A low budget filmmaker hopes to inspire others like Mark Duplass did.
This post was written by Ed Rampell.
Inspired by an SXSW keynote speech by an actor / writer / director Mark Duplas, and imbued with a “do it” spirit, filmmaker Robyn August made his first full-length film. Following the advice of his fellow indie filmmaker to “be your own cavalry,” August rode to his own rescue and made a micro-budget film.
Party with me is an engaging dramedy and ensemble piece about showbiz aspirants in LA in the 1930s that focuses on the use of drugs, alcohol, random sex, and frivolity by personal assistant Harper (Allison Flanagan) to help manage a family tragedy .
Shot on Blackmagic’s URSA Mini over eight days with the cast and crew residences, Party with me was shot for $ 7,000 and edited in about four months. August made animations for the film in Adobe Animate and After Effects. The film won the LA Film Fest Awards and was awarded a distribution agreement.
August tells how he turned his directorial debut into a second feature film.
How did you get into filmmaking?
To be honest, my dad bought a VHS-C camera in the 80s. I’ve always been an artist at heart, I’ve drawn, and I’ve just loved films. At some point I convinced my dad that I could use his camera to shoot my own stuff, and then I started asking my friends to do those sketch comedies, sketches, little horror films, etc – I used it more than he did. And I went crazy and made little videos.
How did you come up with the idea Party with me?
My love is horror, science fiction, comedy … I’m a very genre-typical guy. I knew that to make my first film, especially one that I had to pay for out of pocket, it had to be more of a conversational film. So I went to check out this South by Southwest keynote by Mark Duplass online that really inspired me. And he made a great case – if you want to do a movie, just go out there and do it. You need to understand that there are some movies that you just can’t do at this level. Find your talented friends and see what locations you have and what to do for free or cheap. Then go back – write the story of what you have instead of a science fiction film in space. I thought this was a really unusual, intelligent way of making a feature film.
I realized I couldn’t make the horror movie I wanted to make right away, so let’s do something – maybe a comedy with a little drama. During the process, certain things came to light in my life and in the life of the main character Allison Flanagan, and we knew that the topic we needed to talk about was grief and how to deal with grief. So we built a character piece on it, along with a lot of elements related to LA, friendships, connections.
Tell us about the production Party with mestarting with the script.
I took notes during Duplass’s speech. I made friends who I knew were talented – they knew it was a passion project that came out of my own pocket and probably wouldn’t make any money. Then I asked the actors if there was a certain character they’d always wanted to play and I tried to dig deep inside myself to find out what the subject was.
Once I understood that, I just sat down and wrote non-stop. I was able to finish the script in two weeks.
party is a micro-budget film. Instead of advance payments, were cast and crew points given?
Yes. All I really wanted was to pay back my original investment, after that it was about everyone getting points. The main goal wasn’t to make money. It was about making the damn movie. The actors could also use it to look for a representation.
What was your budget?
Around $ 7,000. After festival and PR costs, it’s $ 10,000.
Most of it went to the sound – that was the only crew member who couldn’t work for points and you never want to go without good sound!
As with everything else, the pandemic is also affected party‘s publication. But it was on the Method Film Festival.
I actually got into a decent number of LA festivals and ended up going to Method Fest because they were so in love. After the pandemic, I was sad that the crew wouldn’t experience a premiere. But Don Franken, the festival director, did everything to make it anyway. It was actually one of the few festivals in LA that offered a drive-in theater experience. I got up there before the film started giving a speech and the actors had to say something.
Has party win any prizes?
We were actually nominated for eight prizes and won two big ones, which we didn’t expect. We won the best cast from Variety Magazine and the best film of the festival.
Did this lead to any sales offers?
We had a couple of people contacting us. But I knew there were some bigger indie distributors that I really wanted to focus on, including Gravitas Ventures. I sent you the film. They really liked it and offered a distribution deal.
Tell us about the cancer subplot in your story.
It’s a mix of dealing with my mother’s fear of breast cancer and starring, Allison Flanagan’s father, who died of cancer shortly before filming began. She brought a lot of her personal experiences to the film.
I am preparing to make a low budget horror / comedy / slasher film with some private investors in October. And I’m going to buy a script that I wrote called a psychological thriller Cupcake. Having made a feature film was a big calling card – he said to investors: “He’s already done it.”
Would you like to add something?
If you’re an aspiring filmmaker and you’re thinking about whether your first script or film needs to be a million dollar production, you get it out of your head. Just make movies and you will eventually be able to make yours Citizen Kane. But for now, just put the work in, do it, and you’ll find amazing things to come.