You wrote, directed, and acted in the low-budget comedy, “There’s a Caterpillar in My Bok Choy.” What inspired you to write it? ^ Acting in low budget movies gave me a lot of the material. Part of the comedy is making fun of all the goofy chaos that goes on in low-budget shoots. Many times, low-budget means that if the shot isn’t right the first time, it has to be used anyway because they can’t afford to shoot it again. So you’ll sometimes see shadows of crewmembers and editing mistakes among other things that directors probably pray you don’t see. Also, there aren’t too many low budget comedies around, but comedy is my favorite genre. A lot of the characters in “Bok Choy” are actually dual characters, the ones in the story and “low-budget movie actors.” Like in one scene, one of the crewmembers is holding a bounce board on the right side of the screen. Two actors walk by. The first doesn’t seem to notice, but the second, John Caddigan, in character, turns to the crewmember and says, “Dude, who the hell are you?” So the audience doesn’t always know if we meant to do things or not…I guess I blew that one, but there are a lot more. Other things like crappy props, locations that obviously are not what the actors have to pretend they are, and duct tape over every single brand name and label visible in the movie made it easier to “get the funny.” Also, I’ve been in a few horror movies and love them, but based the “Bok Choy” story on every single cliché imaginable, and then made fun of them. The main premise of the story is that Bill (played by Gustavo Flores) is in love with and stalks Delila (played by me). The real point of the story is based on something that really annoys me to no end, which is that a lot of people never say what they really mean. I am always honest, but sometimes way too blunt. I need to work on that. For years, I couldn’t figure out why people don’t just come out and say what’s on their mind, and why they feel the need to cause a whole lot of drama and play games instead. I think I finally figured it out, and put it in “Bok Choy.”
What kind of budget did you have to make the film? ^ Well, thankfully the premise of being low-budget allowed me to save a lot on props and costumes. I started with about a buck fifty. No, just kidding…I had a few thousand dollars saved up which was going to go to some long overdue dental work. I lost a molar when I was about ten years old due to a bone in a hamburger and was going to finally get a tooth implant to replace it. Yes, I am serious. Anyway, it was going to cost $2700 for a tooth I haven’t missed in years, and has become a wonderful spot to hold my gum when I get sick of chewing it. I had the choice of making a movie or getting a stupid tooth. I went with the movie.
It was shot on weekends from March until August, so I was able to work during the week and come up with more budget as I needed it. When it came to editing, I found out that it costs around $90-$150 an hour to rent an editing suite. With 23 hours of raw footage to go through, that would have made completion impossible. I saw that a Power Mac and Final Cut Pro 3 system would run about $5000, or $80 a month for the next four years. I figured I could afford the $80 a month, and my D.P., Gary DeJidas, had done a lot of editing with other programs and offered to help. I bought the system and started reading. Final Cut Pro has five manuals, but thanks to “Final Cut Pro 3 for Dummies,” we didn’t have to memorize them all. Gary is really incredible with how much he dedicated to the project, and I have to credit him with the editing. We pick the music and the shots together, and then he does all the actual technical stuff and sound editing. Seriously, without him there wouldn’t be a “Bok Choy.” He’s a major movie buff and went to film school, and the way he puts everything together and the time he spends on every little detail result in a really professional piece of work.
Gary also had the Canon XL-1 he shot the movie with, so I didn’t have to rent or buy a camera. Gary definitely put in as much time as I did, but he actually knows what he is doing. John Wruck, who’s used to working on big budget movies, had a lot of his own lighting equipment as well as a ton of experience with using it. My out of pocket cost all added up, and with the actors and crew working only for expenses and home cooked meals (thank goodness I know how to use a barbecue) was around $12,000. My father, who formerly only asked “when are you going to give up this acting crap and be a doctor already?” ended up giving me $3000 towards the cost of the computer to help me through…and mom sent me care packages and “food money” every single month. A few of the actors even refused to accept money for their expenses because they said they’ve never had so much fun working on a movie.
The actual budget, I can’t really put a number on, because so many people donated their time and equipment, even their homes and businesses for locations and asked for nothing in return. I do know that there is no way I would have been able to afford it had it not been for that fact. Every person involved really worked for the love of making a movie. With a cast of thirty-four, and a small crew that worked so incredibly hard, it was both a humbling and inspiring experience when I realized they were all doing this for my project, for me. Honestly, there were points along the way where things weren’t going easily at all, or where I got absolutely no sleep and realized how broke I was, but I really felt that with all that effort everyone had put in, I had to find a way no matter what to finish the movie and make it the best one I could. Of course once it goes up for sale, I plan to divvy up the profits with everyone (even though no one asked for that in writing). I was very lucky to find such good and dedicated people, and will never be able to express how grateful I am to them all for making it possible…especially Gary…did I mention Gary yet? That was a very long answer. Sorry about that. I get a little carried away sometimes.
The answers get longer in part three of BOK CHOY ON A BUDGET>>>