Director Adam Davis on making BROKEN CEILING:
It was always my goal to make a feature film. Originally, the plan was to do it by 23, like my hero, Robert Rodriguez. When that didn’t happen, I said 27 will be when it happens. It didn’t. Then 30 was the goal. I had to do it by 30. And I still didn’t. I was frustrated and fed up. So I gave myself one last shot. I was going to make a feature film before I turned 31. So in January 2015, I wrote the script for BROKEN CEILING and targeted a June shoot date, a month before by birthday. I had no time to try to find funding, so I figured out how much I could make it for, funded it myself and went right into pre-production. Because of the micro budget, I could only afford to shoot for 4 days which seemed impossible, but since the film was set in one location, I had to make it work.
Some very talented people hopped on board the fast-moving train and after two weeks of rehearsals with the actors, we finally shot over two weekends in June. I had done it. A whole month early. I couldn’t believe it. I’ll never forget the feeling, wrapping out the final day. I was in a complete haze driving home, and when I parked the car, I started crying. It meant so much to me that people had helped me accomplish my goal, and after so many years, we made my dreams a reality. I milked that feeling for as long as I could and then went right into editing. By the end of the year I had a finished cut and in 2016 it played a few festivals, won some awards and then found distribution in 2017. After a one-week theatrical run in Hollywood in February 2018, Broken Ceiling was released digitally, garnered positive reviews from the LA Times and The Hollywood Reporter, and is starting to make back my investment. It was an amazing experience, but it was only just the beginning as I’m currently working tirelessly to make my second film a reality.
“Give yourself limitations when you’re thinking about your next project or your current project. Box yourself into a corner because you’ll be forced to dig deep into the material to make it as creative and interesting as possible.”
More from Adam Davis on the making of his film:
I’m Adam Davis, writer/director of BROKEN CEILING, a feature film I shot in just four days in one location.
The film is about a woman [played by Karan Kendrick] who after countless disappointments and chronic mistreatment at her job decides to turn a routine meeting into a life-changing confrontation.
When I set out to write the film I had a unique challenge. How do I make four people stuck in a conference room together interesting for 90 minutes? How do I keep the tension up so that the audience stays engaged? I decided to incorporate a lot of narrative twists and turns and use flashbacks to help the audience understand how the characters got to such a dire, dangerous situation.
If you’re constantly keeping the audience guessing and surprising them with unexpected moments, they’ll be along for the whole ride.
I also wrote scenes taking place in the cubicle farm and the boss’s office, in the restrooms, which was able to break up the monotony of the conference room narratively and visually.
From a production standpoint, having all of these side locations in the office building we shot in was a godsend. The cast and crew could just land at the location and everything we need was there. Spaces for hair and make-up, restrooms people could use, a kitchen we could base lunch and crafty in, there was no need to travel which was key to shooting the film in four days.
Since about 60% of the film takes place in the conference room itself, I had to figure out a visual style that would keep things looking interesting as well as figuring out the blocking to move the actors around the room as the dynamics of the characters changed.
For the visual style I had the language of the film change as the story progressed. So I started with a lot of shots on sticks and some steady handheld shots. I did not want the camera to be noticeable when things were just getting started. As the story got more intense, I switched to a more handheld style, looser and intense itself like Paul Greengrass did in the Bourne movies or that great opening scene in JJ Abrams MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3.
I also put the camera physically closer to the characters so that you really felt that you were part of the situation. Now for the blocking I wanted everything to be motivated by the power dynamic in the room. So at the beginning of the film the boss Ken has all the power. He’s at the head of the table lording over the three employees. But as each of the employees take their shot at the throne (so to speak) the positions around the table change.
Over time our protagonist Angela goes from the assistant position way off to the side unnoticeable really to slowly making her way closer and closer to the throne. More and more in frame of the wide shots for example. But of course the other two employees Tyler and Garret engage in the power struggle as well so their positions move and then you’re getting this very dynamic dance motivated by each character’s desires. You couple that blocking with the visual style and you have something that the audience can really sink their teeth into. What could have been a boring, static, one-location story becomes meaty and thematically engaging.
What I would say is give yourself limitations when you’re thinking about your next project or your current project. Box yourself into a corner because you’ll be forced to dig deep into the material to make it as creative and interesting as possible. Finding the depth in the story will help keep the cast, crew and even you really, really motivated to bring it to life in new ways.
WATCH ‘BROKEN CEILING’
BROKEN CEILING TRAILER
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Mandao (Man-Day-Oh) of the Dead is about Jay Mandao and his nephew-in-law Jackson who use astral projection to reverse a ghost’s death on Halloween.
This astral comedy is the second feature film Written and Directed by Scott Dunn and produced by Gina Gomez Dunn. It was filmed in 10 days with a production budget of just $13k. The duo’s first feature film, Schlep won Best Comedy/Dramedy at the Hollywood Boulevard Festival and was nominated in 5 different categories at the FirstGlance Film Festival. Schlep is also available on Amazon. Mandao of the Dead will be released on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray in January 2019.