Dillon Porter may one day look back at this week as one small step in his cinematic career. For now, however, the Medford native considers the screening of "Bastards y Diablos" at the Los Angeles Film Festival as a giant leap forward.
Basking in the glow of the film's debut Sunday at a sold-out venue, the 2001 South Medford High School graduate and Northwestern University alum is hopeful he'll land both a jury prize and audience award by the time the festival wraps up Thursday.
The storyline for the film revolves around two 30-something half-brothers fathered by a philandering computer software programmer who worked for an arms manufacturer. Although the brothers had lived their lives separately, their father's death brings them together to work out the edicts of his will.
"We all knew that we were doing something special from the very inception," Porter said.
The 99-minute film was shot on location in Colombia by a production crew of six with a $25,000 budget.
"Usually, the executive producer fronts the money, and the producer puts together the shooting schedule, location scouting, insurance, travel, lodging and all that," Porter said. "I played both roles, so it was low-budget out of necessity. I'm not one of those people with trust funds allowing them to create art."
Porter made up for his lack of funds with ingenuity, help from friends and family, opportunistic planning, familiarity with Latin American culture, and a touch of guile.
The Los Angeles Film Festival wasn't on the the short list of festivals Porter and college roommate Andrew Perez had in mind when they pooled together enough funds to send rough cuts to Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and South by Southwest, aka SXSW, in Austin, Texas.
The odds were long, with 8,000 films seeking one of 40 screening slots.
"We didn't make either," Porter said. "We were a little crestfallen and didn't know where to go with our next $80 from driving lift trucks and waiting tables."
Turns out one of the Sundance program committee members, Christina Cavila, took a shine to "Bastards y Diablos" and pushed for its acceptance in LA.
"It's not lost on us how serendipitous it was that someone would remember our film out of 8,000," he said.
Coincidentally, the film's break came in the same city the project germinated. Porter was working in New York and vacationing in Southern California in early 2012.
Porter had recently appeared with Kerry Bishé (Argo) and Kyle Rouse in the Kyle Smith-directed "Blue Highway," a low-budget, cross-country road trip movie.
"(Perez) told me he had a similar-style film in mind he was interested in doing in Colombia," Porter said. "I leaned over and said, 'Tell me more.' "
Porter had been well rewarded for his role in a video game called "Max Payne 3" and quickly put his funds to work.
"I saw how Kyle had done everything on a low budget, and I had good credit at the time, so I applied for a bunch of credit cards," he said.
He snapped up six airline tickets and got a boost from his father, Medford restaurateur Brian Porter, who joined his son among the actors in the movie. The six-person crew shot three terabytes of footage in 35 days.
"The genesis of the film comes from Andrew's own life, and he remains only one of a handful of artists who can truly inspire me about what acting is, what theater is, what art can be — and for that reason alone I'll follow him through any jungle," Porter said.
Although Perez grew up in the Bay Area, he had family ties to Colombia.
"Andrew's family was a most invaluable resource," Porter said. "Even with three-times the budget we had, we couldn't have done the film without them, providing places to stay, driving us around, pointing us to better shooting locations, and letting us know where we shouldn't go."
Post-production continued until earlier this year.
"Traditional film company budgeting includes post-production work," Porter said. "We put all our eggs into the production, getting the film in the can. But we needed help to finish. We had 70 hours of rough film and no one to pay to go through it, so our director, A.D. Freese, became the editor and worked on it for two years."
Emmy-award winner Louis Febre composed the score."The storyline resonated with him because he believed in this crazy kid from Colombia," Porter said. "He paid to have cellists and violinists of the highest level out of his own pocket." The film was be shown again today, when Porter and his crew will find out whether they've earned a third showing.
The filmmaker has other big festivals in mind now that the glass ceiling has been broken. Enough of those and the movie might even get picked up for broader distribution.
In the meantime, film festivals in New Mexico and Wisconsin have already waived submission fees for “Bastards y Diablos,” Porter said.
"No one emailed us before we got into the LA festival."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/EconomicEdge.