THE WHOLE TRUTH appears to be a film about the bizarre manipulation of law allowed to pass for justice in the US, but it's actually a story about the abuse of power and karma. What goes around comes around - sooner or later.
All of which helped me turn the screwball comedy genre on its ear - and bring it up to date.
Originally, screwball comedies were written when women in American society had little power, so the wacky leading lady on screen had all the power - and humiliated the man who was her romantic interest.
Today the gender balance is changing, so I wanted THE WHOLE TRUTH to reflect that.
As an acting coach eking out a living while making short films the past several years, I'm hip to all those emotional facial clues shown in the TV show LIE TO ME. Although I was simultaneously sickened by all the courtroom machinations I saw on reality TV day after day, I thought, "Wow. If I wanted to sell out, lose my integrity and make a boat load of money, I could coach defendants how to come across as innocent, decent people."
So that's what I did.
Not in real life - in a script.
I figured if I did it in real life ... well, you have to see the film.
I originally wrote THE WHOLE TRUTH as a drama. A female Michael Clayton. Then I thought, "One visit with Michael Clayton pretty much did it for me." Good comedies, OTOH, I like to sit through a dozen times. Don't misunderstand - I appreciate all genres, but I mostly prefer to create comedy.
There's a 1941 Preston Sturges film, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, about a film director famous for doing comedies, but he feels he's not doing his fair share of suffering from the Great Depression because of the lighthearted fare he produces. So he heads out, with no money, to experience what the desperate, destitute and desolate must endure so he can return to put their sad stories on screen.
And guess what he discovered?
More than anything, those poor, tired, courageous folk want to laugh. At funny films.
Comedies are extremely challenging to craft well - but few things are more satisfying to me than an audience enjoying a flat out belly laugh. More, as producer-writer-director I knew I'd be with the filmmaking process a full year, and I'd prefer to laugh myself silly during the prepro, shoot and post - which actually happened.
When I write a comedy script, I ask myself, "Would Tom find this funny?" Tom is my brother. He has a unique laugh and I strive to hear it when I am with him. And, obviously, when I'm not.
More, my business partner, executive producer Gary Allen Tucci, was very pleased I chose an entertaining genre for our first feature film as Heart Break Productionz.
Gary and I have a system of working we call "the Heart Break Way" about which we are passionate. All our working relationships are built on respect and appreciation, so people who don't reflect that attitude and behavior would want to work elsewhere. We like unions. In his industry, Gary works with 31 of them and they all hold him in the highest regard, so he knows how to deal with them in a way that allows everyone to win. We don't take unnecessary shortcuts - three people sound crews produce a better sound track than two. There's more, but you get the idea.
I would be remiss if I didn't thank the late Chuck Jones and all his comedy creators at Warner Brothers' Cartoons, from whom I continue to learn. When times are tough and others around me reach for a good, stiff drink - I pour Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite, Daffy, Wile E. Coyote and the gang on my iPod.
Producer Larry Estes gave me superb script feedback throughout pre-production; during the shoot the brilliant cast and crew spent as much time laughing with me as they did working (we did a little singing, too).
It pays to be a journalist in any of the three professions - writing, directing, and producing - because one has to be nearly a detective solving the problems of story and character, as well as any production matters. Making films is all about problem-solving. And I'm grateful for what I learned from the book I wrote that deals with a system of solving problems, The 100% Solution.
Producer Jennifer Roth helped find the world's greatest crew - whose work speaks for itself!
Post production has been a comedy haven with editor Stephen Myers - who understands comedy well, having worked with the likes of Carl Reiner. Modern Digital's amazing technical acumen is responsible for the finished look and special effects; Bad Animals' topnotch sound artists and I howled as we mixed dialogue, sound effects and composer Ragnar Rosinkranz's memorable music.
Casting was a breeze thanks to LA casting directors Rick Pagano and Russell Boast and our man in Seattle, Stephen Salamunovich, getting the script to so many phenomenal actors. Mercifully, every actor who met or auditioned for us loved the script, so they brought their "A" game!
When it comes to laugh-a-minute actresses, Elisabeth Röhm has to be at the top of everyone's list, right? Imagine my surprise when she told me she never (as in ever) did any (as in any) comedy! But she loved the script, and I needed an excellent actress to play the role at a visceral level, not feel she had to be funny. I told her that screwball comedies are more work than any other genre - and that turned out to be THE WHOLE TRUTH. She emerges a bona fide star.
Sean Patrick Flanery not only acts his booty off in THE WHOLE TRUTH, he actually stood up to THE (studio) MAN to do our indie film!
I'm asked - "How did YOU get Eric Roberts?!"
HE actually got me. Eric loved the script; when he trusted I could direct, we were on. Working with this treasured American artist was an honor - and. So. Freaking. Much. Fun.
I hope you love the entire cast as much as I do. They gave it everything they had; we worked our hearts out, day after day, giving 150% - never less. I did my best to give their work the respect and support their performances deserve with every tool at my disposal as a writer, director and producer.
This film is my gift to them.
And to you.