This brings us to the summer of 2004 when we all moved to New Hampshire full-time and marks the beginning of what is called the development phase on any movie project.
I should mention here that Aaron and I had several scripts already in draft form that we had to choose from for our first three projects outlined in the business plan. Two of them were Aaron’s and one was mine. One advantage we had as partners in a new film company was that we were both writers first and had an abundance of our own material we wanted to bring to life. So while we were struggling through the business plan, Aaron was also polishing the script for The Sensation of Sight. He worked through several drafts, showing them to me for my feedback.
In June of that year, with a completed business plan and screenplay in hand (a script we were confident was ready to show to the world), I made a critical phone call. Years before when I was Artistic Director of Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey–a new play development theatre that helps established and emerging playwrights test their new plays–I had the opportunity to work on several projects with actor David Strathairn. He loved working on new plays and the two of us became friends. When I left the theatre to pursue my own writing career in the early nineties, David’s film acting career began in earnest. As these things sometimes go, the two of us lost touch with each other.
Once Aaron and I had determined that The Sensation of Sight was going to be our first film, we immediately knew that David would be perfect for the lead character. So on that June night in 2004 I opened up my old worn leather address book and found an ancient unlisted home phone number for David. I dialed the number and got a no-longer-in-service recording. Then–and this is something every independent movie producer has to take to heart–I kept the faith and grabbed the phonebook and tried the same number with a different but adjacent area code, hoping that perhaps their area code had been changed.
The phone rang at the other end and David’s wife answered. She gave me David’s cell phone number which I called and left a message. A half hour later David calls me back and thanks me for thinking of him and of course he’d read the script. A couple of weeks later he did and he loved it. David Strathairn was suddenly “attached” to our project. (See what he had to say about the script in the “Synopsis and Reviews” page on the website.)
One of the things this whole adventure has taught me is the degree to which experiences in one’s life in the past can years later offer a tremendous opportunity in the present. Working with David Strathairn all those years ago or me struggling in college through an economics major to make my mother happy when I should have been an arts major, for example. The journey is long and if you stay on it long enough often what goes around comes around. Obviously that applies to everyone and any pursuit one might undertake, but it applies in an especially potent way when you set out to produce your first movie.
(Next: Locations, budgets,and the legal stuff…)