This is the first in a series of articles about the making of And Then I Woke Up from writer-director Christopher J. Aran, from concept to pre-production after its beginnings in One Day in January, and adaptation for screen from Awake While Dreaming.
Briefly summarizing a more complete description at About the Movie, And Then I Woke Up tells the story of Prentiss, an ambitious researcher who is determined to pave a different path in life for himself than his parents. His life choices and several missed opportunities lead him to a second chance he least expected.
But even as this idea came to me in a single photograph, its journey from conception to production was less direct…
From One Day In January to And Then I Woke Up
When I donned my graduation cap from the School of Visual Arts, I was committed to the journey of developing myself as a film director. I began working in the electric and camera departments to learn my craft on set, network with other filmmakers outside of my alumni, and eventually write and direct films building on my student efforts.
I started that in a short film titled One Day in January that was completed with the help of several relationships I’d cultivated while working as a crew member on set. I took it to a few festivals, including the short film corner at the Cannes Film Festival. It felt great, like I was well on my way to directing, and was even nominated at the Action on Film Festival for several awards including best short film and director.
But I didn’t realize at the time how long it would be from One Day in January until my next film….
Fits and Starts | Awake While Dreaming
Somewhere along the line I became lost in the working system. When one short film wrapped up, a feature came along, and then a few weeks of commercials. Music videos were always going on. And some jobs took me out of the country all together which provided me with some amazing travel experiences in some unique and exotic locations.
I also joined the camera union, in part to provide me with access to higher budget jobs and more learning opportunities, while I continued to develop as a writer in fits and starts around travel and other projects.
With creativity intermittently calling after One Day In January I asked my best friend and professional photographer Chris Villafuerte to send me a few photos I could use to draw inspiration from, perhaps for my next film. I wanted to see if some of his still images, designed to tell a story in one frame, would inspire ideas in me to tell a story in a single story or screenplay.
And it worked, quite literally. And Then I Woke Up became part of a growing collection of ideas I had kicking around the same time
From Book to Film – And Then I Woke Up and Awake While Dreaming
But I really wasn’t sure what to do with them all. There was a desire and temptation to take some of those ideas and turn them into short films. But many were too big in scale, or at least nothing I could afford to personally finance at the time. I decided to release some as a book of short stories that eventually became Awake While Dreaming
But I still had other ideas, and the gnawing desire to adapt something for film.
The more I wrote about my thoughts on Chris’ photo, the more I could see the potential for a really great short film I couldn’t afford not to shoot. And so those ideas became And Then I Woke Up and evolved into the screenplay format.
The rest of pre-production involved assembling the great cast with help from Aimee Musil and calling in friends and favors for the mechanics of the production itself which we’ll talk about as we continue the series on the making of And then I Woke Up with the set up and first day of filming at: Making And Then I Woke Up: Day 1