When aspiring independent filmmaker Justin Routt calls you up asking for help on his movie -- free help, that is -- don't think that just because the industry outsider has no money, connections, or prior experience in moviemaking, he'll be easily deterred. On the contrary.
Routt has somehow got it into his head that the more determined his approach, whether it be with directors, actors, or the media, the better the results. And so far it's working. "I read all these books and they told me if you can convince someone that you're serious, and you're not playing around; that you can show them parts of the script that you think are funny or how it would work; or that you're in this for the long haul and you want to make something out of it -- and it's not just some little fluke, it's something you really want to do and the timing's right -- then you'll have a much better chance," says Routt, a bartender at Captain's Tavern in Pinecrest, in his heady delivery.
Another weapon in Routt's arsenal is the film production guide for South Florida, listing everything and everyone even marginally associated with the craft. It's where he found the name of industry veteran Steve Sanacore, an Emmy-winning ABC After School Special director and current Palm Beach photographer, and convinced him to sign on as director of his first film project, Clear Cut. A few pages later, he came across Monica Olman from Non Stop Prop Shop on Miami Beach and talked her into being his production designer.
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Just like that, Routt had a production team assembled and making his movie in locations all over South Florida, from Churchill's to Key Largo to Boca Raton to downtown Miami. And except for film, gas money, and munchies on the set, it was all free. No second mortgage about it.
Timing was also important in finding the free help, since Olman, Sanacore, and the actors were looking to do something new in their careers, and Routt's script seemed a good enough project to make into a 30-minute short. The story revolves around several couples, a woman in midlife crisis, and a puppy bought by a young woman after reading a magazine article that says: "The way a man treats his dog is the way he'll treat his children." The dog turns out to be wild and when the characters pursue it, something happens to change their romantic lives.
And while you may wonder what a 43-year-old bartender with a shaved head and pirate's glint knows about puppy dogs and women's issues, a few hours at the bar should fill you in. Routt got much of his material for the film from his hours pouring pints and listening to the woes of unhappily married women -- in their forties. "I don't mean to exaggerate the point, but most women I meet in their forties are very unhappy in their marriage, their life, they have severe things they're looking at," says Routt, thrust into the role of therapist/bartender. "And I noticed a lot of them cheat, too, and that shocked me. I started asking them questions, and they were so open. I took out a notebook that I brought with me and took pages and pages of notes."
Those notes were condensed into part of Clear Cut, which has its premiere showing as part of the noncurated Made In Miami Film & Video Festival, running from January 14 to 25. The festival's Coconut Grove screenings, highlighting more than 40 locally connected films, will take place nightly at 7:00 and 9:00 at the historic Coast Guard seaplane hangar at 2600 Bayshore Dr. Clear Cut screens at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, January 18. Tickets cost $8. Call 305-751-7001 for more information about the festival and screening times or go to www.MadeInMiami.org.