SIFF News: Seattle Filmmakers Outsourced to India!

"We're both fighting that push to go to L.A.," says John Jeffcoat of himself and his writing partner, George Wing. The two have lived up here in Seattle for the past dozen-odd years, trying to make a living in the movie biz, without much to show for their efforts locally. Until now, since Outsourced, the first feature directed by Jeffcoat, plays SIFF this week. His Bingo! The Documentary played SIFF '99, and he's made shorts for the fest in the interim. Meanwhile, Wing has penned bigger fare, like the Adam Sandler comedy 50 First Dates. But Outsourced followed an unlikely path to production: from a Seattle spec script—that is, written on speculation without a producer's commission—that was shopped around in Hollywood, then read live here at On the Boards for one of Warren Etheredge's salons in early 2005, then finally caught the attention of a local producer, then finally (finally!) filmed in Bombay, 5,000 miles away from home.

In a manner of speaking, Outsourced was outsourced. But that's apt for the plot, a romantic comedy/fish-out-of-water story about an unhappy Seattle yuppie (Josh Hamilton, The House of Yes) sent to train his replacement in India, where he meets a girl (Ayesha Dharker, The Terrorist). (We've seen and like the film, but reviews are embargoed until it's sold for distribution and a release date set.) Back in 2004, Wing explains, outsourcing wasn't quite the fearsome headline phenomenon that it is today. Looking to collaborate, Jeffcoat suggested the idea, based partly on his experiences living in Nepal during the '90s and more recently making a documentary about Bollywood. Wing knew a winner when he heard it: "It's a zeitgeist thing. I was the more experienced screenwriter, and he had the India experience. We realized we were going to be in a race to make the first outsourcing movie." No lie—Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have been in talks for a rival outsourcing movie announced for next year.

Perhaps for that reason, Jeffcoat recalls, as they shopped their speedily written script around Hollywood, "The first thing out of the equation was me," meaning a more experienced director would get the gig. Wing remembers worrying, "It was going to take too long." But it was the owner of ShadowCatcher Entertainment, David Skinner, who saw the potential for winning the race to the screen with indie (and mostly local) financing. Past chairman of ACT, and a member of one of Seattle's old-money families, Skinner quickly assigned the production duties to another local, Tom Gorai (a high-school acquaintance of mine).

Filming took only a month in Bombay during the spring of '06, with a few additional days in Seattle (look for local thesp Matt Smith in a key role). Outsourcing debuted to strong notices at Toronto last fall, has picked up festival awards since, and is now in distribution talks. "That's amazingly fast," says Wing. It also helped that Jeffcoat essentially integrated the research for his Bollywood documentary into the project. "We took a minimal crew" to Bombay, he notes, praising the Indian talent and technical staff.

Regarding the film's small budget (under $5 million), he's fully aware of the outsourcing subtext to Outsourced: "We saved a lot of money."

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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