Blogging the Crazy – Post #14: Down the Windy Halls of Friendship

Amy Bruni, Mike Restaino, and Aaron Daley setting up a shot in Better Than Crazy

Better Than Crazy is starting to gather focus in the rearview mirror.

Details first. Don’t wait – go to Better Than Crazy’s Vimeo page to rent or own the movie digitally now! We’ve been officially on the market since Tuesday, September 29th, and the response we’ve garnered has been pretty amazing. DVD editions and other streaming options are coming in the next few weeks, so there is more of an ascent ahead of us. Here in the Buenos Tiempos offices, there’s a feeling of both fulfillment in getting our zany piece of cinema art into the marketplace and that warm-and-fuzzy sense of support inspired by our many friends and colleagues who display astonishing positive reinforcement as the finish line nears.

As a movie geek who obsessively pores over details of all sizes and capacities when it comes to who does what on a particular project, today I thought I’d dissect a small portion of BTC’s most populated crew position: the ‘Thank You’ category. This closely-grouped set of names pops up at the end of almost every film out there, and it’s nice to see some text applause for those who helped push the movie along (films are, of course, never made by just one person).

First day of shooting Better Than Crazy – Cameron Park, CA

So here’s some background on what exactly those who prompted an official ‘Thank You’ from Better Than Crazy actually contributed to the film:

Family.

Lots of folks with my last name and many others without it have been bedrocks not just to Mike as an artist, but to this opus we all finally brought to completion. My parents have been integral to this movie from day one, and were on set pretty much every day to both provide support and act as Production Assistants. Aunts and uncles offered food and board, cousins listened attentively to stories about challenges and difficulties BTC brought, and brothers and sisters of many varieties did what they could to keep me sane and put a drink in my hand when I needed one. My Aunt Kathy has always reminded her nieces and nephews about the importance of a good ‘Thank You’ card after a gift is given, and I’m certainly channeling this as this film wraps up.

Ryan and Rebecca Neves.

These two have been strong supporters and even better friends of mine from the get-go, but when it comes to Better Than Crazy, they went way above the call of duty. We shot a third of the movie in their house, which is way more of a pain than it might seem, and there are on-set photos of Rebecca hanging around on set in her pajamas, sipping coffee, preparing for her Professional Engineering test that she finished cramming for as a crew of people had taken over her home. This is a monster of a test, mind you, and Rebecca didn’t bat an eye with a house full of strangers when she took it (and nailed it, too). Troopers, I tell you.

Pamela Jaye Smith.

In a quiet, unassuming bungalow at the base of the Hollywood hills lies the headquarters for Mythworks and the domain of Pamela Jaye Smith. Ms. Smith and I have been dear friends for almost two decades, but it wasn’t until I started cobbling together Better Than Crazy and my first novel (Paper Ghosts will be released in 2016) that I discovered her true talents not just as a fellow artist with excellent taste but an innately productive woman of ideas. Every time I visit L.A., I spend a few hours at her office, soaking up her sage wisdom and deliciously depraved wit. Anyone who knows her can attest that any concept or project discussed with Pamela becomes wonderfully, almost impossibly improved. Plus, she’s a sweetheart, an absolute hoot, and thankfully she never bothers with low-rent gin.

Josh Drennen.

I met Josh when I shot a short film for a directing class at USC, and even though we don’t cross paths as often as I’d like, Drennen continues to play a key part in my relationship with the business of moviemaking. In short: the dude loves what he does. Josh is one of those actors who approaches each of his eclectic parts both as a worker and as an artist and is unapologetic about it. I haven’t lived in Los Angeles full time since 2005, but whenever I return, I try to get over to the west side and throw back a few with Mr. D. He always has a good story or five about the trials of working in the trenches of the industry, sure, but Josh has found a way to hold tight to his artistic integrity while making a living in the belly of the beast. We should all be so lucky.

On set with Nick Leonti and Deborah O’Brien at a hotel in Diamond Springs, CA

Critic Buddies.

I made a living for a decade as a freelance entertainment journalist and movie reviewer, and the subsequent switch from critic to artist has been one of the most rewarding and demanding endeavors of my professional life. I’ve always felt the twitch of aesthetic design within myself, but it wasn’t until Better Than Crazy was in its final trimester that I was able to wave good-bye to my day job and focus entirely on filmmaking. As I’ve jumped from one stream to another, I’ve had some big support from those who were once teammates of mine. Eric King used to contribute mostly horror movie reviews for a film website I once ran, and while I still see the guy frequently (I’m currently losing to him in a fantasy football league, which is particularly embarrassing), he’s always been appreciative and sympathetic to my often annoying artist tics. Candy Elwood used to tend bar in the small town where I live, and if I brought a DVD or Blu-ray screener in with me on a weeknight, she’d help me talk about whatever review I was working on and (more importantly) let me have a few on the house. Any artist so inclined will recognize the value of this scenario. Jim Howard has also been a big help. A movie review site we both worked for died an ugly and ignoble death a while back, but we’ve stayed in touch, and Jim’s enthusiasm for Better Than Crazy in social media has been a big help (seeing as I know little about how to utilize it).

There are many other names involved with Better Than Crazy that deserve an extensive shout out, but this simple cross-section hopefully proves that a ‘Thank You’ section of a movie’s credits aren’t just blank opportunities for filmmakers to put their moms’ names in lights – though that’s part of it, too, Maddy.

Orson Welles had a great quote: “A writer needs a pen, an artist needs a brush, but a filmmaker needs an army.” It’s absolutely true. Thanks, everybody. You know who you are.

– Mike Restaino, writer/director of Better Than Crazy

Aaron Daley and Mike Restaino at the bar in Better Than Crazy