Dennis Hefter got the push he needed while attending the Dov Simens 2-Day Film School in Los Angeles in 2016.
“The instructor at the very end...he said if you think you’re going to write a script and the guys across the street ...at Paramount Studios are going to buy it, make it, and your name’s going to go up in lights, it’s not going to happen,” Hefter recalls. “If you want to make a movie, don’t be a wuss. Go make a movie.”
Over the next three months, Hefter pumped out the script to his first feature film, Army & Coop, a bare-bones Clerks-inspired screwball comedy about a former hockey star who loses it all and only has himself to blame.
While the characters are works of fiction, “a lot of the comedy really just comes from my friends and family. A lot of the jokes and situations are from the knuckleheads I grew up with," Hefter says.
“There’s no action, because action costs money — no car flips and things like that, no special effects. All those things cost money, so I wrote it in a way that would cost the least amount to shoot,” adds Hefter, who raised $75,000 for production.
Hefter brought on D.K. Johnston as co-producer. In addition to producing a number of shorts, Johnston was featured on the 2012 TV series Alaska Filmmakers and was able to use his network to fill out Hefter’s skeleton crew.
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“As a matter of fact, every single person associated with the film was from Colorado,” Hefter says, pointing to local talents Heath C. Heine and Cali June, and management by Hefter’s youngest son, Andrew. The soundtrack includes music from Prism Palace, El Dente & Heavy Z, First Base, Bret Sloan and Bullyrag. Avalanche fans may also recognize the voices of Mike Haynes and Peter McNab calling the opening hockey fight.
In addition to securing beer sponsorship and associated swag from Oskar Blues, Avery, Bootstrap, Left Hand, Boulder Beer and Lone Tree, the movie also set most scenes at Mudrock’s Tap and Tavern in Louisville.
At Johnston’s suggestion, the film was entered in a dozen festivals and was rejected by all but two — a feat that's touted in the trailer. But Hefter wasn’t surprised. “They’re looking for social commentary," he says of most festivals. "They’re not looking for some lowbrow comedy like Army & Coop."
Making a movie is a lot like running a business, says Hefter, who originally moved to Boulder from Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1996 for work.
“It’s really identical in that I’ve had a number of software companies, yet I’ve never written a line of code in my life,” Hefter says. “When you look at software, you know what you want the software to do...but you don’t sit down and do it yourself. You hire software designers and you hire programmers. You lay it out, the programmers build it, and over a period of time you end up with what you wanted. It’s really the same with movie-making.”
Army & Coop will be shown August 25 at Blissfest at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake; starting September 1, the movie can be streamed on Amazon, the Apple Store and Google Play.
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Now Hefter is creating an online course called "Make a Movie Now," which will walk viewers through his self-made Spielberg experience.
“Almost everybody on set...wrote a script, has a script, wants to do more than they’re doing, wants to make their movie, wants to see it in the theater — and I don’t know what’s holding them back," Hefter says. "Every single person on our set had more experience than I did, but I was making the movie.
"I think it’s just a matter of confidence," he adds. "If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Army & Coop will be shown at Blissfest333 at Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 West Colfax Avenue; the fest runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, August 25, and 11 to 6 p.m. Sunday, August 26. Find the full schedule at blissfest333.org.