Over the course of our lives, we all receive a handful of phone calls that we can never forget. Exactly where we were, who we were with, the weather that day. Every detail permanently etched into our memories.
When reflecting back on the making of No Escape, there are three phone calls that epitomize the incredible highs and crushing lows of this odyssey. Three calls that changed my life.
I moved to New York City in my early 20s. My brother John and I had been inseparable in our youth and often talked of making movies together. It was our pipe dream. But in those years we had begun drifting. We were living on opposite coasts, and the dream was fading fast.
Then I got the call. I was leaving a theater in Union Square and pulled my phone out to answer. It was my mom. And then I noticed while in the play I had missed 14 previous calls from her. This can't be good. I took a deep breath and answered. "Your dad's been in plane crash. You need to get to Fargo right away. They don't know if he'll make it through the night."
There are moments in life that change your perspective on absolutely everything. This was one of those moments.
In the wake of the crash, John and I stayed in Minnesota for an extended time. We watched our dad slowly fight his way back, re-learning how to read and write and tie his shoes, and eventually returning to his medical practice. Given the extent of his injuries, it was nothing short of miraculous.
John and I were suddenly spending significant time together for the first time in years. We started talking movies again. We breathed new life into the dream. We both instinctively knew that if we didn't take a run at the dream right away, we probably never would. Within a few months, John had a script and I had a business plan for what was to be our first movie.
Twelve years later, we had 4 features under our belts and felt things were going in the right direction. But No Escape was the one we really wanted to make. It had gotten so close and then fallen apart three times already, each time more heartbreaking than the last.
But we kept rebuilding it. And over Thanksgiving 2012, we were all set to go. John and I had flights to Thailand to start pre-production the next day. Actors' deals were done. Locations in Chiang Mai were locked. Our crew was all set. We had our going-away dinners. All that persistence had paid off and we were actually going to make this movie. We were beyond giddy. It's finally happening!
Then I got the call. It was the financier, "We have a problem, and we can't put you guys on that plane tomorrow." My vision became blurry, and I felt sick to my stomach. He kept talking, but I didn't need to hear any more. It was over. My boarding pass, already printed, mocked me from the dining room table.
Then I realized it was up to me to tell John. Never in my life have I dreaded making a call more than this one to my brother.
Professionally speaking, this the most difficult rebound we've ever had to make. This project had caused us so much pain already, but this time it was excruciating. Was it worth it? We decided, yes, it was. We were going to take one last shot. Ending on this note was unacceptable. We rolled up our sleeves and got back to work rebuilding it for the next year. After dozens of meetings and revised budgets, we eventually found the perfect financing partner. And as if a curse had been lifted, from that moment forward everything started breaking in our favor.
Eighteen months later we were back from Thailand and editing in Los Angeles. It was an indie and we still needed a distributor. Our sales agent took 12 minutes of footage to Cannes with a strategy of getting buyers excited for a sale at a later date.
Then I got the call. It was our agent. "A bidding war erupted. Harvey is making a move." As he continued, my eyes welled with tears of pure joy. Harvey f'ing Weinstein! When you come up making micro-budget films on the festival circuit, selling your film to Harvey Weinstein is the pinnacle of dream scenarios.
I had to tell John right away. Never in my life have I been more excited to make a call than this one to my brother.
John once said to me, "In this business there will be a lot of ups and downs, we need to keep our eyes on the horizon and tune out the turbulence." This was pointed advice in regards to the making of No Escape. And it sure helps to have a co-pilot.