Welcome to the Party
Everyone's come together to celebrate Kieran's 30th birthday at a swanky house in the Hollywood hills in short film Welcome To The Party.
The film centers around a group of hipster friends; fashion obsessed, social media consumed, and desperate for a thrill. His ex-girlfriend yearns for his affection but his sights are set on fresh meat. As the party dies down, it heads into a different direction. His friends aren't what they seem...
Written and produced by Michael A. Livingston and Amanda Dreschler, Welcome To The Party has run the festival circuit and is now available online. We caught up with the two creatives to discuss the challenges of bringing a passion project to life, symbolism, and if there's more on the horizon after the film's open ending.
How did you each get your start in the film industry?
Michael: I went to film school and then moved to LA in 2008. I started with a sketch comedy web series, and then eventually got a job as a shooter/editor for Maker Studios. I left in 2012 to focus on my own productions and shortly after began working with Amanda on our first collaboration, a short film titled Quick Brown Fox. When we started working on WTTP a couple years later, we decided to form our company officially using that name.
Amanda: I moved here after college in 2007, studied at Stella Adler and now Lesly Kahn & Company. After having spent some time as a casting associate for Perry/Reece Casting, I wanted to take control of my career. I didn’t want to have to rely on other people for work, so I came up with an idea of a short and approached Michael about it. We had been friends for some time but never worked together. And that’s how Quick Brown Fox came about.
The film has a very distinct visual aesthetic. What sort of films did you look towards for inspiration?
Michael: I was inspired by films like The Informers and Only God Forgives. I’ve always loved stylized looks and we knew during the writing process that this film would be very visual and needed to have a certain look. Our DP had a lot of references he brought to the table as well.
What was the process like between scripting and editing? Was it long, short?
Michael: The process started with an image and we built the story around it. We don’t usually reverse engineer, but in this case it worked. It took us about 5 drafts before we felt we had a strong shooting script.
Did you have any prep time leading up to the shoot to rehearse or did you dive right in on set with the actors? How did you go about casting?
Michael: We had some prep time, one or two brief rehearsals. They were essentially just for blocking. Our shooting schedule was very ambitious and the shot list was very specific and technical, so we knew we weren’t gong to have time to experiment on set. We gave the actors the information they needed and then relied on them to build their own characters. The actors are all friends of ours so casting was pretty simple.
What was the most difficult part of getting Welcome To The Party in the can and how did you overcome it?
Michael: The most difficult part was financing. Finding the money, and then stretching it as much as we could. The script was written without a budget in mind, so when it came to actually making it, we needed to rein in our vision to what was feasible. Our production team was amazing. The DP, production designer, and AD/Associate Producer came on board and really helped bring this to life. In a situation where Amanda and I were wearing so many hats, our team stepped up. They went above and beyond. We’ll never work with another team if we can help it!
The film has played a number of festivals. How was the atmosphere and the feeling of getting the film out into the open?
Michael: The festivals have been very positive. It has been great to have audiences in different parts of the country see the film and get feedback from fresh eyes. People are getting the message, which is what we were worried about the most. The film is about what it means to grow up and the balancing act many of us, especially artists, face between the need to express themselves and dealing with real world responsibilities. Selfishness and the repercussions of a world without consequences are large themes in the film. People are getting the message and that’s a great feeling. The quality of films that we have screened alongside has been amazing and we were honored to be included with them.
What is the symbolism of the fox? How does it fit its place in the film and your production company?
Michael: I guess we do have a thing for for foxes. The fox in WTTP is a metaphor for life, juxtaposed with the death that comes right afterwards. I actually had an encounter with a fox in the wild very similar to this, and it was a very powerful experience for me. That was the image I had in my head when we began writing the film. The main character, Kieran, sees beauty in the fox; it makes him feel for the life he has taken. It’s a transformational moment. The quick brown fox name of our company is a nod to our first film. It's a reference to the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” which I used in school learning to type. The sentence uses every letter in the alphabet.
What’s harder: getting started or being able to keep going?
Michael: I would say keeping it going is harder. It’s easy for me to start and finish a project, but the long game, staying positive and promoting the work, trying to find the strength not to give up, that’s the hard part.
Amanda: I agree. Doors will be shut in your face the whole way and all you can do is stand by your work and keep knocking on more.
The ending seems to suggest there’s more to the story. Any chance of a part two on the horizon?
Michael: There’s a lot more to the story, and we left it open on purpose. Our goal is to turn it into a series, either for TV or the web that would follow these characters in an ongoing story. The detective at the end plays a large role in series.