Set in the mid-1970s, Easy Does It follows two best friends, Jack and Scottie, who go on a mad journey out west in a flashy Ford Mustang to find hidden treasure. Linda Hamilton, most commonly known for her role as Sarah Connor in the first two Terminator films, stars as King George, the matriarchal crime boss who sends her bounty-hunter daughter in hot pursuit of our protagonists. This comedy plays like Natural Born Killers if it was a bromance. The dialogue is witty and outrageous and the actors’ delivery is equally over the top. The cinematography plays on the expressiveness of the dialogue’s delivery with quick zoom transitions of characters faces and montage sequences. Some of the film was shot on 16mm, and the overall look lends itself to the gritty grindhouse style. I caught up with Will Addison, the director of Easy Does It, to get the grainy details.
Easy Does It was produced locally. What were some major influences for shooting/producing and having New Orleans as a homebase?
The creative collaboration between New Orleans artists is phenomenal.Even if funds are slim (which is almost always the case) everyone helps each other out. Our core filmmaking team was made up of two local filmmaking collectives—EFI Productions and Worklight Pictures, both of which were founded by UNO film program alums. People with all kinds of different artistic backgrounds came together to help realize this project. We had people who work on massive studio movies and people who had never set foot on a film set before. We had a prominent local drag queen helping with wigs, theater lighting designers helping us fake night driving shots, painters designing our title sequence.
I know there was a lot of crowdfunding involved in the movie. Could you talk about that and how it impacted the whole process of making the film?
We had been hitting the ground hard, meeting with investors for a while. After what felt like the hundredth “no” we decided to get the ball rolling ourselves through Kickstarter’s crowdfunding platform. We shot a concept trailer to show people what the movie would be like and planned a grassroots marketing strategy before launching our campaign with a goal of $25,000. With the generous support of our friends, families, and community members we made our goal by the skin of our teeth. Not long after the campaign, our executive producer Alexa Georges came on board. Super savvy business woman and a perpetual beacon of light for New Orleans filmmaking. Without her, none of this would be possible. She brought a level of experience and legitimacy that elevated the project to the next level.
There are some really great over-the-top characters in this movie. Can you talk about inspirations for some of these characters?
I love movies with a heightened sense of reality. There’s nothing better than being magically transported into colorful worlds with absurd characters. New Orleans is brimming with real-life eccentric characters. There’s inspiration around every corner. Take your favorite wacky personalities, mix them up, dial it up to eleven and you’ve got a cinematic stew going. Of course, the trick is to know when to reel them back because the goal is always to have a unified feel across the board. Going too big or too small can put a character at risk of feeling like they don’t belong in the movie’s world. To help balance the tone of our cartoonish characters I researched movies with similar elements by filmmakers like the Coen Brothers, Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson, and Guy Ritchie.
The 1965 Ford Mustang is such a crucial part of the movie. What went into getting the car? Was any restoration needed to make it run?
The car is almost like another character in the movie and it needed a big personality—to be cool and fun, the quintessential expression of freedom on the open roads. We searched for months trying to find the perfect muscle car. We went to car shows, picture car rental houses, talked with classic car clubs, scoured the internet… and just when we thought we weren’t going to find it, a beautifully restored 1965 Mustang went up for sale on Craigslist in the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. It was gorgeous. Newly painted with a sparkling, shiny blue body and white pinstripes. And for the price, it was the deal of the century. But because the movie takes place in a dirty, broken down rural fantasy world, it needed to feel lived in, banged-up, free-wheeling. We had no choice but to strip off the paint, break pieces off, bust it up and add our own rusty Evel Knievel style paint job. We broke a lot of hearts that day, but the end result was beautiful in its own way. It was exactly what we needed to tie the whole movie together.
Shooting on film can get very costly. What were the pros of shooting on film for this movie?
As much as I would’ve loved to shoot the entire movie on film, only a small portion was shot on a Bolex 16mm. Cost, efficiency, and visual effect workflow all factored into our decision to mix film with digital. We’re broke artists after all, making this on a shoestring budget. Sometimes you don’t want to risk destroying an expensive camera for a cool shot of a car driving over it. The whole shooting process was a very rough and tumble experience. We actually used twelve different cameras throughout the making of the movie. Our cinematographer, Bruno Doria, was a wizard at finding unique and exciting solutions to budgetary restraints and he did it in a way that was not only economical, but also beautifully cinematic. During the color grading process in post-production it was difficult matching the smorgasbord of cameras we used. Different brands, resolutions, color sensors, etc. It’s a real testament to our colorist, Bradley Greer, who was able to take all of these crazy different cameras and make the movie feel like it was all shot with a singular 16mm camera. For the look we researched film stocks and grain levels from the late 60s and early 70s—movies like Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Badlands, French Connection, and Midnight Cowboy.
Were there any attempts at trying to do experimentation to the film itself, like push/pull processing or intentional light leaks?
We talked about things like that in the early stages, but because we ended up shooting more digitally it made sense to incorporate things like that in post-production, giving us more control over the image.
Easy Does It has a lot of fast-paced transitions. Was that discussed beforehand or did it come naturally in the editing process?
Easy Does It was originally a short film I made in 2012 as an experiment to bend the conventional rules of filmmaking and try out a more visually unique approach to directing. At the time I was obsessed with Edgar Wright’s use of smash-zoom transitions in movies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It’s such an exciting and flexible style of transitioning between scenes and can be used for both comedic and dramatic effect. When I teamed up with Ben Matheny to write the feature version we decided to keep that style and write it into the script, as we felt it had become a defining feature of the Easy Does It vibe. Once we entered post-production, our editor, Stephen Pfeil, found new and creative ways to embellish the fast-paced transition style throughout the film and we ended up incorporating additional flicker-transitions influenced by Easy Rider.
What makes grassroots storytelling like this so important?
It really connects the community. The bonds we created across the Gulf Coast have connected people to New Orleans in ways we never thought possible. As the characters in our movie travel across America they also encounter people from all walks of life, each with hopes and dreams of their own. Everyone’s striving for something different, but it’s the journey that connects us all.
The world premiere of Easy Does It will be Friday, October 18 at the Orpheum Theater. For more info on the film, check out easydoesitmovie.com. For more info and up-to-date info on the New Orleans Film Festival, check out neworleansfilmsociety.org