Close Up on a Microbudget Movie

The Palm Springs International Film Festival doesn’t just showcase big budget movies, but under-the-radar can-do indie films as well

Posted By: Matt Link Friday, January 3, 2014
How does a small feature-length film with a smart concept and big heart get made on no budget to speak of? By finding sponsors, utilizing friends, borrowing sets, and asking a member of The Go-Go’s to film at her apartment, that’s how.   And making sure it’s all done lickety-split. “We shot the film in under three weeks last March,” explains director Dan Steadman, whose film Hidden Hills plays at Camelot Theatres January 7th at 7:30 PM and Palm Springs Regal 9 on January 9th at 2 PM as part of the World Cinema Now program at this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival. 
“I’m proud of how we keep things moving and how I attempt to wrap each day and give everyone the chance to go home and get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important.”
Hopefully Steadman got some sleep too: Besides its director, he served as Hidden Hills’ editor and screenwriter as well, and came up with the movie’s original concept.  Hidden Hills Movie Trailer>>>

“Years ago, I was watching a Rock Hudson biography and it saddened me that he had to hide his sexuality in those days,” says Steadman, who grew up in Michigan and wrote and produced his own public access TV show when he was a teenager in 1987. “In one of his films with Doris Day, his character went so far as to sort of mimic and ridicule ‘those kind’ of men. It got me to wonder, What if the world had been different then? What if it had been flipped upside down?”


Hidden Hills portrays a world where gay is the norm. Straight people come out of the closet. Fat people are the sexy singles. Aging is desirable. Young people are the misfits. Jewish folks and Native Americans are the most popular members of society. And the best jobs include milkmen, chimney sweeps, and gypsies. The two main characters are a male and female who work together but have to keep the secret that they are romantically involved.

“The budget for this film was small, even compared to other indie films,” reveals Steadman. “I think the interesting thing was that it was solely funded by Loft Living LA, which is a company that sells and leases lofts in Los Angeles. Of course, our characters Whitey and Drew both live in a downtown loft and they work as Realtors in the film. So there was a bit of mirroring the characters to the company behind the film.”


The movie’s main set where the protagonists Whitey and Drew live is actually the loft of Jane Wiedlin, the guitarist for the ‘80s all-girl band The Go-Go’s.

“Jane saw the movie unfolding before her eyes while shooting inside her loft, and she saw the special story we were trying to make,” recounts Steadman. “Next thing we knew, we had a rock star in our film singing a torch song. It was quite exciting.”

The Midcentury-era props and costumes were also based on generous favors that kept costs down: A friend of the producer’s was a vintage clothes lover who donated CoCo Chanel dresses and more for the shoot, and set pieces were on loan from a Burbank shop called Reel Appeal that buys items from big movie and TV show sets and resells them. “I was geeking out inside their store,” says Steadman. “We even shot a scene - the jewelry store scene where Drew Drake buys a wedding ring - inside of their store.”


Steadman is thrilled that Hidden Hills is having its world premiere at the 25th Palm Springs International Film Festival. “It’s going to be such an exciting week with all of the A-list stars coming to town. If this movie doesn’t appeal to the Palm Springs crowd, I don’t know where it will!”  

Hidden Hills plays at Camelot Theatres January 7th at 7:30 PM and Palm Springs Regal 9 on January 9th at 2 PM as part of the World Cinema Now program at this year’s Palm Springs International Film Festival. You can purchase tickets at the festival’s web site.

Comments:

  • Dakota Davenport Saturday, January 4, 2014 11:32 AM

    My parents live in Palm Springs and I'm visiting them this week. I was just looking for something to do...BAM! Love it. I found a movie trailer for the film on the website... www.HiddenHillsTheMovie.com See you guys there! Put me in a movie please!

  • stephen foster Saturday, January 4, 2014 15:25 PM

    great article Matt! thanks for writing about our little movie. stephen/arnie

  • Dan Steadman Sunday, January 5, 2014 16:03 PM

    Dakota, make sure to come up and say "hi" to us. we're so glad you're coming!

  • Bob Tuesday, January 7, 2014 21:17 PM

    Very disappointed with this film. It had no plot. The sound of birds chipping was loud and annoying. A film not worthy of being in the Palm Springs Film Festival.

  • Bob Tuesday, January 7, 2014 21:20 PM

    Very disappointed with this film. It had no plot. The sound of birds chipping was loud and annoying. A film not worthy of being in the Palm Springs Film Festival.

  • Enrique Thursday, January 9, 2014 2:35 AM

    A total waste of time! A film NOT worthy for the PSIFF. Very poor in every way!

  • Larry Friday, January 10, 2014 14:30 PM

    Loved IT! Great plot. I remember when I was wanting to ask my wife to marry me. Made me reflect on my own life and how THAT was a comedy of errors. Some basic sound issues yes, but overall I enjoyed the ride.

  • Lane Weber Friday, January 10, 2014 14:43 PM

    I enjoyed this film. It was fun, funny, imaginative, creative, and with both heart and soul. I actually went back to see it a second time on Thursday, and I'm glad I did. Saw things I missed the first time. Kudos to all involved.

  • Lane Weber Friday, January 10, 2014 14:52 PM

    I enjoyed this film. It was fun, funny, imaginative, creative, and with both heart and soul. I actually went back to see it a second time on Thursday, and I'm glad I did. Saw things I missed the first time. Kudos to all involved.

Leave your comment

*required fields