THE PROJECT
In the summer of 2006, I had decided it was time to attempt the biggest movie leap possible for a computer science graduate student with very little money. Having produced two short films, the idea of a full-length movie was appealing at the time and seemed well within reach. By August 2006, the script for The Catch 23 was finished, and it was clear that this was going to be no easy feat.

I threw in almost everything I had into this story with hopes that it would be possible to put them on film with such a low budget. Scenes written demanded far more than I had ever dealt with, such as a full gunfight scene and fire effects. I knew that there was no way I'd physically squib walls or get blanks for guns, and was intent from the start to do it all digitally, even though I wasn't exactly sure how. I just knew it could be done.

Once the script was ready, I sent out a mass email to everyone I knew in the United States to try and raise funds for the project, knowing that this was going to cost me a great deal. While only a handful offered, it was enough to get the ball rolling, and that combined with my own savings got me a Sony VX 2100 camera and a Glidecam 4000 Pro. I'm so thankful for everyone that offered money to make this thing happen. I really hope I didn't disappoint them.

Then came casting, which was arguably one of the most difficult preproduction steps. Since I was going to rely on a 100% voluntary cast, I basically went fishing in my pool of friends with a giant net, and picked out the best people I could find for the roles who were willing to be a part of this film. Even this didn't fill all the spots in the movie. But it was enough to get started.

With Josh Clark at my side, I was able to scout out locations and get guns. Lots of guns. Airsoft of Knoxville was kind enough to even lend us an AR which Josh snipes with at the beginning of the movie. Day by day locations were analyzed and chosen, and days picked for filming.

October 6, 2006 was our first day of filming. It was the executions of "Donnie Turno" and "Michael Logan". Ravi Jayasundera was not picked for Donnie Turno, but the original guy cast for the role wasn't picking up his phone that evening (kicking the movie off to a bad start, I know) and I called Ravi at the last minute and he came in and did a wonderful job. Then in the evening we tied Mike up in Paul's garage and shot his crotch a few times. It took four hours to film everything, which is interesting to look back on, seeing how I had all that time then for a scene that took less than one minute in the movie. But the first scenes were shot, and it definitely felt like this thing was happening.

What followed after were grueling weekends of nonstop filming, almost every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, all while juggling school and work. The original plan was to film everything before the end of November, and then edit it over the winter holidays. Needless to say, that didn't happen. If one person was unable to show up to set or just didn't pick up his phone, the entire shoot for that scene had to be cancelled and had to be pushed to god-knows-when, since all the weekends were packed. As Christmas rolled around, I had shot only about 60% of the film. Fortunately, most of the insanely hard scenes, such as the warehouse gunfight and gas station scenes, were already shot.

I had a load of footage but no computer to edit it on. Then my best friend Ali Makki went ahead and bought me a mac mini, right on the spot, while I was in class chatting to him about it. I paid him back later of course but that was a breath of fresh air that made my life so much easier.

Early December I released the first trailer and throughout the month I edited scenes. Each scene, when edited, was final, because the fastest way to put the whole movie together would be to have every scene ready to go in terms of everything: video, audio, effects, etc. and then piece them all together, one by one. Only background music was left out.

Coming back in January, the weather was so cold that I spent most of the weeks that followed editing instead of shooting, waiting for it to warm up. Random scenes were shot while that was going on, and a second trailer was released. The film was nearing completion but filming was so difficult because of scheduling conflicts and communication problems (people not picking up their phones). Still...it was so close to being done and we all had poured so many hours of work into it that I was determined to finish it no matter what.

Then a serious blow hit the movie: the character playing the gas station owner backed out of the movie completely, even after filming all his difficult scenes. All that was left of him was two hours and still he refused to commit, claiming he had no time between school and work. Of course I would find him playing xbox and tennis every now and again. While this was a huge discouragement, I had other scenes to worry about and I just hoped that somehow the issue would get resolved.

It did eventually through a rewrite of his scenes, and eventually it came to a point where I had edited almost everything except for the very last scene in the movie. I started scoring the film using a Korg usb keyboard and Logic Express while I waited to slam that scene in the books.

Finally on June 3, 2007, the last scene was shot and was placed into the "reel" and the movie was musicized up and done.


© 2007 Hasitha Parakramaweera