Four Day Filmmaking
Four Day Weekend Theater in downtown Fort Worth isn’t usually thought of as a place for hardcore cinephiles, yet on a recent afternoon the troupe’s co-founder David Ahearn talked easily and knowledgeably about the work of Truffaut, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Tarantino, and the Coen brothers.
A self-taught film student, he dissected the visual themes of Goodfellas (a movie he unabashedly adores), praised the innovations of Citizen Kane (a movie he’s not overly fond of), and admitted he doesn’t often go to see movies in theaters. That’s probably because he’s too busy making them, and you may be able to see his work soon. The improv comedy troupe that he started just celebrated its 10th anniversary, but Ahearn was making short films before Four Day Weekend began. In fact, his films back then involved fellow Weekenders David Wilk and Frank Ford. It was afterward that these standup comics with heavy training in improv decide to form Four Day Weekend. Three years into the troupe’s current run, they set up their film production arm, and the various members have been directing and acting in movies ever since.
This spring, Ahearn has been juggling the comedy performances with preparations for a heist film, called Pickle, to be shot in the summer. That, and flying out to Los Angeles to meet with the likes of HBO and Fox to show them the pilot episode of Get Lost, his planned half-hour tv comedy series designed around the backstage workings of Four Day Weekend, with the troupe’s members playing versions of themselves. The pilot is visually and musically as slick as any Hollywood production, and it’s shot in familiar locations in downtown Fort Worth. “This city is terrific,” said Ahearn, who lived for 14 years in Dallas before moving here three years ago. “Fort Worth is better for living and raising a family (he has two kids) than L.A. I think it could be like Vancouver, a place where Hollywood goes to shoot movies. I’d like [Get Lost] to shine a spotlight on Fort Worth. People who aren’t from here think we’re just the Stockyards. Either that or the criminals on Cops. The Stockyards are great, but I’d like to show everyone that we have great culture here.”
Much of the same crew from the program will be with him on Pickle. “I do lots of preparation — I storyboard everything,” he said. This may seem strange for a man whose background is improv, but he quoted Godard’s line that preparation allows a filmmaker to improvise once he’s shooting. Another way that Ahearn’s weekend job has prepared him for his other forays into entertainment is in teaching him how a scene works. “Improv is all about who, what, and where. You have to establish those things, and if you don’t, you can see the audience drifting off, staring at the walls or shifting in their seats. They don’t even know they’re doing it, but that’s how you know you’re losing them. It’s the same thing in film.”
In addition to its weekend gigs, Four Day Weekend also hires itself out to perform at corporate meetings, lucrative gigs that the troupe is concentrating on now so they’ll have the time and money to shoot the film later. With all this work, Ahearn admits it’s difficult finding a spare moment for his own family. Often he has to write late at night or during travel time. Yet Four Day Weekend’s high profile immensely boosts his filmmaking efforts, especially when it comes to attracting talent. “It opens a ton of doors,” he said. “We could be in L.A. right now, but this is a great community to work out of. All it takes is one project’s success to lead to great things.”