Chicago’s film scene is evolving thanks to the independent endeavors of Brent Kado and his wife Jessica Hardy. Together, they have curated the Chicago Comedy Film Festival (CCFF) for the past 7 years, and more recently the Chicago Independent Film Festival (CHIFF) which will celebrate its third year in 2018. Kado sat down to talk about his recent film, “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley,” and the inspiration behind it.
Kado’s relaxed demeanor is at once calming as we sat down to talk. The Indiana native and adjunct professor at Columbia College described the area just south of his hometown of Goshen, Indiana, which is the setting for “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley.” Kado chuckled, “It’s the most conservative county in Indiana which is kind of saying a lot! …it has this really repressive vibe…[and] it’s one of the worst areas for meth.” The film’s topic tackles the evils of drugs linked with crime and the consequences.
While Kado described Goshen and the college nestled there as liberal, the area south is a factory worker’s town and the script seemed to be a natural outcome of the problems there. Kado shared, “If you say something about the meth problem, people say, yeah, but at least it’s not Chicago…it’s a lot of racist stuff too because white people are acting like that. If it was black people or Hispanics, it would be a problem.” He added almost as a parenthetical note, “There aren’t black people or Hispanics there.” He continued, “…this crime and situation that people [are] covering up…guys that have no business being criminals get swept up into something just because they’re there. Police officers that don’t really have any clue as to what’s going on…” It sounded much like a walk back in time when, as Kado said, “…people still listen to the radio, read the newspaper. So if you’re a newspaper columnist, you have some sort of power as a journalist…”
Kado actually had two separate scripts written before creating “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley.” The first, he said, “…was about a guy that was just doing a small town TV show and I made it radio…and then I combined it with another script that I had that was the actual criminal element…” Combining the two scripts and anchoring the film with the popular radio show interviews gives the film its beginning and its climax.
Finding the right actor to play the radio show host was key, but Kado had no difficulty casting this role. Unfortunately, the actor who played Dr. Dick Diamond, Jerry Sailor, passed away in a tragic car accident. Kado described the interview with him, a friend of his wife’s family, knowing ahead of time he would probably get the role, but wanted to meet face to face first. “He could have had his own radios show. (Laughing) He probably did have his own radio show! …He did one of those things that you hear about a Hollywood actor doing. He came to the meeting as the character…and I was like, ok, you sold me.” Kado continued, “…he was finally in his 50’s and back at grad school for theater, just trying to do what he loved to do. If there ever was a film around, he would get involved.”
Kado is no newcomer to the film industry and as he looked back on his career, he shared that he has grown as a director. He finds that he now lets “…the actors have control of the scene…trusting that they can deliver which goes into good casting.” As an independent filmmaker, Kado knows that micromanaging isn’t the way to get the best product. “Most of the actors I work with have a really strong improv background which [allows] you to trust them to get into the character and just go into the scene.”
All three of his feature narrative films have been done with improvisors as the cast. Kado quickly stated that he is not an improv actor although he tried that once, and joked, “It was a terrible experience….for me and my audience.”
Be sure to see Kado’s “A Short History of Drugs in the Valley” now available to see for free on AMAZON PRIME. The style, story, and music in this film punctuates the background of the fictional tale based upon key points of reality.