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"Suddenly surrounded by Van Nuys and LAPD cops. Guns drawn, helicopter spotlights out." - Jerry Brewington on making indie action comedy LA Willy-Nilly

A Conversation with LA Willy-Nilly writer/director Jerry Brewington

The new indie action comedy feature LA Willy-Nilly has been completed and is currently being submitted to film festivals.  Director Jerry Brewington sees screenings and VOD, DVD distribution for the movie in the near future.  The movie itself is a wild LA adventure.  And the making of the movie was also apparently an adventure of its own - sometimes a dangerous one.  We spoke with Brewington about the film and related matters.

By Sujewa Ekanayake

Jerry Brewington

Jerry Brewington (3rd from left) with part of the cast & crew of LA Willy-Nilly

Sujewa:  Jerry, what were you doing before you made LA Willy-Nilly?  And
what other movies have you made or have you worked on?

Jerry: Well Sujewa, I am a English Lecturer by profession but I have been writing and making short movies for quiet awhile. My main focus is on writing but I have made a few shorts on 16MM and digital, worked as a reader and script editor, and have written several full-length screenplays. I produce and direct-more out of necessity!  But you can get an idea of my efforts from my IMDB page.  LA Willy-Nilly is my first feature film.

Sujewa:  Can you briefly describe LA Willy-Nilly for us?

Jerry:  LA Willy-Nilly is a love letter to the city of Los Angeles and how winners can become so-called "losers" and vice-versa. It is about a suicidal actor's last day in Los Angeles.  An actor who just wants to say good-bye to the city he loves and hates, but who runs into one crazy adventure after another revolving around a mysterious refrigerator. The film is set in cars which traverse the whole of LA - from east to west and top to bottom.

Sujewa:  Why did you decide to make this one your first feature?  What did
you like about the idea?

Jerry:  I love LA not so much for the city itself, but for all the crazy, sweet, addled, talented dreamers I have met there. I wanted to capture a day in the life of these people's lives - these Angelinos who spend an enormous amount of time in their cars.

Sujewa:  How did you approach the screenwriting process?  How many other feature length scripts have your written prior to this one?

Jerry: I approached the writing of La Willy-Nilly within the traditional three-act structured screenplay (goals, stakes, urgency) but as a viewing of the film will quickly show, I often sometimes veered off course to let the characters 'navigate' the story themselves, which for better or worse, I thought fit the story. I have completed three full length screenplays and have began a thousand others :).

Sujewa:  How were you able to raise funds for this project?  What did you
learn from that experience?

Jerry: This is the part I personally find uncomfortable. Art, craft is a highly subjective thing, tastes vary, etc.  So raising money for a micro-indie feature with no recognizable "name" often comes down to friends and family chipping in out of love and friendship. I feel an enormous sense of obligation to make the best film I can for them whilst being true to my vision. These two things do not always go hand in hand alas, but if one is honest about the film and it's nature, artistically and financially, to investors upfront, then the chips will fall where they may.

I have learned from this experience that certain subject matter is not for all, and that there are even some people who don't care a fig about films (gasp!!).  My passion and vision are certainly not others' passion and vision. One need not get melancholy about this.

It just is.

From LA Willy-Nilly

Sujewa:  What difficulties did you run into when you filmed the movie?

Jerry: Godz, what difficulties did I NOT encounter (LOL).  First, I was not supposed to direct or produce this film. I was the writer so I thought I would just say "here it is" and go have a beer and stare at the sky.


Several producers and directors passed on the project because I did everything I was not supposed to do when creating a micro-indie film:

1.) I had 14 actors instead of the usual 2-3
2.) I set the film in nearly 22 locations instead of 1-3
3.) I shot the film in cars from the beginning to end-Mobile sets
4.) I shot the whole film on the Go-Pro Hero 3 camera

Any filmmaker in their right mind would have walked away I suppose-except Werner Herzog maybe- so being the stubborn person I am, I took over the producing and directing reins myself, ummm, for better or worse.

In terms of production, we made the mad decision to use the Go-Pro as it saved a ton of $$ and (we thought) time. proved challenging in terms of framing the picture and, both suffered from using that silly sports cam favored by extreme sportsman who are probably perennially high, but there it is. That's one reason post took forever.

Do not use wireless sound whilst driving around. Power lines, cell phones kill it and you the filmmaker, cast, and crew will go mad as a hatter when you have to redo the perfect take.

From LA Willy-Nilly

Sujewa:  I head that you landed in jail while making this movie?  How did
that happen?

Jerry:  Yes, I did. We were filming a chase scene in an old movie theater/strip mall parking lot in Van Nuys. I told the amazing actor to simulate a shot-gun blast from the seat of the moving truck whilst it was chasing the limousine. The amazing actor completely leaned out of the window of the truck and let fly with simulated gunfire (?!).

Amazing shot, but while we were packing up we were suddenly surrounded by Van Nuys and LAPD cops.  Guns drawn, helicopter spotlights out.

The blood drained from my head; face down, cuffs, the whole nine yards. Prop weapons confiscated, a dressing down by the Van Nuys Chief for not getting a filming permit, reckless behavior, general dumba&*%ery.

Down to jail I went - not only the Van Nuys jail as they transferred me to LA County jail!

A rare experience I don't recommend unless well, unless you are a Werner Herzog kind of filmmaker. So much for my Go-Pro budget saving measures!

Sujewa:  The movie is a wild LA adventure.  Was that the type of movie that you thought this would become?  Is that the general genre that you plan on working in for future projects?

Jerry: I wanted it to become a kind of "The Big Lubowski" meets "Midnight Cowboy" but if I fell short, hopefully La Willy-Nilly caught some of the spirit of those fine action-comedy films. The fine group of actors I worked with were amazing in helping me capture something of what I wanted to achieve. I love action-comedies and 'dramedies' and absolutely plan to write more films in those genres in the future.

Sujewa:  What are your distribution plans for the movie?

Jerry: I know LA Willy-Nilly backwards and forwards, virtues and fault lines, so I have an inkling of the path the film might take. Having said that, I would like to do a very limited festival run for exposure, peddle it to on-line subscription services, VOD, etc. I want as many people as possible to see it and maybe get a buck or two back to the investors.

Sujewa:  What words of advice to you have for filmmakers thinking about making a low budget action comedy feature?

Jerry: Hmm, be smart and get the best "name" actor you can afford - even if it is only for one day. It is sooo necessary for getting traction on your project unless you have a high-concept that is going to blow everyone out of the park.

This is the reality of filmed entertainment for commercial purposes in the current age.

Write your script 'smart', which is to say write with production in mind - what you have, what you can realistically get for your project.

But you know what?

It is your project.

Express exactly what you say in your projects with passion and discipline and you will have achieved success.

From LA Willy-Nilly

Sujewa:  Can you talk a bit about your next film, future projects, that you are planning now - if any?

Jerry: I am living in Doha, Qatar now and am working on a sports screenplay about the 2022 World Cup which will be held there. This is on assignment but I am working on a spec screenplay about a comedy about a Southern California Cult and a dramedy about a very strange rehab program. :)

For more information about LA Willy-Nilly, visit the film's Facebook page, Twitter, & website (a new website with more info & photos coming soon!).


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