Having always relied on my agent, with a rather serious, straightforward approach to my career, I’ve never been big on industry parties. But a chance meeting at an event in late 2005 led to what would become one of my favorite roles in my career.
I’d been a full-time actress in Los Angeles since moving here after getting my Acting degree from UT, and my most notable role to date had been a five-year story arc on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. After Trek ended, I unfortunately went through a truly terrifying stalker situation, resulting in me putting my career on hold and, frankly, losing a lot of momentum. I’d been looking for a reboot — a fresh start — and I found it in Yesterday Was a Lie.
Filmmaker Sarah Nean Bruce approached me — in the bathroom, no less! — about reading for a role in a science fiction noir project which she was co-executive producing. When I read the script, I was immediately smitten. Writer/director James Kerwin had created a complex, thought-provoking tale about the nature of love and loss, intermingled with profound musings on time, memory, and the human condition.
After meeting the team and reading for the role, I was cast as the film’s second lead: an unnamed lounge singer who communicates with protagonist Hoyle (Kipleigh Brown) through riddle and song. James had gone through a series of romantic breakups at the time, and found himself asking questions about why the universe seems to be so “broken” when one is emotionally vulnerable. The story and characters spoke to me. I knew this film had to get made.
Unfortunately, a few months after I was cast, the film’s line producers dropped out. Dozens of new producers were interviewed; none bit. The film had a budget of only $200,000; with 50 locations and an ambitious, highly stylized directorial vision, everyone simply said “it can’t be done.”
So I did it.
I took on the “producer” job. It took the better part of a year — and the director being hospitalized with an ulcer — but, with line producer Robb Thomas and UPM Thomas J. Rasera, Yesterday Was a Lie was shot on time and on budget.
Post production… festival circuit… you know the routine. It can take a while for an indie film to build momentum, and Yesterday was no exception. At first, many shunned the film as confusing, too intellectual, too difficult to follow… or simply because it was black-and-white.
I’ve realized that, when it comes to getting behind a film, everyone wants to be second.
Gradually but surely, positive reviews and festival awards started coming in. Film Threat named Yesterday one of the Ten Best Films of the Year on the festival circuit. And the momentum built.
After a year playing at fests, we’d won 25 awards — with over a dozen “Best Feature”s — and 85% positive reviews. Not bad. But the Holy Grail of indie filmmakers is commercial distribution, and my job wasn’t done yet.
There’s a myth among indie filmmakers: If you make a good movie, and it wins a bunch of festivals, you’ll get distrib. Not at all. We’d been recruited by a sales rep agency which tried to sell the film, but no dice. I knew nothing about distribution, and I had no idea where to start looking.
But damn if we were going to let this film just sit there. I started cold calling.
In 2009, mini-major studio Entertainment One, based in New York and Ontario, picked up Yesterday Was a Lie and gave us a commercial release. We lost the license to one of the songs in the film because we hadn’t secured broad release rights — lesson learned — and James took the opportunity to recut the movie based on feedback he’d received while on the festival circuit. The finished film came out on December 11, 2009, with a DVD release in April 2010. That was followed by the publication of a graphic novel, a spin-off web series, and a CD soundtrack (through La-La Land Records) on which — I’m proud to say — I sing three songs (thankful not to have literally lost my voice on extensive post-production negotiations!).
We learned invaluable lessons on Yesterday about shooting efficiently on a low budget — and, most importantly, not letting it affect the quality of what goes on screen. James spent the better part of a year storyboarding the entire film, which was critical when we entered principal. When you’re shooting 50 scripted locations in 24 days, nothing can be left to chance; you better know exactly what shots you need before you step on set. And these lessons are scalable to bigger-budgeted projects, too.
Even before he wrote Yesterday Was a Lie, James and Andrew R. Deutsch — producer of the popular web series GOLD and Night of the Zombie King — had been hard at work adapting the classic Czech play R.U.R. into a feature script. An eerily prescient piece by Karel Capek — started in 1919 but set 50 years later — R.U.R. predicted advances in biotechnology and served, then and now, as a fascinating exploration of socioeconomic issues. It’s been the inspiration for numerous science fiction films since, from Metropolis to Blade Runner. James had studied the play in a college lit course — he was even in a production of it in Dallas — and had a fresh spin on the piece that’s never been done before.
R.U.R. is straight science fiction, and James and Andrew had shelved the project as being too ambitious at the time. Now, after the completion and release of Yesterday, and with recent advances in VFX and virtual sets, we’re ready to revisit it. And as much as I loved Yesterday Was a Lie, I have to admit that I’m even more excited about this new, original adaptation of R.U.R. — set in a sexy, mod, retro-futuristic world that fits the concept perfectly.
While we’re in negotiations with financiers to produce the R.U.R. feature, we’re simultaneously developing a short film — R.U.R.: Genesis — to be released on the Internet as an introduction to the stylized world we’re creating. We’re raising the money through crowdfunding; we chose IndieGoGo since our production company is a non-profit, so donations are tax-deductible (something that Kickstarter doesn’t allow).
So — if you’re looking for excellent indie film and some great indie film karma — please click here and watch our video! We appreciate everyone for their support.
Here’s to the spirit of truly independent cinema. Whatever it takes.
Sci-fi favorite Chase Masterson (Star Trek, General Hospital, E.R., Sci-Fi Entertainment) has starred in numerous films including Yesterday Was a Lie and Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. With sole “produced by” credit on Yesterday, Chase won “Best Producer” at the LA Femme Film Festival and championed the film’s production, distribution, publicity and soundtrack deal. She’s back in front of the camera to star in R.U.R. Visit here to support. Follow @ChaseMasterson for updates.