LAKEWOOD RANCH — After his three children arrived and the filmmaking opportunities didn’t, Karl Wilson had to accept a life in which he did not make films.
It would be a normal life — a life of odd jobs that led to a standard 9-to-5 workday and a life of weekends inside a minivan, traveling to football and soccer games, with his wife and children.
It would be a lovely and a fulfilling life, all the same.
But somewhere, the script for Karl Wilson and his wife, Rhonda, changed.
The Lakewood Ranch couple, in their 17th year of marriage, made a movie — an award-winning one.
Now, a new life may be on the horizon.
The film, “Breaking Up With Rosie,” is an 82-minute independent film produced by their production company,
2 Duffle Bags, a name that pokes fun at their spare resources.
The film that took one year to make, 11 days to film and $3,000 to fund, won the Best Florida Production at the 2013 Gasparilla International Film Festival.
Armed with more money — what Hollywood calls a micro-budget, between $25,000 to $250,000 — confidence and the same life-is-good perspective, the Wilsons are in pre-production for their second film, the action-comedy, “Catching Junior Tate,” to be shot in January.
“Before we could get to this point, I had to be OK with the fact that I might not do this,” said Karl Wilson, who writes and directs the films for 2 Duffle Bags. “It had to get to the point where I could go to my regular job and not feel like, ‘My life sucks.’ Your experiences in life change your dreams.”
During their first date, when Rhonda was still in high school and the dreamer across the table was dead-set on spurning college, Karl shared his Hollywood ambition.
The child, who once wrote a play in fourth grade and aced exams, but never did homework, wanted to write and direct movies. Rhonda would be the business brain behind the operation, balancing budgets, enforcing deadlines and steering the dream.
“It was the sweetest thing,” Rhonda said. “His dream would become my dream. I wanted to support him. If he wanted to be a farmer, I was going to support him.”
Rhonda’s logic convinced Karl to go to college. Both earned degrees, in business and film, respectively, from State College of Florida.
Carrying a 4.0 grade point average into his last semester, Karl got a C in a class where he missed the final exam; Karl cut class to tend to the couple’s first child, Jordan, who had fallen down and banged his head.
The couple soon had two more children: Jakob, 4, and Aly, 10.
Karl and Rhonda needed to support the family.
“As a new couple, your relationship is important,” Rhonda said. “You’re trying to be there for your kids. You choose your season of life.”
Karl’s work life started in construction. He painted homes and did electrical work. Rhonda began a career in human resources.
Karl couldn’t get comfortable. He wrote short films for fun and tried acting at community theaters.
He pursued anything and everything to please a creative itch that crazed him into wanting to quit his various desk jobs three months after being hired.
“You name a job, I’ve done it,” Karl said. “I wanted it to be something I loved to do.”
Karl soon dabbled in social work, before his brother convinced him to try information technology. In 2007, Karl earned an entry-level job at Pierce Manufacturing that began a career in IT that continues today.
Struggle soon turned into comfort.
Rhonda and Karl work steady jobs with sustainable incomes.
They cheer for Jordan, 17, in Friday night football games at Southeast High and ferry Aly to softball games.
Karl welcomed his life for what it was.
“I couldn’t like anything more than being a father to my kids and being a family man,” Karl said.
Burden gone, Karl and Rhonda could now make movies with no expectations.
Karl wrote scripts deep into the night, after he put his children to sleep.
Rhonda scoured the Internet for local talent, placing casting notices on the Internet and trying to sell a job that would provide only deferred pay.
The couple used their two weeks of paid time off from work to shoot the romantic comedy, “Breaking Up With Rosie,” their first full-length movie. They shot it mostly in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Their second film, “Catching Junior Tate,” will be bigger.
It will again be filmed locally with mostly local talent, although a few actors from New York have expressed interest in the project.
Dialogue-heavy comedy guides the story, which centers on the character Junior Tate, a recently released Mexican prisoner who is running from a bounty hunter.
Amid the chase, the two ultimately become friends.
Karl and Rhonda had no time to run rehearsals before shooting their first film.
In fact, the actors who played the two main characters met for the first time the day before shooting began.
“The first film was made to prove we could actually do this and have it look like a good film,” Karl said. “We were a big question mark. Now, we want to kick-out high-quality production projects.”
They want their films to be distributed and to build 2 Duffle Bags into a profitable production company that allows them to make filmmaking a career.
“We had to get rid of the dream somewhat to keep us sane, but if you love something, you can’t ever really get rid of it,” Karl said.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].