Director, KEVIN WARD, began writing the script for A PATIENT MAN while working as an assistant editor on a network TV show in Los Angeles. During many late-night hours waiting for producers to weigh in on an episode, Kevin would write scenes and begin to shape the story. “When I normally hear about ultra-low budget projects, the script is usually in bad shape,” says actor JONATHAN MANGUM. “I read Kevin’s script and right away thought two things: one, this is a great script with an amazing part, and two, how the hell is he going to pull this off on a micro budget. He did."
With a script in hand, Kevin went out to form a team and raise money for his first feature film. He shot a teaser trailer over four weekends to show potential investors his vision for the story. That’s where he met cinematographer, HARRISON REYNOLDS. After figuring out how to shoot full dialogue scenes on a moving train without permission, the two became fast friends.
Once production was ready to move forward, Kevin brought on JASON MOYER (a good friend from college in Florida) and KATIE VON TILL to help produce the movie. Together the team would spend nights and weekends meeting about how to produce an ambitious project on a very limited budget. Kevin and Harrison watched movies at night after their day jobs to help develop a visual style for the film while the four of them scrutinized every detail of production.
THE GENESIS OF THE PROJECT
FILMING ON A MOVING TRAIN
Most of A PATIENT MAN was shot in various locations in and around Los Angeles, but five days were spent in Sacramento, filming on the city's light rail train system. Filming on a working train is not without it’s challenges. “I think that, for me, the most nerve wracking moment of the shoot was the first morning in Sacramento,” says cinematographer and producer HARRISON REYNOLDS. “Logically, I had known we scouted and worked everything out in our pre-production, but the jury was still out on the question, ‘will this actually work?’”
Even with the City of Sacramento's blessing, production was not able to lock up train cars, so commuters were constantly walking onto the film “set”. Background performers were brought in to fill seats and keep our backgrounds consistent throughout many stops for everyday commuters.
“Filming on a moving train while civilians are using the train is darn near impossible,” says actor JONATHAN MANGUM. “No take lasted for more than ten seconds because of automatic train recordings, stops, and people on their way to work and home. It was tough to act in that situation.”
Only a small portion of the rail system could be used. To keep lighting consistent and the sun in the correct place from shot to shot, filming could only happen when the train was traveling either east or west. “There was a pretty steep learning curve. After some trial and error, we soon realized that we had to complete full scenes while traveling in one direction or the continuity was total mess,” says director KEVIN WARD.
CASTING THE FILM
Casting started with the actors from the teaser trailer shot to raise money for the film. KELSEY SCOTT, AMIR TALAI, and KATIE F. WARD all returned. "I fell in love with the characters. Complex. Flawed. Textured. That's how you populate a story," says Scott.
Casting director, LEAH MANGUM, then began looking for the right actor to play the lead role of Tom. After going through many potential candidates, Leah realized the answer had literally been staring her in the face. Her husband, JONATHAN MANGUM, had just read the script and was looking for an opportunity to play a role outside the type in which he was typically cast. Jonathan is an accomplished comedic actor and improviser, having worked many years with such comedians as Wayne Brady and Drew Carey.
Director, KEVIN WARD was immediately excited by the idea. "Jonathan is a very likable guy on camera that you want to root for, but he also brings an important darkness to role as well,” says Ward. “Jonathan is a great actor and I am very grateful for our collaboration on the film.”
TATE ELLINGTON also joined the cast after reading the script as Aaron, the “stranger” Tom meets on the train. Tate is an accomplished actor most recently seen on NBC’s THE BRAVE.
“I got along very well with Tate right away. I felt great chemistry with him. Kelsey was also wonderful to work with and I had known Amir for years, so acting with him was fun,” says actor Jonathan Mangum.
A PATIENT MAN is a fully independently financed film. It’s a daunting task to raise enough money to make a movie. Asking people for money just isn’t very fun. But with a successful crowd-sourcing campaign and friends and family willing to help, enough money was raised to make the movie on a limited budget.
“You hear about films being done for this budget all the time, but actually being there, and seeing the work and sacrifices Kevin and others had to make was amazing,” says actor JONATHAN MANGUM. “It was 22 days of being uncomfortable in every possible way… begging insurers and city planners for permits. That is what it takes. Non-stop, uncomfortable hard work."
While the downsides of making a film with a small budget are many, one important upside is that it gives the filmmakers 100% creative control to make the movie they want to make. “The ability to have complete creative control on a movie like this is ultimately what makes it so fulfilling at the end of the day,” says cinematographer and producer, HARRISON REYNOLDS. “Our crew offered such an endless source of energy throughout the shoot. I found it incredible that such a team would be so willing to come along on the journey with us. I know that I couldn’t possibly thank them enough,” says Reynolds.