Two Dash One One (2022)
After being torn apart by a tragic accident, two young lovers are forced to reexamine their relationship when they are reunited in the afterlife.
Starring: Mackenzie Breeden & Allie Leonard
Directed by Nate Hapke
Written by Rosie Grace & Nate Hapke
Produced by Rosie Grace & Nate Hapke
Suffice it to say, Two Dash One One was in concept, and is in hindsight, the perfect first feature. When I made the transition from short story writer to scriptwriter and from in front of the camera to the one calling “Action!,” the idea of making a career as a feature filmmaker became clear and the idea of directing something I wrote seemed obvious.
Everyone starts somewhere, and I knew that, whatever the project was, it had to be something viable. At first, it was a feature length version of my senior thesis film Alvie (2014) - which itself was an adaptation of a short story I wrote when I was in my teens. The short story was only 7 pages long, but I remember knowing at the time that it could be a whole life for the titular antihero - a whole feature. So the idea started flowing, but something wasn’t right. So I stopped. I did end up finishing this screenplay when presented with time during the quarantine of 2020, and the project ended up benefiting heavily from the gift of time away as well as the experience gleaned from the development and production of myriad others.
Then came the idea to expand a one-take short that weaved through a family Christmas party to reveal what was said between the lines for a family filled with love and sadness. The audience was to be a guest at the party, and the project was aptly titled Guests. A few drafts and few years later, the story grew to the point where the one take was simply the inciting incident for the rest of the narrative, ostensibly the flashback sequence that informed everything that took place afterwards in the film - especially with the sequence ending with a traumatic reveal that would permeate the lives of every member of the family. This is a device that I was able to explore implicitly in my shorts Thom & Gerry and To the Moon and Back, and explicitly in my short film She & Her. This film was too expensive, and therefore not viable.
Then came a birthday present from writer/producer Rosie Grace - the title page for what would be a feature screenplay, the story of which we’d develop together, entitled Good Grief. It followed in a long line of collaborations, an organic blending of our styles that was the perfect collaboration for something so big that would mean as much to me as it would to her. When the story was finished, Rosie wrote the screenplay in its entirety, revised draft after draft, and got it ready for the world. We even went as far as hiring a producing team and casting our lead actress - someone we both really, really, really wanted to work with - who said yes. In an effort to build excitement for the project, we at first attempted to produce a short proof of concept that ended up costing more than most micro-budget features so we opted to produce our now five time award winning short film Ride Share.
Not only was Good Grief a huge ensemble piece, but it also contained a lot of interiors and exteriors that required a lot of maneuvering creatively and a lot of money. Then the pandemic hit, and the project was no longer viable.
Rosie Grace and I had nothing but time to think about what we could work on next and we kept ourselves very busy. 5 total feature screenplays, 2 pilots, and 4 short film scripts and the production of 3 short films happened between March 2020 and December 2020 and we set ourselves up for what would be our busiest year yet - 2021. One of the aforementioned feature scripts began as a writing prompt from Joseph Gordon Levitt, through his podcast - write a sad story in four words or less. “Alone they sat, forever.” Immediately, I saw them. Marnie and April sitting on a bench, or was it a couch? It was a couch and they were in a cabin. But how did they get there? Why were they together but “alone”? And why was it to be forever?
These questions helped form the basis for discovery and thus the narrative was born. A few scenes in, a problem presented itself - the characters sounded the same. I looked up from my laptop to see Rosie typing away and asked if she’d like to write this with me. She said yes and the rest, as they say, is history. The mumblecore existential epic became a love story, the characters became individuals, their relationship, conflict(s), and resolution became clear. We wrote what we knew - the experience of a young couple tasked with redefining their relationship when presented with circumstances and an environment that neither of them understood. We had to keep each other and ourselves as individuals safe, sane, and moving forward. The characters aren’t us, but they’re also not not us. We know them, we love them, we understand them. This story was the perfect narrative to serve as each of our respective first features because it was deeply personal but also an organic progression of everything we had done prior.
The production was also viable. Two characters, one location, a small but dedicated crew. The aforementioned short films that we shot in quarantine prepared us for minimalist film production in a way that we couldn’t have planned better for. We surrounded ourselves with people we trusted, we respected, and we knew that we could count on to help us bring this story to life. The two actors were talents I was fortunate enough to not only have collaborated with multiple times prior but also had used as inspiration when writing this script. When they each said yes to starring, we knew we were in for something special.
Ten long days in the middle of a heat wave in southern California at seven thousand feet of elevation later, twelve if you include travel, prep and wrap, and we had our first feature in the can. It was perfect in its imperfection. We logically built on the successes and failures that came before it, challenged ourselves to grow in myriad ways, and walked away with an experience that we’ll never forget.
Two Dash One One was the perfect first feature.