Brooks is a bartender with a past, Verdi is a private call girl with too many responsibilities - broken people who don't have the luxury of being honest with each other.
A Q&A with Brian Tucker
Tell us your film name, the category you won for, and where the idea for your film came from?
Film: “Local Work”
Category: Quarterly Winner (Nov 21) - Best First Time Filmmaker, Feature
Category: 2021 Overall Winner - Best First Time Filmmaker
Idea: Ideas for scripts I’ve written happened organically. They come out of nowhere. Inspired by a possible situation, something that happened in life (enlarged via a script) or seeing a photograph or image. Little seeds that grow into a story.
The idea for “Local Work” occurred years ago while talking to a co-worker attending college and balancing it with a job. I took it further - someone working a risky job to get by in a life filled with demands (a woman privately working as an escort). My mother took care of my sister and I when my parents separated. I’ve never forgot how she worked a shit job at a fast food joint to support us. In some ways, that was lingering underneath this story, doing the worst to get by and take care of things.
“Local Work” was my first attempt writing a script - a story of a woman working to pay for school and other things while leaning on a bartender as a friend who is more broken than she realizes. They’re damaged goods who feel unworthy of love.
I’ve always liked movies in which two characters want to be together and can’t. It can be beautiful and sad and has been done in different ways (from “Casablanca” to “The Client” and beyond). It’s bittersweet, sometimes relatable, and offers the opposite of rom-coms where people tend to end up together. I enjoy those movies as well.
What were the toughest aspects of creating this film? How did you overcome them?
Doing a lot on your own is tough. “Local Work” was DIY in every sense. It was certainly a homemade movie, using what was available to me. But if you want to make a movie you just do it. You find your way. You jump off the back of the boat and swim to shore. “Local Work” was shot and edited over a year and a half. Our lead actress June Dare (who plays Verdi) moved out of town right before we started filming. We had the script read-through at her empty apartment before she left. I thought, will this really happen? The lead actress just moved out of town. I started shooting scenes with Gray Hawks (he plays Brooks) until June was in town. I’d shoot scenes and edit as I went using Adobe Premiere, learning how to use the software as I did it. The movie came together like a puzzle because we shot so out of order.
One challenge was shooting when June could come back. I’d arrange locations, props, scenes, cast, equipment - everything we’d need to shoot while she was in town which was usually on a weekend. We’d all spend a whole day together and into the night shooting scenes. Prep was so important but equally so was that the actors always knew their lines. June and Gray were in most of the scenes. We never, ever, lost time, which was so crucial, because they always knew their lines. It made the work efficient. I’d line things up beforehand and we’d shoot at an apartment a few hours, then outside, and then go somewhere else. I was good at arranging a day of scenes and multitasking to get them done, make use of our time together. It was what it was - a handful of people trying to make something about something.
We had at most a crew of three people behind the scenes. Sometimes less. Chad Gooden helped with sound and dolly work. Jody Belo helped with a whole range of other things. Chad would be right out of frame or on the floor behind something holding up a sound recorder. I would move the dolly, work the camera, handle lighting (knowing little about it), and direct. I shot the movie using an off-the-shelf camera, using the viewfinder to “see” what it would look like. I used what I had at my disposal – an old camera, borrowed locations (two apartments people were moving out of), a friend’s house, my house, people donating their time and energy, bars (Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern, The Juggling Gypsy) that let us shoot there, and grabbing scenes on the street around town. Also, I’d written about music for years and an immensely talented Charlotte, N.C. musician named Dylan Gilbert gave me songs and composed score for it. “Local Work” really is a handmade film by just a few people.
What inspired you to enter into the world of filmmaking?
Escapism. Storytelling. You get to enjoy both going to the movies. Seeing a movie on the big screen as a kid was significant. That huge palette of images, places, people, and ideas. Seeing things larger than life. Movies should be an experience for the viewer, no matter the genre. I just wanted to make a feature and see if I could do it and finish it, homemade-looking or not. We’ve all seen big budget and low budget movies that either we embraced or were big hits. The key is to try and tell a good story.
Do you have long-term goals for filmmaking? What are they?
Like anyone, finding an agent. I keep writing, working on scripts I have notes and research for. I’m working on two feature scripts currently and have a mix of features and television shows written.
Tell us a funny anecdote or a memorable moment from creating this film.
Here’s two, and they’re little moments.
We stole a shot in a nice neighborhood. I shot a scene with June at an expensive, older home to have her character look like she’s leaving. It was at a house for sale. A neighbor came out and was friendly but she was naturally curious. I said we were a couple looking at the house because it was for sale. It had a high asking price and we didn’t look like we’d be ready for that house at all.
Between scenes June asked if I thought I could write a happy script. I said I didn’t know and her question lingered a long time. I’d like to think I could because I enjoy all types of movies. In 2021 I took a break from a 10-episode project to write something more “up”- an old idea intended as a feature. Instead, I structured it into eight half-hour episodes. I wanted to write something fun and answer what June posed to me. It became “Jelly Side Up,” a day-in-the-life story of a young man in Chicago coming to terms with life, relationships, the past, and his future. It was fun to do. Outside of my wife, only June has read it. I’m glad she asked that question.
Do you have any film-making influences or people you look up to?
There are filmmakers who have done so much with small or large budgets, whether it’s David Lean or Samuel Fuller. I’m easy. I enjoy seeing what a filmmaker and the crew creates, whether it’s Noah Baumbach, Francis Ford Coppola, Nancy Meyers, Robert Eggers, Tobe Hooper, and so many others. Everyone has a point of view and a way to tell a story.
Baumbach shot “Frances Ha” a certain way and it enhances that story. Daisy von Scherler Mayer’s “Party Girl” is a low-budget 90s film with Parker Posey and it’s wonderful. Everyone knows about Coppola making “Apocalypse Now.” It’s a story unto itself outside of a great film. Then you have Peter Hyams or Ernest Dickerson, people who shoot and direct movies. There are many talented people and work to admire.
Do you have a favorite film project that you have done? Why?
I wouldn’t consider myself a science fiction writer…but I wrote a comic book (30 pages) a long time ago about a detective in the future in which there are more robots than people due to a pandemic. When the Covid lockdown happened I pulled it out and over two months turned it into six hour-long episodes. It was strange writing it during lockdown given the spread of the virus around the world. I’m not sure I have a favorite but I liked this one a lot. It’s called “Century 242.”
What advice would you share with someone wanting to make their first movie?
Listen to your gut. Know what you want for the movie and work to get close to that, or better. Be prepared to take on a lot of jobs making your film. If you have a lot of help from friends that’s great (feed them well). They make stick it out. They may just be around a few days. Regardless, plan ahead. Things will go wrong. Stay focused and trust yourself.
What are you going to do next?
I started working on something new to possibly direct. Shoot it in town again but this time with some money to do it. I’m not sure yet. It depends on the finished script.
Where can we find more about you?
“Local Work” is on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJFkJBa5_cc