This week’s #FeaturedFilmmaker is Laura Durkay, writer, director, producer of the feature film Natalie. During my interview with Laura she gave some great insight on what it really means to be an aspiring filmmaker. Below is some of what she had to say on a variety of topics involving the making of her upcoming feature film.
I just shot my first feature film. It’s called Natalie. It’s a murder mystery with a lesbian protagonist about a woman trying to find out what happened to her ex-girlfriend after she [learns] of her death.
Our shooting budget was 5,000. We did a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. We originally wanted to raise $30,000 but that’s what we ended up with. So we decided we were just going to see if we can shoot it with what we have. Obviously we had to figure out if it was something that we could pull off with the money that we had.
[When that happened] I had to completely rehire the crew because the original round of people were people who I had approached based on the idea that I could pay them. And if you’re doing 5K almost everyone has to be paid on deferment, so it meant we really had to start a lot of the pre-production work over. It was a lot of work but we managed to pull it off.
Because Kickstarter is still all or nothing, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to shoot the movie if we had done a Kickstarter. In retrospect [choosing Indiegogo] was definitely the right choice. I think that if you’re going to do Kickstarter you have to have a plan and make sure that your goal is something that you know you can get to.
Script and Characters
With this story in particular it kind of just dropped into my head. This story about ordinary people who become detectives to try to find out what happened to someone they cared about. Soon after I came up with the idea I decided I wanted to write it for two actors that I know who are amazingly talented, Caitlin Mehner & Nabil Viñas, who I’ve worked with before. So from the beginning I knew they would be playing the lead roles and I knew that the main location was going to be my apartment. I would literally be sitting in the room where it was to take place. That really helped me be able to put it together in the amount of time that I did. I started writing the script in January 2013 and we shot in September.
One of my goals [with this film] was to make a film with queer characters that wasn’t just about coming out. I don’t think there is anything wrong with those stories but I was interested in doing something different. Making a thriller murder mystery that just happens to have a lesbian protagonist I thought was something that I hadn’t seen very much. We’re hoping that the fact that it’s a queer, genre film will make it stand out. I love thrillers and anything with high stakes and danger so that was the kind of movie that I wanted to make.
My actors were really amazing. The only way that we were able to pull off the crazy shooting schedule that we had was because our actors were on point all the time. We shot in 10 days so that meant that we were shooting anywhere from 5 to 8 pages a day, depending on the day. Caitlin who plays the lead role was on every page of the script. To have an actor you know every day they’re going to show up, they’re going to know all their lines, they’re going to be professional even though it’s a super low budget shoot [that’s important]. All of our actors were dedicated to the project and it wouldn’t have happened without them. When I had to start from scratch and rehire every single crew person they were the people that stuck with me and they were the reason [the film] happened.
A lot of our decisions [as far as equipment] were based on “What can we get for free or cheap”. So it means that you have to sometimes modify things. We shot on a Canon 5D and ended up being a great choice for us. We always knew we were going to shoot digital, film was never a consideration at our budget level. We ended up doing a lot of DIY lighting; paper lanterns, available light.
Completing the Film
I’m really proud of what we accomplished with the resources that we had. It’s not easy for anyone to get funding for an independent film and I think if you know the resources that we had, what we were able to produce from it is really impressive.
Right now we got [the film] to a rough cut stage. The main thing we need right now is more money to finish the film. We’re submitting to a bunch of finishing funds, labs, and looking for potential investors. We might do another round of crowd-funding at some point in the future.