This is a film that wanted to be made no matter what. Before you start a project, the big decision: Can we afford 35mm film? What about High Def? Okay, maybe MiniDV? And you toy in your mind all the possibilities of both, the strengths and weaknesses. But, the bottom line is your budget tells you what you can shoot with, you swallow hard and go with it. Or, at least I thought!
I was at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival with the film I produced NEO NED and I got a call from Director Sean, who said we could have the use of a Sony F-900 High Def camera for free and for at least half the shoot — and the camera just happens to be in New York. I was thrilled! Then he told me it was at a hostile in Harlem. Silence. “It’s where???” Okay, so I have always been an adventurous person, and sometimes fearless, but I am a California girl first (I was also not aware that Harlem isn’t what it used to be, either). I began to talk to all my MALE filmmaker friends at the festival, honed in on those who directed gritty films, and mentioned that I had to go to Harlem to pick up a camera. They were all sympathetic, but not one of those California BOYS would volunteer to come with me! Since I am a problem solver by heart (like Director Sean) I figured that I would pay a messenger (the California thing to do) and have it picked up.
If anyone knows the F-900 camera (the Sony HDW-F900 – the same camera used on Star Wars Ep. 2 and Collateral, to name a few), it’s more expensive than five average priced cars and almost as heavy! So now that I had the camera in hand, how do I get it on the plane in a BIG BLACK BAG without the airline arresting me or telling me that I was dreaming. Fortunately, I was on a 7am flight back to LA and my good friend Michael Zoumas (he’s from Jersey) who works for the Weinstein Company was on the same flight. The poor airline woman at the check-in was a bit intimated by us Hollywood types, when we refused to “check” my big black bag. We said things like “is the Airline going to insure this camera? Do you know this is worth $150,000.00?” I continued to beg her with Michael by my side, she shook her head and let me walk on the plane with this glorious camera. Will I be thrown off? Every step I came closer to the truth. As it was, no one questioned me and this burly guy who sat two rows behind me fifteenth camera up and into the overhead compartment. He was my hero, and I sat on the plane like the cat who swallowed the canary. Our camera, it’s going to LA… and DOWN THE P.C.H. IS GOING TO BE MADE!
FROM THE DIRECTOR & WRITER, Sean Michael Beyer
You often hear people say: “This was a labor of love.” I think Down The P.C.H. most definitely fits into that category.
I was inspired to write the script in December of 2004, with the simple premise of a guy being released from prison and wanting to rebuild his life. When I returned home from the holidays, I sat at my laptop for what would be a marathon writing session, finishing the first draft in only six days; six very long days. That’s certainly not what we shot, but the characters and story were in place. From there it was on to development, and numerous drafts before I finally called “action” for the first time.
It would’ve been easy to write a story about low income kids getting into drugs. But that’s boring. What’s interesting about the characters’ journey in PCH is that most of them come from good homes and because their families, for whatever reason, aren’t capable of giving them what they crave, they seek it elsewhere.
I really wanted to explore the idea of unrequited love. If you break it down to it’s core, PCH is a love story between the two brothers. Both in their own way, are in seek of love. They just don’t quite know how to find it. When Noah doesn’t get the love and attention he wants from home, he seeks it out on the streets, with his surrogate family of friends. As for Garrett, he was in a similar situation. Although he was an adult, he’d still not grown up in the sense of how to properly handle his success, which lead him down a very wrong path and ultimately to prison — separating him from his brother.
May 7th, 2005, 6:30am — our first day of production. EXT. PRISON – DAY Our location: Lynwood Detention Center (aka LA County Jail). We had a few hiccups as most film crews do on Day 1, but for the most part it was going smoothly. That is until we got to your second location, EXT. PARKING LOT – NIGHT. This is where Garrett is hanging with his friend D.W. and LAPD is supposed to show up and bust them. We had it all planned out. A friend of a friend was a cop and he would come by really quick at the end of his shift, blast his siren, turn on his lights and we’d have a great shot! Simple enough. So we shot all of the dialog, got everything ready so the cop would be in and out in fifteen minutes, as promised. But where is he? We waited and waited. Tried him on his cell phone, which was apparently off. No dice. The crew was standing around. Finally, I had to scrap the shot and we called wrap. Okay, no big deal, right? We’ll just do it as a pick up shot. So about two weeks later, we re-scheduled that shot. We had a different cop in place to do us a favor, so it should be fine. Yeah, right. Fortunately, we had other scenes to shoot nearby, because again we were stood up by LA’s finest (the scene ended up on the cutting room floor, for obvious reasons).
Being that we were often one step above a guerrilla shoot, we had to do what we could to get certain shots, which often means stealing, I mean “borrowing” a location or two. Of course you try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Although that’s rather difficult when you have a 1963 Cadillac with a camera mount on the hood, atop a process trailer, being pulled by a Ford F250 truck! Who needs a film permit, we’re shooting in a rural part of Northridge. We’ll just all meet up right off the freeway, get the shot and be done. Of course, LA County Sheriff shows up just in the nick of time. Where were they when we needed them?!?! Fortunately, Line Producer Jude, knows how to schmooze and he got to them give us a “warning” and since it was at the end of their shift, they would have to call it in, but we could essentially shoot at our own risk. No pressure. So I said f**k it, we’re going. I jumped in the back of the big truck, threw on my headphones and we started rolling. My actors were troopers, knowing the pressure we were under. At any minute a sheriff could roll up, shut us down and quite possibly fine the production. But we kept at it. It was going great. But I needed another take. I called action, and in my headphones the camera alarm went off telling me we were almost out of tape. Oh s**t! We can’t stop and re-load now. We kept going, the performances were great… CUT! Whew, we got it. We all needed a beer, that’s for sure. When I got the dailies back, there was 45 seconds of footage left! Just goes to prove, DOWN THE P.C.H. was meant to be!
I’m very proud of our little film that could. We made this with a very modest budget and it wouldn’t be what it is, without the support of my producer Valerie, my outstanding crew and talented cast. It is and will always be… a labor of love.