Norwalk natives Derek Justice and David DeLeon will be premiering their independent feature film "Broken" on June 23 at The Lorain Palace Theater in Lorain.
Maybe even more impressive is that the cousins made the film for less than $1,000. Publicist Lee Runchey joked that the co-directors "spent $285 on products and $700 on pizza."
Justice, 37, of Farmington Hills, Mich., expected the budget to be between $10,000 and $20,000 when they started working on "Broken" in the 1990s, before the digital age significantly reduced the cost of making movies. Back then, actual film cost between $400 and $500 per roll and provided 10 minutes of footage.
"It was really, really expensive," said Justice, who lived in Norwalk until about age 15. "We were mindful as we were shooting. ... We deliberately kept costs down."
DeLeon, 35, of Sandusky, said the eight actors and actresses with speaking parts and a "handful of extras" worked free. He and Justice found the actors through a Detroit-area community message board for the arts.
"We had the faith of a lot of people behind us," said DeLeon, who was raised in Norwalk until about age 6.
The cousins based the screenplay on a short story by DeLeon. The pair said they chose the subject of abuse because it's something to which many people can relate.
"It's a side of life that people won't see or deal with, but it's there," Justice said.
Before "Broken," DeLeon and Justice made several horror movies that involved their friends and directed some music videos for a Michigan band.
"Around 2000, we ... hoped we could get something made," DeLeon said.
The cousins heard about "Project Greenlight," a Bravo TV screenwriting contest for aspiring filmmakers established by actors Matt Damon and Matt Affleck. In September 2000, Justice and DeLeon submitted the "Broken" screenplay after doing a complete rewrite.
"There were more than 7,000 entries and we made the top 250," DeLeon said.
He called making the first cut a "justification that we know that we were doing the right thing." DeLeon noted it was difficult to be objective after years of he and Justice doing everything themselves.
The cousins used the "Project Greenlight" as a "big jump," prompting them to finish making "Broken." They filmed it in the Detroit suburbs from October 2004 through last June, with some additional shots near Grafton.
In August, "Broken" will be shown at the Trinity Film Festival in Detroit. The festival curators chose it after the May 17 premiere in Detroit.
"They were blown away with the audience reaction and said they'd love to have us at their festival," DeLeon said.
The pair plan to shop "Broken" around to various film festivals before starting another project.
"Hopefully it's the first step to something bigger," DeLeon said. ON THE WEB