The Long, Winding Road of Making My Second Feature Film

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FILMMAKER: Nick Felice

STORY: The Long, Winding Journey of Getting My Second Feature Film Made

My second feature movie Desperate Cowboys just hit the festival circuit in September. Hard to believe that this project took over two years to get it to this point.

The movie revolves around a terminally ill attorney who ends up with a suitcase full of drugs thanks to his wayward son who botches a simple request. All the while the son skips bail, which leads a tenacious bondsman on his trail as well as a cowboy who comes looking for his missing drugs.

Here's the trailer:

Where the story came from

I was compelled to write this story after watching The Counselor. I didn't care for the movie at first. It seemed like a waste of talent given the cast and crew with its muddled script.

However, after repeated viewings, the movie started to grow on me, and I began to enjoy the vagueness of the story more, which I wanted to incorporate into Desperate Cowboys. I wanted to create a plot and characters that would keep the audience guessing as to what would happen next. Not just lay everything out there.

I began writing the script for Desperate Cowboys when my first feature Getting Out was in post-production. I was hoping to secure some funding with the project, whether through personal contacts or crowd-funding, which neither happened.

Once it became apparent that if I wanted to make this movie I would have to self-fund it, I began to save my money. This process took a good year.

Building a low-budget cast and crew

Last winter I began searching for a cast and crew, as I wanted to start shooting in early summer at the latest. Two actors I worked with on Getting Out, George Avgoustis and Kevin Hartzman, were already locked in as I wrote their roles specifically for them.

Finding a cast and crew in Kansas City was no easy feat. As a matter of fact it near impossible, as I couldn't find a crew willing to work within my budget nor could I find actors willing to audition or if they did they weren't right for the part.

I found my Director of Photography/Editor first, Mario Garciduenas, who was a blessing given his talent and he owned all his own gear. When it came to the actors I eventually I wound up casting four actors from out-of-state (along with George and Kevin) and used local actors to fill the remaining roles.

With about about a month before shooting commenced I cast my last actor and found my sound guys in KC - Cameron Cox and Jacob Barrett. Also throughout this casting process Mario and I began scouting locations in and around Kansas City. We found many spots that I felt would make the movie stand out and would accommodate his camera work.

One of the biggest things I learned from making Desperate Cowboys is that no matter how prepared you are, things can go south. Whether it’s losing a location or actor, etc. Things can and will go wrong. It’s how you handle the situation that matters.

We lost many locations during shooting, for example, but the cast and crew pulled together and found an alternative location almost immediately. Those are the kinds of people you want to work with on projects like this. The ones that are there to see the movie through with you.

Bringing it all together

The shooting of Desperate Cowboys was a lot tougher than what I went through with Getting Out. With Desperate Cowboys we shot maybe 12-14 hour days for two weeks straight.

Everyone brought their A-game though, and I think the end product shows that. Given that tight schedule. things did get a bit hectic. and I wish there had been more time in between all of it for everyone to take a breather or get some extra shots, but couldn't given time constraints. Looking back on it it all seems like a blur.

When it came to post-production it seemed like Mario breezed through it with putting the whole movie together in less than four months. Also helping him in post with sound was Chris Sanchez. The two of them really hit it hard in putting the movie together and made it shine.

All in all, I'm glad the process of making Desperate Cowboys turned out as difficult as it did because it made me a stronger filmmaker. And I hope the cast and crew got the same feeling from it too.

No one makes a movie alone. It’s always a collaborative effort and finding the right people to make the sacrifice with you is a arduous process on its own. But it’s so worth it.

Making a movie with the smallest of resources can be one of the most difficult things to accomplish. It all looks so easy to the viewer at home. They watch a movie and can love it or hate it but will never know the obstacles the people who made that movie had to overcome just to put those 90 minutes together.

I can honestly say that I feel I have improved as a filmmaker from Getting Out to Desperate Cowboys. To me, the two movies are like day and night. As a filmmaker though, you don't want to keep making the same type of movies. You want to mix it up whether it's the story or cinematography or actors, you always want to try something different. At least I do any how.

At last I would like to extend a huge "thank you" to the cast and crew of this movie - George, Kevin, Carter, Keyna, Scott, Justin, Mo, Steve, Tangela, Donna, Michael, Mario, Cameron, Jacob, Chris, Mona, Brent, Alexa and Alexander!.

No one makes a movie alone. It's always a collaborative effort, and finding the right people to make the sacrifice with you is a arduous process on its own. But it's so worth it.

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