DIRECTOR COMING OF AGE: BRYAN SIPE (part 3)

What’s the whole story of A Million Miles from concept to completion? ^ The idea was something that Ben and I tossed around over the phone. He was at school in San Diego and I in North Carolina. Not good with years, so I’ll go by age. I think I was 20 and Ben 19. Ben had a couple ideas on paper and wanted to know if I would write it with him. I required a retainer, so as soon as he got the money together, we started. We began writing over summer vacation. While everyone else was going to the beach and drinking beer, we were learning the three-act structure. Pretty much gave up any kind of social life for about a year. When it was done and we realized there wouldn’t be a bidding war for the script, we almost immediately decided to make it ourselves. We were looking at what Kevin Smith and Edward Burns were doing for such little money and just figured we could do it too. Put our production company together so it was all legal-like(Exit 82), went out and found some money, most from the First National Bank of mom and dad. Found some great people like our DP, Patrick Donnelly, to help get things off the ground, and we shot when I was 22. An amazing shoot. I’m pretty spoiled considering it was the only one I’ve ever been a part of. By the time we wrapped, the cast and crew were like family. Then it was on to post. That was something nobody told me about. Money for post? What’s that mean? It took another year before we finally screened at the Waterfront Film Festival which was amazing. My goal is to make movies just so I can go back there every year. Saugatuck needs it’s own voice-over. So about three years all together.
What problems did you run into in terms of trying to work with such a low budget? ^ It wasn’t too bad actually, pretty self-contained once we knew we had “X” amount of dollars to spend. Hiring crew was when we really had to pinch. Tried to get everything and everyone for as cheap as possible. I think everybody was aware of how tight things were so nothing was wasted or taken for granted. Our moms cooked, we got our locations free. So I guess just staying on schedule so there wouldn’t be any extensive re-shoots was our main goal. And we drink a lot.
How did you go about casting? ^ Casting was a really strange thing. We put ads in Backstage and got about 2000 responses. Then it was like, me and Ben holding auditions on our own, no idea what we’re doing. Didn’t know who we were looking for, didn’t know our way around the city. Most people thought we were just idiots. The ones that didn’t we decided to cast. Actually, we got really lucky with the cast. Great actors, very cool people.
How did you get a Bruce Springsteen song for the film? ^ Ben was responsible for the whole Springsteen thing. There was a song off his “Tracks” Box Set called “Sad Eyes” that we thought fit the movie really well. He started writing letters and then one day we got a phone call saying that Bruce read over the story and said we could use it. It was a great moment. Springsteen has really been a hero to us, so him personally approving our request was incredible. Same thing with Steven Van Zant who let us use “Saint Francis.” Great men. I think for the most part they just wanted to help out a couple guys from their home, and maybe the story rang true to them.
What has been the reaction to A Million Miles so far? ^ The reaction has been really great. That was kind of the best thing. You’ve got this movie you’ve been working on for the longest time and somewhere along the line you lose sight of what it’s all about, can’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel. All the editing, the money you don’t have, the rejection, “God damn it I’ll take the trash out later, mom.” And then you show it to a regular audience who wants nothing from you, no agenda but to see a good movie. That was the best at Waterfront when we showed it for the first time. We weren’t expecting to hear all the nice things that people had to say about the movie. It made us realize that the original things we were going for in the story were actually working and the audience was along for the ride. It was like, “Oh yeah, that was supposed to be funny, or Oh yeah, that is really sad.” We personally couldn’t tell anymore after scrutinizing over every scene and shot for so long. When that applause came, that made everything worth while.
What project are you working on now? ^ For the most part, Ben and I are just trying to stay busy writing. I’ve got a script that is under review for the next Sundance Lab. Ben’s got his own script, and we’re working on another one together about a guy who falls in love with a girl who’s too young for lovin’. We just want to be ready. In the meantime, there’s a short that we’re probably gonna shoot very soon… if Pat Donnelly can find the time. He’s in demand.
Get more info from the official A Million Miles web site.
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Posted on November 12, 2001 in Interviews by
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