Six weeks ago, Evan Glodell was in a funk. He’d made his filmmaking debut six years ago with micro-budget breakout “Bellflower,” in which he’d starred, written, directed, and produced through Coatwolf, his filmmaking collective. That film exploded at Sundance 2011, but now it seemed like all of his projects were stalled, again.
He wondered if he should have turned down an offer to wrangle VFX for Benh Zeitlin’s “Wendy,” another follow-up to a Sundance hit (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) made by a filmmaking collective; unlike his Coatwolf projects, that one was successfully winding its way to completion.
Then suddenly, everything turned around. Coatwolf’s second film, “Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins” produced, co-written, and starring Glodell, is close to locked and is ready for CAA to screen for buyers.
Their third, “Canary,” written, directed, produced, and starring Glodell, will hit the Cannes market to seek financing via New York sales company Visit Films, which sold “Bellflower” and smart horror hit “It Follows.” And he’s turned to crowdfunding site Patreon not only for “Canary” backing, but also to fulfill a Cinemascope-sized dream of launching a movie studio in Ventura, Calif.
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This lurching trajectory is an extreme version of what many filmmakers experience after they hit big with their first film at Sundance. After the festival Glodell was flooded with attention and gratefully signed with CAA’s Micah Green and Dina Kuperstock, who sold the film to Oscilloscope. First they shepherded Glodell on a national press tour, and then onto the global festival rounds, where he bonded with fellow filmmakers and trekked to exotic places from Japan to Vladivostock.
When Glodell got back to LA, he moved into a sunny two-bedroom Hollywood apartment, parking “Bellflower” star Medusa (a custom-built, flame-throwing 1972 Buick Skylark) in the back. CAA sent him on meetings with people who were eager to work with him on what he wanted to do next.
And that’s where the trouble began.
He pitched producers a multi-part apocalyptic saga, which Glodell now acknowledges as far too ambitious. His agents brought him acting and directing jobs; he turned them down. “In retrospect, I should have taken the acting jobs,” he said. “That doesn’t interfere with what I’m doing.”
Since then, Glodell has lived on his portion of “Bellflower” profits, which amounted to a few hundred thousand dollars shared among the 11-person Coatwolf team. Sometimes, he’s had roommates who help pay the rent. Sometimes a little development money dribbles in. His family asked, “Evan, why don’t you take a job?”
“My friends and family see me struggling,” he said, “because I don’t make movies because I want to make movies. Like each movie has a reason that, to me, makes it important and worthwhile to spend time on it. There’s an idea in it that makes it worthwhile. I don’t want to just make a movie.”
Film Number 2: “Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins”
Finally, in 2013, the first Coatwolf project to go forward was his partner Jonathan Keevil’s videogame-inspired directing debut, “Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins.” Glodell reluctantly took on the title role alongside Dawson and Keevil as the twins.
What’s it about? Well, here’s the official synopsis:
The Syndicate, an evil gang bent on world domination, summons a secret weapon from the heavens and breaks the long-standing truce with the San Diego family by kidnapping their sister and cutting off the town’s supply of Tatsui Power-Up Drinks. Now Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins must decide whether to fight – risking their lives, family, and the future of Flat Earth – or surrender their land to save their sister.
After raising $129,000 in seed money on Indiegogo, other investors followed Coatwolf producers Glodell, Chelsea St. John, Keevil, and Vincent Grashaw, including Gabriel Cowen and John Suits from New Artists Alliance, Cinestate’s Dallas Sonnier, and Jack Heller of Assemble Media.
“Bellflower” cinematographer Joel Hodge shot action scenes in Ventura. They designed and created a number of their own visual effects (the movie boasts about 700 shots), pyrotechnics, and custom vehicles. (Glodell trained as an engineer.) The lead actors also completed nearly all of their own stunts. They then shrank down to the core group who shot “Bellflower.”
When they looked at the rough cut, Keevil and Glodell both wanted improvements. So they cobbled together more money — all told, the budget was about $500,000 — and embarked on reshoots, with no one getting paid. They’d meet on the weekends when everyone was free to fire off a few more scenes. And then a few more.
Editing was also a collective process, passing scenes around among them until they got them right. “All of us edit together,” said Glodell. “People get burned out, given how long you work on the project. ‘I have idea, let me do it,’ and they play with it for a while.”
Coatwolf dropped a teaser in January that promised explosive insanity as well as a summer 2017 release date, which actually was a self-imposed deadline to ensure they continued to barrel through. Four years after production began, CAA has something to show to buyers.