Daniel decided five years ago that he wanted to fulfill his dream of directing a project of his own. He took three years off acting and invested more than $100,000 of his own money into making that dream a reality, and thus, "Broken Kingdom" was born. Along the way he decided to create a documentary chronicling his experience and turned to fellow actors Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Selma Blair and wife Rachael Leigh Cook (yes, that Rachael Leigh Cook) to help contribute their own experiences to the project.
"Broken Kingdom" has already made festival circuits and now it and its companion documentary "Kingdom Come" are ready to meet the world. The premiere for both projects is going to take place in Los Angeles on October 2, but Daniel has invited all of us to come. He is going to livestream the premiere red carpet through the films' official website for fans to watch and, once the movie starts rolling in L.A.'s Harmony Gold Theater, viewers at home will be able to watch "Kingdom Come" on their computers as well. After, both projects will be available for purchase. We had a chance to catch up with Daniel recently to talk about where he got this great idea, which really is a first in the film community.
It turns out that Daniel was mostly inspired to distribute the movies himself by the success of comedian Louis C.K., who tried a similar experiment with his recently released comedy special that ended up totally paying off. Louis sold the special (which he funded with his own money as well) through his website for a measly $5; a price which he figured affordable for most fans who would otherwise illegally download it.
"I just felt like [Louis was] so far ahead," Daniel said. "I felt like why can't this work with a film? What we used to do with an independent film was take your films to festivals, hope that they garner a degree of attention, hope that you get bought, hope that you are distributed. It's just an awful lot of hoping, especially in this world where we just have this direct access to the people that support us. And we have a lot of those people because we're very lucky, between my wife and I and a lot of the people who are in the documentary."
"Broken Kingdom" tells two interwoven stories: one of an American writer who bonds with a 14-year-old street girl in Bogota, and another of a teacher in Los Angeles who tries to fight off a tragic secret. Fans can livestream the premiere and watch the movie for $5 and then download one film for another $5 or both films for $8. Daniel claims that this is basically the equivalent of giving the movies away for free, but he doesn't care. As filmmakers have found it increasingly difficult to combat illegal downloading of movies, he explained that he just wants his projects to reach a wide audience.
"One of my producers said to me at one point, 'Are you sure you want to sell it for $5? That's just so cheap. Like, don't you want to make a little more because you spent so much money on the film?' And I said, 'To me, the only important thing is that people get to enjoy this movie. That's all that I care about,'" Daniel explained. "I said, 'People can steal this.' The difference between stealing and $5 is not that much."
This has been a passion project for Daniel for years now, and he's really excited to see how it all plays out. He expects that his fans from "The Vampire Diaries" and his other TV show "Saving Hope" will tune in just to see his new work, while his Hollywood friends, like his "Vampire Diaries" costars and the celebs who contributed to "Kingdom Come," will likely promote the movie as much as they can as well.
Now that Daniel has directed, written, starred in and executive produced his own film (alongside wife Rachael, we should add), he admitted that he's caught the filmmaking bug. This may have been the first project that he created from the ground up, but it definitely won't be his last.
"I was so grateful that I did this because I didn't do it the easy way. I didn't cast any of my movie star friends. We called in every favor that we could and I just made exactly the movie that I wanted," Daniel said. "I have to make movies now. I've realized the pleasure that comes from it, and I've realized that it's one of the few sorts of instruments that I think is a really worthy one to sort of talk back to the universe about what your experience is and has been being a person your whole life."
Both "Broken Kingdom and the documentary "Kingdom Come" will be available for pre-order here next week.