Local Filmmaker’s Project Set to Open

Local film director Rob Hedden, right, on location in Hawaii with actor Rob Schneider, who stars in “You May Not Kiss the Bride,” opening next month nationally.

Three years after shooting “You May Not Kiss the Bride,” a romantic comedy he wrote and directed, local filmmaker Rob Hedden finally strode across the red carpet this past Wednesday at the film’s premiere in Honolulu. The film, much of it shot in the nation’s 50th state, opens in Hawaii theaters on Friday, Aug. 31 and nationally on Sept. 21.

Hedden called making an independent movie like this one, which he described as a “studio movie made outside of the studio system,” a big gamble, since most never get released. So he readily admits to feeling at once relieved and excited to learn just months ago that, after numerous false starts, plans to roll the film out nationally had finally solidified.

The timing couldn’t be better with both the male and female leads in the film, Dave Annable and Katharine McPhee, appearing in television shows that put them firmly in the limelight. McPhee stars in NBC’s hit show “Smash,” which debuted this spring, and Annable headlines a new ABC series “666 Park Avenue,” premiering Sunday, Sept. 30. The supporting cast includes Oscar winner Kathy Bates, Mena Suvari (“American Beauty”), Rob Schneider, Tia Carrere and Vinnie Jones, as well as Kevin Dunn, Stephen Tobolowsky and Ken Davitian.

Director Rob Hedden surrounded by cast members, from left, Mena Suvari, Vinnie Jones, Tia Carrere, Dave Annable and Rob Schneider on the set.

The story of YMNKTB unfolds when a pet photographer portrayed by Annable is forced to marry a Croatian gangster’s daughter portrayed by McPhee. They spend their honeymoon at a Tahitian resort, where she is kidnapped. Mostly shot in Hawaii, so that producers could take advantage of a state-offered tax incentive, filming locations also included Chicago and Los Angeles.

Hedden still finds it hard to believe that he can make a living doing something he loves, though he admitted that “it doesn’t come easy.”

He attributes his success so far to his passion, his willingness to work hard, and his perseverance. Such traits served him early on as a young college graduate who made a habit of sneaking onto the Universal Studios lot to learn something about television and film production by haunting the sets of “Animal House” and an episode of “The Rockford Files,” among others, and continued to serve him later as an established professional who submitted the screenplay he wrote for “The Condemned” (2007) 30 or 40 times before it was finally sold and produced.

After the hard part of writing the YMNKTB script on spec and getting it optioned and into production, making the movie itself was a blast, Hedden said. Actor Rob Schneider agrees. “I really loved playing that guy Ernesto, and I really loved working with the actors on the movie,” said Schneider in a recent interview with the Oahu-based newspaper Midweek, adding, “Rob Hedden was a terrific director, and I would love to work with him again.”

Once made, getting the film distributed is another story. “Movies like this don’t always get a happy ending,” said Hedden, who could count on the film’s release internationally, but was less optimistic about domestic distribution. “There’s nothing greater than sitting in a theater and hearing people laugh at your movie.” Now he may get the chance.

Though Hedden thinks each movie he makes might be his last, given the industry’s uncertainty, new subjects find him through serendipity, igniting his passion anew.

Currently, a documentary, “Augie’s Quest,” tops his list. The project flowered when a mutual friend put Hedden in touch with Robert Brunswick, a local businessman who wanted to make a movie. Hedden told Brunswick he envisioned his next project as an inspirational story that could make a difference.

Brunswick already had a subject in mind: friend Augie Nieto, whose rise to fame and fortune for popularizing an exercise bike, was brought up short by Lou Gehrig’s disease. Recovering from depression and a suicide attempt, he then rallied to raise $33 million since 2006 for research to find an ALS cure.

Introducing Hedden to Nieto, of Corona del Mar, sealed the deal. Brunswick, Nieto and Neito’s wife Lynne are collaborating on the project, which may enter pre-production next year.

“It’s an amazing true story that I want to help get exposed to the world,” said Hedden.

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