Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Indie Film Spotlight - Don't Pass Me By

Welcome to the debut of Indie Film Spotlight, a monthly column that will focus on independent films you may not have otherwise had a chance to ever hear about. Watch for exclusive content like cast and crew interviews and anything else we can throw your way!

Don't Pass Me By is an independently produced film created by the writing, producing, and acting team of Katy K. Burton and Rachel Noll along with first time director Eric Priestley. The movie's ensemble cast also features Keith David, C. Thomas Howell, Jake Busey, Liz Wicker, Elizabeth Izzo, Jeremy London, and Sean Stone. Our exclusive Indie Film Spotlight features our review, an exclusive interview, and info about how you can see this movie today!

Told in overlapping vignettes, Don't Pass Me By follows four women as they deal with personal crises that will become turning points in their lives. Jill (Nancy Karr) is struggling with a relationship that seems to be going nowhere while a long time friend waits in the wings. Brooke (Izzo) is a teenager who finds herself in a dire situation which also affects her older sister Samantha (Wicker) and her efforts to start a family. Danielle is an actress who must decide between her personal life and a career that is about to take off. Finally, just as Hannah receives devastating news about her health, she meets a man that changes her life forever.

"This moment we're living in right now is the only real place we can make a change." This quote from C. Thomas Howell's character really defines the message this movie is trying to get across. The main lesson the primary characters need to learn is how to truly live in the moment rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Noll and Burton seemed to have thrown everything they could into the script and what I really enjoyed most was how well they were able to weave in and out of each individual story without losing the emotional impact of any single one. For a first effort, that is quite the achievement.

If I were to point out any flaws, it might be lack of character development, which I believe is more a natural by-product of this kind of story telling rather than a deficiency in how the movie was made. There were also some technical issues that point towards the inexperience of a first time director, but nothing that would derail the movie in any way. That being said, I was still impressed with the overall level of quality for a movie that was not pumped out of the Hollywood machine. Don't Pass Me By is the kind of independent filmmaking we really need right now. This is honest story telling that may not have all the bells and whistles, but still hits all the right notes when it counts the most.

Check out our exclusive interview with Rachel Noll!
After reading the bio on your website, it appears you have a wide variety of projects in the works and you're putting on a lot of different hats to get them done including producer, writer, and actress. What's the biggest thing you learned from basically building this movie from the ground up that you can apply to future projects?

Rachel Noll:
So much. I didn't know anything about producing a film before we started on Don't Pass Me By. Katy K. Burton and I joke about this film being our grad school. Every step of the way we were confronted with something new that we had never done before, and were forced to learn by trial and error. It was terrifying at times, but we learned so much. My experiences on Don't Pass Me By de-mystified the process for me. So now producing a film doesn't seem like such an enormous and impossible task, it's just a series of steps that you have to take one at a time. Moving forward into other projects I feel like I now have a solid understanding of how a movie comes together from script to distribution, and that in and of itself is a huge victory.
From a creative standpoint, what was the biggest challenge in bringing this story to the screen?

Rachel Noll:
Probably the enormity of the cast, and the interweaving of the multiple story lines. The film has four intersecting stories, with four different casts.  Choosing a vignette style film for our first feature was an ambitious undertaking, and finding the flow of the stories and how they wove together was an integral part of making this film work. We had several of the actors working with us to outline and improv their story arcs before we cemented the script, and we had huge white boards with all of the scenes written out on notecards that we shuffled around. The order of the scenes was so important, because even if all of the story lines were working perfectly on their own, if they didn't find a natural flow together, the film wouldn't work. It took some trial and error in the script phase, and during the edit before we found that flow, but when it clicked in, the movie really came to life.
My first thought while watching the movie was how each woman's story line dealt with a pretty serious topic whether it be health, love, or family so I'm wondering if there were any specific real life inspirations or ideas that made you want to tell these particular stories.

Rachel Noll:
None of these story lines are directly pulled from real life, though certainly they touch on emotions and experiences that we've had. We wanted to illustrate a moment of choice for each character. A situation that pushed them to a point where a change had to occur. And we thought about the different ways people find those "wake up" calls in life. Usually it involves a crisis with the things that matter most to them... health, love, family, career.... so those are the areas we explored.

Each vignette was written specifically for the actors who were going to play the roles, so we were able to see pairings from a very early stage, and write accordingly. For example, Liz Izzo and Elizabeth Wicker who play Brooke and Samantha Morton, look so much alike. And Izzo has such a great rebellious teenage look to her. So the idea for a relationship story about estranged sisters came into our heads. And as for my story line, which is certainly the most serious and devastating, I wanted to explore the extremes of a character finding love and death side by side. Hannah finds out she doesn't have long to live, and then meets the love of her life. As an actress, and as a writer, I thought the exploration of her struggle through that journey, and the way it transforms her, would be an interesting one to explore.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, I really enjoyed watching the movie and wish you all the best in the future.

Rachel Noll:
I'm really glad you enjoyed the film, thanks so much.

Where can you find Don't Pass Me By?

VOD release date: 02-01-2014.
Watch online on Itunes, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Xbox, Playstation, Google play and more. If you have Dish, Cox, Charter, Verizon Fios, AT&T Uverse, you will find it On Demand.

DVD release date: 02-12-2014.
Purchase online at Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.


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