Writing a script is like maintaining a healthy relationship: When it’s alive, it’s alive; you can’t force it.
That’s how Paul Shoulberg, writer and director for The Good Catholic, an independent film shot in Bloomington the last two weeks, drafted the script in just six weeks. He sat down to write it, and it flowed right through him, he told an audience Tuesday afternoon at IU Cinema.
Along with producers Graham Sheldon, John Armstrong and Zachary Spicer, Shoulberg outlined the process of getting the film from that script to the streets of Bloomington during “In the Mind of a Hoosier Filmmaker,” a Q&A moderated by Media School Dean James Shanahan.
The inspiration behind the Hoosier-produced film was born before Shoulberg realized his passion for film. He grew up the son of a Catholic priest and a nun who met within church walls and fell in love. While he didn’t know it at the time, this untraditional love story would end up being the plot behind his first feature film.
“By nature the story is a little rebellious, but they never had any malice towards the church,” Shoulberg said.
When Shanahan asked if they would consider the film a “rom-com,” Shoulberg laughed and replied, “There’s a lot of romance and a lot of comedy but I wouldn’t exactly pair it with Love Actually.”
Once inspired, Shoulberg, MFA’07, said he immediately began to gather a crew of fellow Hoosiers in bringing it to life.
“I’ve known Paul for 10 years. Paul wrote the first plays I ever acted in here at IU. He gave me my shot of being an actor early on,” said Spicer, BA’06.
When Shoulberg gave Spicer the script to read, he said he knew he wanted to be involved. Never having produced a film, he went out on a limb and asked Shoulberg to take a chance on him, to which Shoulberg said yes, on the condition that he would be able to have the say in how the story would be told.
Bringing together a set of peers from IU in making this production was no coincidence for Shoulberg. He knew he wanted the shoot and produced the film in Indiana before he even started writing it.
Others said that unity became a driving force.
“This is an Indiana film. Zach and I are from Indiana originally, we all met to IU and wanted to do this here,” said Armstrong, MFA’07. “We want to be able to do things locally as much as possible so we can continue to do films here and see if we can generate support here.”
Some local talent came in the form of production interns, including Media School students, who performed a variety of tasks from facilitating shoots to organizing public relations. Graham Sheldon, BA’09, also connected with his former professor, Media School lecturer Susan Kelly, to work out the internships and glean other advice.
While filming in Indiana had numerous advantages in terms of Shoulberg’s vision for the film and generating in-state support, it didn’t come without its hardships. Spicer said that while filming in Indiana has provided them very talented, highly technical people and infrastructure in the forms of many diverse locations, they ultimately lacked a lot of resources on the state level.
“What we’re lacking is technology and, on a state level, the support we need to make a film here,” Spicer said.
Wrangling together a cast of A-list actors for the film was also no small feat. The producers had to rely heavily on their prolific script in recruiting talent that their budget couldn’t necessarily support. They ran the script past Gayle Keller, casting director for Louie, in hopes of garnering support and gaining help in finding a top-notch cast.
“Again, we are nobody. We are not cool people. Nobody should take our phone call,” Spicer said. “We gave her the script, and she got back to us within 48 hours and said ‘I would love to be a part of it.’ It is a testament to the greatness of the writing of it.”
It was through a similar process that they were able to get names like Danny Glover and John McGinley on board.
“People who love these actors are gonna love them in this movie,” Armstrong said. “They have funny moments, endearing moments, they’re so good. I think the stars are aligning to make this a really exceptional film.”
Post-production for the film is set to finish in April. From there, the crew will begin their submissions for various independent film festivals like Sundance and Tribeca.
“Hopefully, it will be in theaters near you by the end of this year, beginning of next,” Sheldon said.
The panel ended on the sentiment that the connections students make with their peers in their years here are ultimately the most important in going forward in life.
“When I teach classes, students always look to the teacher and think, ‘maybe that teacher can do something for me or cast me,’ and I always tell them that the best connections you’re going to make are the people sitting right next to you,” Armstrong said. “So make sure when you do those group projects or when you’re doing student work together, those are the most important relationships. I think we formed those relationships a long time ago, and that respect and admiration for each other, I think, has carried us through.”