Asheville filmmaker Paul Schattel recently launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking funding for a new film project called American Breakdown. Schattel and his crew have been making indie films for years. Steve Agnew will serve as director of photography, Shane Meador is production designer, and here’s a list of the talent, according to the Kickstarter: “indie film dignitary Frank Mosley will play Elliot, while the busiest lady in showbiz, Rebecca Morris, will portray Mona. Mondy Carter will showcase his talents as Rourke, and in his screen debut, Henry Rojas stars as Gabriel.”
Here’s the press releease:
Or, Why An Established Filmmaker Wrote a Big Part In a Movie For a Mexican Drag Performer Who Had Never Acted Before, and Other Conundrums
When Asheville-based writer/director Paul Schattel set out to tell an American story – you know, a story about Americans – the veteran filmmaker suddenly found himself enthusiastically creating and writing a juicy role for a Mexican drag artist who had never acted before.
“I usually tell regional stories – Southern stories,” Schattel explains. “But I met Henry Rojas on a documentary I helped produce for my friend, Rod Murphy. It was called “Ms. Gay Latina,” about a drag/trans beauty pageant in Asheville, made up entirely of mostly gay Latinos who perform onstage. Rod set it up almost as a sports event – who will win? Who will lose? It was actually pretty exciting.”
The entire documentary team was impressed by all the girls, but one of them in particular seemed to stand out – Henry Rojas. “Henry was just so charismatic, so nice, so compelling, that we naturally circled around him. Rod wanted Henry to be the ‘main character’ of the story.”
So a few years later, when Schattel sat down to write a new movie – that movie about American Americans – he couldn’t get Henry out of his mind. He knew that the performer had pretty much everything an actor needs to be compelling onscreen – charisma, looks, talent – everything that is, except acting experience.
“I’ve worked with non-actors before, and you can tell pretty quickly which ones can step up to the plate and be themselves, and which ones will wilt underneath the camera’s gaze. I had a gut feeling that Henry was the former. So I asked him to participate, he said yes, and so I wrote him a pretty huge part. I think Henry, working in and among all the other very experienced actors, will hold his own very easily.”
American Breakdown is about a struggling musician whose van breaks down in an isolated redneck town, and the way he has to come to terms with both the town’s somewhat eccentric residents and his own rebelling psyche. It shares a kind of tragicomic DNA with Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and the Coen Bro’s Inside Llewyn Davis, but filtered through a contemporary rural Southern sensibility.
To get funding, Schattel reluctantly turned to Kickstarter – “I hate self-promotion, I hate asking for assistance, and I’m very shy in general,” he says – but it seemed like it could work. Schattel has had years to build up a good reputation in the industry, has multiple award-winning features to his name, and knows how “look like I know what I’m doing.”
“Crowdfunding is a terrific tool if you know how to go about it,” Schattel explains. “Obviously it’s work. Sometimes it feels like it’s easier to actually make the money yourself than to go out and crowdfund it. But the thing I like best about it is that it allows you to directly interact with your audience. There’s no filter. That’s a valuable thing.
“Also – and this is very important – Kickstarter allows you to have full creative control. I’ve learned that when you deal with a production company or financier, they have opinions. Sometimes those opinions may not jibe with yours. But in a crowdfunding situation, the only opinions that really matter are, for better or worse, your own. It can be a pure expression of your own creativity.”