Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Bringing love’s mystery to life

The year got off to a great start for me. I got to see a couple of brand new independent films, both set and filmed in New York, both written and directed by first-time feature filmmakers and both really good. One was J. Antonio’s Night Job. Another was Christopher Tedrick’s intriguing romance/drama/mystery April Flowers.

I was quite taken by Tedrick’s film, and he graciously agreed to do an online interview. Previously, he spent a decade in advertising as well as working on short films. His screenwriting has won awards, including selection as a Nicholl Fellowship semi-finalist. April Flowers is the first production of his company Myopia Pictures. According to the film’s web site, it is scheduled for release on February 9 and will be available for streaming from Amazon, Vimeo and Apple TV/Roku via the Vimeo app. More information can be found on the April Showers web site.

Without further ado, here is our Q&A.

ScottsMovies: First of all, congratulations on writing and directing a really entertaining and involving movie. I really enjoyed it. I’m curious. Did you set out specifically to do something with the romance genre by finding a different take or having a fresh approach? Or were you just telling a story that found its way into your head, perhaps because of your own experiences or someone you knew?
Christopher Tedrick: I never intended to write a romance movie per se. The idea came to me while riding the subway one evening and, as I explored the concept further, I really liked having the opportunity to say something about searching for perfection. I went back through my old journals and found a character description I had written years ago that described a woman full of yearning and I decided to marry the two. The mystery angle kind of inserted itself organically, which I think is probably evident.

SM: With this film I had the luxury of watching it before absorbing any information about it or about you beforehand, and it came as a surprise when I realized it was written by a man. I mean, the character of April is just so fully formed and comes off as a real person. I know there are many male writers out there who can write great female characters, but an awful lot of them really can’t. As someone who is envious of that ability, I have to ask, what’s your secret?
CT: I remember meeting with our cinematographer Eugene Koh for the first time to discuss coming aboard the project and she was looking at me so strangely. I got very self-conscious and wondered if I had something in my teeth. Finally I just asked, “Is everything okay?” And she replied, “How did you write this?” Hahahaha. It’s a great compliment. The truth is that growing up, and even still, I have a lot of female friends. When I was younger it was mostly because I was too shy to tell them I liked them so I always became a friend. I suppose the nature of those relationships allowed me a unique insight. After college, when I really began focusing on screenplay writing, I simply found female characters more interesting. They’re typically more complex, and I just have more fun writing them. For this story, it especially made sense to have a female lead.

SM: You are obviously very experienced from your work on short films and in advertising, but making your first feature-length movie still had to be pretty daunting. How was the experience? How much time did you get to spend on the creative side as opposed to details like raising financial support and was it frustrating balancing the two?
CT: Daunting is a good word. LOL. In my marketing career I had worked on million-dollar ad campaigns, but making an Ultra-Low Budget movie has been the challenge of my life. I wasn’t able to spend as much time on the creative side as I would have liked. Which is where I got lucky, with great talent around me. For instance, Eugene guided us through the directorial responsibilities in pre-production. I was doing a lot of producing at that point. On set, the actors were amazing and we all worked really well together. They didn’t show any frustration, were very professional, and it helped keep the set wonderfully managed. Raising the money is a whole different story. I set out to make this movie with theatre actors I knew in NYC for around $30,000. We made $14,000 on Indiegogo, and then a personal connection led me to a philanthropist that agreed to give us a generous investment upping our budget by four. Our challenge became keeping our heads above water with a larger budget than we anticipated, even if it was still very small. Let me tell you, you can’t google that problem and find help. But to your initial question, it’s not easy to balance the creative and business side, and I wouldn’t know how to tell an indie first-timer what to do except to work your butt off and don’t be afraid to jump head first into areas you may be uncomfortable with. In the end, people really do want to help.

April Showers
Director Christopher Tedrick (second from left) on location with script supervisor Genevieve Ortiz, cinematographer Eugene Koh and actor Celina Jade

SM: While very much a no-frills indie film, April Flowers has some really nice instances of cool transitions and the odd surprise visual effect. Are you interested in working in other genres that would be more special-effects heavy? Maybe this is just the fanboy in me asking, but would you and Celina Jade possibly collaborate again, but maybe in some sort of fantasy or action movie?
CT: We were fortunate to have Henry Steady edit the picture for us and he had extensive VFX experience. And we had him onboard in pre-production so his suggestions on what could be done in post helped us be more efficient. One of the great honors I received after production was Celina asking about working together again. I’d love to, of course. Not only is she an amazing actress—and we really couldn’t have had a better lead—but she’s great as a person. It was equally her acting talent and her personality that made production successful. I do have another script, which happens to be a surrealistic fantasy of sorts, but I haven’t spoken to her yet because I’m still working on the ending. On one hand I really want to work with her again; on the other hand I hope she gets too big. She’s got momentum behind her career right now, and we’re all very excited for her.

SM: It was great to see Keir Dullea in such a lovely role. The man has been working pretty much constantly for six and a half decades. How did you happen to cast him? Were you tempted to work the name Hal—or some other 2001: A Space Odyssery reference—into the screenplay?
CT: I was so tempted to work in a 2001 reference. Keir and his wife Mia—she plays Mrs. Moore—were friends of friends. I had never met them before, but they agreed to read the script and soon after agreed to meet. They are so lovely and so down-to-earth. It’s still like a dream to have worked with such talented actors on my first little feature. I’m not quite sure how this all happened!

SM: How soon until we see another movie from you? Can you share details of any future projects, either definite or aspirational?
CT: Hopefully not long. A lot will depend on how well April Flowers does when released this February. We aren’t anticipating big numbers domestically—we simply don’t have the marketing budget—but hope that internationally we find some success. We signed with Summerside International and they’re taking the film to EFM [European Film Market]. The fantasy script I mentioned earlier is very close to being ready but would necessitate a larger budget than April Flowers. And I have two pilots I’m really excited to find the time to finish. I’m also consulting with a virtual reality company called Rendever and looking into producing a documentary around their company mission. Truthfully, TV excites me more than anything right now.

-S.L., 17 January 2017

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