Dustin Condren and Professor Stan Ferguson, Theatre and Media Arts
After filming my third-year narrative film project, I felt ready for a significant change. Everything that I had done up until that point had consisted of stories of college-age men struggling to come to terms with their own weaknesses and desires. Essentially they were all “inner-struggle” pieces. The project that I had just completed was good, but I wanted something else. Something real, something that told a story, and would allow me as a director to explore dramatic structures.
I got the idea for my script after receiving an e-mail from my biological father. I haven’t had much contact with him for the past twenty years or so, but lately he’s been making a concerted effort to ‘be a part of my life’ again. He’s begun trying to call me ‘son’ again after a very long time. I began thinking about the transience of relationships—especially those that are supposed to be most stable. I asked myself, “What is a father?” Even more importantly, “What is a son?” The easy answers to those questions have never seemed that easy to me, and I decided to explore the father/son relationship at a point where it is very difficult to recognize as father/son.
I wrote a script about a man named Terry in his late forties. He is a multi-level marketer and has made a trip out to an unspecified town where his mid-twenties son, John, is living. His girlfriend and fellow marketer, Kathy accompanies him on the trip. Terry is a nervous, somewhat awkward man who perhaps missed his calling by becoming a salesman. But since meeting Kathy, he’s found a new direction in his life—part of which is making up the past to John. John’s direction, however, is directly opposite to Terry’s—he’s spent the last year or so working on an underground newspaper with leftist political views. He’s got plenty of resentment toward Terry for the past, and Terry’s current incarnation is not much more appealing. They arrange a meeting at the hotel where Terry is staying, and the action leads up to a dramatic confrontation between the two in one of the hotel’s conference rooms. Terry attempts to explain his intentions to John. John is icy and eventually very degrading to Terry. John leaves in a hurry and Terry realizes that he needs to prove the seriousness of his intentions. Terry runs after John prepared to do whatever it takes to make John understand that he is sorry and is ready to start over. I wanted something unexpected to happen for the climax—something that people wouldn’t see coming, but then given the characters, wouldn’t be too surprised by. So, I had Terry run in front of John’s car and get hit. An ambulance arrives, and Terry’s victory comes when John, realizing how serious Terry is, decides to go with Terry and Kathy to the hospital.
During Fall 2000 semester, I worked on the script in the TMA 419 Advanced Directing class with Prof. Stan Ferguson. We read the script in class several times, considered changes, and tried to tighten up the plot holes. This was a very useful process and one that helped prepare me for shooting during Winter semester.
I received the ORCA grant and it was instrumental in funding the film purchase for the project. Motion picture film is very expensive, and I would have had to go into considerable debt if not for the grant. I bought 12 rolls of 16mm film from Fujifilm and it felt like quite a luxury to do so.
We began serious pre-production work in January. This consisted of organizing a crew, obtaining agreements to work at certain locations, scouring the community’s restaurants for food and drink donations for the crew, as well as casting the show with actors. I was lucky enough to get three solid actors for the central roles: (Terry) Reese Purser, associate professor of acting at BYU; (John) Jeremy Selim, an acting major; and Michelle Evans, a local professional actor. It was gratifying to have such a good cast bring to life something that had not too long before been only a part of my imagination.
We began production during the second week of February, and before the month had ended we had shot about two hours worth of footage and had the goal to edit into about 15-20 minutes. That was a difficult task, because I was working against the deadline for the student film festival Final Cut. After a couple weeks that included several eighteen hour days, I had cut the material together and had a film ready for Final Cut.
The film showed during Final Cut from March 20-24 and got a lot of positive feedback. The experience as a whole was very educational, at times very frustrating, but overall very rewarding.