It’s a wrap: Bricklin’s "Minimum Wage" ready to be edited
Of all Jonathan Bricklin’s tricks, typecasting his friends was the ace up his sleeve. The local filmmaker just completed shooting his first feature-length movie, “Minimum Wage,” in Eagle County, and he’s frightened at the film’s possibilities.
“I wrote every character with each actor in mind,” he said. “I typecast everyone, that was the entire point. The actors brought the script to life. For every single scene I was on the floor laughing.”
Laughter bodes well for any comedy. Bricklin’s firm grasp of the ridiculous, coupled with an affinity for the bizarre, drives the script. But that was simply the jumping-off point for his cast. Coercing his friends in the business to fly out from Hollywood and work for free, it was as much an old-friends reunion as it was a movie shoot.
To this end, cast and crew were constantly changing things around, honing the story and eliciting guffaws on the set.
Timi Asaka, assistant director, is a Vail local. She’s worked on seven other indy films, and is interested in being in movie production.
“Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with the script at the beginning,” she said. “I like stories, but… This was funny, but I wasn’t sure. But I believed in Jonathan, so I decided to give it a try. And everyone added a little bit to it. It turned out great.”
“This movie is a 12-year old’s perception of everyday adult life, what they think adults do,” said Chris Elwood, who plays Edgar Chill.
Local Battle Mountain High School student, Anthony Scully, has a 15-year-old’s perspective of “Minimum Wage.” With dreams to become a director or actor himself, he was the dolly grip, and worked with the cast and crew as much as his school and parents allowed.
“I respect them so much for what they do, after seeing how hard it is,” he said. “I’m pretty calm on the set, but when I get home I jump around yelling, “It’s so cool. I can’t believe it.'”
“And Chris Elwood? He’s my hero,” he added.
Karen Sharpe, a model and actress, described the set’s atomsphere as a “Real World” feeling. Sharpe was working on a commercial for Lycia with Antonio Banderas before arriving in Colorado for the shoot.
“I’m so glad the film is really happening,” she said. “So many people say they want to do something and don’t have the balls to do it.”
She met Bricklin through her fiance Drew Bell, an actor, director and producer. He, too, stars in “Minimum Wage.” He’s a fan of film as a means of uniting people.
“In the theater, all these people are strangers,” he said. “But they go through the same things, share the same experiences. “Spider-Man’ made, what, $100 million in the first weekend? That’s a lot of people seeing the same thing at the same time.”
With the exception of a few exterior shots still needed around town, the filming part is finished.
“With independent films, finishing is an accomplishment,” said Bricklin. “If anything had gone wrong with the equipment, we wouldn’t have had the money to replace it.”
They ran out of money before they were finished with the shoot. Despite the fact that all of the actors and locations pitched in free of charge, there are lots of hidden costs in movie-making, including feeding and watering the cast and crew, equipment rental and bribes. Brian Klugman, the actor who plays Oscar, had to give Bricklin $1,500 so the show could go on.
“I love the concept of actors paying me to be in my movie,” said Bricklin.
Mike DeMatteo, local sound man, didn’t have to kick in any dollars to help out, but he did get kicked around a lot. Anytime anyone was thwacked, bumped, stepped on or mowed down, it was probably DeMatteo. The boom man with punk rock tendencies had a sense of humor about the incidents, but didn’t find much to laugh about when he was forced to play a cowboy in the auction scene, complete with a resounding, “Yee-ha.”
Bricklin chose Chagai Bolle as his director of photography because he’s been seriously involved in digital video production for five years. Bolle’s resume includes music videos and documentaries. He’s been chronicling the Coachella Music Festival in Southern California for three years, and will be releasing a documentary about it later this year.
“Digital is incredibly divers in its approach,” said Bolle. “It offers a flexibility that film doesn’t – the texture is different, and everything is more immediate. The fact that you can reproduce the world electronically is amazing. The interface of that changes what you see in front of the lens.”
He feels looking at the world through a digital camera lens offers new insights into what’s there. What becomes apparent is not always what seemed obvious. Digital cameras change the way Bolle sees the world.
“Using things like slow shutter speeds, you can mold a moment to make it bigger right in front of you,” he said. “It really lets you think ahead, and pushes what you want in the end to the beginning. You can also see it there and then, you don’t have to wait.”
Bolle will be working on the movie’s music video. Jenni Pulos, who plays Sally Toledo, is in a rap band in L.A. called Hot “n the Biscuit. She wrote a rap about the cast and crew of the movie, which she, Elwood, DeMatteo, Cassia Hoffman (still photographer) and Tony Lucca (friend to the cast and touring musician) debuted at Half Moon Saloon’s Open Mic Night last Monday. For the video, Scully – DJ Danger to his friends – will scratch.
For Bolle, movie-magic moments on the set included a scene at the French Press, when Edgar is on a date with Sally. The two actors ad libbed for nearly 30 minutes, so that eventually the crew felt they were eavesdropping on a real date. The up side was some great footage; the down side was the late hour.
“I used to work in music video and commercial production in L.A., and I could understand somebody doing a no-budget film,” said Zak Stone, owner of the French Press. “Even if it’s just a reel to show someone else for future work. I didn’t quite intend to stay until 2:15 a.m., but that’s OK. I saw them driving around in the yellow Yugo yesterday, with Chris in the elephant hat driving and the cameraman in the passenger seat. I came into work laughing.”
For Bricklin, one of the better moments was in front of Avon’s Treasure Island Toys. Gary (Lorne Hughes), the toy store manager, watches as his new employee, Stuart (Mark Halloran) leaves the store and tosses off the mandatory elephant hat. Aldo Juarez, an Avon kid, watched too, and walked right onto the set to better see the elephant hat.
Bricklin was inspired, and pantomimed what he wanted the non-English speaker to do. Juarez stole the scene when he grabbed the hat and took off with Gary in hot pursuit.
Hughes has experience being light on his feet. When in New York, the bi-coastal resident teaches seminars for high-end executives, which he calls Happy Feet. On the West Coast, he acts and writes, usually playing The Bad Guy – the one everyone hates to love.
“Playing Greg is my favorite role ever,” he said. “I’m always struggling with being free. Greg is in a situation where he has two choices: to free himself or encage himself.”
He’s currently working on a movie, “Every Saturday Night I’m Jewish,” based loosely on his life.
Another magical take for Bricklin was a scene in a Breckenridge trailer, home to Edgar and his roommate, Oscar. Local David LaGrange helped Bricklin coordinate many of the locations, including the trailer.
“If a big Hollywood studio had come in and dressed a set, they couldn’t have done a better job, what with the posters and pinball machines they had there,” said Elwood.
The owners of the trailer have made their own movie, “Pin Pin,” that deals with pinball obsession. In addition to playing the redneck auctioneer, LaGrange also found Dr. Teresa Cherry, who doctors Oscar after he wrangles with a vacuum cleaner.
Bricklin booted his brother, Mark, so Erik de la Torre Stahl could play Guy with a Tie for the car auction scene. Torre, who also played an extra in the movie theater scenes, was an actor in Mexico for five years before coming to the U.S.
“I love working with Jonathan,” he said. “He has everything – assistants, make-up people – he makes you feel like a star. That’s why I like this guy. All my life, it’s not much. I like to be someone else. The only miracle in my life was when my wife asked me for a divorce. But in the movies, miracles happen all the time.”
Bricklin will spend the summer editing “Minimum Wage” in Avon, and then wants to have a grand and glorious local premier before turning it to the (hopeful) scrutiny of film festival boards.
“I pray to God it’s as funny to other people as it is for me,” he said.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.