How to Make a Movie (Jake's How-To)
Milwaukee’s Beachfront Comedy
A remarkable revelation came to Kyle Buckley in a hotel room in the midst of a comic book convention. "If I'm going to make a stupid decision in my life, I might as well do it at 19," read the thought balloon that popped up in his head. Only five days before starting his sophomore year at Milwaukee School of Engineering, he made the potentially stupid decision to drop out, move to Los Angeles and seek work in movies. A few months later his brother Vincent, a cartoonist, followed him.
This week the first film by Buckley Brothers Productions receives its world premiere in Milwaukee. Jake's How-To is a funny comedy by the twentysomething siblings about guys, girls and late adolescence. When asked if it was based on summers spent around the volleyball nets of Bradford Beach, Vincent insists, "It's not based-it's inspired by," he says, stressing that the plot is imaginative and fictionalized. "It's inspired by guys we played volleyball with who had interesting personalities."
The story began existence as a comic strip and evolved into a screenplay after Vincent joined Kyle in L.A. Kyle was a producer's assistant for some low budget movies that have never surfaced. "Most of them crashed and burned," he says. "It was good training thought. You see all the mistakes." Vincent found film work in set designing.
When they decided they were ready to make their debut as producers-directors-writers, the obvious choice was coming home to Milwaukee. "We budgeted it out," Kyle says of Jake's How-To. "It would have cost seven times more in LA than to do it here! And besides, all our roots and connections are here. We know the place. It's where the story was conceived."
Kyle takes a turn in front of the camera along with his dad and family friends in small parts. Most of the cast was recruited through Craig's List and actors' Web sites. The Buckley Brothers auditioned 200 people for 23 speaking roles. The biggest line items on the movie's nearly $50,000 budget were for cast, crew and purchasing microphones and other gear.
The movie was shot quickly last summer in around three weeks of long days. "The tough thing," Vincent says, "wasn't filming Jake's How-To. It was raising the money."
Kyle agrees. "We walked up to anyone who we ever knew or would know and humiliated ourselves," he says. "After a while we had to choose between waiting to raise more money or just shooting it. I had no idea what I was getting into or whether I wanted to do this with my life. I was eager to start shooting to find out if this is what I want to do with my life."
By the end of the production, Kyle was convinced. "I like it," he says of filmmaking. "I prefer it to engineering."
Jake's How-To screens 7 p.m., Aug. 14 at the Oriental Theatre.