When DePaul graduate Brent Kado laid eyes on the final cut of his first micro-feature film, he realized that the months of long shoots and late nights had finally paid off. Written and directed by Kado, the 53-minute “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley” chronicles the American Dream within the lives of three gangsters that survive day-to-day in a life of drugs, alcohol, and guns.
Made on a budget of around $10,000, the neo-noir comedy not only tells a familiar story in an original way but accomplishes everything within its grasp in the sense of acting, writing, and overall direction. While the film’s cast is short of recognizable faces, it’s ultimately a fortunate factor as it makes the outlandish and bozo characters that much more believable and real because the viewer has never seen them outside the screen. And while the acting was undoubtedly a large aspect of this film’s success, a great deal is owed to the writing behind it all.
For Kado, the story of the film was both a revisiting and reimagining of the small town life he was raised in.
“The idea came from growing up in a small town and the stories that you hear or are told growing up,” Kado said. “People love to idealize how peaceful and joyous small town life is, but often it’s as unpredictable a place as anywhere else. I wrote the film. It was a combination of two scripts I had. I decided to combine and refine the two stories, which is a total independent film thing to do.”
Filming near where he grew up, the area was not only familiar to Kado but was full of a community of people willing to help him on his film.
“It was filmed in areas in and around Goshen and Warsaw, Indiana, near where my wife and I grew up. We’ve filmed a few other projects there as well as commercials. So we know the community well, have people who love to help and there’s a great support system,” said Kado. “We got the cars (and other unique props) just by knowing various people in the area or family. That is a really nice thing about shooting in an area you are familiar with, just ask and someone knows someone that is willing to help. We then brought in other actors and crew from Chicago and LA.”
And while the film served as a hometown type of project, it was also a family one, as Kado’s wife served as both a producer of the film and played a small role as well — a collaboration common between the two of them.
“My wife and I collaborate on most of our projects and we had decided to do another feature — this is now my fourth — after she had just completed a personal short film that I produced,” said Kado. “So we agreed to do this film that I had wanted to do. She produced it and also has a small role.”
Leading a film on a rather low budget, Kado found it rather easy to maintain direction on cast and crew of 50 people, noting that the collaboration between everyone on set was what guided the film so smoothly to a finish. But Kado also drew much of his collaboration skills from his experience as a graduate student at DePaul.
“We have experience in our other films leading a crew, so it’s not terribly difficult to lead the production overall, just troubleshooting and dealing with unforeseen issues. Which is half of indie filmmaking,” said Kado. “When I was in Grad School at DePaul I worked at both The DePaulia and Radio DePaul. Both taught me the value of collaboration and working hard on what you believe in. In the classroom, my professor at DePaul did a great job of making sure you instill quality in the work you do and not taking shortcuts in any aspect of a project.”
It was these [no shortcuts]and great quality of work that certainly paid off in the eyes of Brent Kado when he watched the final cut of “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley.”
And for the viewers of the film, the quality and consistency in direction is quite clear and rewarding while watching it, reminiscent of both new and veteran filmmakers that a low budget movie does not convey a low quality film.
“It’s fun to see a DIY project come together and have the final product be something you are really proud of. So getting to that final cut and deciding that this is the version you are going with is extremely gratifying,” said Kado. “On set, it’s also special to see it all come together. Watching your vision in progress is often surreal. Having Amazon releasing the film is truly special for a project of this scope.”
“A Short History of Drugs in the Valley” is available on Amazon Prime.