Local film shot for under $1,000 premieres locally

Chris Azzopardi

"Broken," a feature film shot in Michigan, was not without its share of production nightmares. The crew faced difficult schedules from cast and crew who, at times, drove more than two hours to get to a location on the other side of the state. And, since Garden City is in the traffic path for planes arriving at Detroit Metro Airport, the scenes shot at one actor's house were often interrupted with ambient noise.
In the end, the hurdles were worth it. The film became one of 250 finalists in the first season of Project Greenlight, the Bravo TV series sponsored by Miramax, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. And it only cost $1,000 to produce. Directors Derek Justice of Farmington Hills and David DeLeon of Ohio made "Broken" for $985 – $285 on tape and other production supplies and $700 on catering for the cast and crew. "Broken" premieres in Detroit at 8 p.m. May 17 at the Emagine Theater in Novi.
"Broken" is the story of Christian, played by David Gries of Zeeland, whose life was shattered as an eight-year-old after he watched his father brutally murder his mother. Now, 20 years later, he wrestles with his demons through art and heroin.
Grand Rapids-native Aziza Amy Poggi co-stars as Beth, an abused magazine editor sent to retrieve Christian's artwork for the next issue. Steve Hopton of Mt. Clemens plays Beth's abusive boyfriend.
"Broken is a story about abuse. Drug abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse," DeLeon said in a statement. "It's the stuff that happens every day to so many people; people close to us, people we care about, maybe even ourselves. We've tried to bring to the screen a group of people dealing with a set of circumstances that everyone can empathize with."
At the time, DeLeon was about 20 and going through the customary artistic, Bohemian phase – all dark and broody. The idea of a barefoot, hippy chick came to him, complete with a loose flower-print dress and long, dark hair. The character shared his artistic outlook on life – somewhat cynical, yet with the firm belief that if his art couldn't change the world, then maybe it could change a mind or two. From there came the love interest, Christian and the abusive ex-boyfriend.
"I told the story from Christian's point of view with journal entries, so we could see the developing relationship he had with this girl," DeLeon said. "This also allowed me to spout my opinions of the world. All of these characters were based, in part, from people I knew growing up and the situations they found themselves in."
After several revisions, his idea eventually morphed into the finished script that the pair entered into numerous contests including Project Greenlight. The contest generated approximately 7,000 entries. "Broken" was shortlisted and became one of the top 250 finalists.
After Project Greenlight, Justice and DeLeon swore off contests. The script sat on a shelf for a while. In the meantime, DeLeon wrote a horror script that was optioned by a producer, re-wrote a script for another independent filmmaker from Michigan and slaved away on an assembly line building cars for Ford. Justice worked on two locally filmed features, "Generation Xtinct" and "Above Ground."
However, they returned to Project Greenlight for the third season. This time, Justice and DeLeon threw their hat into the directing category with a short film called "Sequence 1." They competed against nearly 5,000 entries and advanced to the top 50 finalists.
Justice and DeLeon finally realized that the best way to bring the project to the screen was to do it themselves. They surrounded themselves with a team of people who put their talent, faith and sweat equity into the project.
They shot in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Garden City, Warren and Novi. "We have a very underestimated film community in Michigan. People are genuinely excited to help with the production of a film," Justice said in a statement. "Whether it's letting us shoot at locations free of charge or working as production assistants, it's amazing to see the amount of support we've received. Shooting in Michigan is one of the biggest reasons we were able to keep production costs extremely low. We also have plenty of fantastic locations to fit every possible scenario. It's a filmmaker's dream."
Although the film is unrated, nobody under 17 will be admitted unless accompanied by an adult due to language, drug use and sexual situations. Arrive at 7 p.m. for Peep Show, a short collection of trailers and short films by Michigan filmmakers including AE Griffin, Frank Nemecek, Sean Snyder and Jon Worful.
After the screening of "Broken," join the cast and crew for the free after party at Lucky Strikes in Novi. For ticket information or to see the trailer, visit or

8 p.m. May 17
Emagine, Novi
Tickets: $10 at the door