Would you like a behind-the-scenes glimpse of an indie film production? Are you curious about ways to overcome obstacles while re-drafting, optioning and producing a screenplay? Here is an insider’s look about the long process for “One Hand Clapping,” which won a screenplay award at Telluride IndieFest in 2002 and the best fiction screenplay at the Monaco International Film Festival in Monte Carlo in 2013.
Family Collaboration With All-Texas Cast and Crew
Last month, the new feature film production, “One Hand Clapping,” was filmed in the Austin, Lockhart and San Marcos area. An all-Texas cast and crew collaborated on the project with writer, director and producer Jerry Alden Deal. His wife, Berry Deal, is the executive producer, and brother, Jay Deal, is co-producer.
“Returning to my Texas roots and filming with local cast and crew was actually very fulfilling. At various times, I had name talent express serious interest in this project, but coming back here and going totally indie just felt right,” said writer, director and producer Jerry Alden Deal.
Jerry, who grew up in Texas and attended the University of Texas in the 1970s, has also worked on several other film projects in various capacities. In 2007, he made his directorial debut in “Dreams Awake.” He also worked several years at Sony Pictures Entertainment in California.
Extended Development History of New Indie Film
The timeline of “One Hand Clapping” has a long and winding development history. Jerry Alden Deal wrote the first draft in the early 1990s, more than 25 years ago. Three different L.A. production companies previously optioned the project, but none of those situations resulted in production.
Once the rights reverted back to Jerry, he decided to produce and direct the project himself. Since then, the screenplay has gone through numerous drafts. “One Hand Clapping” focuses on old, unresolved issues that pop up when three grown brothers return to their small Texas home town to visit their bitter and terminally ill father.
In this film about the human spirit, three generations of the Ward family face an uphill battle in undoing their past and present situation. The drama, spanning 35 years, addresses life, death and rebirth within the subtext of aging parents, sibling rivalry and the possibility of reincarnation.
Here are more insights from writer, director and producer Jerry Alden Deal:
Could you elaborate on the title of this film? The term “one hand clapping” comes from the old (and popular) zen koan – “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” A koan is basically a mental exercise, usually a paradox, used to quiet the mind and make it easier to meditate. Eventually, the mind figures out–hopefully–that there is no real quantifiable or qualifiable answer. Essentially, this facilitates one to become free of the mind’s trappings and allows one to intuitively grok [to understand] spiritual concepts. When the film is released, the viewers will understand how it is used in the story.
Is the story autobiographical and, if so, what are the challenges involved sharing these personal experiences and collaborating as a family? Well, as a writer, one always brings personal experiences when creating a storyline. This story is not autobiographical. However, there are elements that many of us can probably relate to.
What are your tips for anyone dealing with similar delays in seeing a project come to life? There will always be delays and sometimes years will pass before you see some momentum in a project. Even though I wanted to see this project take off years ago, I think the timing now is perfect.
Does the current production differ in any way from the screenplay that received awards? No, not really. There may be a little tightening up with some of the dialog, but the story is the same.
Did you hit any stumbling blocks during the filming process, and what was done to overcome these issues? Luckily, it has been a good production…. We have a wonderful cast and crew who make a great team on this project.
What are the next steps after production is finished? Well, first of all, we will all take a long nap. Then, we will gather again at our California studio to begin post-production.
Based on these experiences, what advice would you offer to other screenwriters? When you write, make sure that your characters are interesting enough to intrigue the audience. Ask yourself, “Would this character interest me if I was watching this movie?” Also, don’t get discouraged with criticism and rejection when it comes to screenwriting. Always continue writing because even though it may not feel like you are getting anywhere with it, you are actually polishing your craft and expanding your imagination the more you play with it and become comfortable within your own universe.
For more photos and reflections on making the indie film “One Hand Clapping,” visit Jerry Alden Deal‘s blog.