Luck of the Draw: The Making of Roulette (2010) – By Cary Conley

Filmmaking is a tough business. Hollywood is fraught with stories of films that never get made for one reason or another, scripts that languish on studio shelves for years, and projects that are green-lit multiple times only to fade away into the oblivion that is the movie business. And the task of filmmaking is even more difficult in the indie film world. Enter Luck of the Draw, a 16-part web series that documents the trials, tribulations, and ultimate elation of the filmmakers who created the indie drama entitled Roulette.

I first reviewed Roulette earlier this year and just last month I was able to interview director Erik Kristopher Myers about making the film. His stories about making Roulette were quite interesting, so when I discovered a film was made that documented some of Myers’ experiences, I couldn’t wait to see it.

Luck of the Draw was filmed by Ethan Meyer and was originally posted as a series of podcasts that could be used to promote the film even while it was in production. Each five-to-ten minute episode was posted on Meyer’s site, ethanmeyer.com (then click on "Luck of the Draw" at top), with the final installment being posted in spring 2010.

As mentioned earlier, Luck of the Draw documents both the trials of indie filmmaking as well as the ultimate triumph of premiere night, along the way allowing many fascinating stories to unfold. For example, one evening the cameraman simply doesn’t show up for filming. If this had been a Hollywood shoot, well…it probably wouldn’t have happened. But if it had, the assistant cameraman or second unit cameraman would have been available to step up and filming would have continued. But with low-budget indie fare, one rarely has the luxury of an assistant ANYthing. Luckily for director Myers, documentarian Meyers stepped up to helm the camera for Roulette, allowing filming to continue. These events are documented in an episode entitled "Interviewpocalypse", so titled because Meyers couldn’t document filming since he was filming for Roulette this night–it could only be documented in a series of interviews. The episode is interesting for several reasons: first, it’s fascinating to hear everyone’s points of view; second, it’s exhilarating to hear the excitement amongst the filmmakers once they realize they have overcome a huge hurdle that could have potentially shut the film down.

Other even more serious roadblocks crop up in this documentary, which not only chronicles the potential pitfalls associated with filmmaking, but also shows the immense creativity and devotion these filmmakers have as they struggle to overcome the odds in order to create their film. It’s also interesting to hear director Myers discuss how these struggles allowed him to learn from his mistakes, some of them critical enough to nearly shut the film down for good. (As an aside, only 15 episodes of this series are available though 16 were produced, stemming from one of these mistakes. I won’t tell you more, but it is an utterly fascinating story that shouldn’t be missed.)

But not everything is a disaster waiting to happen. In "A Day with George", Meyers chronicles perhaps the most infamous Baltimore-area indie actor, George Stover. A veteran of nearly every low-budget Baltimore flick made in the past four decades, Stover is perhaps most famous as one of John Waters’ ensemble. Stover acted in Female Trouble, Desperate Living, Polyester, and Hairspray, and is one of director Myers’ early heroes. Myers is unabashedly thrilled at working with Stover, and Stover is both a gentleman as well as a comic.

Ethan Meyers does a superb job of juxtaposing actual drama with whimsical humor to create a highly entertaining series of mini-films. But the series doesn’t merely entertain; it also is quite an interesting depiction of the drudgery that filmmaking can be. Witness "Color Correction", an episode that discusses the months of sitting at a computer while the film is edited, color-corrected, and ADR as well as sound effects are added. It’s not all glamorous, folks!

Each episode is well-made and most are very entertaining. My two least favorites were filmed at the wrap party. Because interviews were filmed with loud music booming in the background, it can be challenging to hear what is being said. Plus, these two episodes are too similar to the standard "Making of…" featurettes ubiquitous to DVD extras nowadays. You know the ones…everyone sits around and slaps each other on the back, talks about how awesome everyone is, what a fantastic experience being on the set was. I’m sure it was heartfelt, but we’ve seen it all a million times. Other than those two episodes, the rest of Luck of the Draw is vastly entertaining and is well worth watching for both those who just want to be entertained as well as for those who want to know a little more about how films get made.

The entire series can be found at http://ethanmeyer.com/Etypical_Productions/LuckoftheDraw.html as well as on YouTube, or the trailer can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CmbfIw6VmA.