One of the most talked-about local films from 2011 was this little known project called Must Come Down. --- Artist Kenny Riches took on the role of director in this film about finding where you fit in life, seen through the eyes of two people currently experiencing their respective quarter-life crises who inevitably start to help each other move on in odd and sometimes ridiculous ways.
Later this week, the film will see its official festival debut as the primary cast and crew make their way down to Silicon Valley for the 22nd annual Cinequest, set to run March 3, 5 and 6. Today, we chat with both leads, David Fetzer and Ashly Burch, as well as Riches about the film and the work behind it and the future for its release. (All photos by Paul Chamberlain)
Kenny Riches, Ashly Burch & David Fetzer
Gavin: Hey, guys. ffrst off, how have you all been since we last individually chatted?
David: Fine. I've missed you, Gavin.
Ashly: Doin' all right. I just graduated college, so now I'm looking for gainful employment while existentially staring at my bellybutton.
Kenny: Been great! Staying busy.
Gavin: Getting right to it, how did the idea for the film come about and what was it like writing it?
Kenny: I came back to Salt Lake with the intention of making a feature film. I had written a screenplay during my time abroad, but I knew that I most likely, for budgetary reasons, couldn't afford to make the film I had just written so I decided to start over. Also, right when I got back I worked on a book project with my father called I Wish Things Were Different that dealt with a lot of family stuff. That project got me curious about going to the house I grew up in, so I contacted the owners, who are amazing people, and set up a time to explore the house. The minute I entered the house, I was punched in the face by memories of my childhood. The new owners didn't change a thing, not even the wall paint. It had probably been close to two decades since I had last been inside. Well, anyway, that gave me the foundation of the story. It took six weeks to write and I knew that it was a story I could probably make during the upcoming summer.
Gavin: What did the two of you think about the script, and what were your reactions to being asked to work on it?
Ashly: Well, Kenny contacted me on Facebook, so my immediate reaction was that of suspicion. I was afraid it was going to be that old pretend-you're-making-a-movie-and-then-get-her-to-fly-out-to-Utah-so-you-can-kill-her-and-eat-her trick, but it ended up working out delightfully well. The script is fun, and I think it will resonate with people of our age group.
David: Since Kenny and I literally spent our most significant artistically formative years together, our aesthetics have kind of fused together. So, reading stuff Kenny's written is like reading stuff I've written. So, my critiques are always proportionately masturbatory-complementary and devastatingly critical. I was, like, "Kenny, you're a fucking genius! This is a goddamned piece of shit! You're the voice of our generation, man! Jump back in your time machine and fuck off to 2005, asshole!" ...But then, ultimately, I'm always stoked. Reading earlier drafts of Must Come Down, I'd grown suspicious that he was writing the male protagonist with me in mind, because the character seemed to mysteriously embody every insipid idiosyncrasy I possess and have unwittingly patented over the years. I actually don't think he ever formally asked me to play the part; it was more like, "Your summer's free, right?"
Gavin: How did yo get Patrick Fugit and Dominic Fratto on board as producers?
Kenny: I've known Patrick since high school; it was right when he returned from shooting Almost Famous. We were both skateboarders and so that's all we did back then was skate, literally all day long. I was interested in film and Pat was always super-supportive. He would act in my short films and actually he even bought the first video camera any of my friends owned, so we'd make short films and skate videos with that. He's the best. Dominic I met through a friend of mine, and I had remembered hearing that he recently produced a feature film. I looked into it and it turned out that it was Dave Boyle's film, White On Rice, which is a great flick, so I sent a script to Dominic and he was on board.
David: Kenny forgot to mention that we also tied Patrick Fugit to a chair and beat the shit out of him and then forced him to read cue cards declaring his participation as a willing producer of the project while we filmed all this in the basement of an abandoned building with nothing but an iPhone, a flashlight, and some guns. There's a video. Check it out.
Gavin: How big of a crew did you put together for this film, and what was it like going out and shooting material?
Kenny: The crew ended up being much bigger than I had initially anticipated. We ended up upgrading the camera we used, which in turn upped every aspect of the set -- like, more crew and more equipment. Shooting around SLC was really fun. Everyone was really supportive and made it a great experience. The most amazing part of the whole shoot was that the house in the film is my actual childhood home. It really made the experience much richer being able to design the scenes around that house. So thanks, Erik and Nan!
Gavin: David and Ashly, what was it like for the two of you to work together and develop these characters as you went along?
Ashly: It was great -- David and I work really well together. And our real-life situation happened to almost exactly imitate that of our character's in that life-imitates-art sort of way.
David: It was as life-imitates-art-y as Herzog's Grizzly Man, only with way less people getting eaten by bears at the end.
Gavin: How long did it take you to film everything, and what were some of the bigger issues you had to deal with while filming?
Kenny: We shot everything in about three weeks. The main issue was money. We were this awkward teenager-size production. We had enough people to get by, but not enough to operate smoothly. I was the director, the on-set producer, the art director, the props manager, the grip-truck driver, etcetera. Everyone on set was doing their job, plus five other jobs. Then, of course, we used up all of the money on production, which made for a challenging post-production. It was crazy, but so much fun it didn't really matter. The whole cast and crew were so awesome.
Gavin: Early on you turned to KickStarter.com for funding with the film. What made you decide to go that route and what was the online reception like?
Kenny: I love Kickstarter! It's maybe the best platform for independent projects EVER. Once I did my homework, it just made sense that we try it. David and I just sat down and wrote out a quick, but funny, little script and shot it the next day, and the day after that it was online and people were responding to it. Ashly has a big fan base, so that helped a ton, and a lot of Salt Lakers that know me through the art scene kicked in, as well. I think the videos really helped. If it's a good project, people will support it.
Gavin: How did you end up working with Andrew Shaw for the music, and how was it to work with him in setting the tone for the film?
Kenny: Gosh, I feel like I can't say enough nice things about Andrew. He was so great to work with. We became pals a long while back when he used to have a practice space under my old gallery. He can masterfully create music for any scene or setting, and do it quickly. I would say that I was looking for this kind of mood or sound, and he'd come back the next day with six options for me to choose from. He's amazing. Every time I screen the film, I get compliments on the score.
Gavin: The film itself has been in post-production for a long time now, with sections and trailers released every once in a while. Why the long wait, and why did you choose to release material from the film as you have?
Kenny: I released a few videos before production that were promotional videos for the film. We reshot all of them for the film, though. I think it helps keep people interested and involved when they get to watch pieces. The film took a year to finish because of many factors; one is that I was trying to finish it before the festival season that same year, but once it became obvious that it wasn't going to happen, I decided to wait until the following year. Also money; I'm scraping the post-production budget together as I go. Lastly, as my friends can attest to, I'm crazy and I want to do 50-million things at once, which always slows everything down a bit. Since returning to Salt Lake, I had a few solo art shows, a few group shows, went back to school to finish my art degree, co-created a non-profit art center, worked on a few commercial videos and art videos, started a publishing company, designed and published three books and, well, you get the idea. I was doing this stuff all the while working on the film. I'm a crazy.
Gavin: The film will premiere this week at Cinequest for three showings over the weekend. How did you get into the festival, and what are your thought on being shown there?
Kenny: Cinequest San Jose is a really great festival to be part of; I'm very excited! I've been applying to a bunch of festivals, and so far we've been accepted into Cinequest and also Phoenix Film Festival. I'm still waiting to hear back from most of them. Fingers crossed!
Gavin: What are your individual thoughts on the film having been removed from it for this long and now seeing it premiere at a film festival?
Ashly: I'm really excited to see it again in a different context, on a big screen, with other people that are seeing it with fresh eyes. I imagine it'll feel much like seeing it for the first time.
David: As with anything I'll ever create or be creatively involved with, I can only ever hone in on the things about the project that I'd improve. For that reason, it's hard to watch the film now. But I'm totally stoked that it's been getting some genuinely positive feedback, and happy to see Kenny's hard work get the deserved pedestal of a revered festival premiere. It's pretty exciting and I'm proud of my dear friend.
Kenny: I am really happy with the film, but like most things I make, I'm satisfied, but ready to move on. I took such a long break from film in my early twenties to do independent business that I feel like I'm playing catch up. Must Come Down somehow feels like a film I was supposed to make when I was 25. Dunno how to explain that fully, but I'm looking forward to making the next film. Seeing how my films mature, I guess. The premiere is really exciting, though, and I'm stoked to be playing at Cinequest; they've been really great and easy to work with. Making films is what I've always wanted, but it's a trip that I've made a film that people are responding to in such a positive way.
Gavin: What are the plans from this point on for the film, and when are you looking to do a DVD release?
Kenny: The film will go through this round of festivals, and then I plan on taking it on tour and releasing it on DVD and video on demand. So, hopefully, it'll be out this fall.
Gavin: What can we expect from each of you over the rest of the year?
David: Two Plan-B productions back-to-back: The Third Crossing, and The Scarlet Letter; FACTORY 25's distribution of feature film Bad Fever, which I co-produced; a series of LA-based film projects with my friend/collaborator Michael Gioulakis; lots and lots of homebrewing; reckless refusals to work customer-service-based jobs to foot the bill; starvation; um... death, quite possibly.
Ashly: That's the big question, isn't it! There are a few things here and there, but nothing with definitive release dates that I'm allowed to announce.
Kenny: The plan is to shoot the next film this fall after the release of Must Come Down. Otherwise, I'll be working on publishing my father's next book, which is based on his dreams and is pretty off the wall. I'll also just keep making art and I'm planning an online contemporary art magazine with my girlfriend, Cara.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything else you'd like to promote or plug?
Ashly: Still doing "Hey Ash" and "How Games Saved My Life." So, you know, watch/contribute to those or whatever.
David: Support local theater. It's the original 3-D experience.
Kenny: I guess I already did throughout this interview, but Must Come Down, Little Zion Publishing House, the world of Andrew Shaw, Ashly's blog, David and Patrick's band Mushman -- oh, and I'm currently working on a music video for Will Sartain, coming soon!
|Follow Gavin's Underground:||