Odin Ozdil is the writer-director of an enlightening new movie titled California Winter - now available on VOD from Indie Rights. The film chronicles the housing market crash from a few years back. We caught up with Ozdil to find out just how personal a story this is for him.
Were you personally affected by the housing market crash?
Fortunately not. My first direct exposure to the crash came while a cameraman on a documentary about homeowners in foreclosure in Pacoima, a heavily Latino suburb in Los Angeles. I was witness to a lot of the challenges facing families who saw their home lives go up in smoke. Their bafflement, panic and grief in the face of losing their homes had a powerful effect on me.
How did the idea of the movie come up?
The emotional fallout on families from the crash became the lens through which I viewed events as they unfolded, and it was this that inspired me to write the script. I strongly felt that in the media, the human stories of ordinary people’s loss were overshadowed by a focus on the big business machinations that caused the crash.
Did the script change much before it went before the cameras?
Indeed. From the initial draft to the script we shot 1½ years later there were at least 6 major drafts (and dozens of mini drafts in-between.)
With each draft, my own insight into the themes of the script grew, and motivated changes in the new pass. For example, when I realized an important theme is how we’re all swimming in a sea of no good options, I came to the conclusion that characters couldn’t simply be victimized or villainized. Each character, no matter how small, needed to have a perspective on why they were doing what they were doing, and that needed to be clear on the page. Another factor that caused a significant revision resulted from the decision to go ahead with production using the money we had raised so far, which was about half the budget we initially wanted. Earlier drafts involved town halls and larger scale evictions. I ultimately narrowed the focus to just a few families. The final story absolutely benefitted from this revision. We’ve heard it before, but it’s true: the audience won’t miss the things they never knew about!
The Big Short might be seen as the opposite of California Winter. How else do you think they differ?
I think they are very different films that can be talked about in the same conversation, almost as companion pieces. The Big Short is a great film shows us in an insider’s perspective of the financial market and the billions of dollars that were at stake. I wanted to make a film that could take place in any community, in any city in America. The monetary amounts everyday people were dealing with may seem paltry in the scale of things, but for each of those families, the stakes were just as high.
Has The Big Short opened doors for your film though?
I hope so! The crash was the biggest event of the new century that affected people on a day-to-day basis. I hope California Winter can be a part of the conversation of how we got to where we are today. However, the truth is, in this industry, without marketing money, you really can’t compete with a film like The Big Short. California Winter got made on favors and a laughable budget, and it’s really through the generous attention from Clint Morris of October Coast PR that we are getting any notice at all today. Ultimately, it will be up to critics, bloggers and audiences to get the word out.
How much research did you have to do before plotting out the screenplay?
For a few months, I read every article I could get my hands on and watched all the coverage I could about the crisis. Then, as the script came together, the mechanics of the quickly crisis took a backseat to the actual storytelling. My film is not an exposé on financial or political institutions or the machinations behind the crisis – it is about the human tragedy, and the mechanics of the crisis take a backseat to that.
Is this your first film? How was the experience?
It was my first! However, my producing partner, Aimee Schoof, had made 25 films prior to this one, so she brought in a great knowledge of getting a production off the ground, as well as favors to really maximize our budget.
What do you hope audiences take away from the movie?
This is the where I get to be a bit idealistic right? I hope audiences are encouraged to question the actions of our most rich and powerful institutions, especially when those institutions don’t value or exhibit the most important of human elements – family, honor, love and self-reflection.