Now, You Watch This Movie! Access the movie and its soundtrack on iTunes! Watch Here
We Made This Movie, set to premiere September 20, was actually made by Burnett and his co-writer and producer Jon Beckerman, but from casting to editing to the soundtrack they found promising, new, young talent (including family members!) and gave them a platform to shine. The result is a touching, funny film that reminds us that when things go wrong it can pave the way for something so right.
Rob Burnett asked that we mention his boyish good looks early in this piece. (How’s this? ) Even in jest, he need not have asked. His youthful enthusiasm for this project and its crew — and his kickass backyard ice hockey league — would’ve made the first paragraph. At his Greenwich, CT, home, the TV titan (five-time Emmy winner, executive producer of the Late Show with David Letterman and co-creator of Ed among other shows) talks about how We Made This Movie was really made.
Can you explain the concept behind We Made This Movie? It’s really a movie about the making of a movie. The gist is these kids, who live in this fictional town called Bucksville in upstate New York, are all graduating high schoolers with no prospects. They decide, led by the main character, Lebron, to borrow cameras and make a comedy like Jackass or Borat. There’s also a crazy through line that the actor Bill Pullman went to their school and all they have to do is get it to him and it will be on 3,000 screens. Lebron is so convinced this movie is going to be huge that he gets three geeky freshmen to follow them with video cameras so that when their movie is big they can release DVD extras. But they’re terrible at it. They’re not funny, and through the freshmen’s cameras, you get a glimpse into the characters’ real lives and struggles. They realize the movie they set out to make is awful, but by accident they made a completely different movie that’s a touching coming-of-age story.
What inspired you to make this movie? I work with a partner, Jon Beckerman [producer of the Late Show], and we talked for a long time about how we’re in this world where everybody wants to make stuff and be famous. What’s amazing is that kids have access to cameras and equipment and for not that much money can shoot something that can be shown in a theater. So we thought let’s address that in the form of a coming-of-age movie. The whole gestation period was maybe two-and-a-half years. We wrote the script quickly. Preproduction was easy: no sets, minor costumes. This whole thing cost about $1 million. I didn’t have the heart to tell the cast we did 83 episodes of Ed and any one of those cost double what this entire movie did. We all lived in the Holiday Inn Express in Shelton, CT, for 21 days. We’d shoot all day, then go to dinner at some horrible chain restaurant and it was joyous.
You use undiscovered talent throughout the film — that includes your family. We needed to pull the trailer together and went with this girl, Haley Arader, from Greenwich Academy who wants to be a film editor. She’s phenomenal and I thought, let’s see what she can do? She’s in high school, so is Lebron. My two daughters, Sydney, 16, and Lucy, 14, assisted her. They’d do a draft and we’d give them notes. It was like working with professional editors. The girls, and my son Charlie, 10, are in the movie. My wife, Eunice, was in a funeral scene; she was amazing.
Both the scoring of the film and its release are really unique. I was introduced to Snag Films by my friend Andrew Jarecki, who had just made a deal with them to release Capturing the Friedmans on the web. [Our film] will premiere through them September 20 in New York City and will stream online simultaneously — this is the novel approach — so you can watch the movie for free. We’ll have all kinds of extras (interviews, a panel discussion, I’ll see if some of my Hollywood friends will help). Soon after the premiere you’ll be able to purchase the film through traditional pay windows like iTunes. For the music, it didn’t seem right to have some big song, plus we couldn’t afford one. Red Bull saw the movie and wanted to be involved so we launched this contest on Red Bull Sound Stage. We posted four scenes and asked people to submit songs. We got close to 1,500 submissions and they’re really good. [The winners were announced June 15. Visit wemadethismovie.com to hear the final selections and watch their corresponding scenes.] It’s absolutely in keeping with the theme of the movie. You’ve got Lebron’s character who wants to be famous, the actors in the movie who are unknown, to some point Jon and I as filmmakers want to get to the next level and now you’ve got these musicians. Everybody involved with this movie needs a break.
It seems like much of this movie is about discovery and transforming careers, even yours. What’s next for you? My life is split into a lot of different parts. There are great people largely taking care of day-to-day things at the Late Show. I am involved in a big-picture way. The other side of my job is overseeing Worldwide Pants, my production company, where we have lots of things in development at various stages. The third part is generating material for whatever the next project will be that I will write or direct rather than oversee. I’ve asked CAA, my agency, to send me books to potentially adapt into movies. If I could have anyone’s career it would be Alexander Payne’s or Jason Reitman’s. Their initial projects were book adaptations. It helps that it’s a piece of material that exists in the world and has been vetted by someone else. But I would love to try to find a way to have a career in film. I like almost everything about it. I think everyone dreams of having a movie that’s on 3,000 screens and that would be great for me if it happened at some point. But if I could just spend my time writing and directing small movies I don’t think anything would make me happier.
“We auditioned thousands of kids,” says Burnett, who hosted the cast at his house for a week to power bond. “It was a 21-day shoot, but by the time we were done they were best friends.”
ARJAY SMITH (LEBRON) made his debut in Nickelodeon’s The Journey of Allen Strange. Catch him on TNT’s Perception starting July 9.
MICHAEL CHARLES ROMAN (SMITTY) was on The Good Wife and is developing writing projects with his production company.
ARTHUR MEYER (DANK) is a writer for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and performs with his comedy group
STEVIE STEEL (SARAH) has been on Law & Order SVU and Blue Bloods.
BRANDO C. BONIVER (BORIS), who started his career on off-off Broadway, makes his film debut in WMTM.
NABELLE ACOSTA (KELLY) most recently starred in Ne-Yo’s music video for “Burnin’ Up”.