Here at ITOL we were lucky to have actor, writer and filmmaker Allie Loukas write about her experience making her comedy film, “Kathryn Upside Down” (you can find our review here). Allie’s detailed experience makes a fascinating read in regards to the challenges she faced and how her experienced shaped her as a filmmaker.
I woke up from my surgery for chronic sinus infections in a fog. I had returned home to Chicago following three years of failure in Los Angeles, I was downtrodden, dejected. I reflected on how I had knocked my head against the wall for years, and all I had to show for it was my then unproduced screenplay “Kathryn Upside Down,” and some gauze to catch the blood dripping from my nose.
After a few weeks of resting in recovery my dad said to me over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, “why don’t you just do it yourself? Go ahead. Make the movie, just try.” No one else wanted to do it, I knew it was the next logical step, but I didn’t want to so I resisted; but, this is a man who does not take no for an answer, he kept pushing.
I eventually agreed to make a call, that one call lead to many, and, before I knew it, I started hiring. I had absolutely zero clue what I was doing, but it just kept snowballing. Key crew members fell into place, then actors. I cast them in my friends’ apartment with my mom during a cold Chicago winter. I had been on auditions as an actor, so I had a pretty good idea of how they were run. I couldn’t afford casting so I just tried my best to copy the formula and ran with it.
I begged for camera equipment and scored a 4K RED on an unheard of price from Keslow Camera, same with lighting, locations, food, legal work, everything. I can be pretty persistent when I want to be.
Then shooting started, I was excited, everything was falling into place, what could go wrong?
Well, I had hired a crew led by a dude I thought I could trust. I had known him for a long time, though I had my doubts, I pushed forward. I thought I knew him so I gave him a lot of liberties, but, when shooting began I started having almost immediate issues with crew; the entire set felt completely divided. I felt like an inferior, stupid, shit woman even though I had put it all together and used all of my money. There were inappropriate remarks, there was button pushing, incessant complaining, excessive drinking, 24/7 prodding on my nerves.
I had to talk myself off the ledge everyday because it was that bad. I even found out later that the production truck had been driven to the local bar, all the equipment inside. Can you imagine what would have happened if the truck had crashed? Not only could someone have been seriously hurt, I would have lost my entire project, broken hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment people had entrusted me with and, basically, ruined my life.
Working in film I have had poor experiences with the embedded, asinine “bro” culture that surrounds it, the me too movement is still all too real, and it’s hard to break century old customs, and that, for me, was the next thing that happened. I confided in the dude I had known about what had happened on set, I thought I could speak to him rationally even though he had condoned and even participated in the bad behavior. Boy, was that a mistake.
“When I say editing this movie is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life I am not exaggerating.”
“I can’t talk to you about this unless it’s in a formal setting.” A formal setting? I can’t tell you what issues I had with you? I have to file a lawsuit? His dramatics basically opened up another can of worms and started up legal issues, which led to more stress and a delay in even beginning the editing process on the mess that was made. Thanks, guy, you’re a real gem.
Eventually, through the grapevine, I found our editor, Eryn. When Eryn and I opened up the footage, we literally opened up pandora’s box; (ironically this is a line in the movie!) Everything was messed up. The shots didn’t line up, the lighting was off. The day looked like night, the night looked like day. An entire scene was missing the sound and that’s not even the half of it.
When I say editing this movie is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life I am not exaggerating. Somehow, God on our side, we made it work. I don’t know how it happened, but I moved around the shots, the storyline, whatever I could do to make it cohesive. My favorite (insert sarcasm here) scene to edit was the restaurant scene at the end of the film, we basically had no shots because half the crew was taking a nap in the production truck. If you watch the film, drop me a line, and let me know what you think about that scene in particular.
“One thing about mainstream style comedy is that it’s generally frowned upon, people think it’s not worthy and not that hard to produce. Which, um, trust me, it is.”
I don’t know how I made it all stretch, but I did. I somehow found the money and the people to help me to finish the film. It took me a long time, but I refused to give up, and I did it. Then I came head to head with my next problem, how do you distribute a film with me in it as the lead actor, and all unknown Chicago actors in the supporting cast?
One thing about mainstream style comedy is that it’s generally frowned upon, people think it’s not worthy and not that hard to produce. Which, um, trust me, it is. I think this really has been the reason for the recent blip in the comedy genre across all fronts and why we seldom see them even with huge Hollywood style budgets, there’s really a lack of artistic respect for them.
Indie filmmakers who get good amounts of attention, and therefore traction for their films, are by in large people who produce art-house style films. There are different facets of comedy, and art-house style comedy is vastly different from a mainstream John Hughes style comedy which is where my film lands.
Writing and producing TRUE independent comedy with a mainstream flare, (not including a comedy where someone famous is a producer on it,) is bar none the hardest thing to do in today’s climate.
So, basically, after all this work I did on my film, how much of my heart I had poured into it…nothing. I had no idea where to go. There was no outlet for it, just white noise. My film sat on my desktop for over a year, nothing. I had no clue what to do, and I had given up. I was selling furniture, doing other things.
Then, about a year ago, a man moved in temporarily down the street from my parent’s house in Illinois. One day, my mom got to talking to him, he told her he was a film producer and had won a BAFTA, my mom said “oh, that’s interesting. My daughter made a film, and she needs distribution,” I thought she was insane. This film was a dead duck, no one cares about it now, but the man was very nice and told my mom to text him the trailer and some information about it. So she did. He said he didn’t think he could help me, and I thought that was that; but, then, a few days later he called again.
I was, ironically shopping for a piece that was missing from my toilet in a plumbing store. My film basically centers around a young girl fatefully meeting her biological father, a plumber. The poster is even a photo of me sitting on a toilet. He said he had thought about it some more and gave me some names, I scribbled down three on top of the toilet lid, but I knew how it went and didn’t expect much from it, but, I said I would call them all and did.
The first never called me back, the second said no, then my phone rang at about 5PM, it was the third name.
“Yes, we will represent your film.”
Long story short, they sold it in a week to an indie distributor after all those years, and here I am. The movie is out there now and for that, I am forever grateful, but I’m now facing the next hurdle I knew was coming. Marketing a completely independently produced comedy with a mainstream flare and a female lead. It is a very bizarre and unorthodox position to be in, but I believe in some way this will find its audience and platform, it’s been harder than I expected, but I believe every time we win a battle in life our prize is just a new one. So I try to keep putting my foot forward every day, even if I only walk a short distance. Or, I sit down on a toilet in a wrap dress for a drink and a smoke. Oh, wait, that’s Kathryn’s job!
I’d love and appreciate any reader to check out my film, “Kathryn Upside Down,” it’s available now on all digital platforms, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Fandango, VUDU, Google Play. If you’re a movie critic and have the ability to review it, I would be beyond appreciative of that as well! Thanks for reading, and feel free to follow me or drop me a line anywhere.
You can even add me as a friend on Facebook at, you guessed it! Allie Loukas
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