For writer-director Daniel Brown, indie filmmaking is all about artistic integrity. With roots in Seattle, his debut feature, Your Lucky Day, required getting scrappy to hit home.
“I really feel like, because it’s such a cheap fucking movie, that we have something to say,” Brown said. “No one was there to make money. There is no rich person on set.”
For Brown, while other films with more money behind them also tackle themes of economic inequality, a project that required real resourcefulness to even get made in the first place offers viewers something distinct. Your Lucky Day, which builds on his original Seattle-shot short film of the same name, looks at what happens when a struggling hustler, Sterling, played by the late actor Angus Cloud, who passed away in July, holds up a gas station on Christmas Eve, steals a winning lottery ticket, and offers a group of strangers a cut of the winnings if they agree to help him cover up the crime.
The film screens at Northwest Film Forum tonight at 7 pm, and the writer-director will be in attendance.
Brown grew up in Nevada before accepting a scholarship to The Art Institute of Seattle (RIP). After school, he started working at a local production company, where he first made the short with "Seattle super producer" Lacey Leavitt. He said his editing teacher, the late, great Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, who makes an appearance in the original short, was “the biggest inspiration” for his journey as a filmmaker.
As he continued on that journey, years after the short was released a producer asked him about expanding the concept into a feature. Brown was initially uncertain about that prospect, but he said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“Suddenly, the notion that I would be giving it away for someone else to make a movie out of bothered me…[but] the desire to make a movie was so strong I was like, ‘Get over your shit, Dan, and just go make something,’” he recalled.
The film got a boost when Cloud, already one of the breakout stars from Euphoria, became attached to the project. Brown said the actor was a unique talent who had so much promise ahead of him. The subsequent loss of his collaborator after the film premiered at this year’s Fantastic Fest was painful.
“It was so devastating to find out,” Brown said. “As a father, that hit me really hard. The other part is you’re doing the movie, and I’m imagining that we’re going to watch this movie together. I hoped it would do great things for him because I think he’s really great in it. I was imagining it as being part of his story.”
Though Cloud has now passed, Brown hopes that the film will be one to remember him by, as well as an enduring testament to the value of actors in an industry that devalues the contributions they make.
“He was such a really great actor in the sense that great acting is great listening" Brown said. "He has that thing in his eyes, he has that look where you can point the camera at him and be like, ‘That’s working.’”
Brown isn’t the only one with Seattle ties who worked on the film. Composer Mark Hutchinson (no relation) began collaborating with the director after their paths crossed here decades ago. The two made Maiden of Death together and submitted it to a competition for inclusion in the Grindhouse films from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The film made it into the top-three, but it lost to a little film called Hobo with a Shotgun. Before that, Hutchinson earned his first music credit on Shelton’s spectacular 2009 film, Humpday, which is about a certain local porn film festival.
“I think I played a couple of instruments on it,” Hutchinson said. “I just gave them a hand right at the end there. But I did get to go to the premiere there in Seattle, and that was a very fun moment.”
Hutchinson also scored the original Your Lucky Day short and then reconnected with Brown for the feature. The director said he had hoped to shoot in Seattle again, but it didn’t quite work out logistically. However, he said that a future project he’s currently working on is directly tied to the Pacific Northwest.
“I’ve got another script that I’m working on. It’s called The Afterlife, about a cult. It has a genre bent, but that takes place in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest,” Brown said. “I would love to shoot it up there.”