From The Jewel to The Grave: La Jollan films indie project in town

La Jolla native and filmmaker Kai Collins will return to her roots next week to film her latest indie project, “To the Grave,” a dark comedy about perfectionism in a small town.

She’s been in La Jolla scouting locations since July and was “cameras up” throughout The Village starting Sept. 16. Filming is expected to take about three days.

The La Jolla High School grad is also co-writer on the Web series, “How to Survive a Breakup,” and pens some comedic “branded entertainment” for the American Heart Association. She just co-produced a series called “TEMP(orary)” about Millennials.

“ ‘To The Grave’ is a dark comedy I dream about. It was an idea my writing partner and I came up with 10 years ago, and I’ve been itching to write and direct it since,” Collins said.

“The story centers around two best friends who go to extremes as local women’s doubles tennis champions in a fictional town. It’s less a story about tennis and more about friendship and the extremes you’ll go to, to get what you want.”

According to press material, Dana Powell (“Modern Family,” “Bridesmaids,” “VEEP,” “Two Broke Girls” and “The Office”) and Shannon Nelson (“Drop Dead Gorgeous,” “West Wing,” “ER” and “The Practice”) star in the film with Collins. Supporting roles have been cast with San Diego actors, improvisers and comedians.

Collins said La Jolla “lends itself” to the project because “it looks like a perfect world on the outside — because it is beautiful with picket fences and beaches — but behind closed doors, there might be something darker.”

Plus, Collins saw filming in La Jolla as an opportunity to come home, reconnect with childhood friends and draw some attention to her town.

“My parents still live in La Jolla. I live and work in LA, but this film had to happen in La Jolla,” she said. “I will be filming in places I used to be dragged to as a kid, like Meanley and Sons hardware.

“When I was growing up, Heinz Geitz (Autohaus) was a household name for cars, and there is a character (in the film) who is a total perfectionist, so I pictured her driving a Mercedes Benz. It turns out my dad is working with someone from Heinz Geitz and they’re letting us use one of their cars.”

Further, she said she asked family friends if cast and crew could stay in their houses while production is going on. “It’s the spirit of filmmaking and the spirit of La Jolla, which I didn’t see as a child, but I see now. We show up for each other,” she said.

Working with the City

As for what it takes procedurally to film in La Jolla, Collins said the City of San Diego makes the process easy for movie-makers.

“It’s so welcoming. This experience has encouraged me to move more production to San Diego, to be honest. The process also considers the community and issues good neighbor notices … I still had to apply for permits and fill out a lot of paperwork, but in LA, they require a lot more for a lot less. They require fire marshals for scenes when someone is reading a book.

“We’re not using explosives, so we don’t need that and the City of San Diego understands that,” she said.

Collins will be directing, producing and starring in “To The Grave” and despite the three jam-packed days of filming, she said there is nothing she would rather be doing.

“I like to remind myself, that no matter how tired I am, we’re adults getting to play make-believe and making a living out of it. I just want to make people laugh. To me, that is essential.”

Marketing the film

Once filming is complete, Collins will submit her project to the film festival circuit, many of which have submission deadlines in October. She said she’d like to have “To The Grave” shown at San Diego festivals, but will start with one such as South By Southwest, and those in Santa Barbara, Palm Springs and Sedona.

After that, she said she’ll play on existing film connections and, hopefully, partner with an online streaming network to make her project available to the masses.

Could a feature film be next?

“There is a feature film I wrote that has a similar tone to this project that I would want to direct, so this for me, is sort of a springboard,” she said.

—Learn more about Collins and her projects at kaicollinsfilms.com

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