Features Start Ups

“Crohnie” the Featured Film, 12-Hour Pool Scenes, and Money Mantras, w/ Derek Mari.

This week I had the opportunity to speak with Derek about his most recent film Crohnie. The first thing I noticed about Crohnie was how unique the storyline was. It’s not every day that you hear about a film that talks about Crohn’s Disease. After watching the trailer for the film on WeFunder it only felt right to reach out to Derek and learn more about him. Here’s how our conversation went:

Invest in Crohnie Film: A heartfelt feature comedy about identity, family, and Crohn’s disease. | Wefunder

Me: Derek, lets talk a little bit about your upbringing. Where are you from originally?
Derek: I grew up in a small town in California’s Central Valley, but then again everything feels small in comparison to Los Angeles where I live now.

Me: Derek, what moment made you realize that you wanted to become a filmmaker?
Derek: I wanted to be a filmmaker from as early as I can remember. My older brother and I started making videos at the ages of six and eight. We’d recreate episodes of our favorite TV shows, sometimes frame-by-frame which taught me a lot about filmmaking from the get-go. I loved the creative expression of it all and revelled in making my friends and family laugh with the final product. In high school, I began to take the craft more seriously by reading every book I could about filmmaking techniques, burning through the AFI Top 100 movies, and eventually taking summer film courses in Los Angeles. 

Me: What inspired the creation of Crohnie?
Derek: Crohnie oddly started during the worst time of my life. After years and years of dealing with a chronic disease in secret, my struggle became public when I ended up in the hospital for about a week due to a severe digestive flare-up. Tethered to an IV bag with nowhere to go for that time, I had nothing to do but write. For the first time, I wrote about my experience with Crohn’s disease and infused the pages with humor and heart. Comedy has always been my go-to genre and it only felt natural to explore my journey with a chronic disease by making fun of it.

Me: For those that have only heard of it but aren’t sure what it is, what exactly is Crohn’s disease?
Derek: Crohn’s is a digestive disease under the IBD (irritable bowel disease) umbrella. Along with ulcerative colitis, it has no known cause or cure. These diseases are often called “invisible” because they can not be immediately noticed from an outside perspective. Many patients suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to a digestive disease. One of my goals with this film is to help people knock down that wall!

Me: Why was it so important for you to tell a story like Crohnie?
Derek: I have never seen a movie that explores the daily struggles of an invisible illness, let alone Crohn’s disease. I was diagnosed at 15-years-old and, as an aspiring filmmaker, would have LOVED to see something that represents the community authentically. Throughout the development of the feature film, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with so many inspiring people in the IBD community who were willing to share their personal stories with me. I know that there’s an audience eager to see their unique experiences portrayed on screen by a project that reminds them it’s okay to laugh at the difficulties of life. Yet, I’ve also discovered that Crohnie’s theme — learning to embrace the parts of yourself you may be ashamed of — is a universal theme that we can all understand.

Me: Derek if you can remember, what was the first interaction you ever remember having with money?
Derek: That’s a good question. I remember realizing very young that my hobby was an expensive one! I used a hand-me-down video camera for a long time and, when I wanted to upgrade, I was shocked at the prices. And that was just for the body? Lenses were how much?? Luckily, my parents were always supportive of my interests and we would find a way to compromise on equipment, such as me agreeing to a DSLR instead of a RED at 13-years-old…

Me: What has been your most memorable filmmaking moment thus far and why?
Derek: In 2019, I directed a single scene from the full-length script for Crohnie. It’s an 8-minute short film you can watch on my website www.derekmari.com or Vimeo page www.vimeo.com/directorderek . For that project, I had the opportunity to direct actors/comedians Matt Besser and Pam Murphy. I’d been fans of both of them, even studying under Besser at the Upright Citizens Brigade, and felt so honored that they wanted to be involved. Both actors were very collaborative on set and it was a wonderful experience to watch them say the words I wrote for them.

Me: What was the most difficult part about shooting Crohnie?
Derek: In regards to the short film, we shot in a pool… for 12 hours… in April. We, of course, heated the pool the night before, but after hour 6 or 7 it started to get kind of chilly. The actors and our cinematographer Kayla Hoff, who also had to be in the pool all day with the underwater camera, were such troopers. Can’t wait to do it all again for the feature adaptation!

Me: What do investors get when they invest in Crohnie?
Derek: When people invest on our WeFunder, www.wefunder.com/crohnie, they obtain ownership on a piece of the project. They obtain equity. Our goal is to return 115% of their investment to them after the finished film finds distribution. With any remaining profit that the film makes, investors and the filmmakers (myself and producer Dan Sima), will split profits 50/50. We also offer some exciting perks depending on the amount of the investment. These include your name in the credits, becoming an associate or executive producer, a visit to set during production, or an invite to a special screening!

Me: Derek, you’re a relatively young guy. What’s a lesson you learned the hard way about money?
Derek: Hmmm… Maybe just that you gotta work for it? It doesn’t just miraculously appear in your bank account, at least it doesn’t for me. And, starting out in the entertainment industry, the grind is necessary when the pay isn’t all that great. I was working 60-75 hours a week and then setting money aside so that I could afford to shoot a short film on the weekends, hoping that those projects would be my ticket out.

Me: What type of relationship would you say that you have with money at this point in your life?
Derek: To totally contradict my previous answer, I’ve (tried to) adopt a hippie-dippie approach to money in recent years. After several self-help books guiding me toward reshaping my relationship with money, I’ve practiced removing my worries about finances. Of course, I have to acknowledge that this strategy has inherent privilege with its “money will come” mantra, but it’s more about the feelings toward finances. Especially with freelance work, there can be a month of financial drought, but by keeping focused on the work and always open to new opportunities, something usually comes around in time to save me.

Me: In your opinion what’s the true purpose of money?
Derek: In American society, money is needed for a dream like producing a full-length feature film to come true.

How do you feel about Crohnie?

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