Cutting in at Sundance fest

A low-budget, 17-minute pic slated to appear at the Sundance Film Festival is a prime example of how the directing road in Hollywood can take unusual turns.

“Second Dance” marks the directorial debut for 34-year-old Michael Kehoe following a nine-year career as a craft service person in Hollywood. A veteran crewman on “Iron Eagle,””Downtown,””A Different Affair,””Diggstown,””Born Yesterday,””Airheads,””Cops and Robbersons” and “Last Action Hero,” Kehoe finally seized the initiative and put himself firmly into the director’s chair.

Kehoe wants a feature directing spot next, and his “Second Dance” experience has moved him closer to that goal.

Money through ‘Action’

Kehoe raised much of the $ 7,000 used to produce “Second Dance” by working in craft service on “Last Action Hero,” and that job played a key role in his move to the director’s chair. Kehoe called in a favor from “Last Action Hero” co-producer Robert Relyea to get 5,000 feet of film to shoot “Second Dance.”

He was also able to tap “Hero” focus puller Chris Mosley as “Second Dance” director of photography. Electricians John Mannachia and Bart Bartholomew were alsokey to the shoot.

“It was like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ everyone pulled together and was there for me,” he said.

Columbia Pictures executive vice president of production Barry Josephson was one of several who said “Second Dance” could be a platform for Kehoe. He said: “I admire how he scraped together everything to finish the film, which is a classic presentation that delivers emotionally. I think people will realize that (Kehoe) can direct a film that has emotion and a tender side.”

Shot over two weekends early in 1993, just as “Last Action Hero” was wrapping production for Columbia Pictures, “Second Dance” is a stylized story of redemption. Shot at the Thonga Hut in North Hollywood, the pic is about a bartender who tries to commit suicide, only to be talked out of it by two messengers from the world of the dead.

Since its completion, “Second Dance” has been selected to play in front of “River of Grass,” a dramatic entry at Sundance. John Cooper, the festival’s program associate in charge of short films, said “Second Dance” is more commercially motivated than the majority of the festival’s fare and described it as one of the “best of its ilk.”

Cooper said “Second Dance” is a “simple life-affirming short. At every turn where he could have gone haywire, he seems to pull it back.

“Second Dance” is proving to be a nice portfolio piece for Kehoe. He said he has entered into negotiations with potential financiers for his screenplay “Dominion,” which would be directed by Kehoe and produced by Alan Blomquist (“Everybody’s All American” and “Guilty by Suspicion”).

Kehoe said he has always wanted to be a movie director but spent more than nine years in Hollywood before getting up the nerve to tackle “Second Dance.”

“I remember living in Brooklyn and going to see a James Bond festival,” Kehoe said. “There were five James Bond films playing. You had to be with an adult to see it. I snuck in with a couple after I told them my parents were shopping. I remember sitting there and deciding this is what I want to do.”

Help available

Once he committed to the project,Kehoe said he found “a million people out there who work on movie crews who are willing to help young filmmakers. All you have to do is ask.”

Cooper said “Second Dance” followed an unusual route on its way to Sundance. He said the movie was selected for Park City on the recommendation of a Sony Pictures Entertainment projectionist, who sat through “hours and hours” of screenings for short film entries before mentioning that she had seen a movie that was as good as many of the better entries. Cooper asked her to load the film, and decided to enter the film shortly thereafter.

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content