Projects fall apart, no matter who you are: Wessler

According to Hollywood producer Charles B. Wessler, independent creatives should not feel frustrated because projects fall apart no matter the names involved or the budgets.

“It happens to the biggest directors and the biggest producers,” Wessler told Encore.

In Australia last week to supervise the shoot of The Apprentice (directed by Steve Baker and Damon Escott), which will be part of an untitled collection of comedy short films, Wessler (There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene and the upcoming The Three Stooges) said that the project – which he is producing with Peter Farrelly – lost its financing on two occasions over the last three years.

Even though it boasts a cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Gerard Butler, Liev Schreiber and Juliane Moore, Wessler said the project is still an independent one.

“When I first came up with the idea four years ago, I thought it would be fun to make short comedies and put them together as a feature, but my other business partner John Penotti said we’d never be able to distribute it without a couple of movie stars.

“We began the conversation and said, ‘if we’re going to get two, let’s get 20!’”

The 17 short films will be connected by an interstitial film, which will show “two kids screwing around in their bedroom looking for a famous movie they’ve heard about that’s been banned by the government”.

The Apprentice is one of three international contributions for the film. The others are Fur – from London-based director Chris Waitt; it is based on the MTV Europe program FurTV and features the show’s main puppet, Lapeño – and Bathers – by Swedish director Patrick Forsberg, shot in South Africa.

But The Apprentice is the only one to have received government support, with funding from Film Victoria and Screen Australia.

“These producers (Mini Studios – Steve Kearney and Leanne Tonkes) pulled off magic in terms of being able to get quite a lot of production value for very little money. It’s the only short that has shared financing from the government and from our production fund.

“We wouldn’t be able to afford it without the Australian government participating; we’d have to re-think doing it. They made it very doable, and hopefully we’ll be able to thank them at some point,” he said.

Wessler added that one way of thanking Australia for its support would be to return with a feature film and, contrary to common belief, “the exchange rate isn’t so terrible”.

“The only thing that Australia has to compete with in terms of bigger projects is that certain states in the US are offering tax rebates and even a percentage of your budget to come and shoot there.

“But people still have to think twice before they commit. Does their film fit into one of those sates? What time of the year do they have to shoot? Not every movie can shoot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and not every movie can have a Boston location,” he said.


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