Sunspots could be the next Sideways, yet-seemingly cursed by Murphy and his relentless law-the film remains stuck in the underground, somewhere in the vast space between an abandoned student project and a potential Kevin Smith-type sensation.
Oooh, underground-the very word makes you want to scramble for a copy, doesn't it? Too bad, you can't have one because the film isn't quite done. The ragtag San Diego filmsters behind the psychological thriller say they'll have it completed soon. Hopefully.
The film's director, 27-year-old Toby Nordquist, laughed when asked about the future of Sunspots. "Well, it's almost finished. We're gonna try to enter it in some festivals, hopefully in the next couple of weeks."
Nordquist can't make any guarantees. If the next few weeks are anything like the last year and a half, completion of the film is, in cinematic parlance, an extreme long shot.
Think beyond your typical trials and tribulations; think broken and stolen cameras; think burned-down studios; think no audio, none.
The camera thing was no easy feat:
Take 1: "The first month we spent shooting the wrong image," Nordquist said. "The viewfinder was off. I saw one frame but the camera shot another. People's heads were cut off in almost every shot."
Take 2: "We took pieces from two different cameras and built one solid one," he said, "but it wasn't really put together well. It fell apart from time to time."
Take 3: "Someone stole our goddamn camera."
The crew eventually settled on a non-sync camera (just video, no sound), which led to the next little hang-up. Putting the audio back in sync with the video was "frustrating," said sound engineer William Nephew, who lived in a studio known as "The Church" during the six months it took to get Sunspots back on track. "It's frustrating just thinking about it. We had to rerecord and recreate every single sound in the movie."
The studio where Sunspots was originally to be edited (and Nephew's home) fell victim to the 2003 Cedar fire.
In his new home, Nephew would wake up to the glaring light of the editing terminal. Along with Nordquist and Ian Spohr, contributing editor and audio guy, Nephew stayed up for hours trying to read lips and match up words. "I think the longest stretch was 48 hours, no sleep," he said.
"One shot in particular was the reflection in a payphone of a guy talking, so you see his mouth in the silver part of the payphone. We had no idea what he was saying because the script had changed by that point. That was the hardest part; we never got it on. We tried for about three weeks on that scene alone."
The guy doing the ventriloquist act on the phone is Charles Hayes-he plays the central role in Sunspots. At this point in the film, he has escaped an insane asylum where he's told (or not-remember, it's a psychological thriller), that he only has eight hours left to live.
Seven hours and 38 minutes until a vein inside my head bursts, sending a flood of blood into my skull, drowning my cerebral cortex with every heartbeat until my brain suffocates.
His inner dialogue is indicative of the film's entire mood. It's dark with sharp, quick cuts that lead you through a twisted story that ends where it began.The producer, Baubak Bagherpour, says once Sunspots hits the film-festival circuit, he thinks it has a chance. That is, unless Murphy decides to step in again and lay down his Law, perhaps this time digging a grave and forever banishing Sunspots to the cold, dark underground-the real underground