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‘Plus One’ Co-Directors on the 7 Phone Calls You Need to Get a Movie Made (Guest Blog)

Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer spent a lot of time on the phone to get their first feature made

Filmmaking is phone calls. You might think it’s other things — writing and acting and shooting and editing, but we’re here to tell you that in reality, it’s phone calls.

Those other things definitely happen, but in the five years that it has taken us to bring our first feature “Plus One” to the screen, we found that an incredibly large percentage of the moviemaking process is time spent on the phone: script notes and financiers and budgets and casting and locations and edit notes and distributors and marketing materials.

Honestly, probably close to 6,000 in total. Some are wonderful, some are hilarious, some are boring, some are gut-wrenching and most take longer than an hour.

1. “Hey. We should make a movie.”

Every film has to start somewhere.

We went to film school together, spent several years struggling at entry-level jobs and writing scripts that no one would read and eventually settled into lives on opposite coasts. One night, after a few years of working separately, we got on the phone and hatched the idea for “Plus One.” We wrote the first several drafts of the script in early 2014 entirely over Dropbox.

2. “I’ve got some good news.”

The call you’ll get when things become real.

We got a call on a Tuesday night with the news: Red Hour Films, who had just read the script, wanted to join the movie as producers. It was the moment the film went from a script no one cared about to a script with a reputable production company attached. We immediately bragged to everyone, knowing we’d be big shot Hollywood big wigs in no time.

3. “We’re going a different direction.”

It’s not certain you’ll get this call, but we did.

Christmas Eve 2015. We were on a 10-person conference call with our producers and a group of prospective financiers. And we were begging for a Christmas miracle.

Two weeks prior, our lead financier had pulled out of the project to finance Donald Trump’s campaign, and our entire movie fell apart. We were three weeks away from shooting, and we had no money. This conference call was our last hope, and if we couldn’t close the deal, the movie would shutter indefinitely. After pitching our film for over an hour, as our families waited for us to join them for Christmas dinner, the prospective financiers ultimately decided it was a pass.

plus one

RLJE Films

4. “Let it go.”

Sometimes you need someone to tell you it’s over for good before you can really move on.

Without money, “Plus One” unraveled, and we spent the better part of a year depressed and doggedly trying to find another way. What if we slashed our budget? What if we found other financing? What if we shot the entire thing on an old camcorder I found in my basement?

Eventually, our team called us: “Guys, time to move on. It’s over.”

5. “We’re back, baby!!”

This happens when you least expect it.

In the fog of our depression, we listened to some good advice — do other stuff. We made a few short films. Off of those, we got a few meetings, one of which was with a company called
Studio 71. We told them about this weird wedding movie that we’d wanted to make, and they asked to read it.

A week later, we got the call that would change everything: “Studio71 wants to finance the film.” Just when we’d accepted that the project was dead for good, it was resurrected.

6. “Will you help us make a movie?”

Time to go through your contacts list.

Our cast, our crew, our producers — most of the people who came together to make this movie were people close to us. Rhymer’s sister did all the flowers, and my Chan’s parents acted in the movie, their college roommate cut the film, our lead actress, Maya Erskine, was a close friend. We called in every favor we had. And we were lucky enough that those calls ended with: “Yes, I’m in.”

7. “Thank you.”

The most important calls you’ll make.

It’s been a long road to getting our weird wedding movie out into the world, and it wouldn’t exist without the people who loaned their time, sweat, money, guidance and creativity to this process. We’re not finished with these calls yet. And we probably won’t be for quite a long time.

Not that anyone’s asking, but the advice we’d give to anyone embarking on a quest to get their first film made: Find the people you love to work with and hang on to them for dear life. As long as you have people to call, you’ll be OK.

Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer are L.A.-based writer/director/producers. Chan has directed for TruTV's "Adam Ruins Everything." Rhymer just directed the Eko interactive series "Epic Night." Together, they've written for Hulu's "Pen15" and written and directed the Vimeo Staff Picked shorts "Pregame" and "Post-Party." They recently completed their first feature, the indie rom-com "Plus One," starring Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid, which won the Audience Award at last month's Tribeca Film Festival.