking partnerships can survive the hard times with their friendship and spirit intact.
The hard times? Explain.
K – Well, obviously there are going to be hard times on any set, and ours was no exception. But in reality, we had a relatively smooth ride with this film. I think when Pam says “hard times”, she’s probably referring to a previous feature film..?
A previous feature? Why did I think this was your first one?
K – Well, it was and it wasn’t. We did produce a feature some years ago – a multi-million-dollar feature – that lost its funding just prior to filming. It was pretty devastating for everyone at the time. But we survived it and grew from it, I think.
P – “Advance boldly with joy and laughter.”
That’s your motto?
P– Well, it’s a good one, don’t you think? Kim might have a different one, but I think it’s safe to say we share that same spirit.
K – Agreed.
So what made you decide to go low-budget this time?
K – No one likes raising money, but the truth is, it can be just as hard to raise ten million as it is to raise a fraction of that. That being said, we did initially set out to make a union film. As things turned out, our funding came from an unexpected source, and we gladly took the challenge to make the film for a lot less.
P – And it turned out to be just what we wanted. A totally hands-on experience.
That was important to you?
P – Kim and I really wanted to experience the entire process of filmmaking, from making casting decisions to scheduling and overseeing set design and all the many things in between. We got to do that and more.
So, is making a union film something you’d like to do in the future?
K - There are obvious advantages to a SAG production, and we’re definitely open to that possibility. In fact, it may be the way we go with our next film. But we certainly couldn’t have had a more satisfying experience this time around.
Knowing what you know now, do you think things will be easier for you next time around?
P – Honestly, there was something kind of magical about the filming of this feature. Sure, you learn things as you go along, but “Walk-ins Welcome” was a unique experience that can never be replicated. Even the hard times were good times.
K - At least in retrospect. (Laugh)
But you must have experienced your share of obstacles.
P - Car accidents. Bee stings. Snow storms. Being pursued by flies in a field of cow manure…
K – Getting absolutely no sleep for a month.
Sounds like you’ve got plenty of stories to tell. Would you like to share one with us?
K – The one that immediately comes to mind was the night shoot in Brighton when the temperature was 4 below. The roads were frozen and visibility was terrible. It was an outside scene and we had no access to an indoor facility of any kind. The scene included the dog, the police officer and the lead male. We were all the way up to our location when we realized we’d forgotten the officer’s jacket in Denver. I’m still not sure how, but one of our Sherpas was able to get the jacket to us at the last minute. Meantime, the dog and his owner were having a hard time enduring the extreme weather, so they had to leave before the scene was finished. We had to pull some tricks out of the hat to finish up, but we succeeded. We were all frozen by the end of the evening.
P- That’s an understatement.
P – When we were scheduled to shoot the wedding day scene, we woke up to one of those cloudless Colorado skies. I use the words “woke up” lightly, as we’d probably gotten 1-2 hours sleep, if any. But we were in good spirits due to the perfect weather. And then our female lead called to tell us she was sick and couldn’t make it. We had no time to think about it and no money to play with. So we filmed the scenes without her and then brought her back to that location on another shooting day to fill in the gaps, all the while praying for an exact match to the weather. We got our beautiful sky, but also the foot of snow that preceded it. So we had everyone, cast and crew, furiously shoveling the landscape prior to rolling the cameras.
Tell me about your dog star. I understand he has quite a story.
K - We looked at several dogs from the Dog Guild and interviewed a few from some other sources, but when we met Skeeter and his owner, we knew we’d found what we were looking for. He was a shelter dog, and the new owner knew right away she had a special animal, and enrolled him in some training. She was his wrangler (trainer) on the set and they were both so easy to work with. Sometime before we met them, Skeeter had undergone back surgery and nearly died. We all had to take special precautions with him because if he jumped, he risked breaking his back. Everyone on the set just loved him.
I understand that the score was composed by Jason Schimmel, a musician from the L.A. area.
K – An amazing musician who attached other amazing musicians to the overall score. For example, the haunting voice in the opening credits is that of Carla Kihlstedt’s.
P – We couldn’t have asked for a more professional, more fitting score. It perfectly captures the tone of the film.
P – Which is sweet and campy …
K – Funny. Whimsical.
P – A mystery. But quirky and romantic too. Science fiction.
K – Did we say “genre-bending” and “unique”?
So what are your plans for the future? Any films in development?
K – One thing we don’t lack for is great projects.
More genre-bending campy science-fiction romantic comedy?
K – No, we actually have a pretty diverse plate. An animated feature, a dramedy set in France, a couple of romantic comedies – not campy sci-fi this time… What else?
P – A sweeping political drama.
K – With a sweeping budget.
So what’s first? And how do you decide that? Is it just a matter of what moves you?
K – To some degree. Our scripts are in place and we’re totally excited about each one of them. We may end up launching a couple at once. Stay tuned…
Tell me a little bit about “Walk-ins Welcome” - where was it shot?
K – It’s a Colorado film. Brighton and Denver. Mostly Brighton. I have to say that the City of Brighton was amazing to work with. Not to mention all the local business owners we worked with, both Denver and Brighton. Really friendly and cooperative.
P – It’s always been our heart’s desire to make films in Colorado and to remain in Colorado as a production company. This is where our home is, and really, you couldn’t ask for better weather and more spectacular scenery. It was so rewarding to have the support of local talent and businesses.
Who is your director?
P - Jonathan Stien. It was his feature directorial debut.
How was it working with a first-time director?
P – Jon is a graphic artist by trade and had previously worked on some music videos. He had a lot of desire, a lot of heart, but he also had all these secret talents that kept surfacing as we went along.
K – Like Pam said, Jon’s background served us well, and he exceeded our expectations. Our assistant director, Dawn Nelson, was also invaluable. Her duties went above and beyond, as did her energy and capabilities.
P - She kept all of us on schedule and made sure we were where we were supposed to be with our heads on straight. The rest of the crew was amazing too.
K – And the cast. We were bowled over by the non-union actors that stepped forward to make this film on deferred fees. They did such a great job and were such fun to work with.
P – I think we’re gushing.
How did you come by the script?
K - Screenwriter/Author P.G. Redstone wrote the script. P.G. Redstone is Pam’s writing name. She’s won or placed in several prestigious screenwriting contests with a number of her scripts, including “Walk-ins Welcome”.
I gather that you’re just as enamored with films after having made one. What aspect of independent filmmaking turns you on the most?
P – An impossible question, thanks for asking. I really love pre-production, pulling everything out of nowhere, seeing what it’s going to look like. And production. You’re finally filming, and it’s like the dream coming true. You fall into a chair at the wrap party with a big sigh and a glass of wine, ignoring the fact that the work has only just started. But post-production is great too. You get to watch the film actually come together, like pieces of a puzzle. And you get to make decisions around it. And that’s amazing.
K - Post can make or break a film.
P – So true.
K – I love pulling the pieces together – warts and all - and then watching the magic unfold. There’s such satisfaction in assembling the cast, hiring the crew and making editing decisions. You start with a paper script and before your eyes it all comes to life… in this case, even better than you imagined.
So how is it working together? Are you still friends at the end of the day?
P – What day are we talking about? No, I’m kidding. Kim is still the best partner ever. We’ve only had one quarrel to speak of, and that was in New York while on our way to see a distributor. It was over an umbrella. She’s short and I’m tall and it was raining sideways. You get the picture. We laugh about it now. But the fact that we get along doesn’t mean we always share the same opinion. We’re just good about talking things through and respecting each other’s point of view. I tend to be all over the place. Kim is more linear and keeps things real. It just seems to work.
K - When it comes to producing, Pam’s instincts are unbeatable. I love working with her and that has held true for nearly 20 years! Our collective experience, both good and bad, gave us the needed tools to see this project through to the end-- with our sanity intact. And now we’re ready to take on another film project!
So when is “Walk-ins Welcome” going to be released?
K – Because of the Halloween theme that runs through the film, we’re hoping for a late fall release, but it could be as late as early next year.
P - We’ll be putting that information on our website. There are still marketing and distributing decisions to be made. In the meantime, the trailer’s on YouTube, giving people a taste of the film and, we hope, getting them excited about seeing it.
Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this locally-produced feature. I wish you and “Walk-ins Welcome” great success. Be sure to keep us posted!
K – We’d be happy to. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about our film.
P – And thanks also to your readers!
Check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xVqnNYnLBI