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Michael Ferrell: Director, TWENTY MILLION PEOPLE

February 19, 2013

Dog Park1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of TWENTY MILLION PEOPLE, from concept to financing.

I first got the idea to make a feature while working in the projection booth at TriBeCa Film Festival a few years ago. I peered through the projection window and watched the Q & A following Ed Burns’s Nice Guy Johnny and for the first time I was inspired to
make my own feature film. The following year I went to L.A. to look for work in TV writers’ rooms instead. Though I had some close calls, I ultimately came up short and headed back east. It was then that I decided to pull the trigger on doing something as undeniable as a feature film.

My girlfriend Devin and I hang out at this coffee shop in Jersey City, The Warehouse Café, an artist friendly spot, and one day I asked what they’d think about us filming something there. They were so open to it that a few weeks later they emailed to follow up with me…Hey Michael, how’s the script coming? So it was pretty easy to come up with the foundation for my screenplay: A guy works at a coffee shop.

The idea from the beginning was to make a film on “no-budget,” which in 2012 seems to be hovering around the magical number $10,000. So we took to indiegogo (Devin, myself, and Chris Prine, our friend and colleague whom we met in the web series world a few years ago), viewed crowd funding as our full-time job, and raised 30% over our original goal. We have an amazing group of family, friends, and supporters that made Twenty Million People possible.

We went from script to World Premiere at Cinequest in a little over a year.

2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of TWENTY MILLION PEOPLE. Explain to the audience how you feel about bringing this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

We are thrilled, nervous, jumpy, overwhelmed, and ecstatic to have our World Premiere at Cinequest, but when you see us there at the theater you won’t be able to tell because we’re so cool. I mean like, Williamsburg Brooklyn cool, like we might even show up late cause, you know, whatever.

I think that Twenty Million People will go over well with our first big audience in San Jose. It’s a comedy, it’s not too long, it’s a crowd-pleaser. Chris Prine keeps his pants on. Oh and also, spoiler alert: there’s a sex scene between Gumby and Buddha. We’re breaking boundaries.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making TWENTY MILLION PEOPLE?

When we reached and surpassed our goal of $10,000 on indiegogo, it was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time. As we were walking to the bar to have some Negronis to celebrate, a dog tied up outside of a Chinese restaurant bumped into my leg and came out of his harness. He ran around the block, in downtown Jersey City traffic, and I sprinted to keep up with him. But the more I ran, the more he ran. Then we spent about a half hour trying to find him. His owner didn’t seem too bothered by it, so eventually we continued our celebration. About a week into shooting the film, we saw the same owner walking the same dog around the neighborhood. On a 12-day shoot for a feature film there isn’t much time for extracurricular activity, so we just pointed them out, breathed a sigh of relief, and kept shooting.

Retelling that story, it sounds like we reached our goal on indiegogo and I went out and kicked a dog. That’s not what happened. I swear he bumped into me. Great, now everyone’s going to come to our premiere and protest. Maybe I should include a picture of me with my own dog to prove I’m not a dog kicker.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

Twenty Million People is a likable, funny romantic comedy. Yes, we shot it on virtually no budget, but we were armed with the RED Scarlet, a professional cast and crew, the Manhattan skyline, and the guy who wrote and directed it is NOT A DOG KICKER.

Do you want to see what’s possible in indie filmmaking with $10,000, a funny script, and a bunch of talented people working together? Do you wanna see what it looks like when Gumby has sex with Buddha? If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, Twenty Million People is the film to attend.

Okay, it’s not a scene, per se, just a couple of figurines on a dresser, but still.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

Yeah, true, it’s an interesting time for independent film. The concept I’ve really latched onto is that people will get a babysitter, pay $13 each, get a huge tub of overpriced popcorn, and see The Dark Knight Rises, but why would anyone go through all that trouble for Beasts of the Southern Wild? Both are great films, but with all the technology we have available to us, distribution has to evolve.

With Twenty Million People, we have the goal of fitting our film into that evolved state of independent film distribution somewhere. We’re open to all possibilities, obviously, but wherever people are watching low-budget indie romantic comedies, that’s where we want to be.

I’m not a dog kicker.

Buy tickets to see TWENTY MILLION PEOPLE at Cinequest.

Visit the website and watch the trailer!

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