WORDS Stephanie Von Allmen | Photography Tim Sugden
To know Kelsey Tucker is to love her, so when I had the opportunity to feature my eccentric neighbor in Portland Interview Magazine I jumped at the chance. The spotlight is on Tucker this issue to celebrate the recent success of her movie, The Competition, which premiered earlier this year. The hilarious rom-com was written and produced in Portland and starred well-known actors, Thora Birch and Chris Klein. Think American Beauty and American Pie, respectively.
Tucker’s passion for acting started in the seventh grade and continued throughout her teenage years. As an adult, Tucker enjoyed a fruitful career as a lawyer. But following her marriage to husband, Will Tucker, and the birth of their son, Dash, she gradually removed herself from the practice of law and re-engaged with the acting world. “It was like returning home after a long spell of amnesia when you didn’t know where home was, or recall ever missing it,” said Tucker. She immediately responded to the material and to working with actors again. She signed with Dennis Troutman at Option Model and Media and soon started booking commercials and films.
One evening Tucker expressed to Will how reinvigorated she felt acting again, and she told him she was curious what it would take to make her screenplay, The Competition, into a film. It’s a story about a girl who thinks that all men are pigs, and a guy who challenges her to a competition to prove her wrong – using their own friends as test subjects. Will encouraged her to explore the idea.
What inspired you to write, produce and act in your very own film? I was inspired by the local filmmakers in Portland who were filming their own stuff – short films, PSAs, even full-length features. I became aware that the digital camera made it possible to produce your own projects on small budgets. I thought, “I wonder if I could make my movie happen? What would that take?” I started taking several filmmakers to lunch and asking questions.
I don’t think I had any idea the size of the project I was taking on. I knew I had my legal background to rely on, so I wasn’t daunted by the paperwork, and I had great relationships with the actors and the crew in Portland. But I didn’t realize that there is so much more that goes into making a film. I learned a great deal about film editing, song licensing, sound editing, VFX, distribution, and marketing. And I became very close to our entertainment lawyer. And none of this would have been possible without Executive Producer Scott South. He is a film buff like I am, but he’s also a wicked smart entrepreneur. He pushed me to have a bigger vision for where the film could go, and he became a trusted friend.
It’s a very funny concept for a movie. Where did you get the idea for The Competition? The inspiration came during my college years. I had two back-to-back relationships that were my first experiences in love. Both were deep connections that lasted for a few years. Both ended with the guys cheating on me. That hurt of course, but the thing that got me thinking was how devastated they both were when they came clean, and how much they wanted to make it right and stay together. I really struggled with why it is that people who are in loving relationships will still sometimes fall for temptation. That was the beginning. I’m an optimist at heart, and I also find humor in anything. So, when I began writing about this topic, I created a protagonist who herself struggles with these serious issues, but the people around her lighten the mood. Life is funny. People are funny. It had to be a comedy.
What where some of your biggest challenges you encountered while creating your first film? Money. As a producer it all comes down to money. If our budget had been higher we could have used an Alexa 35 mm camera. The images are just richer. We could have scheduled more days, allowing for more takes, which gives the actors freedom to play with their lines and come up with spontaneous moments. We could have added locations so that long conversations could have taken place in different places, breaking up the scenery for the audience. None of that was possible on a small budget. We just went at break-neck speed. And we did it! I have Director Harvey Lowery and our DP Emmanuel Vouniozos to thank with that along with my producing partners and the hard work of our cast and crew. I was lucky. We finished on time and on budget!
How did you decide where to film your scenes around Portland and who to cast? Primarily it was what I had available to me. I used my house for various sets for several scenes. I asked my old law firm if we could shoot the corporate scenes in their offices. I asked my neighbors if we could use their decks, homes and yards. Then I approached local business owners to ask if we could use their restaurants and bookstores. I didn’t have money to offer them. Every set location agreed to help in exchange for a movie poster and an invitation to the premier. I think they wanted to help a local filmmaker. And people in the Portland area aren’t burned out like the people in LA are. If you want to use a location there, you pay for it.
Casting local actors in the supporting roles was very important to me. One of my missions in making the movie was bringing more work to Portland. I want to show the world how beautiful and friendly Portland is to filmmakers, and how talented our actors are. Our casting sessions were so great. Lori Lewis of FreeSpirit Casting did some of the early local casting, and L.A.-based casting director Ricki Maslar cast our leads and filled in the remaining supporting roles with local actors. The local actors we cast were awesome, and so professional. And our leads killed it. Thora is such a pro, and Chris Klein always cracks me up! He’s such a comedian.
I caught the film on On Demand a few months ago. Where can our readers view The Competition now? Gravitas Ventures is our domestic distributor and we were thrilled when they arranged for a theatrical release and release nearly all On Demand platforms the same day. The Competition can now be purchased or rented On Demand and on iTunes, with the direct iTunes link here:
apple.co/2BJZpda. The movie can also be purchased or rented on Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, Vimeo, Vudu, AT&T, Charter, Cox, Dish, Suddenlink, and Time Warner Cable.
I’m also really happy with our foreign sales team at VMI Worldwide. So far, they have successfully sold the film to China, the U.K., the United Arab Emirates, and New Zealand!
As a new filmmaker in the Portland area, what advice can you give to others in the industry from writers, producers to actors to investors? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to approach successful people and to believe you deserve a seat at the table. Surround yourself with people who know more about making movies than you do. Have all your money in the bank before day one. For writers and actors my advice is to keep working at your passion. We hear lots of “no’s.” Don’t take it personally. Keep at it. Don’t quit.
*You can find links to trailers, bios, purchase links and more on the official movie website TheCompetitionTheFilm.com. Please share with your friends!
*To see the full catalogue of movies distributed by Gravitas Ventures check out their website GravitasVentures.com. To see the full catalogue of films represented by VMI Worldwide check out their website www.VmiWorldWide.com.
To see more of director Harvey Lowry’s work, go to his website www.harveylowry.com.
To see more of DP Emmanuel Vouniozos’ work, go to his website Evdp44.com.
*To see more on the stars of the film check them out on IMDB or view their actor websites including:
ClaireCoffee.com, David-Blue.com, TiffanyFallon.com, GabrielleStoneActress.com, BetsyHume.WordPress.com, MichaelJosephDraper.com, CatherineJohnsonActress.com.