One of the most-asked questions about the business-end of Hollywood is -- how in the world do movies ever get made?? As the level of hoops to jump through grows, it's a question that gets asked even by professionals, who can see years pass before a film comes to life.
For Rob Hedden, the answer is simple. It happens because of a brick being thrown through his car windshield.
Four years ago, Hedden was chaperoning his son and some school friends, caravaning down the California coast into Mexico on a birthday trip. On the way back, driving along the freeway, a brick came crashing into the car, thrown from an overpass above.
When you're at a standstill, this is not a good thing. When you're moving at highway speeds -- it came close to being deadly. Glass went flying, dangerously cutting in to some people. Speeding off, Hedden quickly called one of the other cars to explain the situation, headed out of the pack to desperately find a hospital, and what could have been a tragic experience, turned into a mere harrowing one that allowed for eventual recovery.
A near-death experience tends to affect people. And Hedden -- a genial, self-effacing spirit who'd likely prefer surfing to making movies -- began to take stock of his full situation.
Hedden has had a steady, hard-working career. He's been on the writing staffs of series like "MacGyver" (learning, he's said, how to make a jet aircraft from a paperclip, grocery bag and twine) and "The Commish." He co-wrote the feature films "Clockstoppers" and last year's "The Condemned," and wrote and directed "Friday the 13th, Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan. (Up until they revived it years later, he liked to say that he was the one did the impossible, killing off Jason with the series.) He also directed or wrote nearly a dozen TV movies.
The thing about Hollywood, however, is it can be impenetrable for everyone. It's easier for executives to say "No," than risk failure developing projects along. Work that is actually able to get made can take years to get there -- while being changed along the way, often taken out of the hands of it creators.
After living through his hellacious experience, where his life was totally out of his own control, Hedden decided that, at that moment, he didn't need others deciding what his life would be. And so he determined to make his own movie. No studios, no executives, no script notes. Nothing grand, just something low-key and fun that his three sons could enjoy.
There's a reason most people don't try this. Just getting started is a hurdle.
In those very early stages, Hedden went to a Writers Guild seminar on independent filmmaking and asked me along, less as a friend, than as adult supervision. It was informative, but only up to a point. When someone in the audience asked about film festivals, one of the highly-successful panelists answered, "The only two festivals you should even consider are Cannes and Sundance." The muffled laughter in the audience of struggling writers was pronounced. "Oh, that's all we have to do?! Cool." (It was reminiscent of the old Steve Martin joke on how to make two million dollars. "First, get a million dollars...")
Undaunted, Hedden wrote a comedy that he knew he'd be able to shoot on a low-budget, yet make look much bigger. Something logistically he could film in his hometown of Laguna Beach. And in his occasionally-inspired mind, the more unconventional the better.
He came up with a screenplay which married his passion of surfing, his love of Laguna Beach, his need for a low budget, and his eternally childlike goofiness that has made his wife, Jan, one of the more tolerant, even-keeled women in the land. The story follows a couple of surfer slacker geeks, far outside of the "in crowd" at high school, who come up with an insanely-stupid sport for themselves -- attaching refrigerator boxes to skateboards and blindly hurtling down the hilly streets - that starts to attract local popularity and girls, not necessarily in that order of importance.
And -- starting from a brick being thrown into his windshield, through a need to have some control in his life and then create something for his kids -- Rob Hedden made it happen. The movie, a swirl of inspired silliness, "Boxboarders!" is being released on DVD on July 29th,. Today.
Hedden relentlessly tracked down what financing he could, got friends to help out on the production end, called in favors from recognizable actors like Stephen Tobolowsky, Dale Midkiff, Melora Hardin ("The Office") and Julie Brown, hired some talented young performers to star -- and got his cherished Laguna Beach to open its streets, open its businesses and close its eyes.
That's how you get a movie made. First, face a brick wall. And then do it yourself.