Thoughts on Awaken from screenwriter and Oscar-nominated producer Michele McGuire.
Micro-budget filmmaking. That was the concept. Bob Degus, director, and I had each produced quality films under “Low Budget” circumstances, but this endeavor would take low budget to the extreme. In this instance, the budget came before the script. What type of story could we create for next to no money? We absolutely could not afford multiple locations, a normal-sized cast, extras, vehicles… Basically, we could afford next to nothing we didn’t already own...
We lived on a small number of acres in a tiny house. Looking around, we agreed it could be shot to look like we were in the “middle of nowhere”. If we used our own place, we’d have no location or crew parking costs, and no time lost moving, etc. Under the SAG modified low budget agreement, we could afford no more than three actors. The maximum shooting period was going to be limited, 15 days max. Yikes!
We would need to call in as many favors as we could. Over the many long years of hard work, we had always been transparent and honest in our dealings with equipment houses and associated vendors. As a result, they were extremely generous in return, and graciously agreed to work within our enormous budgetary constraints.
And this was the foundation upon which we built the story.
It was definitely going to be a character piece.
Humans. It’s always fascinated me how we, in our society, place more value on some individuals than others. Why? Because one person has more education than another? Makes more money? Has more power? More material possessions? This never rang true for me.
I’ve always felt in my heart that every person, every soul is of equal value. Their paths may vary. The color of their skin may differ. But the essence, the “being” of each unique individual, is equally “special”. So, when I began writing, this was one concept I wanted to explore.
At the beginning of the story, William, wealthy businessman, educated, “successful,” is the one who has “value”. At the same time, Elias, a Latin-American ranch hand, is expendable and viewed as on the bottom of the social hierarchy. But soon, when the power grid goes out, and all infrastructure collapses...
The illusion is exposed.
William is ill-equipped to survive in this new world without even the basic amenities of food and water. On the other hand, Elias is quite an accomplished hunter/gatherer and knows exactly how to live off the land and creatively utilize the natural environment to survive.
Now, who is more valuable? The “lowly” Mexican ranch caretaker.
Add to this mix the evolution of the traditional roles of men and women. Is this new technologically proficient, successful, “metro man” attractive or is a more traditional “manly” alternative preferable? A question many women struggle with as we evolve as a culture.
Hang all this on our chaotic world run by ego, materialism, and self-gratification, and now we have the ingredients for a complete story.
Our world can be a better place.
In the face of Covid, with lockdowns and restrictions, many people have been stripped of their everyday distractions and their routines. Things that they’ve taken for granted now seem somehow fragile. And in their solitude, many are searching for meaning beyond the material.
Just like our characters in “Awaken”.
I hope that in the reflection of these three characters, people will see where we might be able to expand, where we might be able to look beyond our past, our pain, our fears. To explore living in the present moment, to see the value in each person we encounter. To treat each other with more love and more dignity, knowing that we are all equally special. To drop the agenda of self-service, and expand to consider the good of the all.
We might feel vulnerable at first, but the outcome will be magnificent beyond words!