For any first-time filmmakers, opening their movie in theatres across
the country is a dream come true. This would have been the case for
us if that dream had occurred to us in the first place. When we fired
up our cheapo cameras to make a no-budget comedy with our friends, we
never considered a Podunk film festival, let alone an actual national
We had no prior filmmaking experience. NBT Never Been Thawed
was conceived as nothing more than a three-month learning project. We
would stumble our way through the process of making a movie—probably
a really bad movie. But we might learn some valuable lessons that could
be applied down the line should we ever get the opportunity and the
budget to make a “real movie.”
After our first day of shooting, we had already learned our two most
1) Filmmaking is a lot harder than originally forecasted.
2) We can do it.
We had foolishly scheduled fourteen set-ups for our first eight-hour
day. Twelve hours later we had accomplished four. However, the four
that we had finished turned out so great that we immediately stopped
production to go back to work on the script. We started to take this
movie thing a little more seriously.
For the next year and a half we slugged it out in the Arizona heat,
shooting whenever and wherever we could. We had written an ambitious
script that called for over fifty locations, hundreds of actors and
extras and hundreds of original props—none of which we could afford
to pay for. (Our total budget came in just under twenty grand and most
of that was spent on Gatorade and beer.) We didn’t write it this
way because we were necessarily ambitious ourselves; we were just too
stupid to know any better. (Now we understand why so many indie movies
boil down to three or four characters sitting in a restaurant or an
apartment.) Our actors were also our crew: “Hey, you’re
not in this scene so you hold the boom mic.” We pulled together
and hung in there until it was finished.
Our low aspirations have proven to be a key ingredient in the success
of NBT. When you don’t expect your movie to be seen by
anyone who you don’t know on a first name basis, you have a tremendous
amount of freedom. We never bothered to sand down the movie’s
comedic edge due to concerns over offending distributors, financiers,
festival administrators or even audiences. We had only one rule: “If
we think it’s funny, it’s in.”
When we were finished, we knew that we had made a smart, honest comedy.
When we started screening it, we found that it really was laugh-out-loud
funny as well. Nobody was more surprised than we were. Since then, NBT
has taken on a life of its own, and the surprises keep coming. Festivals,
great reviews, a theatrical run. Are you kidding? A couple of knuckleheads
from Arizona? It’s been a fantastic ride and there’s still
no better feeling than sitting in a packed theatre listening to the
laughter of strangers.
So this fall our little homegrown comedy actually will open in theatres
across the country. I guess it is a dream come true; it just took us
a while to allow ourselves to dream that big.