Film industry steps up to grant a 5-year old’s wish

Madzilla stomps through the Grant Park set at Big Deahl Studios (photo, Elizabeth Munch-Morris)

“The end result
is a million dollar
movie that we shot
for under $10,000.”

Producer Mo Wagdy

During two weeks in July, contributions by hundreds of Chicago film professionals and vendors helped turn the dream of a five year-old boy named Maddex into “MADZILLA,” a short monster movie scheduled to premiere in late August.

The project was launched by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the organization that “grant(s) the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.”

“The end result was a million dollar movie that we shot for under $10,000,” says producer Mo Wagdy.



“MADZILLA” began when Make-A-Wish asked producer Joanna Rhodes for a list of directors who might be interested in helping a five year-old kid “star in his own Godzilla film,” says director Jonathan Becker.

Becker, who had worked with Rhodes during her stint at Leo Burnett, was among a handful of directors she recommended. He was filming in LA when a Make-A-Wish representative called to present the idea.

The rep explained that Maddex wanted to act in scenes featuring himself as an 800-ft. tall lizard emerging from Lake Michigan, breathing fire, scaring civilians, destroying buildings, fighting two of his legendary foes, and taking a bite out of a train, bus or car.

Also, there was pretty much no budget.

Becker responded, “That sounds like fun.”

Working with pediatric anesthesiologist Martin Flynn, who eventually wrote the script, Becker developed a treatment specifying that nearly half of the film be shot as “an adventumentary.”

“It’s like a mini-film camp,” Becker explains. “Behind the scenes. Take him to set builders, to the costume department, to learn how storyboards work, to learn how to fall.”

Producer Mo Wagdy and director Jonathan Becker
Producer Mo Wagdy and director Jonathan Becker

Upon getting Make-A-Wish’s go-ahead, Becker contacted the only producer he knew who could pull off a big budget film that had everything except the budget: Mo Wagdy, founder of MoFest and unofficial godfather of the Chicago indie film community.

“The biggest challenge was to get 250 crew and extras to work for free and to get, I don’t know, a million dollars worth of equipment for free,” Wagdy says, “and reaching out to volunteers and getting people up to speed with what’s going on.”

Wagdy eventually brought on an elite group of suppliers from the Chicago film industry. Big Deahl offered its stages for 10 days. VER/Cineverse donated half a million dollars worth of equipment rental. Essanay and Northern Lighting donated truckloads of grip and electric gear. Vitamin added the VFX. Filmworkers will handle the coloring. CRC will mix the sound. Just to name a few.

Editing was handled by Quriosity Productions’ Curtis Schmidt, a “gigantic Godzilla fan.”

Since the project involved massive amounts of digital effects and raw Red footage, Schmidt chose to work in Final Cut Pro for its “very simple one-click process to get pre-visualization.”

The project gave him the sensation of “editing my own monster movie” that he called “a dream job.”

“Who doesn’t like a lot of explosions while watching a child dressed as Godzilla doing it?”

To see photos from the wrap party at Vertigo Sky Lounge (also donated), click here.

Below is the short list of volunteers who helped make Maddex’ wish come true.