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Break Even

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CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016
Break Even

I know that, following the webinars we've been running this year, some of you are following how things are going with the feature film "Break Even" that I wrote on assignment. I'll be doing my best to update you on that experience and my adventures in co-producing moving foward.

All I can say for now is that having a feature film coming out for the first time is pretty anxiety inducing.

Here's some background of my learning thus far;

Breaking in with 'Break Even' - Part 1
Breaking in with 'Break Even' - Part 2
Breaking in with 'Break Even' - Part 3
Breaking in with 'Break Even' - Part 4
Surviving on Set as a Screenwriter
Adventures in Film Producing (as a Screenwriter) - Part 1
Creatives Through Covid Interview

Jay Pendragon's picture
authenticated user
Joined: Apr 2018

Great to see all of this in one place! Thanks for creating this topic. It's wonderful to see your progress on this ✨:)

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Thanks so much. I'm try to pass on as much of the learning as I can. The last two years have been like a boot camp! 

B. Jack Azadi's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Jul 2020

Got to echo what Jay said! These are a great read. Looking forward to seeing Break Even!

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

I appreciate the kind words and it's always good to know what I'm sharing helps and/or motivates.

John Hunter's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Oct 2016

Many new writers maybe disappointed to learn 2 years before it hits the screen is not unusual. So much for immediate gratification. Sigh.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

It's not so bad because so much happens in that time and it seems to fly by.

Ideally, we'd all have multiple projects going on to keep things flowing.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016
CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Thanks Eric. Exciting times ahead.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016
CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016
CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

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Tom Kuhl's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Nov 2020

Congratulations CJ and Shane!

I rented Break Even on Amazon Prime. It's a good independent action flick reminiscent of the films Cannon used to produce and distribute in the 1980s. Anyone who grew up in the 80s watching Cannon's library on Showtime in the US, will like this movie. It was nice seeing Steve Guttenberg again.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Thanks for the kind and charitable words, Tom. They mean a lot. Break Even is far from the next Shawshank Redemption but it gets us on the next rung of the ladder. I just wish we hadn't run into all the problems we had which killed two major action scenes.

Tom Kuhl's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Nov 2020

You're welcome, CJ. We're cut from the same cloth; I also have issues with anxiety and depression, and I know how important support is.

I assumed you had to cut some action to stay within budget, but you replaced it well with some meaningful dialogue. Critics may not know about the cuts, but the industry does, and that's what matters.

If you don't have IMDB Pro access, you'll be happy to know the film is currently pulling a 7.1/10 from Americans, and is doing even better with women, pulling a 7.4/10 from all ages and an 8.1/10 from women aged 30-44.

If anyone else struggles with anxiety and depression, you still can succeed. Aaron Sorkin is living proof. He was so anxious at one point that he started using heroin (among other things), believing he couldn't write without it. Thankfully, he cleaned up and proved himself wrong.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Thanks for that. I have been looking at the breakdown and I'm very happy with how the film has been scoring with Gen-X/Gen-Y women as that was the target demographic I wanted to prove is valuable.

There were four "action scenes" we planned and budgeted for which all fell between act breaks. A scene where a rigid inflatable filled with mercs attack the yacht. The speedboat racing down the coast and escaping on the trailer with a subsequent section throwing the money into the truck and jumping into it at high speed. The desert car chase. Then a long foot-chase through a huge car dealership with lots of climbing up buildings and nearly getting caught.

With the merc attack, we had a complete electrical failure on the boat during a return in a storm where we nearly had to call the coastguard out. We had to scrap the entire thing and sell the rib ASAP. That also affected the script as it was in these scene we saw a really badass (and scary) side of the main protagonist who fights the attackers off and takes their guns.

This also meant we couldn't get shots of the speedboat out on the water as the yacht was going to be the platform to do that. It was also going to serve as accommodation meaning we lost that too and gained more hotel costs. Then we put up our massive greenscreen to shoot action scenes on the "moving" boat but high winds in Van Nuys meant it was just too dangerous as this screen was a giant sail with huge metal poles around it.

The desert chase actually went better than expected in some ways as we had use of a Raptor that could be jumped without issue. We nearly ended up with Ford Explorer! But still, we had to drop a few moments from the script and, due to a communication mix-up, we ended up with far more stunt performers on pay roll than we needed on the day.

By the time we got to the final chase on the last couple of days, we were only just making schedule and completely exhausted. We actually had to throw something like seven pages out of the script to get the important moments shot. We also had an actor twist an ankle running and didn't want to worsen their injury.

We were so ambitious and up against so much with a very modest budget making things even tougher. What's great is it seems like a lot of this doesn't matter because the story and performances and connecting with people. On the flip side, I think a low-budget female-led film that has more emotion than it does action is really upsetting a certain demographic of user who really feels this is "their genre". We're already taking what we've learned, which is a great deal, and putting that into action in the next one.

Tom Kuhl's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Nov 2020

Sounds a lot like the troubles filming A Bridge Too Far. They had a casting mishap as well. If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman. It filled with set stories like yours.

One scene in Break Even I'm thinking must have been difficult was the boat launch ramp. It looks like you sacrificed the hull of a very impressive speedboat to get that. Bravo to Shane if that was editing.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Thanks for the book recommendation. That's one of the few I haven't checked out yet. I'm currently reading Adventures in the B Movie Trade by Brian Trenchard-Smith.

The speedboat thing is interesting. Shane called me concerned about doing any stunts with a hired boat and I explained I'd originally written the gag as a non-stunt cutaway. The idea being that we'd see the boat approaching, cut away to someone diving out of the way while a screeching sound effect played. However, we still had a load of additional stunt work planned afterward and didn't want people walking all over someone's pride and joy. I then suggested to Shane that we hire a boat for all the water scenes and buy an old wreck for the stuff on the truck. I figured that a non-floating failed rebuild project would be very cheap and most viewers would struggle to tell one boat from another. Shane, being Shane, then said "Why don't we just buy a boat!". Next thing I know, we're scouring through classifieds looking at stuff that's for sale and we spot this Mariah Jubilee deck boat in white with red details. It looked pretty boring but had a really low run time on the engine and came with a trailer. What transformed it was the "Fair Warning" wrap.

However, the plan right up to the day was always to play the gag as originally intended. Race the boat up and cutaway as not to try it for real. But we had an industry stalwart for a stunt coordinator (Gary Hymes) and one of the best boat drivers in the business (Casey Atoms) on set and they figured we could do it for real, which Casey did, over and over, without putting a scratch on it!

Erik also did the jump from the boat to the truck which was tough as there was quite some distance and the actors really muscled up for the day considering some of them were suffering from a bought of food poisoning.

I was, of course, loving it all as it was my first ever experience seeing a stunt that I'd written. I got to go with Casey during the shakedown too which was cool.

Yvonne de Ryotte's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Sep 2017

CJ Congrats! You deserve it! I have noticed how much you give to others and the industry. Thank you!

Please, give us some info on how to start your own film production company.

Yvonne

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Thanks Yvonne. A production company is a very ambiguous term as it can be anything from a brand name associated with a project to an entity that's handling funding, talent contracts, pay roll, ip ownership, union relations, and more.

In my case, it is simply the former. It can make more sense for individual artists (such as actors and writers) to form corporations when working as contractors to reduce risk, separate accounts, and simplify tax. This is a step up from simply working as a sole trader.

At this juncture, my production company, which consists of only me, supplies script writing services to other production companies. If they want to associate with the brand, which stands for rebellious female characters, they can. There's also the option to grow into something bigger in the future.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

You can now download the production script for Break Even should you want to compare it to the finished film; https://www.scriptrevolution.com/scripts/break-even

Lily Blaze's picture
Rockstar
Joined: Aug 2019

Oooh, thank you (and the produces) for allowing us to see this!

Dorothy de kok's picture
authenticated user
Joined: Mar 2021

You inspire me! Now I will go offline and do some writing. 

New note magnetted to fridge:

Create art without fear and alignment will come in time. You just have to believe in yourself and have faith in the law of attraction.

CJ Walley's picture
Script Revolution Founder
Joined: Jul 2016

Great quote, Dorothy.

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