This was my first “Bucket List” interview, and I sent Adam the questions in a survey style. I think you’ll really enjoy reading his story.
Adam Volerich began making films as a stop motion animator, or as it is more commonly known, playing with LEGOs. Raised in the suburbs of London on a steady diet of fish n’ chips and Doctor Who he later relocated to the US where he discovered the wonders of Gogurt and independent cinema. When not watching or making movies he is searching for Sasquatch.
The Penny Ledger: When was the exact moment the inspiration struck you to start doing this? Did another person have anything to do with it?
Well, “Parklife” is a semi-autobiographical story and it’s loosely based on time I spent working for the State Park System. I knew on my first day at the park that I had to write about it. I realized about ten minutes in that if I got hit by a car on the way to work that the world would keep turning and nothing would change. It made me feel really insignificant but it was also freeing in a lot of ways. Being in that kind of environment really forces you to asses your life and it forced me to grow up in a lot of ways. The worst part of the job was sorting the garbage out of the recycling bins. Every ten feet or so there would be a collection of garbage cans with a recycling bin that had a can sized hole in the top. And despite the ample garbage receptacles and seemingly instructive nature of the recycling bins, there would be all manner awful muck that needed to be sorted out. People are filthy. On the day I pulled out my eighth diaper I started to draft what eventually became “Parklife”.
TPL: What was the first step to making the movie?
The first step was writing a good script. I knew I wanted to write about the Park but it took me a long time to figure out which specific story I wanted to tell. “Parklife” went through more drafts than I can count. It actually started off as a Zombie film called “Park of the Living Dead”.
TPL: How long did it take you to write the script?
I’d say it took about a year of writing (on and off) to pare it down the specific story, structure and characters that ended up in this version and another 6 months of constant rewriting to finalize the script. I didn’t finish the final draft until a day or two before we entered production.
TPL: What was the most difficult aspect of your journey?
It feels strange to say, but everything was going so well that what ended up being most difficult was the pressure of having the opportunity to realize this dream.
The script was done, the budget was raised, my crew was prepped and dedicated. I had the most talented cast I could have asked for and then it suddenly hit me that I had never done anything like this before and I really had no clue what I was doing. I had made a few shorter projects before but this was miles more massive in scale and was something I had wanted to do literally for years. I got freaked out and I became my own worst enemy. The pressure turned into fear and I started to let it get to me. But for some reason all these people seemed to believe in me and the story I wanted to tell and that really helped me get over myself and just go out there and make the film. Like working at the park, what made “Parklife” worth it was the people. The cast and crew went way beyond what was asked of them and it became this really collaborative environment. “Parklife” is as much their film as it is mine and I would consider it an honor to work with any of them again.
TPL: At what point, if any, did you feel like giving up, or think maybe this was no longer worthwhile?
I don’t know if I ever felt like it stopped being worthwhile but the first day of shooting I had a major panic attack and wished I could evaporate and disappear.
“Parklife” is meant to be set during the summer. Working at the park is a summer job and that’s really important because summer jobs are temporary, mediocre and prevent you from enjoying everything that makes summer vacation awesome. Most of the characters in “Parklife” are stuck in this endless summer job. It’s not a vacation, it’s not a real job, it’s just this in-between time that’s become fixed and static and the way that this permanence effects them is a central theme of the film.
We had to shoot the film in March and we pulled up to the park on day one and there was a good 3 inches of snow on the ground; it was most definitely not a summery landscape. I remember feeling like the whole film was ruined and that there was no way we could turn it around and tell the story we wanted to tell. Luckily by the end of the first day most of the snow melted away and where it hadn’t I was more or less able to shoot around it.
TPL: Wow! I would have panicked as well. How much did the entire project cost, and was it worth it?
Minus the cost of the camera and some of the equipment that I already owned, it totaled somewhere close to $1000. I was able to raise over half the budget through a crowd-funding campaign on indiegogo.com. It’s amazing how quickly the contributions came in and I’ll never stop feeling grateful for them. Then I put in what little of my own money I could muster and I borrowed some cash from my parents. (They also donated their time and faces. My mum plays the Nun who get’s directions from Richie and my Dad played an antagonistic cyclist but I had to cut his scene for the sake of time constraints.) It was worth every penny.
TPL: What was the best memory?
We really had a great time making the film. Any time we ran into issues we were able to turn it into something we could laugh at. It’s important to be able to laugh when you’re in a high stress situation like that.
The whole last day of shooting was a blast. We only had to shoot a few scenes and the last scene was the one where all the parkies are eating lunch together and Richie jumps on the table and gets really animated. In the film the scene is presented as part of a montage and you don’t hear any of Richie’s dialogue but the actor who played him, Russell, is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and during every take he told a different totally absurd story that had us rolling around laughing. All the smiles in that scene are genuine.
Later that day after we wrapped we had a celebratory lunch at a diner I’d often frequent after work and one of my former coworker’s came to meet us. He was clearly shocked to see all these actors dressed like they worked at the park but it quickly turned into a really fun time. We traded goofy stories about when we had worked there with goofy stories about production mishaps. It was totally surreal but in the best way possible.
TPL: Did you conquer any fears?
One very literal fear was that someone from the Park would realize what we were doing and try to stop us. A permit to shoot there is over twice our budget so we had to move under the radar and shoot it run and gun guerrilla style. On the second day of shooting an unmarked white Crown Victoria (the official car of park management) drove right up to us and we all freaked out and tried to look as innocent as possible. I was convinced my old boss was in the car and he’d recognize me and everything would be over as quickly as it had begun. But then someone our age in park uniform got out, looked at us and just kept going. Like most people who work at the park he had trained himself not to care about what the patrons were up to.
My biggest fear was simply that I would screw the whole thing up. I’d been wanting to make “Parklife” for a really long time and with all the pieces finally in place I became cocooned in self doubt. It’s really scary to have people invested in and relying on you. Everyone was there because they wanted to make “Parklife” and make it the best it could be. If the film turns out terrible everyone’s wasted their time and more importantly I’ve wasted their time. I didn’t want to blow my chance to finally tell this story and I certainly didn’t want to waste the trust these people had in me. It’s too early to tell if the film is a “success” in any sort of traditional sense but it screened recently at the Princeton Student Film Festival and Danny and Natasha (Ian and Riley) came with me to watch it. We had a great time and seeing how much they enjoyed watching it is more than enough for me to feel proud of it.
(I think I address this better in question 4)
TPL: Would you do it again?
Absolutely. I never had any real passions before I found filmmaking. It’s given me the creative outlet I always wanted but never truly found in just writing or playing music. If you search the internet hard enough you can find a couple of failed blogs and poorly recorded songs but this is different. It feels right. Now I’m constantly involved in projects, my own and my friends’ and I’m making a living as a video editor in New York. I would happily do this for the rest of my life.
TPL: Best advice for anyone else who wants to do this?
I used to go to book signings and film screenings with QnAs and things of that nature and I always asked my idols that same question. So I’ll simply relay exactly what they all told me. “Don’t try to be an artist just be one.” Essentially you have to just fake it till you make it. I wouldn’t say I’ve made it yet but I’m really enjoying faking it and I’m excited to see where it takes me. Oh and find some like minded people to share the journey with. It’s a lot easier to push yourself into a creative field when you’re surrounded with good friends who want the same thing.
SEE ADAM’S WORK AND PARK LIFE AT www.brickbybrickproductions.
com (it wouldn’t embed properly, also Parklife is funny, but it contains language and other stuff. This is TPL giving you an F-Y-I)
Would you like to be featured in our Bucket List series? Email Jessica Beckett at firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.