"Making an independent film is kind of like buying a lottery ticket," says Cincinnati producer Molly Donnellon. "I have a shot at something. I know the odds. They aren't good, but at least I have a shot at it." The lottery ticket Donnellon refers to is the independent comedy Three Barbecues. On Saturday, Cincinnati audiences will get the chance to decide whether Donnellon's creation qualifies as a "winning" ticket. Three Barbecues makes its big-screen premiere at Covington's Madison Theater Saturday, and Donnellon could not be more excited.
"It's kind of a B movie, kitschy and strange," she says, laughing. "It will probably attract a lot of cult appeal."
Three Barbecues follows the offbeat duo of Chuck and Melissa Gladwell who travel between three neighborhood barbecues on "Lil Miss Daisy," their tandem bicycle. Theirs is a homespun adventure of potato salad, Jello, beer, ketchups from around the world and deviled eggs. Discussions of charcoal briquette formations and general neighborhood gossip quickly heat up. At the final barbecue of the evening, the host, Beef Barklage competes in the "Griller of the Year" competition. This "blackened comedy" packs plenty of punch — and beer — into one crazy summertime film.
"It's lighthearted and fun," says Rob Gray, Three Barbecues co-writer and director. "That's the intent."
Gray credits the song "Barbecue Nights" by The Family Van for inspiring the movie. At a gathering one evening, Jay Metz, co-writer of Three Barbecues mentioned he wanted to make a film based on the song's lyric: "It was a three-in-one barbecue night." Characters were created, plots began to evolve, and the film was written.
"Jay knew "Barbecue Nights" writer Jason Drenik from a band they'd been in together," says Gray. "Jay thought the song would translate well into a movie. Who knows — he could have been kidding around when he presented it to us."
The entire process of writing, shooting and editing Three Barbecues was two years in the making. Donnellon and the other filmmakers — Gray (director, co-writer), Metz (co-writer) and Laura Robinson (production designer) — had all been doing production work in and around Cincinnati.
"After working on so much other stuff, I thought, wow, I can do this," Donnellon says. Mutual collaboration between the four brought Three Barbecues to life. "We were unconventional from the get-go, combining '50s dress and '70s muscle cars. After coming from a strict background in commercials, this was much freer," comments Gray.
After 14 days of shooting and countless hours of editing, Three Barbecues is ready to meet its public. Following a one-night stand at the Madison Theatre in Covington, the filmmakers will begin sending it to film festivals, including the Chicago Underground Film Festival. The cast and crew have been working hard to spread news of the film by word of mouth. "This is the stage where a lot of independent features end. We have to be even more on our game," says Donnellon.
Log on to www.threebarbecues.com to check ticket availability for the Three Barbecues premiere.
THREE BARBECUES premieres Saturday at the Madison Theater at 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Stay after the screening for a party with the cast and crew, complete with cash bar and music by Buckra and The Chants, both featured in the film. An additiuonal Cincinnati show is being considered.