Imagine Men in Black, but instead of aliens… Canadians! Writing, directing, and co-producing a feature shortly after graduating film school – with a small but actionable budget – was a rare and rewarding opportunity.
The Essentials was shot across 30 locations in New York, crewed by active film students at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and starred a local legend, volunteer actor Jim Toepper in his dream role as a secret agent.
By their nature, the most memorable instances of independent filmmaking often arise from unscripted serendipity. My favorite here happens at 3:00, the end of our opening scene. In an establishing shot of Washington DC at night – the Capitol, Washington and Lincoln Monuments all in sight – we tried a quick whip-into framing and, lo and behold, a helicopter flies directly across, perfectly centered. We cannot confirm who was allowed to fly in restricted airspace at that hour, but like to think it was President Obama making his cameo.
Watch our trailer and chapters from the film below, each with optional cast & crew commentary… plus the Bloopers!