I first had the idea for The Institution in March 2010. At that time I saw it as a webseries, and it has gone through many forms (in my head for the most part) since. The sequence went something like this: webseries sitcom webseries webseries sitcom feature webseries feature… Sound familiar to anyone? Maybe you’ve gone through this with an idea before, or maybe I’m just nuts, indecisive, or both.
Regardless, this thing has been bouncing around in my head, working itself out, for a year now. If I went webseries, I was definitely going to produce and direct it myself locally. If I went sitcom, I was going to pitch it to anyone who would listen in Hollywood, the same if I went feature.
I FINALLY made the final decision to go ahead and get this done MYSELF in February 2011. At that time I was still thinking this would be a great web series with episodes of five minutes or less with an eight-episode first ‘season.’ As I got deeper into my research of web series, I began to realize something… THEY’RE A LOT OF FUCKING WORK! It was going to be like digging in and filming eight short films in one big blast.
And that’s when it hit me. Actually, Edward Burns hit me, with his now-famous series of Tweets about his $9000 budget for Newlyweds, the feature film he just wrapped in NYC. You can read more about it at Filmmaker Magazine and a compilation of his Tweets about it on Notes On Video. More people jumped into that Edward Burns conversation, filmmakers I respect as much as Mr. Burns like Gary King. Gary filmed How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song with a three-man crew, multiple locations, and a micro-budget. And that’s not the only feature film he’s completed this way.
I reassessed. I have basically three locations: the Yard, the Prison Block, and the Confessional/Interview Room. My cast is extremely small, only three main players and a handful of limited supporting ones, five at the most unless I combine a couple (which is possible). I thought about it, thought about it, and thought about it. And I made the decision. If I was going to do this myself, I was going to do what all great men do: bet big to win big. If I was going to work that hard to make this happen, I was going to make what had inspired me to become a screenwriter in the first place… a fucking movie.
Alright, Already, What The Hell Is ‘The Institution’ About Anyway?!
The Institution is a scripted mockumentary about life inside America’s most notorious penal system.
NO, I’m not going to tell you what that penal system is, who runs it, or any other spoiler like that. You’ll have to wait for the crowd-funding campaign and teaser video that’ll come with it.
The Institution will take you deep inside the daily life of The Prisoner, a thirty-two year old man who has been a ‘guest’ of The Institution for three years. Those three years have gone relatively smoothly for him, ‘easy time’ you might say, but all that changes with the introduction of a new Warden.
Suffice to say this Warden has some very different ideas on how to run things, and life inside The Institution isn’t going to be so easy for The Prisoner anymore.
The Institution will also introduce you to another perspective of life inside, this from the perspective of The Guard, who runs things around The Prisoner’s cell block. A relative pushover for three years, things change drastically when the new Warden arrives.
Major influences for this film are every prison documentary I’ve ever seen; one of my favorite filmmakers and a king of this kind of comedy, Christopher Guest (because everyone knows 11 is louder than 10); and a heavy combination of Oxycodone, MD 20/20, and Sweet-n-Low.
Stay tuned for further updates, friends, this is going to be a wild ride.