So, you know that famous quote, “Leap and the net will appear”?
Last summer I made a feature film called June Falling Down. Not because it was a logical thing to do. But because I wanted to, I had to. So I did it anyway. I leapt, with no net in sight.
I had no money. And while I had studied acting, writing, and film in college and made two short films, I also had, honestly, no real reputation as a filmmaker/writer/actor to speak of. There was no proof in the outside world that I could do any of these things. But I did all three for this movie.
A little backstory: Six and a half years ago my dad passed away from cancer. I had just turned twenty-two. At that time in your life, especially as an actor (ahem, especially as an actress), this is the time when you want to be in forward motion, hard.
And yet, suddenly my dad was dead. Everything I thought I was becoming quickly dissolved at my feet. My writing, my acting, everything I cared about. I found myself alternately numb and depressed for the next five years.
So, I read a lot. I listened to folk music and played bad guitar. Watched a lot of movies and formed really strong opinions on the art I wanted to add to the world someday. My boyfriend Chris and I were living in the Bay Area at the time, totally broke, and at night we’d would look out at our view of San Francisco across the bay (we lived in Berkeley) and think how nice it must be to really enjoy that city. I cleaned houses. Our landlord talked to me about Ancient Aliens for hours.
I wrote a lot, but everything was awful. Cancer stories. I tried over and over to start a novel. I had dreams of filmmaking, dreams of acting, but I couldn’t push myself forward, couldn’t act without anxiety.
But during that time, I also started writing this movie. That was 2011.
Time passed. Broke and lost, I moved home to Wisconsin and waitressed and continued writing in my hometown coffee shops. I wrote a script with myself in mind as the lead, with my family’s home as the home in the movie. Every other scene was set in a local restaurant or bar that I loved in real life. I was writing a movie that I could make…someday. It was a dream that Chris and I started getting excited about, and it became more plausible the more I wrote.
We moved to Los Angeles. It had always been the plan. I’d just never been ready. I still wasn’t, but we came anyway, Jeep stuffed to the roof. 2013.
Six months passed. I cleaned houses, I read scripts, I worked for almost nothing for an iPhone app, I was in a vampire-themed Shakespeare play (please, I could not make that up if I tried).
That fall I learned our family home was going to be torn down in a year. We had always known it would happen; it’s a beautiful but old farmhouse. I still wasn’t ready to make the movie. I thought the house would up be a few more years. And I’d written the script for that home. It was in my mind, perfect.
So, after crying and panicking for a few minutes, I looked at Chris and said, rather stubbornly, “Okay fine. Next summer.” And he said, “Well, let’s do it.”
Now, remember: no money. We were living by the railroad tracks in Pasadena (as I write this, we still are…). We’d made two short films together.
But we were determined. We contacted friends who had hinted that they wanted to be in a movie if we ever did one. We found friends of friends. We read together via Skype; some recorded themselves and emailed us their scenes.
We spoke with restaurants on the phone. We shared our wild and foolish plan all over Facebook, and our community in Wisconsin was enthusiastic though probably a little suspicious.
We raised $8,500 on Indiegogo. Enough to rent a Canon 5D and audio equipment and to pay for food and some transportation. Of course it wasn’t enough, but we survived (Credit cards! Mom bought groceries!).
We enlisted friends to hold the boom pole. Chris handled the camera. I directed and acted, wrangled extras, and called meal breaks. We filmed when businesses were closed and at two bars while they were open. We took over my family’s home and filmed everywhere.
We had a wedding reception at the town hall where fifty extras showed up to have cake and dance to a local blues band and folk duo. It was one of the best nights I could remember in years.
And honestly? I won’t sugar coat it – June Falling Down is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. In reality, you should never try to make a feature film the way we did, with essentially two main crew people, and everyone working for free. It was exhausting and completely burned me out. Not just once. Over and over again for a year and a half. I just finished editing last week.
But I’ll also say this – I had nothing to lose. And maybe that made it easier in some aspect. I wasn’t known for anything. After my dad died, I disappeared. I was an invisible house cleaner. I lived by the railroad tracks. I had done almost nothing I was proud of.
No one asked me to make this movie. I just somehow knew I could. We had resources available – my own ability to write, to communicate with actors, and to Google.
And no one is going to ask you to do whatever it is you’ve been dreaming of. I heard this phrase recently and I’ve said it myself in the past: “No one cares if you don’t go to the party.”
It’s tough but true. You either show up or you don’t. It’s your life.
People die before their time every day. People like my dad – a perfectly healthy, robust 53 year-old man. It just about killed me to lose him. But I made it through.
We made a beautiful movie with the odds against us. Because we fought with everything we had to make it and because I think the community around us could feel a little bit of magic happening. Even the weather cooperated almost every day. I even found a four-leaf clover before we started filming and then another right after we wrapped.
You see? This movie should not exist, but it does. And I couldn’t be prouder.
Rebecca Weaver is a writer/director/actress who lives in Los Angeles with her filmmaking partner, Chris Irwin. She directed two short films, Cam Companion and Winter Guest, and is currently raising funds to finish her first feature film, June Falling Down.
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