A chat with writer/director Odin Ozdil writer/director of California Winter ( @caliwinterfilm )

A chat with writer/director Odin Ozdil

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An ambitious young real estate agent who encouraged risky loans during the housing boom must now fight to save her integrity and father’s home from foreclosure – a consequence of the risky loan she advised him to take in writer-director Odin Ozdil’s film California Winter

California Winter, now available on Amazon Instant Video and  on Vudu and iTunes.

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How long did it take to write the screenplay and how did the screenplay evolve with each draft?

It took 3 months from initial idea to the first draft, but then the hard work began of really fine-tuning the characters and tone. I would estimate that the script we shot 1½ years later had gone through 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. 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 total budget we 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!

What do you believe your strength as a writer might be?

Funny enough, my other scripts have larger than life colorful characters and fun action sequences with big twists. Also, future tech is a big element in a lot of my other writing – clearly not so much in this film! Just goes to show that every story has the potential to take the writer on an unexpected journey, which is one of the reasons I love the writing process so much (that is when I’m not cursing it for being out of my control.)
A lot of research likely went into the project before you wrote a word. Where did you get your facts and figures?
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.

While doing research into the crash, what were you most surprised by? Anything you didn’t know?

One of the reoccurring stories that leaped out at me was the extent that banks continued to enforce ill-conceived policies even in the midst of the disaster. Homeowners that were really close to being able to keep up with payments, but were forced to lose all their equity when the bank forced the sale of the home. Both homeowners and banks lost on the deal.
Had your cast – anyone from it – been adversely affected by it? Could they relate to what their characters were going through?
A Martinez, who delivered a standout performance in the film as the father of the protagonist, was badly affected by the cascading effects of the economic downturn. He ultimately had to move out of his home, and he channeled his experience leaving a place of meaning into his experience with California Winter. Also, after every screening of the film, I have people come up to me (sometimes in tears) and share a personal experience of the crash.

What about yourself – how personal a story is this?

Funnily enough – It wasn’t until post-production that I realized how personal the story was, and the personal aspect was not even connected to the housing crisis, but connected to the parent-child relationship at the core of the story. After we finished shooting, Elizabeth Dominguez, (the wonderful lead of the film) casually paralleled the father-daughter relationship to my own father-son dynamics. It blew me away, and she was shocked that I hadn’t consciously tapped it when I initially wrote the script. We had a good laugh, and it’s just a great reminder that the writer’s personal journey will find a way to bleed onto the page in some form.

California Winter, now available on Amazon Instant Video and  on Vudu and iTunes.

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