The “making of” sounds so cliche’ … and a much less-than story of how this film …
this journey … and Adam & Dave themselves “made us” instead.
—Eric Geadelmann, Director/Producer
After learning that we had the incredible opportunity to World Premiere DAVE at the Cinequest Film Festival, and were going to be the recipient of the prestigious THRIVE AWARD, my bride Angie became increasingly nervous.
She went online and found video clips of previous Cinequest award winners and their “acceptance speeches.”
“You know you have to get up and say something, right? And it’s got to be GOOD! …So, what are you going to say?” she would ask at least a couple of times a day for several weeks.
I shrugged. I was having a hard time processing all of this after a six-year endeavor to actually make this movie … and was scrambling hard to just finish it in time! “Acceptance Speeches” were way down the list. Plus, they’re easy, right? Just say something flattering about yourself – but in a pseudo-demeaning type of way; acknowledge one or two (including your agent), give a tearful nod to your significant other and tell your kids to go to bed. Oh, and thank God, also. Hopefully not in that order.
Piece of cake.
After a final ten-day, round the clock blitz to get it scored, finish final cut and lock it up I was sitting in the Denver airport completely spent, thumbing through some magazine. And, of all places to find “inspiration” there it was … there she was.
I am almost embarrassed to admit that on the pages of a Louis Vuitton ad, next to the “inspiring” Angelina Jolie sitting in some busted canoe in the middle of a swamp … were the words
A SINGLE JOURNEY CAN CHANGE THE COURSE OF A LIFE
Now, it didn’t inspire me to run out and buys some overpriced luggage, but it did HIT me that this “journey of Dave” was, in fact, changing my life—and with the exception of a (miraculous) 16 year marriage and three beautiful young children (thankfully they take after their mommy) this film was … is the most significant thing that I have been involved in.
Go ahead and laugh. I laughed at myself for actually “feeling” this Louis Vuitton ad line when I read it.
Particularly because you’ve got to understand that in a previous life, any notion of “journeys” and crap like that I just scoffed at. For me, it was about the outcome. About the prize. About the goal line; followed by a very brief (and usually obnoxious) touchdown celebration and then the next sprint to the next goal line.
And I used to score.
So much, in fact, that after a successful “exit” of a tech company I co founded I had “made it” to the extent of being able to wake up at noon on a horse farm outside of Nashville and drink beer and play golf everyday. But the collateral damage had been pretty extreme in getting there and there was a deep longing to do something more significant than just lower my handicap and raise my barley and hops consumption.
So, what’s all of this have to do with the “making of Dave?” Hang on, I’m getting there – I think.
The aforementioned longing crystalized into an endeavor to make films—specifically, true art that tells legitimate stories of a redemptive nature—biographical dramas that reveal the brokenness in all of us and how in the most unlikely places and with the most unlikely people hope is realized.
Uhhh, pretty lofty and even sort of deep for some tech guy who grew up in rural Arkansas, was a frat boy in Texas and whose primary experience was talking about artificial intelligence and healthcare, hitting a little white ball and ordering another round.
But this longing led me into the largest prison in America – Angola; the Louisiana State Penetentiary. No, not as an inmate; but to make a feature documentary (The Dance) on the remarkable story of Billy “The Kid” Roth who was a washed up, journeyman prize fighter that had volunteered over forty-four years to serve as a surrogate father to the “worst of the worst” – using boxing as a way to connect with them. I saw first-hand how remarkable it was for a single (“unlikely”) individual to change the lives of others.
I put the golf clubs away.
And, as the “Hollywood gods” would have it, through the film, others saw that too. And, saw an opportunity. The end result was a world premiere at the top 5 film festival in the world, a Variety review that I couldn’t have written any better that went so far to say that this story would make a major motion picture, major agency representation, a multi-project partnership with Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage and a deal with Universal Pictures.
Now, I don’t say this to try to impress you, but to impress upon you that this was clearly over my head. I would love to take credit for all that happened early on, but really can’t … planets just seemed to line up
I faxed my front page article in the Hollywood Reporter back to my parents in rural Arkansas and my mom called to congratulate me, expressing “we’re so proud of you … now who is that Nicolas Cage actor?” That was priceless … and should have served to ground me …
That was October of 2003. Cut to October 2010 and in seven “short” years, along with a handful of others, was able to leverage that single documentary to build a Nashville-based diversified media company with divisions in film, television, music, digital media and public relations. Highlights included Oscar and Grammy nominations for projects the company participated in; first-of-their-kind digital media initiatives with major labels and networks, A-list projects with A-list attachments, etc. etc.
But I was a long way away from a dark prison with Billy Roth … a long way a way from a smelly gym in Hollister with Adam and Dave—and a long way from those stories … the “why” I had gotten into this to begin with.
DAVE had begun four years earlier and was sitting, waiting …
… while I was forced to essentially dismantle the company that I had invested so much in creating – primarily due to a global economic meltdown and a $325 million financing package from Singapore that we had “obtained” but not closed on yet … that imploded; as did these ambitions and actual opportunity to create and run a mini-major studio.
Suddenly, with literally everything I had into this endeavor and on the line, my main ambitions just became how to break even on the sale of the farm … how to buy my daughter diapers.
I was a long ways a way from waking up at noon and wondering what time I teed off. I hadn’t had a front page Hollywood Reporter article in awhile. I hadn’t heard from my agent. But I was hearing from investors, creditors and other ticked off agents pretty regularly.
During this time, I was driving down our road and a neighbor, hit songwriter (and sage) Tom Douglas, was getting his mail. I stopped to quickly catch up and he asked me “Whatever happened to that project about that big basketball player that was falling through the cracks up there in Missouri?”
I gave some lame reply about corporate restructuring and recapitalization, the largely non-commercial prospects of non-fiction and where we were focusing, blah, blah, blah.
Tom just gave me a puzzled look, shook his head and matter-of-factly stated, “All I know is you need to finish that film—you need to tell that story. The rest will take care of itself.”
I sort-of nodded, shrugged (thinking to myself he doesn’t really get it) and drove off.
Well, Tom must have started something because it kept gnawing at me. I had the DAVE trailer on my desktop but hadn’t watched it in a long, long time. One day as I sat dazed at what all had happened at the corporate level, I clicked on it.
I wept some more.
Tom was right.
I had been entrusted to tell this story and had failed to steward it properly. Sure, I could state all kinds of legitimate reasons about corporate priorities, etc, etc. but at the end of the day they were all excuses.
In watching the trailer, the part that hit me the hardest was watching Dave and Adam walking down the railroad track and hearing the voice over from Dave’s mother, “God’s got all kinds of ways in bringing people together.”
And now, I needed those people.
Once upon a time, my quarterly golf expenses (including cigars) would have easily been able to finance the rest of the film. But not anymore …
I was in need.
Shortly thereafter, I received an email from Charlie Peacock – a friend and one of the most amazing “multi-hyphenates” ever (songwriter/artist/musician/producer/author/etc) who said that the multi-platinum, award winning pop/rock band THE FRAY was coming to Nashville to go into the studio and the lead (Isaac Slade) wanted to stay out on some land in a cabin or guest house. We were going to be gone for part of the time that he needed a place, and as I am a fan of the band and Isaac’s writing, artistry and sensibilities I hit Charlie back that he could have our place. No rent, no strings … no agenda. Just seemed like the thing to do.
Within thirty minutes, Isaac emailed me himself and we quickly began some quirky banter. Looking back it was kinda strange, actually. How quickly we fell into stride and it was as if we’d known each other awhile.
Anyway, between the time of the first back and forth and when Isaac was coming to town, my plans had changed and I was going to be there. I arranged an alternative for him at a farm around the bend because I didn’t want to mess with his vibe, but he thought it would be cool to stay at our place, “Shoeless Acres,” anyway.
His first day there, during an “epic Shiner Bock night” (his words) on my back porch overlooking the river where a lot of relatively deep stuff was actually discussed, he expressed his passion for film and told me a little about his Denver-based production company. Although he was naturally into some of our higher profile projects (a Grisham novel, Hank Williams biopic, etc) he seemed to focus in on this Adam and Dave story …
And the next morning, after watching the trailer … he asked what I had to do to get it made. And left it at that.
Three hours later, from the studio on THE FRAY’s first day of recording SCARS & STORIES he e-mailed me and said that he wanted to introduce me to his partner and that they wanted to make DAVE with me.
Have you seen the trailer? Have you heard Dave’s mom say God’s Got All Kinds Of Ways In Bringing People Together?
Cut to 5 months later at baggage claim, carousel 6, at the San Diego International Airport and a professional Trek cyclist—the number two mountain racer in the world who happens to be Isaac’s partner and an incredibly talented shooter/director/editor—walks up with his producing partner with huge smiles and the journey of DAVE (yes, I actually said the word “journey”) continues … cameras rolling again. Kelly “Ga-Ga” Magekly and Chris “I’m not afraid to get my haircut during an afternoon of deadline-editing” Sattel, ladies and gentlemen (Filament Productions)!
Realize, however, that would not have been possible if I hadn’t “bumped” into highly regarded music executive (artist management, record label co founder, etc), Dan Pitts. He and I had coached our sons together in basketball the season before – knew “of” each other but didn’t know each other. And, as anyone in the industry expresses, “let’s hook up and try to connect the dots” (or something like that).
Rarely does that actually happen, but after Dan and I reconnected we were actually intentional and got together. After the high-level discussion and catch-up, I showed him the trailer.
He was pretty quiet afterwards.
Then he asked what I needed to do to finish it. I told him.
He nodded his head and said “we’re in.” The “we” he was referencing included his longtime client/partner Toby McKeehan, aka TobyMac—an iconic writer/artist/producer with multi-platinum sales and a crazy amount of awards including a shelf full of Grammys (both for DC Talk and as a solo artist). But beyond the talent and accolades, and like Isaac, he’s got an amazing heart for others and a drive to change the world.
Dan Pitts, ladies & gentlemen!
An interesting side note is that my son, Kurt, was placed on the wrong team. He shouldn’t have even been on Dan’s basketball team to begin with.
By the way, did I ask if you have seen the trailer? Have you heard Linda Sterling?
Filament is based in Denver, and one of the challenges going into this was getting our arms around the 130 hours of footage, plus shooting new stuff, and in an incredibly short time period. Remarkably, my original DP and co-producer from 5 years ago, from Missouri, had just moved to Denver and was immediately available to dive back in!
Ok, read that again. Seriously, read that again.
Tim Oliphant (aka “The Timinator” as he won NBC’s The American Gladiator during this time) was right where he needed to be … and right on time.
Now, I’m not going to ask you, but tell you to go watch the dang trailer and listen to Mrs. Sterling!
Beyond Isaac, Kelly, Chris, Dan, Toby, and Tim, my LA-based partners and highly regarded industry insiders Randy Paul and Matt Summers have been real brothers on this journey … as has my Austin amigo, Craig Eiland, who continued to believe and provide, and my old compadre back on Sawyer Bend Road, Michael Jeansonne, the pantanal jungle leader Ben Horton and CAL. I don’t have the words to express how much these cats mean to me … and to this film. Would not have been possible without each of them.
Additionally, my producing partners (for multiple projects)—Academy Award winner Mark Johnson and Oscar-nominated Mike Tollin—have hung in there with me and provided much more than they realize, as has screenwriter Neil Tolkin and CAA’s Jon Levin. The word “thanks” doesn’t even come close. And I’m proud and excited that this is the team that is moving forward with the scripted version of Adam’s story – picking up where the documentary ends.
Finally, you should know that the week that the edit was finished was the very same week that THE FRAY released SCARS & STORIES.
Okay, I’m not even going to mention the trailer again.
But I will say that this single journey, and the people involved, have, in fact, changed my life … beginning with the incredible Joe White telling me about Adam and Dave, to Adam and Dave themselves, to all the aforementioned individuals and so many more, like the wonderful people of Hollister, who participated in so many ways. Especially my bride, Angie, who has endured more than most could even imagine, let alone experience, and has just become stronger and an even greater source of beauty and inspiration.
Look, I don’t much care about your religion or lack thereof … I’m not into your doctrinal theologies or political ideologies, or whatever … that’s not my trip. I care about you, but not really all that other stuff. Regardless of what you subscribe to and believe (or don’t), my prayer is that at some point in your own life you get led down an unexpected path and on a journey that enables you to experience something as deep and as meaningful … and get to live first-hand what we were able to with DAVE.
My guess is that if you open yourself up and become intentional in investing in the lives of others, you will. And prayerfully, it changes you and those around you like it has changed us.
Thank you for your interest and consideration. I truly hope you enjoy DAVE.
Yessir, yessir (shout out to you, Birdsong)
Geadelmann @ 821entertainment.com
NOTE: The (magic) trailer that I might have referenced above, and much of the beautiful cinematography in the film, would not have been possible without SAM DITORE and SCOTT MAYO (www.ditoremayo.com). Their talents and sacrifices are beyond measure in enabling DAVE to become a reality. This is their film too.