Screenwriter/director Edgar Michael Bravo speaks with Write On! about One Hour Fantasy Girl, a film that was conceived and marketed—and then found-distribution—via online channels. Based on a true story of survival, empowerment, and hope, the film is a compelling coming-of-age drama about a 20-year-old fantasy girl—caught in a web of deceit, betrayal, and murder … yet determined to survive. A graduate from the UCLA MFA directing program, Bravo (I’ll Love You Forever…Tonight) has directed three indie features and 60-minute television dramas, and sold the script, The Perfect Husband, to the producers of Leaving Las Vegas. Bravo is in pre-production on No Restrictions Entertainment’s next film—The Magic Stone—to be shot this November.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Bravo: I didn’t decide one day to be a writer. As an undergrad at UC Santa Cruz, I was a Theatre major and took a course on writing plays. I then had the chance to direct my play, and that’s what got me started. The success of the play gave me the confidence to write and direct my films.
How did you and producer John Paul Rice connect?
Bravo: I met John in Atlanta when I was prepping for an indie feature there—he then moved to Los Angeles and we worked well together so we formed a production company (No Restrictions Entertainment, LLC) to produce indie features.
Rice: Before I moved to Los Angeles, Edgar and I met through a mutual contact who was handling casting for him in Atlanta. We kept in touch as I read a few of his scripts and really enjoyed them. It wasn’t until a year into living in Los Angeles that I co-produced on his short film The Three Stages of Stan.
How did One Hour Fantasy Girl come about?
Bravo: John told me stories he heard about young women who were into the fantasy business to survive. The stories had humor and a strong drive to make it no matter what the odds. John set up some interviews and I combined different stories into the feature.
Rice: In July 2007, I was doing research on runaways from all parts of the country that had found themselves in Hollywood. I was interested in meeting those who had found a way to survive via a niche profession opposite of what was readily accessible in the adult entertainment world of Los Angeles. Many of them had a plan, dreams of becoming something more than just a “fantasy girl”. I liked the survivor aspect they possessed. They weren’t born with a silver spoon in hand yet never complained. It was the complexity of their lives and at the same time relating to them that ultimately led to the interest of doing the story. My feeling was that we are all survivors of something and sometimes we have to endure a path less desirable to make it to where we want to be. Telling a story about a person who endures pain to find empowerment was interesting to me. An emotional story about making the best with what you have while trying to achieve the American dream. The antithesis of Pretty Woman without the prostitution.
One Hour Fantasy Girl is unique in that it was basically conceived, cast, produced, and marketed through online channels: how did that happen? Was that a conscious decision? Or just how the process evolved?
Bravo: John came from a computer and internet background so we made a decision to use those avenues—we first cast via www.lacasting.com and others—we found our lead, Kelly-ann Tursi, in New York via the internet and a supporting lead, Jon Morgan Woodward, in Oregon in the same manner. The rest of the great cast was found in Los Angeles.
Rice: In short, we used the internet because it was easily assessable to connect with talent and our audience – doing what we could do within a framework of what we created, without relying on others to come through for us or hope that they would get involved with the film before or after the film was complete. It was done out of necessity with the idea that, at a minimum, it was a win/win situation for us to find those most motivated by the script and then later with the interest we generated for the finished product. That’s not to say it was easy. It still took time, energy and effort but mainly was started because Edgar and I believed, as proven in our casting for The Three Stages of Stan and his previous film I’ll Love You Forever…Tonight (where Edgar discovered Thomas Jane) that talent can come from anywhere, not just through the traditional avenues. I saw that we were riding the beginnings of a crest in digital media as now more frequently discussed in current articles written on DIY film making/marketing.
Were there any scenes that were cut that you wish you could bring back to life?
Bravo: I would use more of the flashback when our lead was listening to the music of her business partner, Chi.
What is your favorite thing about being a screenwriter? The greatest challenge?
Bravo: There is a gut feeling I get when the story is working that is so satisfying. The pain of getting to where the story works is my greatest challenge.
How do you approach the blank page? What is your writing process?
Bravo: I use a 60-card method I developed over the years—first I write 60 scenes that I’d like to include in the film. From there I find the story inherent in the scenes.
I keep writing and discarding cards until I first see my protagonist go from A to B. The next most important aspect I look for is a theme inherent in the cards. Once I find that, I write a 40- to 60-page outline with no dialogue. When I’m done, I write my first draft. Then I rest for a couple of weeks with a few bottles of wine.
Since One Hour Fantasy Girl is based on real life experiences, how did you decide what to include?
Bravo: I used the 60-card method and wrote down real scenes from the various people we interviewed. I kept interviewing and writing down cards until I saw a theme emerge—in this case it had to do with being able to survive even with a small bit of kindness from someone. I then combined characters and had my protagonist go through actual scenes from the interviews—both the good and bad things that happened.
What do you know know that you wish you knew when you first started working on One Hour Fantasy Girl?
Bravo: I know now that the sub-plot between the lead and the African-American waitress affected many people. I would’ve written more of their relationship.
Tags: Author Q&A Debra Eckerling Edgar Michael Bravo Internet Marketing Interview John Paul Rice No Restrictions Entertainment Screenwriter The Magic Stone