Jason Headley knew his feature directorial debut would have a limited budget. So he devised a script with a pared-down cast and one primary location, figuring it could be set or shot anywhere.
The San Francisco-based filmmaker didn’t know that “anywhere” would eventually lead him to Fort Worth for his heist comedy, A Bad Idea Gone Wrong.
“I wanted to make something from a production standpoint that was smaller, so I could capture my voice a little bit. I needed it to have the fewest moving parts possible, with limited locations and limited cast,” Headley said. “Sometimes you see these low-budget movies that feel really thrifty and purposeless, and are about people sitting around and talking about their feelings. I wanted to do something that had more of a story and had more drive to it.”
The plot follows bumbling small-time burglars Marlon (Matt Jones) and Leo (Will Rogers), who break into an unoccupied house for a quick robbery, then become trapped inside after they trip the alarm system. Then they find another intruder (Eleanore Pienta), who awakens with possible ulterior motives of her own, and an equal desire to flee before the homeowners return.
“I never thought of this, when I was writing it, as a crime film,” said Headley, who has helmed a handful of commercials and shorts. “It’s really a relationship film, and an escape story. I always thought of it as three people who are trapped in their own lives who wind up trapped in the same house. In getting unstuck from one situation, they get unstuck from the other.”
Production took place in Cowtown after Headley hooked up with producer Red Sanders, a TCU graduate and the founder of Red Productions, which has worked on some independent features in addition to commercials and corporate videos.
Sanders arranged to film the project with a mostly North Texas crew, and also took care of the location scouting — although much of the film takes place inside a single upscale house in the River Crest Landing neighborhood in western Fort Worth. Locals might recognize a vintage Kincaid’s Hamburgers T-shirt in the opening scene.
“We got Kincaid’s once for lunch, which was amazing,” Headley said. “[Sanders] had the connections and the access to crew that could make our dollars go a little further. We used the Texas tax credits. It was easier from a production standpoint to do it there.”
Production took place over 17 days last year, including 15 inside the house. The film won a special jury award for Best Ensemble Cast following its world premiere in March at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin.
A Bad Idea Gone Wrong later played at the Dallas International Film Festival and other stops during the summer, before being picked up for limited theatrical distribution beginning this week.
Meanwhile, Headley hopes it will be a stepping stone to larger projects. He’s working on a script for Pixar, as well as another feature that he hopes to direct.
NOTE: Producer and Fort Worth resident Red Sanders will conduct a Q&A following a public screening at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley.