Luck had nothing to do with “The Lucky 6” being one of the best films playing thus far at the 16th Annual Sarasota Film Festival, which runs through Sunday, April 13.
Shot completely on location in Sarasota, the story is about six employees who started a tech company and very soon afterward won the $120-million lottery. Now, five years later, the film opens with the group reuniting to form a plan for how to deal with charges from state and federal agencies that they rigged the game in their favor.
But while it was talent, not luck, that made the film a success, luck did come with into play with “The Lucky 6” as Bradley Battersby, the film's writer and director, and film teacher at Ringling College explains.
“I had an idea for bringing together students from the FSU/Asolo theater program and the Ringling film department to do a project that would incorporate both programs,” he said during a post-film question-and-answer session on Tuesday at the Regal Hollywood 20 in downtown Sarasota. “I didn't have a script or idea of what the story would be, so I asked my daughter what she thought.”
She came up with the idea of the lottery, said Battersby, and the seed was planted.
From there, Battersby gave the student actors complete freedom to create their characters and the seed soon blossomed into plot twists and personalities that expose the complex, humorous, and sometimes distressing details of the characters' lives during the intervening years, and the unintended consequences of that “lucky” day.
“I asked [the students] how they would react to winning the lottery and what they would do with the money,” said Battersby.
Their input served as the catalyst for the development of a script.
Third-year Asolo acting student Francisco Rodriguez, who plays “Ernie” in the film, explained how he was able to apply his onstage experience at Asolo to his on-screen performance in “The Lucky 6.”
“I haven't done a lot of film, so this opportunity was such a boon for me," he said. "And thankfully the acting techniques we learn at the Asolo work in other genres."
Rodriguez said he did a lot of research about lottery winners in preparation for the film and his character.
And what did he learn?
“Just how dangerous it is to win,” he said.
While no set plans have been made for distribution of “The Lucky 6,” film producer Tony Stopperan said the film might be used to showcase programs offered at FSU/Asolo Conservatory and the Ringling College of Art & Design for students interested in pursuing a career in film.
“I'm very proud of the process and what came of it,” said Stopperan.
And understandably, considering the film's budget of roughly $100,000 was significantly less than one would expect for a film of this quality.
“Considering five percent of the budget went to buying bottles of water and 29% went toward food, I think we did pretty well,” said Stopperan.
So, perhaps the greatest luck of all is this: that even with financial limitations, “The Lucky 6” is a definite winner among many of the great films in this year's film festival.
“It was a complete community effort, and I'm proud of the movie and my students,” said Battersby, who extended his thanks to a local couple whose home was featured in the film. “It's an unusual gift when somebody opens their house [to filmmakers].”
No small thing, with 31 crew members, eight to 10 actors, and “lots of equipment” that the owners allowed them to leave overnight during the filming.
If you're lucky enough to see “The Lucky 6,” grab the chance. But perhaps the luck surrounding the movie will be such that film distributors will recognize its appeal and incorporate it into their repertoire of films that will show in venues beyond Sarasota.