I had the opportunity to speak with director Brad Battersby about his film The Lucky 6, the first collaborative feature film by students at Ringling College and the Florida State Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. Battersby revealed how the film developed from an idea into the first project of its kind.
The film, Ringling’s first feature-length film, centers on the employees of a tech start-up firm in Sarasota who contribute to an office pool and win the lottery together. Five years after their victory, amid federal accusations of fraud, the coworkers meet again in Sarasota to get their stories straight. The Lucky 6 looks into their relationships and dramas as they navigate the turmoil.
Brad Battersby, photo by Evan Sigmund. Republished from SRQ Magazine, March 2014.
Battersby explained that his oldest daughter developed the film’s concept. “Her grandfather is Dan Petrie (director of Raisin in the Sun, Sibyl and Resurrection), and so he had started this tradition of the morning story conference with his writers, and he would include her, he would get her when she was a little girl and just invite her along. And everyone just kind of talked stories. And so when she came to Ringling here to be a part of our program, we continued that tradition.” After asking for suggestions for a story with an ensemble cast taking place in Sarasota, Battersby said his daughter presented the story of the lottery-winning high-tech startup a few weeks later at one of their story breakfasts.
One of Battersby’s limitations was the budget of the film. “With a low-budget film, it boils down to, for better or for worse, a lot of talk,” Battersby admitted. He consequently relied not only on the actors to liven up the characters, but the Sarasota area to bring color to the film. “I love to try to use Sarasota as a real character and take advantage of what Sarasota’s all about.” Screenshots and released video have shown that Battersby showcases some of the most beautiful parts of Sarasota and uses the location as an operative in the plot.
Collaboration and active participation were also keys to the development of the film. “The big feds and the state are coming down on [the characters],” Battersby explains. “They all come back to Sarasota because they all took off. They blew their money and got into a lot of trouble. That’s what the Asolo students brought to the table, because that kind of a story, I could throw it out: here’s the situation. You win the lottery. You get twenty million dollars. What happened to you?” The Asolo students were given a few weeks to mull over their characters before pitching their interpretations to the filmmakers, who consequently molded the story lines around those perceptions. “We had no idea where the story would go. It would be dictated by the characters, so we had to be very open.”
The fact that this was largely a student-made film—31 students and 10 Asolo actors were involved in the production—meant that new methods of cooperation had to be developed to be successful. “This experience was interesting in that I’m a teacher,” Battersby related. “That teacher was gone. I had a movie to make now. And I had to rely on [the students] to do their job. And that’s the experience all the faculty mentors on the film, including myself, had with our students. The students were thrown. ‘Why are you treating us like your employee?’ You sort of are, you’re our crew.” Battersby said that he greatly enjoyed working with his crew and other collaborators, and hopes that the Ringling College Summer Feature Film Project will be done about every other year.
The Lucky 6 shows tonight, Monday, April 7 at 6:45pm and Tuesday, April 8 at 8:45pm.