The recipe for comedy is to start with a true story, and for director Blake Laitner, 35, when he started working on the screenplay for We Need Rent Money, he looked at a situation about coming up short for rent money.
“We decided to make a college party film, a tribute to Animal House,” he says. “The struggle is real and a comedic approach to a serious subject.”
After spending more than three years working on We Need Rent Money, Laitner is wrapping up his locally made film, heading to the festival circuit and looking for distribution opportunities. The movie itself, he says, takes comedic inspiration from Dumb and Dumber and Mel Brooks.
“I love everything about comedy because it puts people in awkward situations,” he says.
There isn’t an advanced screening available yet, but We Need Rent Money is about three college kids who are getting kicked out of college and are behind on rent, according to the movie’s website. They only have a week to come up with the money, so they invite the neighborhood drug dealer, White Wally, to move in.
Before working on We Need Rent Money, Laitner says, he and Sampson Ray Simon were trying to sell a script for Space Pimps, which he says was going to be like SpaceBalls but with intergalactic African American pimps trying to save their father from an alien warlord. He says they shopped the movie around but were told that they went all in on a ludicrous idea. “And that’s what we did with We Need Rent Money.”
Of the three main characters, Simon portrays the movie version of himself, Sanders, who Laitner calls a “wildcard” character. That wildcard character, Laitner laughs, isn’t too far from the real person portraying him. The two other main characters are the comedic straight men — Larry (Jason Leva), who portrays the fictionalized Laitner, and Fred (Malakhai Schnell).
Laitner went into developing We Need Rent Money with the intent of making a movie that he wanted to see. “Something nonstop,” he says. “No exterior shots of going to places, just nonstop movie, start to finish.”
Laitner says filming the movie took some creative decisions. They wanted to film it near the University of Oregon campus, but no students wanted a film crew in their home for six days. So they booked campus area housing through Airbnb. And there’s a lot of Eugene representation in the movie. The movie has scenes shot in the Flower of Lyfe and White Lotus dispensaries as well as Alton Baker Park and a lot of pizza from Pegasus in the background, he says.
We Need Rent Money is Laitner’s first feature-length film. He studied cinematography at Film Connection in Los Angeles, which is described as an alternative film school. While in Eugene, he’s directed a music video for local rapper Def Davyne, he says.
The whole movie making process, Laitner says, cost him $50,000. His father, Mort Laitner, served as executive producer, and the duo have worked in the past. Laitner says he previously adapted his father’s novel A Herbraic Obsession into a short film called “The Stairs,” along with a student he met at Film Connection.
The trailers for We Need Rent Money suggest the movie has some DIY qualities. Laitner is quick to say the movie doesn’t have Godfather production values. But Laitner says viewers who have seen the rough cut have said it could become a cult classic.
Judging from the trailers, the movie has some of those cult classic qualities — offbeat lines, Jackass-like stunts with the classic “Wilhelm scream” and lots of over-the-top drug references. Maybe this is a movie that could sit alongside the likes of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Viewers who partake in weed and alcohol will especially like the movie, Laitner says. “Just watch three idiots do stupid stuff,” he adds. “I mean, who doesn’t want to see that?”
Watch the movie’s trailers and stay updated on the film and when it streams at WeNeedRentMoney.com.