How many people reading this have ever come up with an idea for a movie while they were in the Philippines?
No? OK, how about this one: How many of you have ever let a real film crew from Los Angeles use your living room as a set in a movie that someone came up with while in the Philippines?
You’d have to be Cece King to be the former and a member of Marti Moseley’s family to be the latter. And if you’re none of these individuals, sit back, because it’s a good story how all this came about.
Let’s start in Florida, where King, 27, born and raised in Princeton, went to college at Lynn University in Boca Raton to study communications.
As many a college kid finds, King’s original plans to find something in the communications field led her elsewhere. In her case, Italy, where she went at 20 to study things like set design — a field close to that of her “such a rock star” mother, Judy, who owns Judy King Interiors at 44 Spring Street. King is also the daughter of Andrew King, a bond trader who died in the 9/11 attacks in New York.
Over a summer break from her Italian studies, King read a book — “Twilight: Director’s Notebook” by the film’s production designer, Catherine Hardwicke, that compelled King to move to Los Angeles and enter the world of cinema. She went to film school there and started acting in 2013 (and has had some solidly regular work since she began).
One of her roles came in a film called “Treasure Hunters,” which was the movie that took King to the South Pacific. She’d been inspired by a spate of the quadruple-threat women — writer, producer, director, actor — who are redefining the indie film world.
King had been shooting for a month in the Philippines and then removed herself to an island, where a scene on a train between two characters popped into her head. And by “popped,” it was more like a champagne cork because what followed that pop was 60 pages of draft one of a feature film script called “The Broken Ones.”
By the time the shooting script was ready, King was back in Los Angeles and she knew two things: She was making this movie and she was going to shoot a lot of it in Princeton. This, by the way, is a mighty ambitious idea for a small-budget indie production.
And no, King won’t reveal the budget, just that it’s “in the low-to-moderate end of the indie scale.” That means less than $2 million, and King said she and her co-producers “took a tactical approach” to finding investors to finance the film.
King wanted Princeton because it fits her visual style. Princeton’s architecture, its look and feel, its general vibe all found their way into the story of two “pretty broken” young people who meet and help each other overcome overwhelming personal fears.
Making this film was never in doubt. “I never thought in my mind that this isn’t going to happen,” King said. “It wasn’t a matter of if.”
One thing to keep in mind is that “The Broken Ones” is King’s way of creating a solid role for herself to play. Roles in films overall can be tough to get, and often, young women at the beginning of their careers in the industry are cast in roles involving short shorts and tiny tops.
Better roles exist, they’re just tough to find. “There’s lots of good material out there, but as an actor, it’s hard to get in on good material,” she said. So she wrote some of her own.
Not all of “The Broken Ones” was shot in Princeton. Some was shot in New York, and much of it is still being worked on, and shot, in L.A., until shooting wraps up in, probably, April. “I wanted to shoot all over New Jersey,” King said. “But there’s just so much in L.A. Basically, everybody’s here (in L.A.).”
The “everybody” King refers to is a rather impressive collection of actors and crew. The cast includes Margaret Colin, who has performed in large productions like “Independence Day” and “Blue Bloods;” James Russo, probably most notable of late as the slave runner left to a suddenly freed group of slaves at the beginning of “Django Unchained;” and Constance Shulman, whose resume includes “Orange Is the New Black.”
These are people who have worked with some of the top directors and cinematographers around, but care about good storytelling so much that they want to help on films like King’s that have something to say, she said. King largely credits New York-based casting director Adrienne Stern, who pulled together an enviable talent pool, as she has for other indie flicks like “The Believer” and “Boy Wonder.”
The crew also includes first-time director Elyse Niblett and cinematographer John Hudak Jr., who has cut his teeth on dozens of short films and the camera crews of several features.
What was shot in Princeton was partially made possible by Marti Moseley, an agent at Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Real Estate on Nassau Street.
Moseley, “a longtime family friend” of the Kings, said she wanted to help Cece make her film and offered a couple properties as sets. One was an unoccupied house on Cleveland Lane, which was one of Moseley’s listings. “The homeowners were incredibly gracious and accommodating,” she said.
Another was Moseley’s own living room in her Princeton home. “It was unusual,” she laughs. “They were in my home over the course of three days. I was very impressed with all that was involved — the number of people, the amount of equipment. This was the real deal.”
The crew, Moseley said, made only small adjustments in the house, and put everything back in the proper place. But no one in her family made a cameo. Moseley allowed the cast and crew to shoot for free because “it was a wonderful opportunity for me to feel like I could help her,” she said.
The crew also shot at the Peacock Inn on Bayard Lane and on the grounds of Educational Testing Service just outside Princeton.
To say that King is grateful for the help she’s been getting in making her first screenplay into an actual movie is an understatement for the ages. Any talk of shooting quickly steers around to how blessed she feels to have so many people at so many levels doing so much to make “The Broken Ones” as good as it can be.
King expects the film to be ready for release in 2016, and plans to enter it into as many festivals (yes, Sundance included) as possible.
As for what making the film has taught her, well … for one thing, it’s taught her to enjoy wearing so many hats. She’s the writer, star, and producer of “The Broken Ones,” and the producer hat, she said, is a new one.
Shooting has also taught her that you can’t always get what you want, but you can get damn close if you work for it. Filmmaking is a lot of compromise and sacrifice, but the end goal, if worked on hard, is worth it.
“All you can do as a filmmaker is tell the best story you can,” King said. “It’s about putting yourself out there, about trying to celebrate story. It’s much bigger than you as a writer.”