The screening took place 13 months after the film won the top U.S. feature award at Tribeca and was bought by CBS Films — and six years after he began work on the project, which he produced, directed, wrote and starred in. The shoot took 21 days on an $800,000 budget with another $150,000 in post-production and re-shoots.
“I feel like I beat the odds, just getting domestic distribution at all,” he said. “The reality of doing a low-budget film hits you pretty hard once you start so by the time I got to Tribeca, all I wanted to do was just not be embarrassed.”
The genesis of “Dean” stems from Martin losing his own father to cancer when he was 20. In the movie, Martin’s character Dean loses his mother. The character also draws cartoons, like Martin does in real life.
“I’m the age now when my dad got sick but I’ve changed all the details in the movie and focused on what’s like to come out of grief,” he noted. “The emotional part of it is similar to what it was in my life.”
In the Q&A after the screening, Martin said getting Kevin Kline to play his father had been the key for getting financing. He had asked Kline which actress he should approach as his romantic interest and the actor suggested Mary Steenburgen — who recalled that her son, Charlie McDowell, had given her a Martin book, saying that they had equivalent senses of humor.
“I loved him before I met him, so it really was kismet,” she said.
Martin was joined on stage by Steenburgen, Reid Scott, Ginger Gonzaga and Briga Heelan for the Q&A. “I was looking to cast people who were vulnerable, not ironically snarky,” Martin noted.
Steenburgen, who plays a realtor in the film, also admitted that she would be ill-equipped for that profession: “I’d be good at decorating the house but I’m very math-challenged, so I’d be a terrible realtor. I’ll stick with my day job.”
CBS Films opens “Dean” on June 2.
(Pictured: Reid Scott, Ginger Gonzaga, Demetri Martin, Mary Steenburgen and Gillian Jacobs)