“A guy circling a bunch of obituaries in a newspaper the way someone would circle classified ads for jobs.”
That image was the starting point for Christian Gridelli and Hunter Norris’s debut feature Origins of Wit and Humor, which has just aced its Kickstarter goal and is slated to go into production here in late September.
“I liked the idea of someone cursed by their sense of humor, trying to go to funerals so people wouldn’t laugh at them,” Gridelli says. “When we sat down to write how he got to that point and what happened after, it felt like fertile ground, and we wanted to explore the idea a little longer than we could in a short.”
They came up with a story about a newly-single comedy writer who orders a tonic that makes him irresistibly funny to women, a condition that mutates into a be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario.
“That also happened around the same time as a number of big changes in our lives that seemed to feed the script and give it some more honesty and emotional depth,” Gridelli says.
Director Gridelli and his writing, producing and acting partner Norris have been working together for nearly a decade on short films and as creative consultants and video prodcers through their full-service comedy production company, DimeStore Films.
“We tend to gravitate toward comedies that are detail oriented or offer a lot to look at,” like the work of Woody Allen, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Kids in the Hall. “Comedy can be cinematic, and that’s definitely something we had in mind from the earliest phases of the script,” says Gridelli, a shooter for History, Biography Channel, and Comcast OnDemand.
After two years in development at a production company that they decline to identify, the creative partners concluded that “we needed to see this movie through every step of the process in order to get the product we wanted,” Gridelli says.
Ultimately they partnered with Champaign-based new media company Shatterglass Studios. “They’ve been a big help through this whole process and are concerned with making a movie they’re proud of before any of the other stuff,” Gridelli says.
As of their May 31 Kickstarter deadline, they exceeded their $17,000 goal by $1,800. “That reflects the minimum amount of money we needed to turn our script into a movie we’d want to see,” Gridelli says.
“The final budget is growing because of our Kickstarter success and the interest that has aroused, but we knew that if we at least got the Kickstarter goal, we could do the script justice.”
Norris and Gridelli are currently casting and hiring key crew. Already onboard are composer Luke Anderson and editor Cameron Yergler, an assistant editor at Cutters.
After a festival run, they’re planning a theatrical tour followed shortly by a digital release, patterned after Shane Carruth’s distribution plan for Upstream Color.
“That seems like the best way to get the film in front of an audience and maintain some control over how it’s framed,” Gridelli says. “We really respect that model and the fact that he’s extended auteurism into the distribution phase of filmmaking.”
Contact Ed Koziarski at Edmkoz@gmail.com.