Leonard (Better Call Saul’s Patrick Fabian) is a 50-something stay-at-home dad in Los Angeles taking care of two daughters while his wife Dawn works during the day. He’s been interviewing for jobs, but opportunities are slim for a “mature-aged” former record store owner. With their savings nearly gone, Leonard becomes desperate; in a process that takes less than 5 minutes, he signs up to drive for DriverX, a popular rideshare company.
In an instant, Leonard is now part of the Gig Economy and driving at night. It’s a bit of a rough ride in the beginning, though, dealing with the new tech and young Millennials he drives around, with their strange language and unfamiliar customs. More urgently, with his marriage fraying at home, he negotiates some twisty turns in the car as attractive, inebriated young women test his fidelity.
DriverX follows Leonard on a voyage through LA’s late-night, Tinder-fueled party scene, where you never know who’s going to get into your car next, all the while presenting the challenges facing many middle-aged Americans today in an economy disrupted by new technologies.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Writer/Director Henry Barrial and Producer Mark Stolaroff have been working together for over 15 years, making award-winning, mostly self-financed micro-budget feature films.
For the better part of 2014, Barrial and Stolaroff were developing a higher-budget horror film that was ready to go into production when at the last minute, the financing fell through. Running low on funds, Barrial, a married father with two young boys, was forced to take immediate remedial action—he joined the Sharing Economy and started driving for Uber, the successful ridesharing company that has been taking the world by storm.
Shortly thereafter, Stolaroff got a late night call from Barrial: forget the horror film, there’s an amazing story right here about a middle-aged married man who has to drive for Uber to support his family. And unlike the high budget horror film, this one can be made on the cheap like all our other films. Each night Barrial would call Stolaroff from his Prius with crazy stories about who he had in his car that night and what they said or did. Often Barrial would have to pull over right after dropping off a rider and jot down the things that person said—you just couldn’t make this stuff up!
In typical micro-budget fashion, Stolaroff (the Founder of No Budget Film School) began writing down what they had (and didn’t have to pay for) to make the film—Barrial’s Prius and house (the two main “locations”), actor friends, No Budget Film School interns, and so on. Barrial went to long-time beach volleyball buddy Patrick Fabian to play the lead, and Fabian, yearning to play a role where he didn’t wear a suit, jumped at the opportunity. Other prominent cast members came from previous Barrial/Stolaroff films, (Desmin Borges, Melissa Fumero, Randall Batinkoff, Heather Ankeny), or were friends (Oscar Nunez, Iqbal Theba, the Weaver girls), or were cast in a series of auditions.
Working around Fabian’s Better Call Saul shooting schedule, the film was shot over a series of production periods. One of the biggest challenges was shooting nighttime car footage that looked good, on a micro-budget. For this they enlisted DP Daniel Lynn, who has made somewhat of a cottage industry out of shooting car footage. He developed a unique methodology that took advantage of a number of wireless technologies—wireless video, wireless follow focus, wireless dimmers—and utilizing the relatively new (at the time) Sony AS7 (the $2,500 mirrorless camera that “sees in the dark”), created a high quality look on a tiny budget. Every shot in the film is Patrick actually driving—no process trailers—with crew (Producer, Director, DP, 1st AC) in a follow car monitoring audio and sound and controlling the level of the lights, which are mounted to the outside of the car. Sound was meticulously recorded using a number of hidden wireless lavalieres.
Throughout the writing, shooting and editing of the film, Barrial’s chief concern was achieving veracity. While certainly the names and details have been changed to protect the “innocent,” the script for DriverX is filled with authentic dialogue and situations—much of it inspired by actual conversations. DriverX captures with brutal authenticity what it’s like to be a part of this growing phenomenon, all the struggle, craziness and humor that comes with the “job” that’s not really a real job, (as Leonard’s wife Dawn points out in the film).