Earlier this year Kevin Slack and I chatted about doing a criss-cross interview of each other. We were all set to go when, like in most cases, life stepped in and we had to postpone our plans. Now, however, with Kevin in pre-production for his short film, The Drought, we decided to make it happen.
On many levels, The Drought is a novel idea for a short film. Its story hits home for me as a native New Yorker now living in LA for fifteen years. In the story an elderly Brooklyn resident contemplates his daily routine as an umbrella street vendor during a devastating summer drought. I’ve seen umbrella street vendors. I’ve purchased merchandise for them. As a young man straight out of Marine Corps Boot Camp I even considered selling umbrellas when I was looking for my first gig.
As a filmmaker, a storyteller, and as an admirer of Kevin’s previous work, I wanted to learn more about the story behind the story.
The main character in “The Drought” is 60+ even though ageism exists in Hollywood. Tell me why you chose to write a story about a 60+character. Are you making a social statement? Was the casting process simpler or more difficult in this age range?
I’ve always been fascinated with the scenario where two people have been married for their whole lives and then one of them passes away. Sort of a Johnny Cash and June Carter situation. How does the spouse continue their life? On a daily basis, what do they do to consume their day? Personally, that situation is occurring in my family now and I think about it constantly. It’s an incredibly sad thought but I wanted to examine that untold story.
In Hollywood, like you said, they rarely tell stories about the elderly. However, now is the time in my career to tell the stories I want to tell. If I think about what Hollywood will and won’t like I’d never get a film made. In fact my lead, Edmund Lyndeck, is a young 86 years old! I’m just trying to tell a simple story about finding happiness when you feel like there is nothing to be happy about anymore.
I knew ahead of time casting would be tough. We completely lucked out by casting Ed. My casting director, Sara Conte, had a random connection to his agent. I had always been a fan of Ed’s comedy work in Big Daddy and Roadtrip so I was definitely interested in him. The script got in his hands and he adored the main character Jonas so he requested a meeting. Here we are today with him as my lead and I couldn’t be happier.
I’m a native New Yorker so I know first hand that Brooklyn can be a beautiful place. The borough has been featured in many ways and in many films. Did you choose Brooklyn as a location out of necessity or for ambiance? How to you plan to feature the Brooklyn landscape in your film?
Brooklyn is one of those towns where you walk down one block and it’s gorgeous and upscale. Then you walk three blocks and you’re running for your life. It has an insane amount of character to it from the hipster scene to the Orthodox Jewish community. I want Brooklyn to be a character in the film.
Jonas has lived in the same neighborhood his entire life. He has seen everyone come and go and everyone in the town knows him. I needed a town that felt like it had been through a lot and been there forever but that wouldn’t be completely recognized like Manhattan or Boston. I’m not looking to show the touristy attractions by any means. The great director Sidney Lumet said if he sees a movie with the Empire State building featured he knows the director wasn’t from New York City.
As a NYer I know Umbrella Salesmen can be colorful and eccentric. What’s your inspiration behind writing a film about an umbrella salesman? How do you plan to make this character resonate with audiences who aren’t familiar with the profession?
The whole idea behind the umbrella salesman came about when I saw a 20 second news piece about a downpour in NYC. The reporter quickly interviewed an umbrella salesman who was probably in his fifties, which was odd. The reporter said “You might be the only one happy it’s raining”. The salesman said without the rain he doesn’t feed his family. That the rain and the umbrellas take care of them. Well that absolutely blew me away that someone could rely so heavily on such a specific, small, and unique trade. I remember thinking about that all night and began the screenplay in the morning.
This story isn’t about umbrellas. You could switch it out for a jewelry salesman or a hot dog vendor. It doesn’t really matter. It’s about doing what you love no matter what. If I didn’t love filmmaking I wouldn’t do it. Fiscally it’s the worst idea ever to become a
filmmaker. If I was smart I would’ve became an account! Of course my grades in Algebra would completely disagree with me.
[The character] Jonas has so much pride but he is also very stubborn. He is willing to risk being homeless for those umbrellas. It is all he knows and all he will ever know. There is something very romantic and glamorous to me about that. Nothing matters to him as long as he is happy.
Many thanks to Kevin for providing this valuable behind-the-story insight into his upcoming short film, The Drought. You can follow the progress of this film at http://thedroughtfilm.blogspot.com/
If you’re reading this, Kevin can use your support too, right now, at http://www.indiegogo.com/thedrought. Your financial support goes a long way to help Kevin make this intriguing film.