Imagine the T. You’re in a car packed with silent, sad looking souls who probably have a lot to say and plenty of amazing stories to tell–so why is the only remotely sociable person a homeless man jogging down the aisle screaming obscenities to his hand?
In the film six strangers living in Boston come together to enjoy a free meal at the home of Danny, a failing journalism student. As part of a last minute extra credit assignment to save his grade, Danny has each person share a story from their lives in exchange for the home-cooked dinner.
What results is a night of laughter, embarrassing anecdotes, and some incredibly brave confessions from characters including an ex-refugee from Sudan whose four brothers had been abducted to become child soldiers; a retired baseball pitcher whose budding career was tragically ended in a devastating motorcycle accident; and a particularly troubled US soldier in Afghanistan who’s afraid more than any of the other guests to share his story, that of the suicide of his closest friend overseas.
The project is also significant in that it is almost completely funded by the relatively new website Kickstarter.com, where filmmakers, musicians, and other artists can create profiles, pitch ideas for new works and gather donations from anyone on the internet who’s interested in seeing a project take off.
At the moment, Stories for Dinner has garnered over 7,000 dollars—that’s more than sixty percent of their 12,000 dollar goal. Although they have a finished screenplay and a full cast, Dolph and his crew, also known as Rare Mint Productions, won’t begin shooting until the online goal, due the night of January 31st, is met.
We got a chance to sit down with Dolph and the Rare Mint boys to discuss the project. (The company consists of Dolph; Scott Louthan and Sam Howe, who co-produce and act in Stories; and Ricardo Monzon, the film’s executive producer).
So how did you come up with the idea for Stories for Dinner?
D: I was lying in bed one night, unable to sleep, and thinking, how could I make an interesting movie, one that has scope, and keep it almost entirely in one location? I don’t know, it kind of just came to me, this group of strangers all in a room as part of this event. I’ve always been really interested in creative nonfiction writing, so I put it in the lens of this student who’s pursuing that sort of thing.
In the script it mentions how the printed word is dying, but still you just have to keep going out and collecting these stories. It’s part of being human. It’s fighting the good fight.
Do you see yourself in Danny, or any of the other characters?
D: There’s hardly ever a work of fiction that’s not at least semi-autobiographical. But I think that the issues that Danny has, like slacking off in college, not being able to commit to his girlfriend, I think a lot of us can relate to that. And finding motivation in unexpected places. But the characters are mostly inspired by people I know. It’s hard to say though who’s fictional and who’s not. Some people are a spitting image of the stories they’re based on.
So how does Boston play into the story?
D: Boston is an incredibly interesting, complex character that takes a while to get to know. In other cities it opens up immediately in terms of its people. A lot of people here can be kind of cagey and defensive.
A lot of my characters have this really sharp, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, intelligent sense of humor that I think is a hallmark of the Northeast.
When I say the film is about Boston on a personal level, that’s what I think. A lot of these characters, I feel, are that essence of the people here.
Scott: And Boston is just the most recognizable city. It’s not like Chicago where everybody watching is like, what city is this? You see the skyline, see the Pru and the John Hancock building and you’re like, Boston! You can’t not know it.
D: I guess Boston is the eleventh character in the film. The tenth character is the snow, I was thinking (laughs).
What parts of the city are you guys shooting in? Have you had any problems? I know the T can be kind of stiff.
D: We’re trying to use a lot of iconic locations. There’s one shot of Danny on the Red Line crossing over the Charles with the skyline going by, listening to his girlfriend’s voicemail. I just love crossing that bridge. It’s one of the best parts of the city. I knew I wanted to have that in there. It just works. But shots on the T are going to be very limited and very guerilla. You may or may not want to mention that (laughs).
The screenplay is very dialogue driven, with very few sets. Does that come from your theater background?
D: Definitely. Other scripts I wrote were very dialogue driven. Just relationships, people getting together and exposing their inner truths. For a low budget movie that’s the most entertaining thing you can possibly do.
There’s a great quote that says every good story should be character driven. That’s definitely true whether you’re talking about Star Wars or My Dinner With Andre.
In the absence of action and multi-million dollar set ups and a thirty-five thousand dollar camera, our film is just packed with extremely interesting characters and what I’m sure are going to be incredible performances. We have a ridiculous cast.
What’s your experience been like with Kickstarter?
D: It’s awesome and it’s terrifying. It’s all or nothing. Either you make your goal, or you go bust. Nobody that pledged gets charged, and you don’t get charged anything, but you don’t get a cent. You’ve made a lot of people aware of your project, but you have no money. You look at the Kickstarter page and 900 people have “liked” it. We had 131 real backers as of this morning. So there’s a lot of people that need to be hit up a second time (laughs). But we’re trying to get creative. We’re doing a fundraising party on Saturday in South Boston at Legal Test Kitchen.
Ricardo: That’s pretty much our answer to everything. Throw a party.
D: With Kickstarter, though, we definitely want to give these people something they’ll be proud to donate to. I think Kickstarter itself is really in line with the spirit of our whole project. The audience is in charge of choosing its own entertainment. In LA I had three callback auditions for Gingerdead Man 3D. Which is like Child’s Play meets…
D: And so you see these movies with, like, a four million dollar budget and wonder, how do those people get money? It’s really refreshing to browse Kickstarter and see all the other features with the same exact budget as ours who’ve been successful, overfunded even. People rally behind it.
If you’re down for some rallying this weekend, hit up Legal Test Kitchen in South Boston Saturday night in support of Stories of Dinner.
Also! Check out their Kickstarter page. Feel free to donate, they’ve got less than two weeks to reach their goal. Just go easy on the “Likes.”