It was an ordinary cold day at the Sundance Film Festival when I met filmmaker Brent Florence. Typical of many young independent filmmakers, Florence wrote, directed, edited and acted in his latest feature film, Eagles in the Chicken Coop. He gave me an early edit of the film while I was street performing on Main Street in Park City and a few weeks later I put it in my laptop to watch while eating dinner.
Knowing nothing about Florence or the film, I started hesitantly watching and decided that if I wasn’t into the story by the time I was finished with dinner I could always turn it off and do something else with my night.
That’s not what happened at all…
Eagles caught me from the start, or should I say, caught me off guard from the start… The story follows two idealistic artists chasing their dreams in Hollywood and their hilarious journey while making a late-nite mature film. Their big break directing turns out to be anything but as they struggle to shoot required sex scenes and make art with a jaded cast of “skin-flick” regulars.
I found myself laughing, embarrassed for them and even sympathizing for Bill and Armondo too. I think any artist who has struggled and felt the pull of art vs. business can relate to this film. It should be a must see for film students and hopefuls moving to LA or NY to be filmmakers.
The story in the film stemmed from real-life experiences Florence (and his friends) had as relatively unknown writers and directors in Hollywood. After releasing his first feature length Independent film, A Girl, Three Guys and A Gun, Florence got his first taste of the brass tax reality behind the business of selling movies. “It can be pretty ugly. I found out the hard way the levels people and companies will go to to stay above water. The excitement and promises we were given went out the window quick after we signed off on our film.”
He spent a year disheartened by the experience before becoming inspired to make Eagles in the Chicken Coop.
Florence and his friend and fellow actor Kenny Luper decided put their pens to the paper to tell a high concept story about artists who land in the most formulaic and “least artistically” driven movie genre in Hollywood; the Mature genre.
After finishing the script Florence assembled a team of talented friends including Bryan Bihari and James Bass as producers to make the most of what budget they had raised to produce Eagles. They knew to accomplish the film without major infrastructure they would have to stay on their toes and be ready to adapt to the elements constantly.
On set, they dealt with leaking school buses during storms, fires, accidents and injuries. I discovered that one of my favorite scenes in the film came as a result of an accident: While prepping to shoot a scene, they realized they didn’t have a moustache they needed for an actor. Without time to drive hours to get one they decided to cut real human hair and make a moustache themselves. The situation was so honest and funny they added it to the story and shot the entire experience.
“We were very lucky with the cast who came on board, not only were they talented– but they let us glue freshly cut hair onto their lip as a make-shift mustache before a love scene!” Florence added laughing.
Eagles in the Chicken Coop was performed by an impressive and eclectic ensemble. It was lead by a trio of young actors in Florence, Kenny Luper and Chloe Snyder. However, it also stars Oscar nominated Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13, Made of Honor), Dwight Ewell (Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), Bruce Abbott (Humble Pie, Re-Animator), Vincent Young (Beverly Hills 90210) and Alex Holdridge and Sara Simmonds who won the Independent Sprit Award for their film In Search of a Midnight Kiss.
Since it began the festival circuit, Eagles in the Chicken Coop itself has picked up awards at nearly every festival it has entered. Premiering in Hollywood at the famous Egyptian theater, Eagles took home the Best Director award and has gone on to win awards on two continents with multiple Best Picture Awards, Best Directing, Best Screenwriting and Best Editing awards.
“It’s amazing now how much you can do on a reasonable budget. A small talented team can turn a passion project into a real film. The technology is there now from production and post production though exhibition to get it done and out there!”
Eagles was all edited on one Apple computer which attracted representatives from Apple’s iTunes Movies who after seeing the film early in it’s festival run approached Florence with the opportunity to release it on iTunes Movies home page.
“Our film was made just outside the system but after Apple released it, it went straight to a mainstream audience! Its a dream come true to have audience members, real people, across the country watching your film and even reviewing it, if they wanted! Oh, and of course liking it.–We were in iTunes Top Charts for “all” Comedies. Beside the biggest studio comedies of the year!”
Florence explained that as a young filmmaker, if you’re serious, you can make films that are on a mainstream level, even in the ball park of the studio films… “while you’re waiting to get noticed by the studios.
“Everyone has the ability to do this with independent film now.”
Eagles has been building its audience slowly between film festivals and over the Internet. You can watch it on HYPERLINK “mailto:http://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/eagles-in-the-chicken-coop/id472529790” iTunes or come to its New York premier on Friday May 11th at the HYPERLINK “mailto:http://theunitedfest.com/newyork/schedule/” New York United Film Festival where it will open the festival with Florence and some of the cast in attendance.
Although all indie films hope to be the breakout film of the year Florence and Treasureview Pictures (the company formed to make Eagles) are happy to know there is a place now through all the digital platforms where non-studio films can have a home. Treasureview Pictures has chosen to maintain the rights to Eagles and release the film strategically through the various Internet and television platforms.
They are currently developing multiple feature film projects and a television series spin-off from Eagles.
I don’t know of another independent film that has done so well that hasn’t been sold to a major distributor and as an artist myself who has taken this route of self-release with my music I’m excited to see filmmakers doing this now too.