What inspired you come up with the idea for the film?
I started thinking about this movie when I was much younger and first left home. I was living with some of the funniest people I’ve ever met in a run down house in Austin Texas across from some train tracks, in an odd time where we were all looking around and wondering what we were going to do with the entire rest of our lives. There was a good amount of dread and worry to it, but also a lot of fun and laughter along the way. We were all pretty much a long way from home and our families, so getting to know one another and being close was especially important to our survival, along with whatever menial jobs we could get together to scrape by while still pursuing what it was that we wanted to eventually become — whether it be a great writer, or painter, or musician. I remember I’d come home for holidays and my dad would always immediately say to me on the way from the airport or at the dinner table, “You makin any money?” and I’d say “A little bit. Making a lot of friends though…
Why did you want to tell this story?
I wanted to make something that was relatable in a very down-to-earth way — something funny and sincere and timeless. I might have been more confident in myself back then or optimistic. But a film with a thumbprint, that people could take something meaningful from if they felt like it, or they could just sit back and enjoy and think about all the places they’ve been in their lives, the people they’ve met along the way.
I just remember going to I <3 Video every day and wandering around for hours looking for the movie that I was writing and thinking about all the time, almost so I could learn something for it or get ideas on how to handle certain things in it, but it didn’t exist. I eventually realized I was literally looking for my exact movie and thank God I couldn’t find it anywhere! So I had to make it if I ever wanted to see it, and that’s what I did.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
In a lot of ways. I think all of these characters have left home and have been trying to find themselves somewhere in the middle of nowhere, looking for there place in the world. They all seem to be on this long road and there’s no sign of where it’s going to end up. They just figure to keep at it and hope for the best. I can certainly relate to that and I think a lot of other people can too. The other thing would be to give up. I don’t think my characters are there yet.
They also want love. Real love. We can all relate to that.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
It’s changed a little bit here and there from its initial inception, but overall I’d say the poetic whole and the ghost of it has remained pretty much the same as originally imagined. We decided early on to adopt a shooting strategy and style that allowed us to move fairly quickly and get a lot done in a day, so I’m happy to say that we didn’t have to make too many hard compromises when it came to story or character.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
I’d say following me into what was a really ambitious project with limited resources / time and just believing in it and giving it all they could to make it happen. There were definitely some people who didn’t believe we could pull it off and doubted us along the way and they were very vocal about that, but for everyone one of them, there was like 10-20 people who just believed and were down 100%. They were down so much so that I could follow them by the end of it . This was especially helpful because it’s easy to get weary and you never know how far you can follow yourself before whatever genius you had begins misleading you, so a great group of people around you who really believe in the project and understand it is very important.
Where there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
There’s all kinds of risks, like thousands of them. I don’t know if I ever embraced a “risk”. I embraced problems, flaws, mistakes. The whole thing was an epic risk, every day. I certainly embraced it. I struggled financially often. I definitely had to embrace that too.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
It always came down to how can we make this scene or shot the most interactive, the most dimensional, and the most driven by Andy’s perspective, as HERE WE ARE is a very character driven story.
The locations informed that too. Outside of the facility in Austin Texas, it’s much warmer and colorful, vibrant. Once inside Medico, it’s cool and clinical, the only natural light and color comes from outside the windows of “the dayroom” and of course, the people and their shirts. It’s a stark contrast to life at the house, the outside world. Like night and day, totalitarianism and nihilism.
There was also the desire to recollect a certain feeling of some 70’s American road movies.
Time and Money were a couple other influences as well.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
I asked people for money. I got investors. People put their lives on the line to help make this movie a reality. I owe people something. The weight of that isn’t a small thing.
After we shot the movie I had to edit it. That took a long time to get right and a lot of work. I went through long periods where I never even left the house. I gained weight, I lost weight, I gained weight. Then I went and learned how to build houses and got pretty ripped up and strong. Then I went back to working on the movie and I just got fat and soft all over again.
I’ve strained a lot of relationships. Some people I’ve felt like I couldn’t even look in the eye until it was done. Some people I still can’t.
I used to work in film as a set dresser or art person or whatever anybody wanted me to do, and once I made this film, no one would ever call me. I stopped being someone you would hire for crew. I used to at least get the jobs that no one wanted or were really difficult to pull off or if someone big had backed out last minute, but those even stopped! So I did other things. I learned how to work on cars, build houses, made signs for people, learned to design and build sets and set pieces — anything I could do to make money so I could then go back to working on the movie.
All along, I got older.
My life has been basically all about this for as long I can remember now. I forget what it was even like to not have this to do every day.
It’s like I did a ton of crazy things and then went to sleep for a long time, woke up and now I’m here. Like Johnny Appleseed if he pulled a Rip Van Winkle.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
One piece of advice that may help, depending on the person — if you want to make your film, go all over town and tell everyone about it and that you’re going to do it and set a date. It doesn’t matter how long that goes on for or who you even tell it to. Tell it to the guy at the store or the person cutting your hair. Your family. All of your friends. Everyone. Back yourself into the biggest corner you can. And then you have to do it. You either have to do it or you have to lock yourself in your house for the rest of your life and cover all the mirrors, or you need to move and start over somewhere else and leave everything you ever knew behind. So you just do it. Finally.
Second piece of advice: Keep going.
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