Indie Film of the Day: ‘Underwood’ by John McLoughlin
Our indie film of the day is Underwood from John McLoughlin, a Florida-based filmmaker nominated for a 2017 Suncoast Emmy Award. We were lucky to chat to the filmmaker about his project today.
FD: What inspired you to create this movie?
JM: Filmmaking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I wrote my earliest scripts back in high school and joined SAG as soon as I could get out to Hollywood back in 1991. I’ve always been a fan of karmic justice. The ending was definitely inspired by Stephen King’s Creepshow – the one with Ted Dansen and Leslie Nielson. I loved that entire movie . . . still do to this day.
I definitely was inspired by that particular final scene. If you watch Underwood you’ll see what I’m talking about. My overall inspiration is seeing my original scripts come to life through these talented actors. It’s pretty gratifying as an artist to see a 20-year vision come to fruition.
How hard was it pulling the cast together?
Finding the right actors for these roles definitely took some searching – especially the senior roles. Al & Gladys were two of the last actors that we cast, because I really wanted to get it right. These are major roles with big dialog and even bigger action scenes.
One friend of mine joked it’s like Cocoon on steroids. Producer Stephen Mitchell (role of Miles) held a casting that found several of the key cast members, including Amy France and Jillian Gizzi.
One of the most newsworthy aspects of my film is 89-year-old Florida Grindhouse filmmaking legend William Grefe. After decades as a writer, director, and producer working with top industry names, Bill agreed to play a major acting role in my film after simply reading my screenplay.
Grefe was a priceless asset to my young indie crew, offering everything from lighting tips, camera angles, and a lifetime of great filmmaking stories that kept the cast and crew in stitches on some long and tiresome shooting nights.
How long was the shoot, and where were the locations?
Actual shooting days: only around 40. Most of those were half-day shoots, but there were a few big three-day weekends when shooting at the lake and cabin. Those were some intense shooting weekends where we got 19-20 pages shot in a very short time. The script was 85 pages, with several improv scenes also shot in those weekend marathon shoots.
I’m so grateful that everyone pulled together and made it all work. We shot the entire film in Central Florida, mostly the Daytona area and Ocala National Forest, and some scenes in Winter Park. We just found generous businesses around the area that let us shoot, and called in many favors and friends for the rest.
Has Underwood been accepted into any film fests?
I’ve never even won a raffle – after five years of production on this film, I just wanted to put this film out into the world. We have entered a few big festivals and are waiting for response this fall, but truthfully we feel that Underwood will find its own audience with or without festival exposure. If we do get into any festivals, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Where can people watch Underwood?
Is there anything else we should know about your filming process?
This film is exactly what indie filmmaking is about. A handful of creative minds came together, and regardless of every possible obstacle and setback including health issues, cameras getting stolen from set, and losing a beloved cast member in the process. Our love for the project helped us see it through and present a fantastic ghost story and action-packed thrill-ride ending that rivals any Hollywood studio film.
What led you to cast your actors?
Finding this cast was a great challenge, and I’m happy to say that every one of the actors we found stepped up and delivered memorable performances across the board. They took the script and brought it to life with some outstanding character work.
These are skilled actors delivering incredible characters that match my vision to a T. I can’t be happier with what they gave to the film. Underwood also stars former Playboy model Michelle McCurry and A Beautiful Monster star Dennis Friebe.
What’s your creative process?
For me, writing comes in waves. I have periods of time where ideas & stories are just flowing and I can’t write them down fast enough. And then that rush will slow or stop for a while, which is a good thing because then I pick the idea or story that I like the most and further develop it into something with a production plan. And sometimes all of that goes on hold for a big job or client, which is a necessary evil to keep the lights on.
Tell us more about your past projects.
I’ve been an indie artist for most of my life. I played guitar for a hardcore band named Wide Awake in the 80s, did some acting in the 90s, and started making films around 2000 starting with Along the Way, then in 2017 I got a Suncoast Emmy nomination for Lifelines – and now Underwood is here.