Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Storyboarding the Land of Enchantment

Even though the mountain community of Hillsboro, New Mexico has but a few hundred residents, it is a locale of central importance to Becoming Eduardo, an independent drama screening Thursday, September 16th at the Burbank International Film Festival. Resident writer-director Rod McCall shot the film there in 2008 with the help of students from the New Mexico institute where he teaches and came to the source material years earlier in the unlikeliest of Hillsboro fashions.

"My neighbor, Zalman King (Red Shoe Diaries, 9 1/2 Weeks), who basically pulled together the financing on my very first film, Paper Hearts, owns a home in Hillsboro," explains McCall during an interview with FilmStew. "Zalman introduced me to LouAnne Johnson, who also had a house there at the time."

"LouAnne gave me Alternative Ed to read," he continues, taking receipt of a novella from an author whose My Posse Don't Do Homework was turned into the Michelle Pfeiffer smash Dangerous Minds. "The next day, I came back to her and said I wanted to make a movie of it. I'm interested in films about New Mexico and this story had all the elements for me. She knew my reputation and agreed to give me the film rights."

Borrowing a cup of novella

Johnson has since expanded her novella into the full-length novel Muchacho, and all these years later, McCall finds himself following a very different route with his fourth feature than the one he did with his first two. Unlike Paper Hearts and Lewis & Clark & George, which both premiered at Sundance, Becoming Eduardo has been carefully escorted to select festivals in 2009 and 2010, to build word of mouth as well as generate what McCall says is very legitimate distributor interest.

The film also now has the benefit of a young actor who, since filming his first leading role at age 18, has gained traction with the studios that call Burbank and other parts of Los Angeles home. Julian Alcaraz will be seen this fall in the remake of Red Dawn and just recently wrapped the 2011 Steven Soderbergh drama Haywire.

"We had seen maybe twenty young actors for the part of Eddie Corazon when Julian showed up," McCall remembers. "Both [casting director] Cathy [Henderson-Martin] and I knew when he walked into the room that he was our Eddie."

A star in the making?

"He's a very charismatic, natural actor, a terrific leading man," he raves. "I expect him to be a major star. In many scenes in the film, Julian is just "listening" to another actor talk, and your attention is riveted to him. That's star quality."

Another point of distinction for Becoming Eduardo is that it is the first feature film project to be incubated at New Mexico State University's Creative Media Institute, which McCall co-founded and where he has been teaching film directing and storyboarding for the past three and a half years. Up next for CMI is a Linda Hamilton crime drama from Artistic Director Mark Medoff (Children of a Lesser God), followed by Traveling Salesmen, a 2011 project re-teaming McCall with his Eduardo producer Brad Littlefield.

True to his teachings, McCall put together more than 3,500 storyboard drawings for the very tightly scheduled Hillsboro production. Among the advantages of the area are a proximity of different looking locations and a minimal need for shooting permits.

DP Dale Sonnenberg

"I basically had the small, very picturesque village of Hillsboro as my own backlot," says McCall. "I've shot two other films there, so let's just say I know the place well. Where we spent a little bit of money was on our SAG co-stars. When you have a grueling, insane production schedule, you need actors like A. Martinez and Elizabeth Pena, who get everything in one to three takes."

The first screening of Becoming Eduardo was held at Hillsboro's community center, an old high school used as a central filming location. At the end of the session, McCall says he turned around to find a full row of friends and loved ones moved to tears by the tale of a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent with poetic aspirations. Subsequent festival audiences have had similar reactions.

For former architect and advertising man McCall, whose Hillsboro home is one of his own design, it adds up to a blueprint for substantive indie satisfaction.

[Becoming Eduardo]

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick correction - I did not give Rod McCall the film rights - he paid me a grand $5 to help him write the screenplay which I did. But I then decided the film was taking such a departure from the novella that I bowed out. I wish him every success with his project. BUT my novel, Muchacho, is a completely separate entity from the novella and I hold all film/tv/dramatic rights to Muchacho and the character of Eddie Corazon. All other rights are held by Knopf at Random House....LouAnne Johnson