In 2008, Lakewood Ranch resident Karl Wilson was traveling to New York City to work on a film project. He had two duffle bags — in one bag was a camera and in the other were a few essentials and the rest of the filming equipment he needed to get through the weekend.
When it came time to find a name for the independent-film production company in 2008, he and his wife, Rhonda, decided Two Duffle Bags seemed the most appropriate reminder of how much they can do with little.
On Jan. 12, the Wilsons hosted a screening of their 82-minute, independent film, “Breaking Up With Rosie,” at Lakewood Ranch Cinemas. There had previously been two short films under the production company — one in 2008 called “Groceries.” The second short they made in two days in 2011 for Movieville Film Festival inspired the couple to pursue a full-length feature created in Sarasota.
In a nutshell, “Breaking Up with Rosie” is a comedy with romantic undertones about a romance writer going through a divorce. Karl Wilson wrote and directed, and Rhonda Wilson produced it using local actors and local filming locations. The film was completed in one year with a budget of $3,000 from their own pockets. The filming was accomplished in 11 days.
Big-budget films use up to 20,333 times as much as the Wilsons’ budget. For example, blockbuster “Les Miserables” had a $61 million budget. The Wilsons say they couldn’t have completed this film with that small of a budget in any place other than Sarasota.
“We didn’t pay for a single location,” Karl Wilson explains. Each of the 15-to-20 locations where they shot was receptive to helping with the project.
“A (Parker’s Books) employee ran an extension chord out the door so we could continue working after they closed,” says Karl Wilson.
And, as a first-time producer, Rhonda Wilson is appreciative of the Sarasota County Film Commission, whose staff acted as liaisons for shooting locations and gave guidance along the way.
“They were very patient with me, to say the least,” Rhonda Wilson says.
When they asked the commission about the possibility of shooting at an airport, the commission delivered.
“They bent over backward and said, ‘Hey, we have someone who can hook up a pilot for you with a private jet,’” Karl Wilson says.
“Actual working actors were willing to work on it for free to see it come to fruition,” Rhonda Wilson says. There were 17 local actors and three local crew members. An additional 30 cast members came from around Florida.
“It’s pretty amazing to think of pulling this all together and finding all of these great people, considering when we started the process we only knew (actor) Greg (Burgess), (Director of Photography) Bret (Ballenger) and a handful of extras,” Rhonda Wilson says.
Another difficult aspect for the Wilsons was balancing daily life with the creation of their dream project.
The Wilsons are married with three children, going on their 17th year together since their church pastor introduced them. Before they were consumed with carting kids around to softball and football games, they made short films. But these days, both work full-time jobs: Rhonda Wilson works in human resources and Karl Wilson is in information technology. The full-length project was accomplished in the couple’s spare time.
“I’d work until 5:30 and then work (on the film) until 1 a.m. just editing — that was my life from February to October,” Karl Wilson says.
It was trying for the couple.
“It was a test on our family and our relationship, so to juggle (it all) and to complete it was so rewarding,” Rhonda Wilson says.
But, they are already in pre-production for their next project.
“The (first) movie was more to show myself what we are capable of doing,” Karl Wilson says. He has no doubt that the next film will exceed “Breaking Up with Rosie” in quality, he says. But they couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishment and have submitted it to film festivals around the nation.
“And we’re still happily married in the end!” Rhonda Wilson says. “We didn’t kill each other (in the process).”
KARL WILSON’S RUNDOWN
Favorite movie: “The Man from Snowy River”
Favorite director: John Hughes
Movie that should spontaneously combust: I don’t like the movie “Pearl Harbor,” because I’m a history buff. It should be called “Love Story That Took Place During Pearl Harbor.”
Best picture of the year? “Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best”
Most under-rated movie? “Three O’Clock High”
Last movie seen at the theater:“The Dark Knight Rises”
Favorite actor: Alive — Harrison Ford; dead — Jimmy Stewart
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Cops Corner: Sarasota
Enjoy this week's edition of Cops Corner.
World on a string
The exchange of goods and chatter are the usual soundtrack for the Saturday morning Downtown Farmers Market on Orange Avenue.
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Bookstores across the state celebrated Florida Bookstore Day Saturday. Bookstore1 held an all-ages literary party and read-a-thon for customers and members of the community.