Some directors, like Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott, are more concerned with the writing, they want every word perfect; but not Dudley. “I’m sensitive to my actors. I’m willing to take the lead, but for the most part, I let them become who they studied to be. I feel like for the most part, you get better results.”
In his latest film, Dudley needed his actors to go to some extreme places. “Marvelous Mandy” is a psychological thriller about a single dad, Harvey Fowler, looking for love. Fowler is a stand-up comedian — a little round, a little scruffy — who has a hard time talking to women.
“He gets rejected, he has the worst luck,” said Dudley, describing an early scene in the film. “There’s a coffee shop scene at Heine Brothers, where he hits on a girl, and in front of everyone she makes fun of him.”
Heine Brothers isn’t the only spot locals will recognize in the film; Fowler’s stand-up routine showcases the Laughing Derby.
But then Fowler’s luck seems to change. “He meets (a) children’s book author, Amanda Simpkins. They hit it off. It seems like a romantic comedy.” But since the poster features Simpkins holding a knife and sporting a crazy-eyed look, it’s not too hard to guess that Fowler is going to learn that love ain’t always grand. “It takes a very quick, dark turn,” said Dudley.
Dudley has made several full-length films, many of them genre pictures. He made a Sasquatch-based creature feature called “Primate,” but Dudley doesn’t think of himself as a horror director. “That’s where you start off. Look at all the greats,” said Dudley, likely thinking of titans of film like Steven Spielberg, whose first film Duel was a low-budget thriller. Dudley revealed that Spielberg, the creator of films like “Jaws” and “E.T.,” is his favorite filmmaker. But like his idol, Dudley hopes to be able spin a wide variety of yarns. “I want to tell different stories. I wanna do a Civil War biopic. I would like to do dramas.”
For now, Dudley has to match his scripts to his budget, which are still in the micro range. “Total budget all together with editing, promotional and shooting came to $15,000,” said Dudley.
While he spends most of his time behind the camera now, Dudley says his first love was acting. “I used to always watch the movies and memorize the lines, and act them out. My parents hated watching movies with me cause I’d always act them out,” said Dudley, adding that he’s getting a taste of his own medicine these days. “My kids do it now, and I found out how annoying it is.”
He got his first camera at the age of 15. “I kept telling my parents that I wanted a camera, but it was me, my two twin brothers and my sister, so of course, Christmas has to be split up. And cameras, in 1998 when I got one, were very expensive,” said Dudley. Nevertheless, he got that camera under the Christmas tree one year. “I was so surprised when I opened up my Christmas box.”
Collaborators were scarce when the budding filmmaker was getting started. “I didn’t have social media back in 1998. I had to force my friends (to help), and half the time I was doing a lot of solo films, just directing myself, so I learned to be a director, and realized I’m a much better director than an actor.” Despite feeling like he belongs behind the camera, Dudley is his strongest critic, dismissing his earlier full-length films. “I feel like this is my first real film… Of course my heart is critical, I see many things wrong with my films.” But this time, Dudley is pleased: “I’m very happy with it.”
After Dudley posted the trailer online, it quickly racked up thousands of hits. “The first day we released the second trailer we got 9,000 views. I look at movies I did three years ago, and they are like, 1,500 (views). This topped that in a day. It’s like mini viral. It wasn’t millions, but to me it felt like millions, because I’ve never had that reaction.”
“Marvelous Mandy” premieres Sunday, Oct. 23, and 7 p.m. at Village 8, 4014 Dutchmans Lane. Tickets are $5.