Filmmaker Charles Unger went through a big foreign film phase in film school, which greatly inspired his next project. “The Idea of ‘Mr. Lucke’ came to me while watching ‘L’Avventura’ back on February 15, 1995. ‘What about a simple story of a man chasing a woman.’ Three months later I had a first draft and decided to take a giant leap of faith as I assembled a borrowed camera, lights and a minimal crew.” His feature, “Mr. Lucke” is about a fashion photographer who leaves a high paying job interview to chase after a beautiful model from New York. The film is available to view now on SnagFilms (and below).
What it’s really about: “Mr. Lucke, a young fashion photographer, who leaves a high paying job interview to chase after Lana, a beautiful model from New York. He pursues her through the streets of Los Angeles and the chase becomes a metaphor for relationships. This cat and mouse game ends when his agent interrupts their date and forces him to choose between the woman of his dreams and the opportunity of a lifetime.”
On the competition of a big-deal film school: “I graduated from a very high-profile film school but I felt that the films that were produced by my classmates lacked passion, authenticity and realism. I didn’t want to do something that was ‘very polished and stale.’ Don’t get me wrong, I love Hollywood films. The original ‘Star Wars’ movie inspired me to be a filmmaker and I was a huge Steven Spielberg fan but I knew that getting a shot at making a film like that was not anywhere near my horizon, at least at that time. So, I began to go back to basics and look at early films and short films for inspiration. A lot of my filmmaking heroes had made a feature film by the age of 25 and I set that goal for myself as well. I started shooting Mr. Lucke while I was 27 years old.”
Were any specific films inspirational to you while making the movie? “I was influenced by many films. I liked the French film, ‘A Man and a Woman’ for it’s simplicity. I also liked date movies like ‘Before Sunset.’ I was also into Scorsese films like ‘Who’s That Knocking’ and ‘After Hours.’ Oddly enough, the Blake Edwards movie ’10’ was also a big inspiration. I pulled from all sources. At that time of making the movie, I was seeing as many independent movies as I could. Anything that was shot on 16mm was something I had to check out. In the early to mid nineties there were a bunch that were making headlines at the festivals. Such titles included ‘Clerks,’ ‘Brothers McMullen’ and ‘Slacker.’ The films that most influenced me were the ones where I’d watch it and think, ‘I could do something just like that!'”
The biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge in producing the film was the soundtrack. Mr. Lucke was completely re-recorded in post-production and this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned that. Due to the high-profile locations and our limited time and budget, we were not able to get good production sound. Therefore, James Morioka, my sound supervisor, and I worked many nights, weekends and holidays for 14 months building the sound. It took 9 months alone, just to replace all of the dialogue. The rest of the time was spent cutting backgrounds, effects tracks, temp music and even doing our own foley. We even mixed the film ourselves right there on our borrowed protools station. Accomplishing this feat would be very impressive undertaking even with a major sound house with many editors working full time. However, it was James and I doing all of this ourselves and working full time industry jobs at the same time. Many told us that we were crazy for doing it but we blindly went a head and proved what independent filmmaking is all about.”
What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie? “I think the SnagFilms audience will appreciate how our movie was created in the true independent spirit. I didn’t have a large crew of Hollywood professionals working on my film or a famous executive producer. I didn’t have any sponsors or ‘friends of the family’ helping to finance my film. When you don’t have a lot of money then time becomes your only asset. This film took as long as it did because I had to wait for free equipment, free services, additional credit cards and free technical training. (I taught myself the Avid, once I had access to one.) I saw this film as a way to learn filmmaking from start to finish and that also takes a while when you do a lot of the jobs yourself. In fact, many didn’t believe that I could write, produce, direct, photograph and edit my own film. This was no easy task but I really wanted to learn as much as I could. I made this no-budget film with a lot of hard work, six credit cards, loaned equipment and unknown actors (at that time) and a small but eager crew all working for free. Four and a half years ago I was inspired by another filmmaker. Today, I hope Mr. Lucke inspires others to pursue their passions as I did.”
What’s next: “Mr. Lucke was my first feature. My second feature ‘Come Together’ is about seven college students who spend the night in a Hollywood Hills mansion, on the eve of the 1992 LA Riots. This film was loosely based on my experiences at USC, during the five days when our city was in upheaval. My screenplay was selected as a finalist in the Latino Screenplay Competition. The feature was chosen as a Platinum Reel Award Winner at The Nevada Film Festival, as well as a Silver Ace Award Winner at the Las Vegas Film Festival. In Late 2010, Indican Pictures released Come Together domestically on DVD. Recently, it secured international distribution with Germany, the UK and other countries. A few years ago I returned to my animation roots and directed the short film; ‘Punky Pets: International Icon.’ ‘Icon’ received the Platinum Remi Award at Worldfest Houston and was awarded the Best Animation, Runner Up position at the Action On Film Festival. Paula, my wife, and fashion designer, created The Punky Pets. I’ve also directed animated Punky Pets music videos as well as over twenty, live-action music videos, like ‘Of Mice & Men’s O.G. Loko.’ We had a booth at Comic Con this past year and for the past two years, we’ve traveled across the country with the Vans Warped Tour, to sell merchandise and shoot more Punky Pets music videos. I have recently written a Punky Pets TV pilot script and supervised four other TV scripts for a proposed TV/Web series.”
[Full Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]