The new indie film The Big Ask has dog timelines, desert skylines, dick growers, rock throwers, pissing rocks, kissing shocks, feuds flying, dudes crying, deep hugs, no drugs, teddy bears, hot affairs, forsaking friends, making amends. Also, love.
It's writer-director Thomas Beatty's first feature (his wife Rebecca Fishman co-directed) and comes with its own set of fun production facts:
1. David Krumholtz, who plays the film's central character, successfully petitioned for his dog Hannah to appear in the movie as "the dog." Thomas says Hannah was "the most well-behaved animal I've ever seen on a set."
2. The Big Ask has been a success on the festival circuit, beginning with the Seattle International Film Festival in 2013. It's won jury prizes, audience awards and a special award for the cast at the Phoenix Film Festival.
3. The part of the kooky desert geezer -- played by Thomas's dad, the great Ned Beatty -- was not in the original script. Thomas says, "I met and talked to a crazy old man who lived next to the house where we were going to shoot. Most of my dad's lines are verbatim from that conversation."
4. In perhaps the purest manifestation of projection (the psychological kind) in modern American cinema, we find our troubled protagonist freezing his ass off after a night in the desert. He gazes soulfully into the eyes of his warm, nurturing girlfriend and says, "You look cold."
5. Thomas's mom, Tinker Lindsay, is an experienced screenwriter whose feature Hector and the Search for Happiness, directed by Peter Chelsom and based on the best-selling 2010 novel by French psychiatrist François Lelord, has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Relativity.
6. Rebecca is a member of multiple bands, including the terribly named Charlie Limousine and the predictably named Rumours, a Fleetwood Mac cover band, where she channels Christine McVie. Thomas is a talented songwriter who won the Kennedy Center ACTF award for best new musical with partner Gabriel Kahane for the musical Straight Man, which they wrote and directed while they were roomies at Brown.
8. Securing music rights can be expensive and songwriters can be an ornery bunch. For Deer Tick, it wasn't about the money. They simply wanted a famous person to say, on video, "Fuck Deer Tick." Ned Beatty obliged.
9. Thomas says, "The second day of shooting I woke up at 5 a.m. and immediately stepped on Rebecca's glasses. I proceeded into the little kitchen and cried into a bowl of cereal." Was this an unconscious expression of the tragicomic spirit of the film? A passive-aggressive assertion of masculine power? Or is a teary cereal bowl sometimes just a teary cereal bowl?
10. Rebecca reports: "A critical scene involves the lead character demolishing a giant cactus. Amazingly, procuring a giant cactus in the desert (without destroying the natural environment) proved somewhat tricky. Finally our production designer located one at a nearby nursery and we hastily planted it on set. These plants are tough and last hundreds of years so we choreographed an elaborate take with David involving several approaches, but on David's first crack the cactus broke like a twig, its entire upper half flying off like it was made of foam. We got the shot, but it looked totally fake."
You can get The Big Ask on iTunes, Hulu, Amazon or VOD. Southern Californians can catch it at select LA theaters beginning May 30.