Last spring, Martin Kaszubowski and Scott Cary graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s highly regarded film program with a load of ambition. They’ve made the leap that most students don’t dare to take immediately following college: co-writing, directing and producing a feature-length film with little to no money to back them up.
Recently, the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign for their film, titled "Christopher Darling," which follows the titular character and his successful indie rock band over the course of a national tour while he descends into boredom-fueled hedonism.
Their goal is to reach $6,000 by Friday, Nov. 14.
"When the movie starts, he’s kind of like at the peak … or at least further where he saw himself going," Cary said. "He didn’t want to get as far as he got. He lives a pseudo luxurious life, but with that success, he’s really bored. So to cope with that boredom, he pulls a lot of stunts."
They began working on the project a little over a year and a half ago while they worked at The Rave together.
"We would have to go on these hour-long drives to go drop off tickets and stuff so we’d have a ton of time to talk," Kaszubowski said. "We talked about the movie and started pitching ideas back and forth. It developed into something completely different from what I had originally thought of doing. This has a lot more comedy than what I had anticipated."
Kaszubowski’s idea for the film initially started as an adaptation of sorts based on Charles Bukowski’s 1978 novel "Women," which centers on a writer who lives like a rock star, traveling to various cities and interacting with various people.
"We also drew a lot from musicians we both liked, but also knew of their stories like based on the lives of Julian Casablancas," Kaszubowski said. "Musicians with sort of infamous personas that we really respect, but as people, were just big assholes."
Christopher Darling will also be a character in which will not be easy for audiences to like because of his troubled antics.
"If we did it right then he’ll start likeable because he’s very charismatic so he gets what he wants and that’ll come across," Cary said. "But, as the movie goes on, the audience will get more and more disgusted with this dude."
As Kaszubowski and Cary developed the screenplay, they aimed to tell a story that’s much more than a portrait of a flawed character. They also set out to imply realistic commentary on the concept of stardom as well as satirizing contemporary cultures such as the yuppie, hipster and grunge cultures.
While writing the screenplay, they came up with the general, broad scope of how the script should turn out.
"We knew where he wanted to have it and we just had to fill everything in between for the most part," Kaszubowski said. "It was just a matter of us pitching back and forth ideas. I was more focused on the big picture and what stuff meant and what stuff would lead to earlier in the film and that kind of thing. Scott focused more specifically on getting the dialogue and the scenes right."
Kaszubowski said there’s an alternate version of "Christopher Darling" that’s completely crazy and full of humor because their writing sessions often evolved into a running-line of joke after joke, some of which remain in the final screenplay.
"If we wrote the script by email or something, it would probably be a lot dryer," Cary said. "The fact that we were in the same room together helped. I would pitch something as a joke, but then we would be like, ‘Maybe we’ll put it in there.’"
A lot of the more humorous scenarios in the film derive straight out of Cary’s life, almost in verbatim fashion.
On Oct. 6, they started production on "Christopher Darling," using funds out of their own pockets. So far for them, it's been exciting to see their script come to life, which Kaszubowski referred to as a cliché, but a cliché that rings true.
They've been utilizing Milwaukee in a big way for the production, with various local businesses and venues becoming featured locales to the duo casting upwards of 30 local actors and musicians along with a crew comprised of fellow UWM graduates.
"We work with a group of people all dedicated to the same ideal of wanting to make creative work, and a desire to make art, together," Kaszubowski stated in a press release. "'Christopher Darling,' in that sense, is a true collaboration."
John Glawocki, a local theater and film actor, was cast as the titular Christopher. If you follow the Milwaukee film scene, he's an actor with a recognizable face. For Kazubowski and Cary, he was a natural fit for the role because of his ad-libbing and improvisation during his audition, which made an impression.
"He was one of the few people who made us laugh when reading the part, which is a thing that we were looking for the most because the comedy aspect of it is the hardest part of the character," Kaszubowski said.
"Just to be a deadly serious and sad character, but still deliver the jokes right is crucial and he nailed it," Cary added.
As recent graduates who work jobs when they're not on set, they're unable to fund the entire project strictly out of their own pocket. For the film to live up to its authentic potential, they launched the Kickstarter requesting $6,000 for additional equipment, food, props, actors and locations.
With November set as a busy month with a total of 15 shootings days scheduled and filming set to conclude in December, they bring up the fact that production might be drastically slowed down if their goal isn't reached by its deadline. But, in worst case scenario, the movie will be made no matter what.
It's this drive that they had learned throughout their time spent inside of the classrooms at UWM, approaching creative projects in different and inspired ways that they've adopted.
"It doesn’t even matter if the movie is good," Kaszubowski said referring to a lesson he had learned from Tate Bunker, a UWM film instructor. "You should just do it as well as you can and learn from that and then your next movie will be even better."
"Not that we’re not trying to make this movie as good as possible, but it’s still our first movie and we’re not kidding ourselves, too," Kaszubowski continued. "We’re going to make this as good as possible, but it’s also a learning curve for us, too, to get better and better."
To stay up to date with production along with behind-the-scenes photos are available on the "Christopher Darling" Facebook page.
Colton Dunham's passion for movies began back as far as he can remember. Before he reached double digits in age, he stayed up on Saturday nights and watched numerous classic horror movies with his grandfather. Eventually, he branched out to other genres and the passion grew to what it is today.
Only this time, he's writing about his response to each movie he sees, whether it's a review for a website, or a short, 140-character review on Twitter. When he's not inside of a movie theater, at home binge watching a television show, or bragging that he's a published author, he's pursuing to keep movies a huge part of his life, whether it's as a journalist/critic or, ahem, a screenwriter.