Indie film talk: ‘Caretakers’ with George Loomis
Ahead of the NYC premiere of his ambitious movie Caretakers, we got to sit down and chat indie film realness with its creator George Loomis. Caretakers is a nail-biting thriller, and we’re all about it.
The drama happens after an attack in Syria, and U.S. Ambassador Chris Williams (Christopher Cousins) needs a new heart. When medical student Jones (George Loomis) meets Williams’s wife (Natalija Nogulich) and discovers the family is broken by the embassy attack, he disregards strict policies of his boss (Vivica A. Fox) and the Williams’ advisor, Carrie (Missi Pyle) to hatch a plan to save his patient.
Winner of the 2019 Santa Fe Film Festival Best Film
FD: Give us a little bit more info about Caretakers. Why should we see it?
My film Caretakers has its New York City premiere on June 22nd at Village East Cinema in the SoHo International Film Festival. It’s a fun thriller with a nice twist, and I’m very proud of how audiences are responding to it.
Starring Christopher Cousins (Breaking Bad), Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill) and Missi Pyle (Gone Girl) to name a few, Caretakers is my first opportunity as creator of a feature film. I act in the film as medical student Jones Berg, who is caught up in an international conspiracy when he begins working for a former ambassador.
What was your experience in the industry prior to making Caretakers?
There was a lot of pressure being in front of and behind the camera on my first go as a feature writer/co-director. I come from an acting background. While I love acting, I look forward to being writer/director of my own film without being in the cast. Simultaneously, I look forward to acting for other directors and relinquishing creative control. There are a lot of hours in my day, and I really mean all of that.
Who were the key roles in front of and behind the camera for Caretakers?
Standouts from my cast and crew are obvious. Firstly, I was lucky to have an incredible – and known – cast. I can’t wait for more audiences to hear the tremendous Caretakers score crafted by composer Bobby Villarreal. He was the best I could have asked for – my partner and I were so impressed by him. Villarreal is not just talented, he’s also a very reliable force in a tough industry, and a great guy.
My co-director, Elias Talbot, is a cinematographer who really knows how to make a shot look good. I look at some of our shots and I’m still pleased with them again and again. My lawyer and co-producer, Bianca Goodloe, is handling sales for the film and I’m thrilled for the release of Caretakers. I can’t wait to be allowed to say more.
Bianca is brilliant and consistently makes me more excited about everything. She is part of a small group of people who don’t get the biggest paychecks but love seeing the film (and me) succeed. I’m grateful.
How did making Caretakers utilize your skills?
My individual skills are all over the film – love them or hate them! I would love to pretend that I had a renowned team aiding me every step of the way; I didn’t. Because there are several known names in the film, many assume there was a huge budget and staff that simply did not exist.
I ate dollar burritos for so long to complete this film, that I’m too ashamed to count how many. But here we are celebrating the NYC premiere of Caretakers at Village East Cinema. I would do it again – and some of those burritos were gross!
To this day as we proceed to sell each territory, a lot of film professionals are stunned to see that I’m the backbone of the operation. They ask me, “You don’t have producers doing this?” The answer is “no”. I was very involved in this feature. I look forward to being able to hone in on specific areas so that I’m not spread too thinly.
But I don’t regret a minute of doing everything that I did. The film couldn’t afford to pay experienced producers beyond offering a sales cut for deals rendered. That’s just independent film, and if you don’t like it, get a job at a studio. You can’t be mad that there’s no salary if you’re not helping it happen – period. This was a first feature!
What’s Caretakers about?
After an attack in Syria, and U.S. Ambassador Chris Williams (Christopher Cousins) needs a new heart. When medical student Jones (George Loomis) meets Williams’s wife (Natalija Nogulich) and discovers the family is broken by the embassy attack, he disregards strict policies of his boss (Vivica A. Fox) and the Williams’ advisor, Carrie (Missi Pyle) to hatch a plan to save his patient.
Who formed the writing team, and what inspired the story?
I wrote Caretakers in about a month’s time in 2015. The film was written very early in the morning, about two or three hours every day for a month. Caretakers is about the people in the world who fight protocol to make sure no one falls through the cracks. The film is an ode to these fighters. It’s a thriller, so it’s obviously a little sensational, but at the heart of the story is an idealistic young medical student who doesn’t want any patients to die without a fighting chance.
This message is extremely important to me. I think as we all progress in the world, we must remember our idealistic selves and stay true to that. The truth is that sometimes protocol should be broken. Furthermore, I was raised in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. Most of my writing is influenced by international politics because it’s really what I grew up around.
Who produced Caretakers and pulled the project together?
I am the architect of Caretakers and I’m proud to say that. In the beginning, I was scared. I wanted to feed the falsity of a team behind me pulling all the strings. There just never was that kind of team on this. I have a few people fighting for the film, but when something happens it’s because I fought for it.
In 2018, someone asked me why my planner has “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT” written on random days. That’s so sad to admit. But yes, this was a tough journey, and I’m here because of those reminders.
The first person to read the script was actor Nick Airus, who plays my brother in the film. He helped me launch the film. He had invested a modest amount of money in another film I wrote, and when Caretakers landed a seed investment of $50,000, we were naturally thrilled.
Nick and I did everything we could to bring these brothers to the screen. But I want to be honest that people were in and out. If you want to make a feature, you should be ready to run the marathon on your own.
Did you have much in the way of money to play with?
No. I really think this is a one-word answer. But I will elaborate a little: people have the wrong idea about Caretakers because of the names involved. But those names were paid to perform and leave. It wasn’t easy after they left.
Where does Caretakers sit alongside the rest of your portfolio?
There are a few political thrillers I’ve written that I’m excited for audiences to see, especially after I witnessed audiences enjoying Caretakers. This film is a definite prototype for my material. It is lower budget than the scripts I’ve been writing since I studied film at NYU.
When I was writing my first screenplays there, they were very high-budget. Again, many assume Caretakers had more money than it did, and that’s not my problem. This is a fun thriller, but no – we didn’t have $15 million from Universal.
Where are you with the film right now?
The NYC Premiere of Caretakers takes place this Saturday, June 22nd, at Village East Cinema as part of the incredible SoHo International Film Festival. They are doing a great job with their festival, and I’m honored to be part of it – simply honored. The wide release plans for Caretakers will be announced soon!
How is distribution looking?
Looking goooooood. I’m very excited to announce more. Caretakers has strong offers from distributors I respect and I truly can’t wait to share this wide release.
How do you plan to promote Caretakers in such a competitive marketplace?
The distributors will certainly do their part, because we will push them until they do (naturally). Please remember the heart of what I’m saying: if you want a successful film, you should be ready to run the marathon on your own. Even at this point as we are about to premiere in NYC at a great theatre, I’m ready to manhandle Caretakers’s release advertising personally if I have to.
Tell us about the other projects you’ve been working on.
I’m developing a TV series with an incredible lady from my acting class. It’s a thriller and has excellent potential. Currently, it’s on my mind every day. I’m also developing several feature films with a few companies as a writer on my own.
How do those projects differ from Caretakers?
All of the shows and features mentioned are thrillers, so they fall in line with what audiences know from me. I am really in love with thrilling viewers and drawing out suspense. I look forward to garnering bigger budgets so that I can draw out suspense without as severe financial restrictions. Creativity is a blessing, but it requires financing.
What is your favorite genre, and why?
My favorite genre is obviously suspense thrillers, and action thrillers. I don’t tend to write action thrillers, though, because they require such large budgets. Usually when I write a show or film, I write it to make sure that it is actually completed.
I’m different from other screenwriters in that way. Most screenwriters write just to pitch. I am fully aware that I want a balance to do both. You shouldn’t always write to make sure it’s shot. Sometimes, one should write with an imagination that costs $100 million to create, if it has to.
Are there other genres you’d like to tackle?
I like to bring audiences extreme joy – and I like to scare them. So while I’m focused on thrillers and political thrillers, I do have a comedic side that will certainly surface, a more grounded, real-life kind of comedy with a lot of heart. I’m not sure when that will really be available for people to see, because I really love creating political thrillers.
So what is the filmmaking climate like in your neck of the woods?
Currently, I’m building a team of film professionals in Los Angeles with whom I thoroughly love collaborating. One such is former CNN producer Hieu Gray, who has a large presence on Instagram. We are producing a few films together. Additionally, I’m producing a few films and shows with my company Persona Pictures and a couple other colleagues.
Are you at the stage of making any money from this?
We are premiering in New York City this month. We will be in the money-making stage quite soon! The festival run of Caretakers has been long & prosperous. I thank God every day that Caretakers won the Santa Fe Film Festival Best Film 2019. Santa Fe is such an enchanted city and this win was one of the best experiences of my life.
I’ve been lucky to live a majestic childhood and early adulthood. Yet this win surpassed so much magic that I never could have anticipated. Anyone at Santa Fe Film Festival 2019 will tell you that it was just a magical year of great films. I was tremendously honored to be part of the program – and to win the whole festival was beyond my comprehension.
Where do you see this filmmaking route taking you in the future?
I am grateful to be where I am, of course. Caretakers will be available for you to enjoy soon. Try to guess the ending – I dare you! Please remember, though, that this industry is tough and I didn’t end up here by mistake. It’s a result of perseverance.