Welcome! My name is Mel House and my production company is Upstart Filmworks. You can read more about us at the link there, but I will briefly summarize – I’ve been making films since 1998 (with varying degrees of success) and as of 2015, I’ve directed 4 features, created a TV series and produced 14 projects.
Sounds like I’m “living the dream”, right? Well, yes and no.
To be fair, I’ve had some really awesome experiences – my films have been translated into several languages around the world, Lionsgate released my last feature, I sold the aforementioned comedy series into syndication…but there’s a flip side to that. Each project is an all-new uphill battle (at least at the level we are working at, which is $5 million or less) and every time feels like starting over from scratch. Case in point – for the last five years or so I’ve been trying to put together funding for an “old-school” ghost story in the vein of THE INNOCENTS or THE CHANGELING. Despite having a great cast attached, great locations on lock, and what I’m told is a great script, we have had immense difficulty getting that project off the ground. And not for the reasons you’d think, either. Seriously, some of the conversations we’ve had about the film have been CRAZY…especially for a multiracial guy like me. Which is to say a lot of them were borderline racist. You can’t make this stuff up.
So I did what any self-respecting filmmaker would do…and I wrote a script based on THOSE experiences. Not just the experience of trying to put together a film, but also a snapshot of one particular filmmaker’s less-than-idyllic life during this time. I think this is one aspect of the “indie film lifestyle” that we rarely hear about, let alone see dramatized and laid bare onscreen.
The key word there is “dramatized”. This IS a fictional comedy, after all. While there is definitely truth in the screenplay – a WHOLE lot of it – there’s also a Zombie nemesis/evil conscience, a cane-twirling, saxophone-playing “spirit guide”, and a talking doll named Walter. Plus a bunch of crazy dream sequences.
Our attached cast includes Omar Adam, Debbie Rochon, Graham Skipper, Lisa Wilcox, Richard Riehle, Angelo Moore, Jill Brumer, Steve Scott, and many more! You might recognize some or all of those names. Lisa fought Freddy Krueger twice (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 & 5), Debbie has been in over 200 films (including three of ours), Richard is a known character actor (OFFICE SPACE and TRANSFORMERS 4 among others), and you may have recently seen Graham in breakout genre performances in such films as THE MIND’S EYE and BEYOND THE GATES. And of course, there’s Angelo Moore from pioneering ska/rock/funk/punk group Fishbone – he’ll be portraying the aforementioned “Spirit Guide” to our lead character. It’s gonna be a trip, to be sure.
Concept Sketch of ‘Angelo The Spirit Guide’ and ‘Zombie Guy’ by M. Mrakota Orsman.
30 TO 45 is a confessional, cautionary tale, motivational speech, act of catharsis, and comedic experiment all rolled into one. By helping us make this picture, you are keeping the independent spirit alive by facilitating a quirky, personal look at one individual’s artistic journey to find their voice and platform. I’ve found that when I simply tell these stories orally at panels or mixers (or even write up details on my blog), there are invariably dozens of people that approach me afterward letting me know that my experiences have resonated with their own. It excites me to no end that, via 30 TO 45, I can perhaps reach out even further and strike a louder chord.
…with the Zombie Guy, Angelo the Spirit Guide, and Walter the Talking Doll as my co-facilitators, of course.