Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Andy Rayner, Filmmaker: I grew up mostly in Fontana, CA. Life at home has always been difficult. I didn’t grow up in the healthiest of environments, because of either family hardships or harsh and often violent surroundings.
Film Courage: Who is your biggest supporter in your life?
Andy: My biggest supporters have always been my girlfriend Jess, my brother Aaron (who’s in the film), my best friend Alice (who mickey was originally based on) and my best friend Martin. They always believed that I had the ability to get out of that place and do something more with my “creativity.” They’ve all gone above and beyond to help me achieve anything I had an idea for.
Film Courage: Did you go to film school?
Andy: I did not. I dropped out of high school to work and taught myself everything from camera work to editing and motion graphics.
Film Courage: What are you best at?
Andy: I don’t honestly know. I’d say maybe as far as legitimate skill set goes, I’m probably the best at editing, although I didn’t edit either feature.
Film Courage: What are your failings?
Andy: Constant self-doubt and overwhelming myself with too much at once while always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Film Courage: Why do you work best with pressure?
Andy: Because pressure and chaos are the most constant variables in my life so, it’s really the only way I know how to get things done. If things are ever easy, I become uneasy.
Film Courage: Why was the story of Val and Mickey (IDLED) important to you?
Andy: At the time of writing it, it was important for me just to try to have a voice and to make a legitimate attempt to accomplish something. I had never really seen movie characters that spoke the way my friends and I did and I wanted to make a film that I could truly relate to especially being hispanic and not really having any of the cliché hispanic Hollywood tropes. Afterwards, it became important because I got to experience a lot of failures with it, most that are still present within the film and I feel like it was a great learning experience that helped with Unwholly Moments and the things I’ve worked on since.
“I’d been making little short films here and there for years and never put in too much effort because of so many insecurities. They kind of sat me down and had a mini creative intervention and told me to change how I looked at things. They kind of told me “if you don’t do it now, you never will.” The gravity of that statement floored the hell out of me. So I went for it with a loose idea and pressured myself into writing a script by casting it first. For some reason, I thought that if I had people on board that they’d hold me accountable and they did.”
Film Courage: What is IDLED about?
Andy: It’s about a quiet drive, loud thoughts and the fear of uncertainty coupled with the anxiety of being forced to grow up.
Film Courage: What was the kick in the pants to make IDLED?
Andy: My younger brother Aaron and my girlfriend Jess saw me struggling with kind of an identity crisis. I’d been making little short films here and there for years and never put in too much effort because of so many insecurities. They kind of sat me down and had a mini creative intervention and told me to change how I looked at things. They kind of told me “if you don’t do it now, you never will.” The gravity of that statement floored the hell out of me. So I went for it with a loose idea and pressured myself into writing a script by casting it first. For some reason, I thought that if I had people on board that they’d hold me accountable and they did. So much so that Robin is the one who completed post for the film. So I don’t know how much credit I can take for it at this point.
Film Courage: How many other short films or features had you done previously?
Andy: Idled was my first feature and I had done dozens of shorts that weren’t anything big or notable or serious.
Film Courage: How long did it take you to write the script?
Andy: I believe I wrote the initial 111 page script within 4 to 5 weeks, did almost no rewrites and then we just used it as a guideline. The majority of the dialogue is scripted but it was always meant to be loose with plenty of room for improvisation.
Film Courage: What did your real life Mickey think of the portrayal of her?
Andy: I don’t honestly think that we’ve had that conversation. It was more of a smile and a nod and we just kept hanging out.
Film Courage: Did you write the role of Val for your collaborator Robin Zamora?
Andy: I didn’t originally write it with anyone particular in mind, but when I met Robin, I liked his mannerisms and his voice. So I would watch his audition tape over and over again to try to get a feel of how he would deliver the lines. I did the same thing with Wendy.
Film Courage: Where did you cast your actors?
Andy: I went with craigslist. The is was very much a No Budget film. We shot in my bedroom and my friend’s parents plant nursery for the most part. I didn’t know anything about casting sites, or SAG or anything. I had worked on a horror web series with a friend and he had more experience with that but we also casted that entire thing through craigslist so I just went with what I knew because it was the first time being on my own that I had shot something with people who I hadn’t known forever.
Film Courage: How many actors did you audition in total and where did you hold auditions?
Andy: I had people just put themselves on tape. I gave everyone who auditioned for both Val and Mickey, the same monologue. I didn’t want anything to be gender specific because I had never written a female character and I didn’t want to go in with any preconceived notions about how a woman would say something as opposed to how a guy would say it. My female friends and I all very much speak the same language and with a very similar vernacular.
Film Courage: How has the mumblecore genre evolved from its original films to 2019?
Andy: I don’t know that this film entirely fits into that category, as much as I originally wanted it to. But I will say that from the beginning of it where you had these sort of Cassavetes-meets-Woody-Allen inspired handy cam films to now; the only things that have really changed are the budgets and the age of the characters. Which I think it’s amazing. I love naturalistic character pieces and I’ll continue to love them forever. Mumblecore films were really always kind of about the 20-to-30-somethings going through relationships or existential crisis and now they’re more about either remembering what it was to be young or acknowledging how weird it is to be what the filmmakers consider “old.”
Film Courage: Did you prepare Robin for Val’s anxiety attack scene or did it happen spontaneously?
Andy: We shot the entire car sequence in one very long day. We shot it in chronological order and when it came time to shoot the ending, we’d been driving around all day and were exhausted. We shot it and I just knew it wasn’t right. This was the only day we had to do this so that “working under pressure” mentality set in and after a couple of minutes of frustratingly sitting in silence, I thought what if he just has an anxiety attack, man? Like, he’s having a sh*t day, he doesn’t want to live with his brother, his relationship is over, all of his sh*t is in storage, he has no idea where to go from here and on top of all of it, he’s had to wait in his f*cking car because nobody can let him in at his brother’s place and now she’s texting him that he forgot some of his sh*t at her house and he has to go see her again? At what point does enough become enough? He’s having an anxiety attack. Robin agreed and with the day being as long as it was…He gave himself an anxiety attack.
Film Courage: Are you a planner or spontaneous?
Andy: I’ve always been more spontaneous because I’ve always been a procrastinator. I don’t know how well it works for me other than I can problem solve quickly in a moment but I would really like to be able to discipline myself enough to plan things out and execute them how I envision them because it might eliminate some of the quick thinking that I have to do given that I will have prepped for it ahead of time. I think I’m just a masochist.
Film Courage: The music in IDLED is beautiful, sad and ethereal. When writing the music for IDLED where would you go to get inspired?
Andy: Thank you, I appreciate that. Most of that music was written during or around the time that IDLED was being written. Same headspace, so they ended up kind of going hand in hand. The music was another one of those things where if I didn’t do it then, I was never going to. I’ve always been in bands but never got to do anything serious and I always wanted to write an album so I sat down and wrote/recorded an album in my bedroom. I just wanted to do something vulnerable but kind of drowned in reverb to hide some of the stuff that I was saying.
Film Courage: Where did you record it? What instruments/software did you use?
Andy: I recorded everything in my bedroom or in my car on my laptop using Garageband because at the time I had no idea how to use anything else. I used my girlfriend’s bass and a couple of synthesizers I bought on craigslist, I had never played synths before but always wanted to give it a shot and that’s what came out.
Film Courage: Is the music available for purchase?
Film Courage: How was it to release two films in the same year? Would you recommend it?
Andy: It was very surreal to finally have both films out. With Idled being about a 6 year long production and Unwholly being about 2 years, things can very easily start to feel like they’ll never get out. Again though, I have Robin to really thank for getting them done. As far as recommending it, I don’t really know. Most people are a lot smarter about their social media and marketing for their films than we were so it limited us on our ability to release or get distribution. But to be honest I’m just glad they’re out. We had to take a long hard look at the state of the indie film world and how low on that spectrum we were as well and had to kind of realize that these films weren’t going to make us any money but that was never the point anyway. We’ve got some great reception to both films and I couldn’t ask for more than people just taking the time to watch them and it makes me happy that they’ve been seen by anyone regardless of the having a very small audience.
Film Courage: What do you mean by “telling secrets out loud for the first time?”
Andy: Thank you. I’m someone who has always had a lot of trouble being vulnerable with people. Writing these films and writing the music has really opened that up for me. I look at everything I go through internally as these big scary ghosts that haunt my life and these outlets, to me, kind of work like ghostbuster traps. I throw the trap out and stomp on the button, it opens up and sucks the ghost in and they live in there now so that I don’t have to take them with me everywhere. Only difference is that instead of keeping them locked away, I allow them to be on display for anyone who might feel similarly so they might gain some perspective on how to deal with their ghosts…or they can just judge me and that’s fine too. It’s all subjective. We don’t have a lot of control over our lives, despite what optimists might tell you, but we do have control over what we share with the world and I think that when you share things, even if they’re lame, you have the potential to bridge some pretty huge gaps between people. One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous where Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) says The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.
Film Courage: When you saw the first rough cut of IDLED what happened?
Andy: I cried because it f*cking sucked…just kidding. I had a weird moment of realization where so much of that film foretold my future. I wrote so much of it as I was going through it and I lacked foresight because of it. It was all sort of laid out right in front of me and I couldn’t see it. I lost sight of why I was making the film…or maybe I never really had a grasp on it to begin with. But when I saw the film for the first time, I realized that I was trying to warn myself of what would happen if I didn’t get my sh*t together. That was really hard and it’s still really hard to go back and watch it, but I’m very grateful for it.
Film Courage: Any advice to filmmakers who want to abandon a film at the rough cut stage for whatever circumstances?
Andy: Do it. Quit, find something else to do, your dreams are stupid. Nah, ALWAYS see it through because every failure is a lesson in what not to do, and that’s half the battle in knowing what to do. If you can make something from your failures, as long as it’s not worse, then you can pretty much accomplish anything. Just take a step back from it, think about it and solve the equation you gave to yourself. It’s a hell of an exercise in self-awareness and if you don’t know who you are, how are you realistically gonna make a movie about people you made up?
Film Courage: How much time went by from inception to finishing the film?
Andy: 6 years with 3 different versions of the story. The first time was short sighted and had a bullsh*t ending. The second time had more insight but had a really contrived ending and the third time was just us accidentally being subtly meta about all the things we’d done wrong before and we found a way to give the characters their own lives because we had real memories of theirs to look back on.
Film Courage: Does every filmmaker have to face themselves even if the movie is not specifically about them personally? How does the work change when they do?
Andy: I’ve met a lot of filmmakers that live in an odd world that seems to be filled with delusions about who they are, the quality of what they do and even why they do what they do. I don’t think that all filmmakers have to face themselves but I think they all should. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling a story about a space ninja on a quest for martian donuts or a biopic about the 4th president of the United States. If you don’t get a good look at who you are, you’ll never hear your own voice and if you can’t hear your voice, how can anyone else? I think your work changes when you become self-aware because you begin to truly understand the atmosphere of the stories you tell. I don’t think that IDLED had that atmosphere down, and UNWHOLLY MOMENTS had it down a little better but I feel that there’s still a ways to go and that’s exciting.
Film Courage: How do you make your characters so real?
Andy: I don’t know. Are they? I guess, empathy kind of goes a long way? I personally think that characters can be more important than the plot sometimes. When someone tells me a story that happened to them or I witness them go through something, I try to gauge why they react the way they do. Everything in life is a reacting to something and how we react dictates the progression of our personal narratives and often the narratives of the people around us. I try to focus on that. If I know who the characters are, I know how they’re going to react to each other and when the actors get it too, good things happen.
Film Courage: Why was your character of “Andy” cut out?
Andy: Every time I put myself in the script it was like a super “on the nose” bastardization of Kevin Smith as ‘Silent Bob’ dropping lasagna knowledge on Dante in CLERK. It was, for lack of a better phrase, “whack as f*ck.”
Film Courage: In IDLED the protagonist Val is forced to spend a day with himself. Do not enough people spend time alone?
Andy: Everyone is different. Spending time alone is can be a positive or negative, just depends on how you’re spending that time. It’s definitely good to be alone sometimes to process things but you have to be willing to go into that with a productive and loving headspace, otherwise you run the risk of feeling alone. Being alone and feeling alone are two very different things and feeling alone can cause some bad thoughts.
Film Courage: What was the budget for IDLED?
Andy: Whatever was in my bank account after bills were paid. I didn’t have a set budget. I was working full time while making the film and when I got paid, I’d pay my bills and spend money on the movie. I think in total it probably came out to around $10,000 to $12,000, but that could be a high estimation and that’s over the course of I think a few weeks a year for 3 years of filming. And that’s not including anything that Robin put into it. I was really naive and not prepared to make this film.
Film Courage: What camera(s) did you use?
Andy: I used what I had or what my friends could let me borrow. The Flashback stuff when they’re just starting their relationship was shot with a Canon t3i and a t4i, then the later relationship stuff was shot with a Canon 60D and a 70D. There was no right camera there was just hey, I have a camera.
Film Courage: What is the secret to a happy life?
Andy: Pfff…I’ll let you know when I figure it out. As far as I can tell right now, it’s understanding that happiness isn’t a sustainable emotion and appreciating the happy moments that you do have and also just being content with where you’re at in life, whatever that means. I grew up goth and still wear black nail polish, I don’t think I’ve ever said the word “Happy” out-loud. When it’s someone’s birthday, I just say hey…it’s your birthday then I walk away.
Film Courage: Can men and women be just friends?
Andy: I think so. I think lines get blurred because of social stigmas and the boxes we’re all in. Like, women are supposed to be prissy and super feminine while men must be masculine and unable to show their feelings. My “Broad Squad” (yes that’s what I call them) are a Motley Crew of badasses who have always had my back. We’ve cried together, been angry together, but mostly we laugh together. I think that the key to a successfully platonic friendship between men and women is that both parties value the each other’s opinions, can talk sh*t and look out for each other. That’s literally it. There’s no real difference between having a guy friend except that a woman will always have more beautiful compassion and will be receptive while carrying the amazing ability to remain objective to actually help you out. Women offer great insight into everything. Going through relationship problems? Your girl friends and they will give you the 411 on your partners emotions as to where sometimes your guy friends are quick to just jump on your side.
Film Courage: What do you still want to accomplish?
Andy: I just want to free up more time to work at and be better at what I want to do. Making the time to create is an accomplishment in itself, making the effort in spite of the elements of life around you. When you hit your 30’s you start to see people change course and I’m not planning on changing my course, but I understand why they do it. So the main thing I want to accomplish, is just sticking with this movie thing, even if it never makes me a dime, I just really don’t want to stop making movies.
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Check out IDLED Movie (Vimeo On Demand) by filmmaker Andy Rayner ft. Robina Zamora and Wendy Alvarez – In what was supposed to be a simple move to his brother’s place, Val is forced to spend a day with himself and the painful memories of a failed romantic relationship with his childhood best friend.
Check out UNWHOLLY MOMENTS Movie (Vimeo On Demand) by filmmaker Andy Rayner ft. Robin Zamora and Liesel Hanson – A man dissatisfied with his life, attempting to be an actor struggles to connect with his profession and the people around him.