As Dreamers Do is an independent film about the early life of Walt Disney. We did a review of it not too long ago and it is a phenomenal piece of cinematic art. It definitely has the Nerdophiles seal of approval and should be on the list for your next family movie night. Logan Sekulow, the director, was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about the movie.
KC: What sparked the vision for this movie?
LS: I have been a Disney fan for as long as I could remember – I started homeschooling in the 5th grade and I remember being able to pick out the books I wanted to read. I bought a way-too-adult and way-too-giant biography on Walt and I loved it. That story has been with me ever since. I always wanted to make this movie, but with Saving Mr. Banks last year I thought that this was finally time for people of our generation to really dive into who the man is behind that logo we grew up with. I brought on a screenwriter friend of mine, who I was an intern for at Nickelodeon, and we started pre-production. I felt my crew had gotten to the point where we were all ready to try something adventurous and it really was. We wanted to make the first half of the movie feel like an old 50s/60s Disney live-action flick and then when Walt is grown to take on its own tone. I think we accomplished it.
KC: I know the reason I found this movie was because I was a fan of Olan Rogers. How did you find him, and what made him perfect to play the role of Walt?
LS: I was new to the Olan world, but when we were auditioning people a fan of his actually suggested it to one of the guys on my crew- Jon Schneck who did the score. He emailed Olan, he gave us his reel and sent an audition tape and blew us away. We quickly learned that his following was amazing and his fans were dedicated, but way beyond that he had the natural talent, he looked a decent amount like Walt, and embodied that spirit on screen. I knew the moment after seeing his audition tape we had to have him as our Walt.
KC: If there’s one thing the audience takes away from this movie, what would you like it to be?
LS: That everyone goes through a lot of pain, blood, sweat and tears – and much like Walt continued on, I hope it encourage people to never give up the dream. We think of Walt as this big Hollywood icon, but he was a Midwestern kid with an idea. An idea that failed him over and over, but he never gave up. I think that is something everyone can relate to.
KC: Where did you find your supporting actors? They were fantastic!
LS: Some were professional actors, but most were friends. Ryan Dunlap who played Roy was my Assistant Director. Will Haynes who played Ub Iwerks has been my best friend since I was 2 years old and was a producer. The kids were all children of friends or co-workers. It was a big family affair.
Travis Tritt was a dream. I got the first draft of the script and Travis Tritt’s voice was narrating it in my head. I had no relationship with him, but I thought it was worth a shot. I emailed his manager and within days he had committed. His management brought us Tyler Hayes who played Flora as well as David Richt who has a quick few shots as one of the Laugh-O-Gram fellas.
KC: What is one of the biggest challenges in directing a smaller production like As Dreamers Do?
LS: Shooting an entire movie with children in the winter in 15 days without a break. I probably won’t ever do that again, but it was a great learning experience. I was confident when we scheduled it that we could handle January in Nashville. I’ve lived here 10 years and never had a big issue. This just happened to be the coldest year in the last 30. It was -7 when we shot the opening (and closing shot) at the train station. I wanted to push it off, but Olan had grown the mustache and later that day called for shaving it off. He wasn’t having the idea of a fake mustache…so we did it. I was afraid we lost him day, I kept texting him and making sure he was alright. It was pretty scary at some points.
KC: Why Walt Disney’s story, and why the focus on his younger years where he struggled instead of highlighting his later life in California?
LS: It’s largely untold and unknown. The official Walt documentary covers our movie in 10 minutes. I wanted to share this very relatable story of American dreams and dealing with the failures of those dreams. We all know what became of Walt, but what got him there…that was what I feel like we all could connect with.
KC: What went in to finding the settings to shoot on-location?
LS: A lot of research – and we did some work with the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, MO. We ended up shooting 99% of the film in Williamson County, TN – outside of Nashville. We had plenty of locations, especially in Franklin, that were largely untouched from the right era. We lucked out majorly and if anyone ever visits I’d be glad to give them a tour of all the spots.
KC: When working on this film, what was your biggest worry heading into post-production?
LS: That we got everything we were supposed to. I think we only missed one or two shots… and we were lucky. We had no time for re-shoots. Olan was off doing another thing and it was really us and the production.
KC: One of the best parts of As Dreamers Do is that it is tastefully a documentary and a film. Was that a difficult balance to strike and what went into finding the balance between narration and acting?
LS: Yes – We planned on it being much heavier on a documentary, but when we got down to it – it wasn’t needed. We had made a feature and we were proud of it. I still wanted to make sure some pure, raw facts were presented. It was a fun challenge, and I hope to do more like it. The problem is – who is as well known as Walt? It’ll be hard to top.
KC: What was the atmosphere on set like?
LS: Depending on the day – relaxing, to the most stressful experiences of my professional career. The kids were amazing to work with, but out on a farm in the cold it was tough on everyone. I would love to say it was a joke a second, but we all took it very seriously.
People have often asked “was Olan a riot on set?” Truth but told he was there to do a job and not to mess around. He knocked it out of the park as his performance shows. I wish I could walk away and say we all were best buddies, but it’s just not how a film set works.
Hopefully we can do it all again and get back together – but I think we burnt people out to be honest. Those that thought they loved filmmaking may have decided against it. It’s a tough business. George Lucas has famously said “It’s hard work making movies. It’s like being a doctor: you work long hours, very hard hours, and it’s emotional, tense work. If you don’t really love it, then it ain’t worth it.” I believe that 100%…but to me, it just keeps me moving forward.
KC: Finally, which scene is your favorite as a director and why?
LS: I’ll pick 3 ½…2 and 1/2 scenes turned out 100% exactly how they were in my head. The first being when Young Walt transitions into Olan. At the UCLA screening it got a round of applause and I just was so happy it worked. The other two are largely based on Olan just killing me when we did it, almost bringing me to tears. The scene where he first meets the “mouse,” and the projector scene at the end. They were beautiful moments live and in camera. The projector scene was day 1 and I think we all could settle in after seeing his performance.
And a really cool scene for me to shoot was recreating Alice’s Wonderland. I have seen the film with Young Walt so many times in real life, and we recreated it very closely…it just felt like time travel on set. Really neat experience.
KC: I appreciate all the honesty in this interview, especially regarding burn out. I think it more accurately reflects what the majority of film making can really be. In the end you all come together to do your jobs to the best of your ability to produce something beautiful, and the art is the ultimate prize. With that in mind, my question is very simple: are you proud of the work you did for As Dreamers Do and happy with it as a completed project?
LS: I’m absolutely proud of the film. I’ve seen the movie now probably 100s of times, but I still find new moments I enjoy. In general it also gives me great hope for my next project. This film was a labor of love and I don’t think I could have done it about anything else I’m more passion about it. HOWEVER – Now that I feel like we accomplished a project on this grand of scale, it opens the door for my crew to do new films that are unlike any other. The next one is going to be crazy and fantastic.
Interested in seeing As Dreamers Do? Well you’re in luck. It is now available to stream on their website. Also, come September 1st you’ll be able to see it on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. Finally, if streaming isn’t your thing, you can pick up your own copy of the DVD at Walmart and Sam’s Club September 16th.