Name one indie movie you’ve seen lately. Would you be able to name an actor in an indie movie? What exactly is an indie movie and why do we care? Great question, I’m glad you asked. An indie, or independent film, is thought of as a film that is produced outside the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment companies. And there are a lot of them made each year. If the Sundance film festival is snapshot of the top independent films released each year, then the 4,000+ submissions they receive is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just because they are called indies, does not mean they have no budget or are poorly made. Sure movie-making budgets span a large curve starting with low-budget around $200,000 to big-budget studio films over $100 million. Most independent films cost about the same as major studio films. It is all the other things that go into this collaborative art form that make a film an independent film. From the writer to producers/directors to actors, most of the people are relatively unknown.
It’s no secret that the writers at ABILITY Magazine have an interest in actors, writers, and film makers. There are 30 years of stories in which we’ve spoken to many well-known people. We have been frustrated by the lack of actors with authentic disabilities in roles on TV or film.
We recently spoke with crew and cast of the yet-to-be-shot indie film, Daruma. You read that right; it hasn’t been filmed yet. This film has all the hallmarks of an independent film; little known (for now) writer, actors, and an up-and-coming director. It is not being done by a major studio, but there is something this production is doing that sets it apart from all the others, they are casting people with authentic disabilities and hiring crew people with disabilities.
Daruma is inspired by a true story and is about two unlikely friends: a paraplegic and a double amputee. Tobias (Toby) Forrest and John Lawson star in this film directed by Alexander Yellen. In this story, the two main characters must work together, even though they don’t like each other, to transport the four-year-old daughter one man didn’t know he had, to her grandparents across the country. In this expose, which spans two issues, we’ll delve into each of their journeys which, when layered on to this project, bring true richness of life experience to Daruma.
Kelli McNeil is the writer of Daruma. Even though she started out as a theater major at USC (University of Southern California), and has experience in PR and marketing, she ultimately became a writer, currently represented by Gersh. The name Daruma started with a painting and Japanese proverb in which the Daruma, founder of Buddhism, councils his pupil Eka. “I remember hearing the fact that he’s [her brother] now in a room with a young man who has no arms and he had just lost the use of his legs and I flashed to this painting of the Daruma,” says McNeil. In researching this project; she came across the Daruma doll. Legend says when you make a wish, you color in one eye of the Daruma doll, when the wish comes true, you color in the other eye. “In the script, John’s character has a Daruma tattoo on his back, and one eye is colored in. At some point during the journey, Toby asks him, ‘What did you wish for?’ You find out that what John’s character had wished for was forgiveness. That truly is the crux of the story, it’s about learning how to forgive yourself.”
The project started for McNeil over a decade ago when her brother had a spinal cord injury. She is quick to point out that Daruma is not about him, it is inspired by him. The characters in the film may be fictionalized, but the memories are vivid. “When he was recovering in a facility in Houston, the spinal cord injury ward ...
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To support Daruma, go to: darumamovie.com