A desperate mother is forced to make a perilous border crossing to save her child’s life.
In a post-apocalyptic, oil-starved future, an American woman hires a guide known as a “dowser” to coyote her across the border and through the desert on horseback to locate and steal the gasoline she desperately needs. If caught, the two will be shot on sight, but they dodge heavily-armed border patrol and manage to steal twenty gallons of fuel before starting back for the U.S. When her dowser is shot by a border patrol sniper at the fence, we discover that the country they’ve been in isn’t Mexico, but the sovereign nation of Texas, which has seceded from the union with a monopoly of the mainland’s oil reserves. After the woman barely manages to escape on her own through a smuggler’s tunnel (though now with only half the gasoline she came for), we learn that she needed the fuel not for a vehicle, but for a generator that powers the medical equipment which keeps her gravely ill child alive at their makeshift home in a deserted New Mexico truck stop.
Total Running Time: 13 minutes (inclusive of credits)
Camera: Arri Alexa
Formats available for screenings: DCP, HDCAM, DVD, Blu-ray Disc
Shooting Locations: border of Unites States and Mexico in Texas and New Mexico
Completion Date: currently in post production, expected completion date August 2014
Niches: Female lead, female producer, Border Security Laws, Immigration, Post-Apocalyptic, Drama
Social Media: http://www.Facebook.com/OdessaTheSeries
While developing a very similar project in Canada, based not in Texas, but in the far reaches of the north, Odessa was forwarded to me. I was not only struck by the quality of writing and brilliant economy of the short story, I was struck by the tangibility of the premise. The world of the script isn’t a post-apocalypse crawling with zombies or hordes of punk rock gangs; it is a vision of the near-future that is entirely possible and all too real. This was a story to tell.
In addition to the premise, I was really drawn to fact that the protagonist was female, which seems to be rare in the history of this genre. It wasn’t a female substituted in a male role either, as she has genuine motivations and female attributes.
Odessa is many things, a western, an apocalyptic near future sci-fi, a road story, a chase film, and ultimately a family drama. I embraced the many things it was and melded the choices. Some moments intentionally harkens epic cinema, other moments have a far grittier documentary inspired approach. The choices were intended to bring the best out of scenarios, framing the dusty West Texan landscapes in an visually impactful way, while lending a more on the fly approach to acting moments with the purpose of enhancing realism and believability.
In my view the blend of contrasting styles, in combination with edit pace, score, and creative sound design, works to sustain tension and create energy when necessary and tension is a key factor in the film, as is the feeling of release in the end. Ultimately, I was hoping the blend of style choices and inspirations would create a modern sort of film language, one with an eye on the past and one looking keenly to the future.
Director | Sean Michael Turrell
Writer | Doug Johnson
Producers | Doug Johnson, David Moscow, Grace Santos Feeney, Andrew Shebay
Co-Producers | Marisa Mojica & Joseline Segovia
Associate Producer | Patricia Chica
Cinematographer | Stephen Chung
Editor | J Deschamps
Music Composer | Luis Ramano
Cast | Victor | Ricky Wayne
Cast | Estrella | Grace Santos Feeney
Cast | Sam | Will Haze
Cast | Agent Corrado | Anthony Escobar
Cast | Sophia | Isa Rubio
Cast | Agent | Manny Rubio
Cast | Border Patrol | Lucius Morton, Cesar Meza, Alfonso Orenday, Ralph Dimauro
First Assistant Director | Stefon L.C.
Art Director | Richard Glass
Costume Designer | Jennifer Schreck
Key Makeup, Hair, Costume Supervisor | Veronica Barajas
Production Sound | Carlos Corral
Script Supervisor | Lorena Mojica
First Assistant Camera | Jaime Medrano
Second Assistant Camera | Marisa Mojica & Joseline Segovia
Still Photographer | Michael Rushton
Assistant Makeup/Hair/Costume | Henry Castillo
Assistant Costume Design | Phillip Schreck
Set Construction | Black Out Signs
Sound Editor | Chris Drozdowski
Visual Effects | Robert Morris
Production Assistants | Arcye Evans, Lucius Morton, Ulises Cosio, Anthony Aguila
Animal Wranglers | Susie Whelpley, Laura Mandell, Lanie Whelpley
Mr. and Mrs. Shebay Black Out Signs: http://blackoutsign.com
El Paso Texas Film Commission United States Border Patrol
Indian Cliffs Ranch, Cattleman’s Steakhouse, and Michael Charsky
Sheriff’s office of Sierra Blanca Sheriff’s office of Sunland Park
Escobar Ranch Red Sky Ranch Linda and SAG-AFTRA
Camera Cranes & Dollies by Chapman Leonard Studio Equipment Inc
Lighting and Grip Equipment by Wooden Nickel Lighting Inc
Arri Alexa and camera support equipment courtesy of Brain Box Cameras
Late Night Cinema
Rest Coming Soon!
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Q: How did you come up with this script?
A by Writer Doug Johnson: Odessa was written as an exercise through Trigger Street Labs, which is an online community of writers and filmmakers created by Kevin Spacey and producer Dana Brunetti. The writing side of the platform is geared toward features, but once in a while a group will get together and write short scripts that are variations on a theme. This particular anthology was organized by a Welsh writer named David Brough, and the only story criteria were that the script be no more than eight pages, and that it contained a major plot twist that was completely unexpected. The story world for Odessa was something I’d been mulling over for about a year, but hadn’t come up with a hundred-page storyline that excited me enough to commit to paper. When David told me about his idea, it seemed like the perfect excuse to get off my ass and do something with that story world. I had no idea where the script would go or who the characters were, just a goal and an obstacle to it. The result was nothing like what I’d thought it would be. I started off writing an action script, but by the time I reached Fade Out, I’d written a drama. Our very sharp producer Grace Santos Feeney read the script and opened my eyes to the fact that the post-apocalyptic world of Odessa was the ideal context for a series of overlapping vignettes, and we’re hard at work developing those stories now.
Q: Why did you choose this script to produce?
A by Actor/Producer Grace Santos Feeney: I did not meet Doug in person until the day before the shoot, as he lives in New York and I live in Los Angeles - technology is amazing. I’ve produced 21 plays and 6 shorts and have been searching for high quality material to finally jump into features and series. I stumbled across the logline for “Odessa” on InkTip.com and initially thought about passing because the description said it was only a 10 page script. But the simple logline compelled me to contact Doug to obtain the full script.
I fell in love with the story immediately because of the character of Estrella. Estrella is multidimensional and those are the roles I’m looking for as an actress. I wouldn’t be believable as a character like Lara Croft, a hot tough chick. I’m a mother and can identify with moving way beyond my comfort zone and making sacrifices for my child.
Also, the script delivered a compelling, personal drama that touched on the issues of border security and immigration. Around the same time that I found “Odessa” in June 2013, a university study was released analyzing the trends and demographics of 2,238 people who died in south central Arizona from 1990 to 2012 after crossing the border illegally. The study made an observation that stuck with me while reading “Odessa”, and comes up again and again in the debates and the news: “We’re missing the point. The answers don’t lie in border security. The answers lie in understanding the economics [that drive migration.]”. Most of my past projects have touched on a political or social issue. I’m drawn to those issues - I studied religious studies and law even though I was already a member of AEA and SAG. I also named my production company Ethos because “character” means more than just an individual, but is also used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. I look for character driven works and also works that analyze how relationships between characters mime society and society’s ideas.
Furthermore, the way Doug set up the story-world generates endless possibilities for the development of more characters and dramatic storylines. So I am “forcing” Doug to continue to work with me to develop “Odessa” into a bigger work. In summary, the script hit so many of my sides and goals: compelling story, great characters, foundation for a series, personal acting goals, my socio-political side, beauty, and so much! I can’t believe I convinced Doug to work with me!
Q: Why did you approach Sean Michael Turrell to direct?
A by Actor/Producer Grace Santos Feeney: When I moved from Florida to California, I drove along the US-Mexican border and fell in love with the landscape (I even ended up exploring New Mexico for 4 days instead of just driving through). I knew “Odessa” would need a director with a great visual style that could capture this beauty. A couple weeks after I found the script, I attended the Palm Springs International ShortsFest because one of my films was screening there. There, I watched Sean’s film “Follow”, which lead me to do more internet research on Sean and I came across many of his music videos. After seeing his short film and music videos, and after meeting him in person at one of the festival parties, I knew he would be perfect to direct “Odessa”. Then I had to figure out how to convince him to work on an ultra low budget production and with me (someone with few credits). Again I thank Doug for writing a great script to attract a great director.
Q: Why did you approach Andrew Shebay to produce?
A by Actor/Producer Grace Santos Feeney: There is something about June of 2013: I found the script, the university study about border security was released, and I attended the Palm Springs International ShortsFest where I met Sean and Andrew. Andrew told me that he was a Texas based producer, so I mentioned how I’m trying to produce “Odessa” but am not sure if I will be able to film it in Texas (even though the setting is Texas) because of costs. After the festival we kept in touch and he messaged me once in a while about how great it is to film in Texas and how he knows filming in Texas would be way cheaper than filming in Los Angeles. He has a pretty enthusiastic personality … everyone has to meet him. “Odessa” would not have been made without his charismatic personality pushing everyone along.
Q: Why did you approach David Moscow?
A by Actor/Producer Grace Santos Feeney: I met him way before June 2013. We met on set on a 2007 production. I “made” him become my go-to person for business advice. He has been in the business for many many years as both an actor and producer and he also has a similar political side to me. He has such a wonderful personality.
Q: The writer, Doug Johnson, is also a producer?
A by Actor/Producer Grace Santos Feeney: I hit the jack pot with Doug. He is not only a writer. He has worked in post-production for over a decade, has a natural leadership type of personality, passion for story, and makes fake weapons that look so real on the screen. I didn’t know these things about him when I found his script because his website only advertises himself as a writer. I have discovered these things little by little through emailing and skyping during the development of the short and series. I told him he is going to end up being a leading showrunner. Just wait and you all will see.
Question: What were the character descriptions posted during the casting process?
VICTOR (Lead): Male, age 35-45, Hispanic, coyote with a heart, the man who can find you what you need on the far side of the border fence and will get you there and back for a price. A scavenger and survivor, a resourceful scrapper and pragmatist whose weakness is empathy.
SAM (Lead): Male, age 30-40, any ethnicity, tough but smart and caring father/husband who lost his livelihood as a trucker/mechanic when the nation’s oil supplies were cut off. Now struggling with inability to provide for his family.
ELIAS (Supporting): Male, age 6-8 (to play 6), Mixed Race son of Sam (breakdown above) and Estrella (Hispanic mother). Serious illness keeps him bed-ridden but remains eternally optimistic. The portrait of innocence with a face that lights up a screen. One page part, but an important dramatic role in final scene of the film / first episode.
Question: How did you get the Cast?
A by Actor/Producer Grace Santos Feeney: Both Ricky Wayne (House of Bones) and Will Haze (Banshee, One Tree Hill) have over fifty credits each in film and television, but I actually met them in Tampa, Florida, not Los Angeles. We attended the Performers Studio Workshop in which Kathy Laughlin CSA taught the Eric Morris Method of Acting. I sent Sean their acting reels and Sean said they are absolutely perfect for the roles. I feel really blessed that Ricky and Will took the time to fly into Texas for this project when they definitely do not need to add to their credits or acting reels. They are very talented and giving people. I cannot say enough about them. I met Anthony Escobar (Prison Break) through the El Paso Film Commission. He was accidentally listed as an Assistant Director instead of an actor and I am happy for the mistake. He knows everything about El Paso filmmaking (the local actors, crew, locations) and was so giving without asking for anything in return. When I did internet research on him (yes, it appears that I perform a google search on everyone prior to doing business with them), I came across his acting reel. He is talented so I asked Doug to write a role for him. We met Manny Rubio and Isa Rubio through Anthony. Our original cast member for the role of Elias booked a bigger project so could no longer work on “Odessa”. Manny was already working with us and when the casting issue happened at the last minute, we were more than happy to find out that Manny had the cutest actress daughter and it worked perfectly to change the role of the son into a daughter.
Question: How was your experience working on “Odessa”?
A by Art Director Richard Glass: The one thing I did want to comment on was the cleverness and creativity I saw by all the participants --making something from nothing, or as they say, "taking chicken shit and making chicken salad". It is an amazing thing when a group of artists come together in harmony and cooperation and work together on something, and then God comes down and adds a little more--that little something extra that no one individual can take credit for, yet there it is. Particularly, when we were at the finish line and Grace gave that wonderful performance next to a cold bed, with lighting wizardry making us think it was daytime, and just enough set dressing to fool the audience completely. Those are the moments when all the efforts are rewarded, when an artistic triumph happens and you almost pinch yourself in disbelief. Try and explain it to a non-artist. For me, those moments are what life is all about.
Question: How was your experience working on “Odessa”?
A by Costume Designer Jennifer Schreck: I was thrilled when I was brought onto the project. When the script finally revealed the reason behind Estrella's journey, I had tears in my eyes. In costuming this project I really had to think on what would make the most sense for each character and getting into their head was my favorite part. The story is gritty and the landscape harsh so it was a fun challenge to get the costuming distressed in such a way that it looked natural and showed the hardship these characters faced on daily basis. I was able to work closely with the makeup artist and combine our ideas (and pigment dirt) to make sure the makeup and costuming each had the same look and color palette and the overall result looked great on camera.
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We are looking for crowd funding (money donations) and crowd sourcing (volunteers and in kind donations) for this short film. Your funding would be a donation to art, a good cause, and believing in the filmmakers!
Art: Art links people together. Art enriches life. If you have interest in art, please support the makers.
Articles about fundraising efforts for the arts: “As formerly reliable employers and patrons struggle to pay their own bills, artists have been forced to intensify their hunt for new fund-raising strategies. Which is why the prospect of crowd-sourcing on the Internet has been enthusiastically embraced by some as an important new model for the future of arts financing.” (“Artists Find Benefactors in Web Crowd”, By Patricia Cohen, New York Times)
Awareness: Although the story is fictional, its themes are universal. The strength of motherhood. What we are willing to do for our children? What about the effects of political decisions on the individual. Humanizing larger issues. Putting a face to a debate. Walking a mile in another's shoes.
The Team: Please check out our individual biographies to see our past projects, future goals, and why we believe in this particular project.
Ultimately, the goal of any film is to find an audience. The post-apocalyptic setting of Odessa brings with it a core genre fan base, but also broader appeal with strong dramatic and action-adventure elements. The success of hyper-serialized narratives like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, as well as internet-only series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black from Netflix, are trends that will continue to evolve. As a Director at an independent entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment, Odessa Producer Grace Feeney is always on the lookout for quality features and series. When she came across the script earlier this year, its potential was obvious. And though the short will be a standout piece on its own and it makes its way around the festival circuit, we are also developing the extended series storylines.
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The Production and Post-Production and Marketing Budget is $40,000. This pays for equipment rental, location fees, props, insurance, fuel costs, post-production facilities, etc. To offset the costs associated with the level of filmmaking we intend for Odessa, the director, producers, cinematographer, and professional SAG union actors have all volunteered to work pro bono (a testament to their enthusiam for the project). We are also lobbying rental houses to donate film equipment use, professional crew to donate time, local vendors to donate food and art equipment, etc. in the name of keeping costs as low as possible while still maintaining studio caliber production value.
The development of the internet and its potential to deliver content in the future is driving massive economic interest in short form film. But here's the simple truth: At this point, we still don't believe it's even appropriate to call a short film a "risky investment" because the likelihood of any return on that investment is so small. We prefer to be realistic and upfront about expectations. Therefore, any funding provided for Odessa must be considered a "donation" rather than an "investment".
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We hope that you believe in the story and the team to want to help and join the project!
In 1977, James Cameron was a truck driver. Cameron convinced several local dentists to provide the $20,000 budget to produce a 12-minute short that featured a stop-motion fight scene between a woman in an exoskeleton suit and an extraterrestrial robot. It was called Xenogenesis and completed it in 1978. He was the director, writer, producer, and production designer for Xenogenesis. Four years later, he wrote and directed The Terminator.
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Ethos Pictures LLC
Attn: Grace Feeney
129 S. Oakhurst Dr, #102
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Some of the story boards from our Director Sean Michael Turrell:
Why shoot in Texas and New Mexico?
Authenticity: The film’s setting is Texas, where epic landscapes and natural beauty abound. Simple economics: The enthusiasm and professionalism we’ve encountered thus far have been nothing short of amazing. If we’re able to move forward with a series, Texas also provides some of the best state tax incentives in the nation.
Some photos of the locations we have secured (pictures taken by Andrew Shebay and Michael Rushton) during the location scouts:
More Production Notes from other team members coming soon!
Connect with us on Social Media!