Hollywood has always lured people with dreams of stardom or creative satisfaction behind the camera, but few Americans actually get there, and an even smaller number succeed.
Career counselors might advise starting young, doing entry-level jobs, but a Virginia man took a whole different path to his first feature film.
Growing up in Richmond, Eddie Mullins loved movies.
“I do, somewhere in my folks’ attic, have an illustration of every single scene from Empire Strikes Back. I mean I labored over that thing and wore out so many magic markers you wouldn’t believe.”
And after high school, he enrolled in film school, but four years at NYU taught him that making movies could be frustrating, tedious work that required patience and maturity.
“I used to think of film-making the way a little kid talks about wanting to be a fireman or an astronaut. It’s a lot more complicated than you think.”
So he traveled a bit, got a job writing reviews for a trendy New York magazine and began crafting scripts.
“I did a western, I did a thriller, I did a children’s picture, and then Doomsdays was the first project that was just unmitigated Mullins.”
In other words, this was the film Eddie Mullins actually wanted to make. It’s a comedy about two young guys named Bruho and Dirty Fred. They’ve decided the world will soon run out of oil, and the apocalypse will begin, so they’re enjoying the end days -- hiking around the Catskills, breaking into vacation homes – eating the food, drinking the booze, trashing gas guzzling cars, and in Fred’s case romancing the locals.
“Hello ladies. What are you drinking? Whiskey. That’s what I like to hear. Make it four -- two for them, two for me.”
It’s a funny, quirky story shot in less than three weeks, and Mullins didn’t even think of pitching it to Hollywood.
“I’ve had those experiences where I fly out for meetings with people. I had a script that was – they were writing up the contracts. They were just going to pave the streets with money for me, and then a similar project was announced at Warner Brothers, and suddenly my project was dead. I dealt with a lot of condescension or people wanting me to do massive rewrites for nothing, and I just think that way lies madness. I couldn’t do it.”
Instead, he raised about $200,000 from family, friends, Kickstarter and a variety of investors. He wrote and played the score himself, got neighbors in Kingston, New York to lend their homes as locations and recruited his friend – musician and actor Justin Rice – to play Dirty Fred opposite Leo Fitzpatrick, who played the young white drug addict on The Wire.
The result is a local product which could have international appeal.
“I like to think of my films as artisanal.”
It debuted at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, was a hit in Charlottesville, then headed to Denver, showed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and has been accepted at London’s comedy festival early next year. Mullins hopes one of those showings will net a lucrative distribution deal, but he’s satisfied with the way things are going, and does not regret releasing his first film just before turning 40.
“There is certainly a part of me that wishes I had gotten a feature off when I was 26, but I – in my heart of hearts – suspect that it would have been dreadful.”
Not so for Doomsdays, and Mullins is now at work on his second feature film – the story of a guy making a reality show about himself.