Next Level Spotlight: The Whole Lot
This series highlights some of our Next Level Grant recipients. In this spotlight, we spoke with Connor Rickman about the making of his feature film, ‘The Whole Lot’.
A graduate of the London Film School’s MA International Film Business Program, Connor Rickman has since run the Production Office for several studio and network projects including HBO, Amazon, Hallmark Channel, YouTube Premium, and Facebook Watch, and has also done the same for several independent films. In his hometown of Salt Lake City, Connor co-founded Overcranked Pictures: a production services company that provides business services to writers and directors creating their own films. Connor himself took advantage of those resources when he produced and directed his first feature film The Whole Lot, completed in 2021.
The Whole Lot follows a woman (Della), her husband (Eli), and her estranged brother (Jamie), as they converge on their late father’s property to divide his estate. During the process, they are forced to confront their uncomfortable past.
How did you get started in the industry?
I started out as a PA for commercials before finding my way into the Production Office on narrative projects. From there I leveled up to Production Coordinator, which allowed me an insider’s view of the narrative filmmaking process at a high level. Knowing I didn’t want to be in that role forever, I chose to change my circumstances by directing my own feature using the knowledge I had gained and leveraging the connections I had made along the way.
What led you to tell this story?
The story was engineered from the resources we had available to us. I met with the screenwriter, Matthew Ivan Bennett, and told him which actors I wanted to work with, and the location I had available to me. We bounced ideas back and forth at lunch for an hour or so. Then, a few months later, he had the first draft of the script! The story was compelling, the characters were complex and it felt ready to shoot. We made a few minor revisions here and there, but most of what’s on the screen is a product of our first story meeting.
What was your day-to-day experience?
We shot the film in 4 days, with 2 days of pre-lighting, set dressing, and rehearsals. Day 1 we focused exclusively on the film’s pivotal scene so we could be absolutely sure to get it right. That was probably the best day I had ever spent on a set. The subsequent 3 days were a mad dash to get the rest of the pages filmed. It was frantic and taught me a lot about my preferences in the filmmaking process. Were I to do it again, I would probably try to make every day like Day 1, even though it would mean more days of shooting.
Were there unique challenges you endured while filming this project?
Making a feature film in 4 days is a challenge to anyone. We actually went so fast, we forgot to film a coherent ending, and had to go back to the same location a year later to fix that problem. The process also leans heavily on the actors and their ability to memorize many pages of dialogue, it’s very important for everyone on the cast and crew to be comfortable with that process, or else there are more drawbacks than benefits. Then we didn’t get any post-production done in the first half of 2020 because of the pandemic, delaying our progress by about 8 months. However, we kept making as consistent progress as possible, and now it’s finally ready to screen.
What do you hope the audience takes away after seeing this film?
My goal with this film is simply to lift the curtain on these characters’ lives for 75 minutes before it closes again. What these characters say, do, and feel before and after the events of the film, I don’t know. In that way I hope to inspire differences of opinion between viewers, as each one of them will bring a slightly different point of view to the watching of the film: all of which are equally valid. The opinions of the writer, the actors, or myself are no more “right” than any other person.
How did the Next Level Grant help you with this project?
The Next Level grant came at the exact right time, as it was announced immediately before shooting. I had managed to save $10,000 to pay for the film’s production, but had no savings to fund post-production: I was simply going to save up the money again, and spend it when the time came. Next Level allowed me to begin the post-production process more quickly by signing the full amount over to my editors at Parking Garage Pictures. Because the pandemic delayed the process the next year, I think the time saved by having access to the Next Level funds when I did was crucial.
How can audiences see this film?
We are doing a private screening for the cast and crew this month, and I currently have 13 festival submissions pending while I await another 6 to open their next rounds. It is my hope that one of those festivals will be a local one that the public can attend, and if it’s not: we’ll do a public local screening of our own. I’m also exploring a distribution option recommended to me by a director friend of mine, so perhaps that will be an option in the future.
What advice would you give to a local who is trying to get started in the film industry?
Find someone you know who knows more than you and have them introduce you to someone who knows more than them! Filmmaking is a very opaque industry that operates on old traditions of being “let in” by someone else. Everything I learned, I learned from watching professionals do that job, and while it’s possible to make a film without having that perspective, it’s my opinion that you’ll need it for consistent success.
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity. All media assets provided by Connor Rickman and Overcranked Pictures. Photos taken by Caty Gainer.
Allie Russell is the Marketing Coordinator for the Utah Film Commission. For any press and media inquiries, contact the Utah Film Commission at email@example.com.