Andrew Allen’s multiprotagonist drama, Glow, spent years in the making. And the Dallas indie filmmaker says he basically went broke filming it. But his debut feature-length film is finally here and set for a world premiere tonight, Aug. 29, at Texas Theatre.
Allen says the film hinges on realism and “doesn’t let anyone off the hook.” The story draws several characters who are trying to make sense of pain and suffering toward a single theme: "Where do we go from here?"
One of those characters is Stacy, a single mom whom Allen says “is already kind of down in the dumps and fighting for her happiness” when (spoiler alert) an electrical fire burns her home to the ground within the first 10 minutes of the film.
The film’s characters could hail from any city. Yet the scenes were filmed around Dallas and Austin — except for the house fire, which Allen says was done in Arkansas because he found a place he could burn down for free.
The idea for Glow seeded when Allen, now 27, was a rebellious and frustrated teenager. He had studied film at the University of Texas at Austin and says he was tired of hearing that it would be years before he could produce a feature film.
“I just wanted to say, 'To hell with that whole system,' and just show people you can do it yourself,” he says, adding that he knew it wouldn't be easy.
Allen says that while the internet has its downsides, a positive thing for his generation is that “the gatekeeper hierarchy” is losing steam, particularly in media, and “things really are becoming democratized.”
“You can make a feature on a phone,” he says. “Tangerine got into Sundance from an iPhone.”
Allen, who initially produced some “bad secret-agent films” on a Tyco camera in the mid-'90s, says Glow's size and scope make it different from many independent films.
“Most indie films are built around the idea of minimalism,” he says, adding that a few friends and actors are sometimes all it takes to make a great film happen. Glow is like an “epic version of an indie movie.”
The 131-minute film has about 70 speaking roles and 10 main characters. It was shot at roughly 70 locations and cost $100,000 to produce.
Allen says he continually went broke during the five years he worked to complete the film. He financed most of the project himself, selling copiers out of college. He also worked two other part-time jobs, which helped him to save half of the film’s budget within a year.
He has since worked at a lot of experiential marketing events. And he has a few people who believe in him, such as longtime friend and mentor Davis Cable, the film’s executive producer.
Glow is unrated, and its characters are equal in terms of what they bring to the movie thematically, Allen says. However, two of the film’s characters get the most screen time: Tre (played by Akron Watson) and ardent atheist turned clergyman AJ (Johnny Walter).
Stacy, played by April Hartman, turns back to an old crack habit.
“She loses everything and ends up in jail,” Hartman says. ”It was a grueling experience having to portray all that. It was a lot of difficult filming.”
Hartman says that, as a mom, she could identify with Stacy’s character but “had no idea where to go on the drug side of it.” At one point during filming, she visited with some women in jail who were going through withdrawals.
“They were very open and honest,” she said. “They helped me a lot to be able to portray this honestly.”
Hartman says she’s excited that the movie will showcase Dallas’ local talent, but she’s also nervous about the world premiere of Glow.
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“It’s so nerve-wracking to go to a premiere, especially one that we ourselves haven’t seen,” she says.
Allen says the film embraces a diverse range of characters and should appeal to a wide audience. He chose the historic Texas Theatre for the premiere because he thought it was trendy, “would be a good bang for your buck” and would be a more memorable experience for those watching the film for the first time.
“I think at the end of the day, any creator makes what they want to see or they want to read,” he says. “[Glow] reflects on how you live your life. You might affect others in ways you never even knew.”
World premiere of Glow, 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. Tickets are $10 to $75 at eventbrite.com. Additional screenings will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2; 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept 3; and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5. For more information, visit glowmovie.net.