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Good Machine and Roadside Play a “Trick”

Good Machine and Roadside Play a "Trick"

by Anthony Kaufman

[UPDATE, July 21, 1999: One of this year’s Sundance success stories, Jim Fall’s directorial debut
trick” premiered in an esteemed Competition slot, garnered a rave review
in Variety, and was quickly snapped up by Fine Line Features on the 4th day
of the festival for a mid-six-figure sum. “trick” went on to screen in
high profile spots at other fests, closing both the New York Lesbian and
Gay Film Festival and L.A.’s recently finished Outfest. Tonight, “trick”
returns to New York for a star-studded premiere, with actors from the film
Tori Spelling, Christian Campbell (brother of Neve), and J. P. Pitoc
scheduled to appear along with other celebs, followed by an after party at
the Chelsea nightclub Twirl, one of the locations from the film. indieWIRE
spoke with director Jim Fall, and producers Ross Katz of Good Machine, and
Eric d’ Arbeloff of Roadside Attractions as they were just finishing up
shooting in July of last year. Without distribution and without the solid
footing that goes with it, Fall and company still remained optimistic about
their debut collaboration, speaking about the challenges of financing,
their frenetic 3-week shoot, and the casting coup that was Tori Spelling.

This article was originally published on July 16, 1998.]

Finishing up an intense 21 days of shooting this week is Jim Fall’s
feature film debut “Trick.” Co-produced by Good Machine and Roadside
, the low-budget film stars J.P. Pitoc and Christian Campbell
as two young gay men poised for love, and confronting a series of comic
obstacles over the course of a single night. In a casting coup, the
production also cast the new indie starlet Tori Spelling (“The House of
“) in a major role. With Good Machine’s healthy track-record and
Spelling attached, the project is a prime candidate for indie

Fall, together with co-producer Bob Hawk and co-executive producer Mark
Biegelman, optioned the script three years ago from scribe, Jason
Schafer’s original screenplay. To develop the script and raise money,
they did a series of “invaluable” readings. “It was more useful
creatively than any other thing,” says Fall. After 7 readings over a two
and half year period with different cast members, they raised a paltry
$60,000, not enough to get the film started, according to Fall.
Although the readings and months they took working on the story was
“time well spent,” Fall admits, “it was frustrating that more money
didn’t come out it.” Fall gave the money back to investors, and tried
another route — Hollywood connections.

A friend of Andy Flemming (“The Craft“) from film school, Fall ended up
calling LA and pleading with his fellow alumni, “Help me get this movie
made.” Flemming then passed the script onto United Talent Agency where
Roadside’s Eric d’Arbeloff got a hold of it. d’Arbeloff had been
looking for a second film to take on after Roadside’s first recently
completed project “The Shoe,” a Latvian Cinderella story, played in Un
Certain Regard section of this year’s Cannes festival. d’Arbeloff liked
the script, but says, “What sold me on Jim as a director was I saw a
home movie of ‘The Exorcist‘ he did in the 6th grade with his two
sisters. I knew then he had the right sensibility to pull this off.”

The last piece of the production puzzle and perhaps the most important
came with Good Machine. d’Arbeloff and Good Machine’s Ross Katz
mutually knew a sound editor at Dig It Audio, who suggested thar
d’Arbeloff contact Good Machine for production opportunities in the
Big Apple. D’Arbeloff brought the script to Katz, who read it and
thought, “There aren’t movies like this out there, maybe not since ‘The
Wedding Banquet'” says Katz, “That was a Good Machine movie, so it
seemed so right.”

Casting came together from the three point-men of the film: Fall
discovered Pitoc in a downtown theater; d’Arbeloff knew Campbell from
work in LA (who fortunately was already shooting a vampire film in New
Jersey called “Cold Heart” — they wouldn’t have been able to afford to
fly him to NY otherwise ); and Good Machine sent Spelling a script who
was looking for a summer project. Of Spelling’s role in the film,
director Fall, who had never seen “Beverly Hills, 90210” says, “She was
never a diva. She really understood what it meant to do an independent
film. . . From a director’s point of view, she’s a dream. I can give
her little adjustments and she would do them perfectly.” When asked if
her involvement changed the level of the production, both producers
contend her participation as a perfect fit. d’Arbeloff claims, “We put
Tori in the movie because she was the best for the role and we proceeded
as planned.” And Katz adds, “It didn’t change the budget.” Fall
answers, “What will raise the profile of the movie more than the fact
that Tori Spelling is in the movie is the fact that she is so freakin’
hilarious in the movie. And I think people will take notice of that.”

“Trick”‘s shooting schedule was typically hectic, under pressures of
time, light and location over the three week period. They spent the
first two weeks doing location shooting, one week of nights (which
included an infamous evening at a rat-invested public housing
stairwell). They also shot in Brooklyn’s Studio Akiva where they built
an apartment interior where much of the film takes place and two days at
Twirl, a nightclub in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. According to
Fall, Production Designer Jodi Asnes and Director of Photography Terry
Stacey (Tom Gilroy’s “Springforward“) were up to the task, creating
wonders under the constraints common to low-budget filmmaking.

“I think it’s a funny, sweet, sexy, honest movie,” says Fall, whose
experience lies mostly in theater directing and Super-8 films. “I’ve
liked a lot of the gay romantic comedies that have come out lately, but
some of them were a little too gooey, a little too sitcomy for my
tastes,” continuing, “I’m hoping that ‘Trick’ is going to have a
reality, edge to it.” As inspiration for “Trick,” Fall evokes a 1977
favorite called “Outrageous,” a gritty, little comedy about a drag queen
from Canada seeking fame and fortune in New York. “I hope you leave the
movie feeling the same way I felt when I watched that movie. . . which
is seeing a bunch of people you really love.”

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