Director Casper Andreas' second feature film, "A Four Letter Word," stars Jesse Archer (who co-wrote the film with Andreas) as Luke, a gay man whose promiscuous ways are challenged when he falls for Luke (Charlie David). The film is Andreas' follow-up to 2004's "Slutty Summer," won best feature film at the Fort Worth Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and a special jury prize for best screenplay at Outfest. indieWIRE talked to Andreas about the film, which is being self-released by the director on March 28 in New York City and April 11 in Los Angeles.
Please introduce yourself...
I'm originally from a small town in Sweden. I moved to New York at the age of twenty to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute. I pursued acting for many years, and still do though filmmaking takes up most of my time at the moment. I always wanted to write but figured I live a little first so I have something to say. Once I started writing my first screenplay though I knew that I wanted to direct it.
I started learning about filmmaking by taking some seminars and classes. I listened to a lot of DVD commentaries, and read a lot of books on directing but also on producing and how to make your own film. While spending a lot of time on sets as an actor, I always tried to pick up what was going on and study how directors dealt with everything they had to deal with.
I made a couple of short films before directing my first feature, the romantic comedy "Slutty Summer" in 2003. Getting that film out there, and actually have it make a profit helped me raise a bigger budget and get my second film "A Four Letter Word" made.
How did the idea for "A Four Letter Word" come about?
"A Four Letter Word" started with the idea of making a sequel to "Slutty Summer." I told Jesse Archer, who had a smaller role in "Slutty Summer" about it and he asked me to let him write the script with me. Jesse is a brilliant writer so I said yes. Since it started as a sequel we included a lot of the characters from the first film, but now I think of it more as a spin-off since it's a completely different film with a different tone and story, and it also focuses on a lot of new characters.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project?
The biggest challenge making the film was of course money. Not just raising it (which I did by selling equity in the film to private investors) but also trying to make the film on a very low budget. The economics of gay themed films are such that I wanted to keep the budget relatively small ($125K) to feel confident that my investors would get their money back. Keeping the budget so small though meant that we were constantly asking for favors, begging people to work for smaller fees, and had to get a lot of things for free to make it work.
In terms of selling the film for distribution I was very lucky in that several distributors made offers for the film. In the end I decided on self-distribution because I think within the niche market that I'm working, I should be able to get the word out about the film without a distribution company that keeps most of the profits. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I figured it's worth a shot since if I can figure out how to do it on my own it will be much easier for me to be able to continue making films.
I sold 2% shares in the film for $5,000 each. This way I raised the $125,000 budget and gave away 50% of the ownership of the film to my investors. I spoke to a lot of people before finding enough investors who believed in me, and/or the project, but it helped that I always felt confident that they were going to get their money back. Having already made a film also helped (My first feature had a micro-budget of $30,000, so that time it was just me, and my roommate who put up the money).
What is your next project?
I shot my third feature last fall, also a gay themed film titled "Between Love & Goodbye." It's more of a drama and a bit darker. I have several other ideas for films I want to make. A couple of them are gay themed but I also want to make mainstream films. I love history and period films so I would love to make those types of films one day. I will need more of a budget for that though!
What is your definition of "independent film," and has that changed at all since you first started working?
For me being an independent filmmaker means that one can make decisions without having to consult financial backers. Working on such small budgets that I do certainly helps because there is not that much money at stake. As a writer/producer/director I listen to other people's opinions and take advice, but ultimately it's me who makes all the decisions about the script, the casting, the locations, the editing, the music, the credits, the distribution. I love it!
What are your interests outside of film?
I'm interested in most things, which I think is a good quality to have as a filmmaker. History, religion, politics, philosophy, psychology, literature, theater, art, travel, experiencing new things.
Please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of.
I am very proud to have my third feature film almost done. But that couldn't have happened without my first or my second one. One thing has lead to another. Mostly I'm proud of taking charge of my life and my career in the first place by doing it on my own.
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
To follow your bliss. And to come to my 12:15PM screening of "A Four Letter Word" on Saturday March 29th at the Chelsea Clearview. I will be there together with my producing partner Markus Goetze. We are hosting a 30 min filmmaking seminar afterwards and will answer any questions about filmmaking, fund-raising, and self-distribution.