Producer Jordan Kessler walks through a gray graveyard of cubicles and soul-dulling, overhead fluorescent lights inside the Baton Rouge offices of Omni Link. There will be no 9-to-5 today, though. Work is likely to go much longer. That’s because Omni Link exists only on removable decals on the glass doors of the office and in Courier type on the pages of a quick-witted screenplay. For the next three weeks this office is a film set. Kessler leans back comfortably in front of a flat-screen monitor to watch this morning’s scene take shape.
“You went with the big one, too?” he asks director Adam Busch, raising his venti iced coffee from Starbucks. “Yeah,” Busch says, sipping from a cup that matches Kessler’s in heft. “I moved up to the big one the first day of shooting.”
It is day three of production on Drones, a dry corporate comedy about cube jockeys who may or may not be incognito aliens from other planets. One casting agent describes it as The Office meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “Any time you have people in a ‘fish bowl,’ like an office, problems are heightened and exacerbated,” Busch says. “So, for instance, whether someone will go out with you becomes a threat like the end of the world.”
Jonathan Woodward stars as the film’s awkwardly funny lead, Brian. Woodward comes to the production with experience in two sci-fi TV series from fan favorite Joss Whedon: Angel and Firefly.
Drones is the result of an alliance among three former actors who now captain their own projects. That the film’s cast and crew seem like a tight-knit group of friends and collaborators can only help its chances.
Busch and co-director Amber Benson have been a creative couple since working as co-stars on another Whedon hit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in 2001. Buffy message boards are rife with speculation that the pair is engaged, but neither will comment. Ironically, Busch’s character killed Benson’s in one episode of the hit series. At Omni Link they are an efficient tag team. Since their seasons on Buffy, Busch has starred in a number of TV shows, including House M.D. and Law & Order, and Benson has been an actress, writer and director for a dozen independent films.
Kessler and Busch were both child actors and met on that circuit as teens in the 1990s. They reconnected a few years ago in L.A. with plans to work together sooner rather than later.
“We kept trying to find something for a year, something we could do cheaply and in one location,” Busch says. “If all this wasn’t going on in Louisiana, it may not have worked. You can get so much more done here than in L.A. or New York.”
On one of his regular film-finding trips to L.A., Kessler read the script for Drones, and he called back to Baton Rouge immediately. Everyone loved it. He and Busch had found their project.
“It’s always been my goal to work with friends,” Kessler says. “Even though I’ve done higher-budget films, they haven’t been as much fun as this. I felt like those were someone else’s movie. Drones is more fulfilling. You want to sort of rise up with your friends, so in our own little way we are calling the small shots.”