by Kalie Ammons
Wabash native Denis Hennelly’s most recent film, Goodbye World, premiered at Eagles Theatre last Thursday, leaving an excited audience debating with each other on how they would survive in the apocalyptic conditions shown in the movie.
James (Adrian Grenier) and Lily (Kerry Bishé) host a group of friends in their solar- and generator-powered home after a mass text sends a virus to every cell phone on the planet, shutting down electricity and resources. During their time together, these old friends hash through their own mini-apocalypses going on in their lives while trying to make the best of a devastating situation.
“People ask me how the characters can just sit around while there’s an apocalypse going on, but people do that every day,” Hennelly told the audience during a question-and-answer period after the film. “There’s an apocalypse going on down the street or at your neighbor’s house right now.”
Hennelly spoke about his experience as a director making an independent movie.
“The most challenging part was the casting,” he said. “We wanted to get some fairly well-known actors who were willing to work as one of seven, and that took about three months. We didn’t even get to do a table reading of the script.”
Shooting the actual film, however, took only about three weeks. The next nine months afterwards was spent editing down the 40 hours of film from two separate cameras to a fluid 99-minute movie.
When asked about how an independent film was able to get such experienced actors, Hennelly simply replied:
“We kidnapped them.”
After the laughter died down, he expanded on the experience.
“Hollywood is a small town,” he said. “If you give a script to an agent and explain that you’re going to pay the actor, the agent has to show them the script. Mark Weber was interested, and he acted as ‘actor bait’ and sparked the interest of some other actors.”
The same tactic was used for funding the film. He explained that after a few small donations from individuals and companies, others saw the interest and wanted to get in on the project.
The theme throughout the movie focused on individual discovery and independence.
“The ideology is inherently American,” Hennelly said. “It’s based on self-reliance, and the fact that you don’t have to hand over authority to some government. When you take away the superficial, we have a social contract every time we interact with people, letting them know how we’re going to function in society.”
As society breaks down, characters who would normally be in complete disagreement politically find that they have similar goals of survival helping people, which Hennelly feels is something that needs to be incorporated into a functioning society.
“When people are able to talk and share ideas, and I’m not talking about the middle-of-the road thing between Republicans and Democrats, I mean as people-to-people, we see that we really all just want the same things,” he said.
Some of Hennelly’s former teachers and classmates from growing up in Wabash came to the Eagles and were sure to remind him of his first experiences filmmaking.
“I’m digitalizing some films from middle school now, and there is some of me and my friend singing ‘Wayne’s World,’” said Hennelly with a huge smile. “It’s great.”
Goodbye World is available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. The DVD is expected to come out next month.