Delusion is Catching

In March of 2015, production started on Shadows Fall. It was the first produced feature film that I co-wrote, to make it fit our budgetary constraints, and executive produced, with financial support from my family's restaurant business. I recall production as a stressful time but it was that kind of joyous working stress that seems so common to filmmaking; I actually was mostly bored during production as I didn't really have much to do beyond paperwork. My hopes and the hopes of everyone around me seemed higher than ever for this film, there was no possible way it could fail us; in one way or another, this feature would give us some semblance of prominence or get us a return on investment, and ideally it was going to do both.

It did neither.

Now, almost a full four years later, I can finally admit that Shadows Fall is one of my greatest disappointments. I admitted that fact to myself a fair while ago but I'd never really accepted it or discussed it with anyone, I just stayed quiet in the foolish hope that one day I'd wake up and the movie would have achieved the goals we all had for it.

I want to be clear that I really have nothing negative to say about any of the cast or the crew, they were all a vital part and I think everyone did their job fantastically. This post is not about negativity towards any one part or person but more a realization of the delusion that can catch like fire and continue to feed off the energy of equally inspired colleagues. We all come together for a passionate, communal experience that we genuinely want to see succeed for whatever our own various agendas may be, but the end goal for the film is generally the same.

You can see my attitude was very positive in this blog post from May 2014 regarding Apeiron's Line, a high budget feature that would later be pushed back and planned as a follow up production to the successful and lucrative Shadows Fall. I had another blog post that I wrote in October of 2014 regarding the beginning of Garaj Pictures, but I never published it until the writing of this post. I can't recall for sure why I never shared it but I would guess it was because I never felt like it was the right moment to publicize my, now defunct, production company and our ambitious production schedule plan to produce three feature films within twelve months. It's a PR post, an attempt to gain awareness and attention to our plan. Without a film on the release horizon, that sort of post never really made sense. Time went on, the movie, the semblance of momentum, and the company have all since faded away and the personal delusion eventually gave way to bitter, harsh reality.

I don't know exactly what's wrong with Shadows Fall, perhaps just unlucky. One Letterboxd reviewer has theories of where we went wrong and perhaps he's right. In the moment, with the planning and the adrenaline flowing, it felt like everything was going right; it felt like this was a sure thing.

The last time I viewed the film with my girlfriend, I couldn't get through it. It looks beautiful, technically sound, but it lacks something, something that keeps it interesting from minute to minute and something that allows it all to make sense to people who didn't pour over the script for months. I've since thought about how the film could have been recut to improve the clarity of the story but I think, at this point, the film is a wound that has already scarred; there's little point for a bandage now.

The fact that I was sued by the location manager of the house also doesn't help my perception of this film. The unfortunate case has long since been settled but the looming fear of a future legal entanglement still informs my decisions regarding producing liabilities, and it likely always will.

Somewhat worst of all, I regret that I didn't push for a larger role on the production. I turned down the opportunity to direct Shadows Fall because I knew Aditya would do a better job of it, especially in working within the constraints of our overloaded shooting schedule. There's little to gain for me as "executive producer," I have strong doubts I will ever have that title associated with me again. And my brief appearance as "Doctor" will likely not catapult my acting career anytime soon.

I don't hold any inkling that the film would have been better had I been at the helm, it's likely it would have been a lot worse and significantly less noticed, but I feel I would simply have a greater sense of ownership of the film; I could call it my feature film instead of the feature film that I executive produced and co-wrote.

The film continues to serve as an omnipresent reminder to me that delusion is an easy condition to catch and it might serve you well as an actor, trudging through both good and bullshit material so you can get paid and hopefully be seen. But as a producer, as an investor, delusion is only harmful. Delusion silences the rational, reasonable voice inside that tells you this business, in all its facets, is a pipe dream that you can pursue only with the right financial stability and the right amount of mental fortitude to weather the droughts and the disappointments.

Shadows Fall is one of those disappointments, it served as a formative moment for me to realize that big productions on my own dime aren't for me. In fact, I'm not sure any major investment production is for me now; I went from a maximum of $500 budget short films to trying to make a $70,000 feature and that was likely my mistake, trying to be more ambitious than my own capabilities allow. I flew too close to the sun four years ago and I'm still mentally drowning today.