Here’s one of the first looks at behind the scenes of Atlantis Down. One of things you’ll catch in the opening montage is the original scouting expedition on the West Coast. I had not been part of the production at this point. Max and I were talking about how his project was going, and I was wishing him well. Things were looking great. Though, Max tells an amusing story about looking for one of the producer’s family property out in the desert. It all looked the same, and I don’t think they have distinguished it to this day!

Max and I had met in 2006 at the New York International Film Festival. That’s chronicled in this site. We always knew we would be working together. We had put out news releases, done conferences; Max even helped me promote one of my early shorts, but here was the opportunity. The first calls came in May 2009. He had brought the Italian crew to LA, spent much of his own money, and committed funding was not there. Why are you so determined to shoot West Coast, I wanted to know. I can get it done here for less money, and it will look fantastic. Max was skeptical, but willing to at least be open minded with his brother. We have infrastructure, amazing scenery…. Max could get the space shuttle built, out there. I told him I could get it done here. He had a perfect place to shoot. I built a movie studio here – plenty of places up my sleeve. This went on for a couple of weeks, and then we started living on Skype.

“Brother” he said, can you raise this money?” I answered him in the affirmative, but with the caveat probably not in the timeframe your looking for, “but yes, I can raise the money.” This was fairly bold. This is the worst economy this country has faced since the Great Depression. Raising significant localized money for an independent sci-fi thriller was ambitious. Now there was a time when my family was building Virginia’s Atlantic Film Studios in the ’80’s when raising $1 million could have been done in a week. Those days were long gone. This would be an interesting hill to climb.

Max already had an excellent script, complete story boards, set designs, Adam Rote (a SGI artist who worked with Zemeckis, Dreamworks, and is arguably one of the nicest guys to have on set), Travis Quentin Young and Dean Haglund (X-Files).

We had a serious contender who said he wanted in, and wanted to meet Max. There were locations to see, people to meet, and money to be collected. Max booked the flight. Every heavy hitter we met who had committed – eventually – backed out. One after borrowing liberally from our presentation package. They “wanted to be last money in.” Others wanted to “wait until the second project.” In sales talk I suppose they would be called “be backs.” Some were friends who genuinely wanted to help, but could not afford it with this economy. Max and I took it all in. We were undaunted. location-image5I took Max to First Landing, and he saw what I had been telling him; turn one way you’re in the Bayou, turn another you’re in a tropical rain forest, then the Black Forest! He was amazed by both the beauty, and the versatility. Max went back to LA with no money, but a new vision. I went to work, and within a week had our first $20K from one of our Angels. We were on our way. The most amazing thing about the money raised was the faith people had – the energy they gave. Most read the prospectus, and did their homework. They knew what they were risking, but said, we think you and Max can do this. They had faith in me, and because I had faith in Max – that sufficed. To all of you, your faith in us was strength we drew upon throughout the process.

Decades ago I had gone hang gliding off the Kitty Hawk Dunes. Max was planning a West Coast trip for a particular dramatic sequence no matter where we shot. However, we were making budgetary cuts up until the last day of shooting. We both knew we were going to have to save that money somewhere. I had the advantage of knowing what a treat Max was in for on our 90 mile trek South. Kitty Hawk, N.C. would make a perfect desert scene. We have stills and video from Max’s phone, but I wish I could show you Max’s first expression upon seeing those 100 foot dunes. It reminded him more of the Sahara – more reminiscent of what he imagined when writing the original scene. The opening montage shows Max and me on our second visit together to the dunes of Kitty Hawk.max-kh-3

Space ship construction: Part of what Max and I had to consider was set construction. I had known Artists Mike Bell and his wife/business partner Janet Bell for more than twenty years. Mike was capable of anything. I had not spoken to them in years when I put in a call to Janet. Janet said she had just been thinking of me when she heard the message. It was like no time had passed. We arranged a breakfast at Pocahontas in Virginia Beach. It was like old times. This will work. When Max came back for round two I would set up the meeting.

Inner Space: I had been talking to the present owner of the Studio my family built in Suffolk, VA. He was cordial, and welcoming. I asked if he might be open to the idea of our shooting there, and set up a meeting with Max. Everything seemed like it was moving in the right direction, but came to a quick halt. Not to worry I told Max. We were having no luck finding an appropriate facility for set construction. He was worried. I finally received a return call from an old friend Charles Greenhood – he owns Brutti’s Restaurant in Portsmouth. I had another treat in store for Max. Years before, I had been screening my shorts in Charles’ restaurant. He told me he had always wanted to be in movies, and had shown me his future banquet facilities next door. It was a former Masonic Lodge, four stories, built in the 1850’s. I turned to Charles all those years ago, and said, “You don’t know it, but you just got yourself into the movies.” Now, I was going to make good on that statement. Max started up the wide and winding old stair case, and came to the main room on the second floor – 20 foot ceilings! The floor above 27 foot ceilings. The floor above was a wide open studio with kitchenette. Production office. Max stopped worrying, and started handing out hugs! Studio 463 was born.

I spent Max’s first visit on my couch for a week. That was nothing. Second visit, Max enjoyed the couch, and my cat – Tigerlily for the better part of three months. On Max’s third trip, we had a roll away bed, and all the pieces were aligning.

The footage you are seeing is almost six months beyond Max’s first visit to the Beach. At this point our dream was becoming reality. Atlantis Down was taking off.