Almost everyone has a movie they want to make. But how many of us ever actually do it? Very few. Well, a friend of mine did. I thought it would be interesting (and maybe inspiring) to hear his journey. Jeff Kingery is the producer and director of TABLE 47, a noir thriller made in Denver using local actors and crew. The website will show you how you can stream it on fifteen different platforms including Amazon and iTunes.
What also interesting about Jeff is that for years he was the radio voice of the Denver Nuggets and then the radio voice of the Colorado Rockies. Not exactly Steven Spielberg’s background.
Anyway, I sat down with Jeff and here’s our interview:
ME: Being a big league announcer is a very coveted job. Some stay in it for 67 years. Sure, calling Rockies games must’ve been tough. Every final score was 16-14, but still, why did you walk away from it?
JEFF: Filmmaking was my first love. I loved doing that as a kid. I’d shoot movies on 8mm and show them around the neighborhood. I had fun doing student films in college. I enjoyed doing the Rockies and Nuggets. But I was getting tired. Loved doing the games but everything else was wearing on me, especially the travel.
ME: I know. It takes over an hour to get to and from that damn Denver airport.
JEFF: The big question though was what was I going to do to fill that creative hole once I left the booth? I always liked to write. And maybe I’d have a chance to actually make a movie.
ME: So talk about the beginning of the project.
ME: In sense you wrote a treatment.
JEFF: Right. We planned it out. He would write the screenplay, I would direct, and together we would find investors.
ME: To me that’s the toughest part. As Larry Gelbart once said, “You’re on your knees to German dentists.”
JEFF: We went to friends and some family. We put in some money ourselves.
ME: What was the budget?
JEFF: Around $65,000.
ME: How much is that in German Marks?
JEFF: Out of that budget we were able to pay everybody including the crew.
ME: Was that your original budget? Did it grow once you got into production?
JEFF: No, the budget was pretty accurate. We did need to add a little at the end, but not much.
ME: I’ve always felt that the most important decisions you’ll ever have to make is casting. Everything else can be fixed. Was casting fun? A nightmare? Were roles hard to cast? Easy? Was it an exhilarating process or frustrating?
JEFF: All of the above. We put the word out through local film and theater sites. We were swamped. We were looking to cast six parts. Fortunately, we knew we had our lead – Michael Haskins. We had used him before. He has several TV and movie credits. One part was hard to find, but when Danielle Prall came in, halfway through the audition I knew she was the one.
ME: I guess there are crews everywhere. How did you get yours?
ME: I guess it helped that it wasn’t ski season. So putting on your director hat (beret?), how did you prep for the film? Did you make storyboards? Rehearse? Plan it on the fly?
JEFF: I had a vision of how I wanted to shoot it. I did some bastardized storyboards, but I used color highlighters on the script to indicate which camera angle I wanted. Once I got on the set though I had to be flexible. The writer had his vision, the actors had ideas, and the DP had thoughts. Also the editor when I reached that phase. Everybody adds to it and you have to embrace that. The best thing you can do is listen to everybody, but then you have to make a decision and go.
ME: Especially on a limited budget with the clock ticking. So was the final cut sort of close to your original coded script?
JEFF: Uh… yeah.
ME: How long was the shooting schedule?
JEFF: Nineteen days.
ME: That’s pretty short. Even for an indie.
JEFF: Well, most of the scenes took place in a restaurant/bar. They gave us the two days a week they were closed. So we used them for a couple of weeks. Then we shot outside a couple of days and other various interiors like houses. We pretty much destroyed that bar and restaurant.
ME: I would expect nothing less. Now every time I watch PROJECT GREENLIGHT there are always mishaps, crises, stunts gone awry, actors in tears, etc. Did you experience any PROJECT GREENLIGHT crises?
ME: Did you have a David O. Russell meltdown or just break down crying?
JEFF: No, I just decided to call it for the day. Said, “Come back tomorrow. We’ll get it.” You have to understand that the crew all had other jobs. They’d finish up something at midnight and have to be on the set at 6:00 AM. I think everyone was just tired.
ME: Gee, you’re no fun. You’ll never get on a reality show pulling that shit.
JEFF: After that day the shoot went great.
ME: Did you try for film festivals?
JEFF: We did do the film festival run but didn’t do well with that.
ME: I told you to get Meryl Streep for your film. Nothing against Michael Haskins.
JEFF: But we developed a relationship with Indie Rights and they wanted to distribute it. They were able to get us on all the various streaming platforms. Film festivals would be nice, but if I had a choice of distribution and a worldwide audience as opposed to smaller audiences at film festivals I would take it the way it worked out.
ME: Well, as someone who has two unproduced indie screenplays, I’m very impressed and jealous. Making your own movie is a herculean undertaking. Congratulations and see you at the Oscars.
JEFF: Thanks much.
ME: TABLE 47. Check it out here.