Crystal native Zach Schnitzer has been acting in plays for many years but when the start of the coronavirus pandemic hampered the start of his freshman year at Chicago’s DePaul University, he found himself looking for a new creative outlet. That outlet – screenwriting – has become the first short film project that he’ll be helming.
“I love acting, and I will act in any play or movie if I’m right for the role, of course,” said Schnitzer, who won the 2019 BroadwayWorld MN award for Best Actor in a Play. “When it comes to being the one who makes it and writes it and puts it on its feet, I have to feel really incredibly passionate about the story. And this one obviously, stems from a really deeply personal place.”
Schnitzer’s film, “Sweet Disposition,” films in early August in Chicago, and has a GoFundMe set up to help cover some of the costs of production. Anyone who donates will be listed in the film’s credits. It has hit early goals and led to stretching the hopeful number a couple of times.
“We raised it because if people are willing to contribute. That’s a beautiful thing,” Schnitzer said.
“Sweet Disposition” is about a single mom, Amy, with an only child son, Noah, who will be played by Schnitzer, and their rocky relationship. The relationship gets explored as they come together to mourn the loss of Amy’s mother, who Schnitzer explained was better for Noah than his mother.
“It’s about Amy’s journey, kind of finding her way back to having a really good relationship with her son, and finding her way back to being the mother she wants to be for her son,” Schnitzer said. “It’s Amy … kind of figuring out where she wants to live with that relationship and how she can go about it. And in a kind of careful way, while getting some forgiveness from her son if she can.”
Schnitzer’s goal is to have the film finished by the Spring of 2024 when he graduates so he can enter them in festivals next year.
The film, while not explicitly Jewish, is about a Jewish family and will include some Jewish rituals around death and burial.
“It’s not meant to be an educational film, but there are lot of Jewish moments implemented into it,” he said. “If someone doesn’t know anything about Judaism, they will absolutely learn about it. But they will definitely have questions too, because I don’t always explain everything in the script.”
Production costs include paying actors, acquiring costumes and permits for locations. The biggest piece of the budget will be craft services – feeding the cast and crew – and reimbursement for gas for people to get to the locations.
There are two lead roles, one supporting part, and then the need for extras. The crew will be between 10 and 15, depending on the scene that’s being shot. The crew are all students.
“I called a bunch of people that I know who are producers, like students studying production at school, or have produced student films or short films in the past,” he said. “Then I reached out to a cinematographer, someone who’s gonna do lighting, and I’m building the team from there.
A friend from DePaul has recently started a casting company in Chicago that several student films have used, and she in charge of that key area.
“It’s very exciting and very nerve-wracking,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s incredibly exciting.