Movie, Bright Lights and Promises

Production Notes


    In 2007, after co-producing three feature films and making three short films on his own, Tom Basham still had the hunger to make movies. The three features were horror based, and they were fun and educational – but they were somebody else’s movies. His friend, Frank Sciurba wrote and directed them. They were his vision. Tom had written and directed three shorts, but that did not satisfy his appetite.

    Tom continued to feed his creative side, and had several feature-length scripts completed that had done very well in national screenplay contests. Then, he got an offer to attend a screenplay conference at Sundance run by Dave Trottier, author of “The Screenwriter’s Bible.” Dave’s charge was to “write 30 pages of something different.”

    Tom listens to music when he writes, usually from the ‘70s. Janis Ian has always been a favorite. He saw her in concert with Harry Chapin in 1978, and had all her albums (yes Albums) from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He would often hear a song and think, “That would be a great in a movie,” and he’d flip his notebook to the back and write it down. The poetry of these songs began to meld together in his head, and a story emerged — like it was there all along — as if Janis Ian had left this novel buried in 11 songs over five different albums.

    Tom did not particularly like musicals – actually his wife would say he hates them. Musicals were more of stage thing, not for the movies. Then he heard they were making a movie with all Abba songs, so why not Janis Ian? If Dave wanted something different, then he would give him a musical. Dave liked it. He really liked it, and that was all the encouragment Tom needed to finish the screenplay.

    Tom sent the completed script, to the only screenplay contest he could find that accepted musicals, and it won an award. But who is going to buy a musical? He kept writing, and thinking about making HIS first feature. By 2009, Tom had eight feature-length scripts to choose from. He had written comedy, family drama, thriller, science fiction and cross-genre pieces. But he could not get that musical out of his head. In late 2009, Tom decided to make “Bright Lights and Promises.”

    The fist task was to find a Musical Director, as Tom knew nothing about music except that he liked it. Tom did not sing, write music or play an instrument. Finally, he landed Jessica Cain who seemed perfect for the job. At the end of the last interview he said to her, “You know, with your background, you might want to try out for Jesse.” She gave a little smile, and said, “Yeah, I was thinking I might.” If he knew women at all, he would have known she had her sights on playing that part all along. About 120 people responded to the casting call for the role of Jesse alone, and Tom’s team auditioned 18 of them. Jessica was at all the casting sessions and chose to go last. They had a great Jesse that thye all loved by the time she got up, and Tom was wondering how he was going to let her down and tell her she did not get the part but she would still be Musical Director. She amazed everyboy and won the part.

    There are equally amazing stories about every cast member that came into the production, as well as the crew. From the Director of Photography down to the Production Assistants and special effects guy (thanks Alec), the people who came together to make this movie happen were the best people Tom has ever worked with.

    Tom’s sister, Sue, who had never worked on a movie before agreed to take care of the food. Once she was in on that, she picked up a dozen other jobs – enough to earn a credit as Associate Producer. Knowing she could sew, Tom stuck her with doing the wardrobe. Since her last name was different than his, they decided to keep her being his sister a secret.

    Much of the movie takes place in a bar called “Billy’s Place.” In the past, Tom have borrowed restaurants and bars to shoot a scene in, but that would not work for this movie. They had 16 shooting days at Billy’s, and the only solution was to construct a set. A client and friend of Toms, Mike Garcia had some warehouse space he was trying to sell in a tough market. Tom went to him and said, “Mike, I need a big space to shoot my movie in.” Mike reached in his drawer and gave him a key. It was ten months later when he gave that key back to him. Mike rented these spaces for $ 3,000/month – but did not charge Tom a dime.

    Tom got some other friends together and they built “Billy’s Place”: the interior, including a stage, working bar with beer tap and a lighting grid in the ceiling. For the exterior, another friend, David Balboni, let him use a door on a building he owns in Manassas next to his jewelry store. For a few nights, they mounted a “Billy’s Place” sign over his door and shot scenes of people walking in. The identical door was built and painted and installed in the warehouse. Watch the movie – and you’ll be certain they are the same place.