By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Costanzo and Thomasson approached the band with the idea of a documentary in the fall of 2004. "Depeche Mode did a documentary called 101, and I liked how it was an actual story that followed something instead of just jumping around like a lot of music documentaries do," he says.
A few months later, the LifeLine boys met with the Last Dance members again to pitch to the band the entire idea, hoping Thomasson could swing some big investors. "The plan was to have our own mobile production truck with five camera guys, and we were going to not only follow them on tour, but also get them recording their new album and everything that led up to it," Costanzo says.
The band were in favor of doing it, and in February 2005, Costanzo was invited to start filming their recording sessions.
But the funding never materialized, and on Aug. 22, the night before the tour was to start, Costanzo called the band to tell them the project was off. An hour later, guitarist Rick Joyce called back and told him to pack his stuff. When Costanzo showed up at Joyce's house the next morning, "they had about $1,500 for me for gas and this and that. I had enough money for tape stock, and we owned the camera, and Roy worked for a rental-car company, so he gave me a free minivan, and away we went."
Though Costanzo seems disappointed in the low-tech feel of the final film, Almost Beautiful is by far his best work as a director. The band members have natural charisma, the slo-mo effects Costanzo favors work better in the music-documentary form, and his shot compositions—mostly done on the fly—are more artful than anything in his previous work. And with an overabundance of footage, he was forced to make tougher editing choices.
Unfortunately, consumers don't seem to agree. "Almost Beautiful hasn't come close to breaking even yet," says Thomasson. "It hasn't been as successful because it's about a Goth band. We tried to market it so it's not about the Goth thing—it's about a struggling band trying to get out there—but we just couldn't convince people to watch this movie."
For his part, Costanzo says, "It's my first documentary, and it's my last documentary." The Last Dance lead singer Jeff Diehm thinks the low-budget approach worked, saying, "Fans used to only big-budget or MTV-style films might not think it's up to standards, but I think it has amazing credibility as an underground filmmaker doing a documentary about an underground band."
* * *
As business partners, Thomasson and Costanzo are a study in contrasts. The former, wearing a permanent grin and hyper-caffeinated, is exactly who you want selling your product, but one wonders how he meshes on a set with the mellow Costanzo.
Costanzo is surprisingly blunt about their relationship. "He bugs me. I'm not gonna lie," he says. "[Thomasson's] a great guy, and he's definitely proven to be an asset, but he comes off like a used-car salesman sometimes. He's very optimistic and thinks we're bigger than we are, but he shoots for the stars, and I can't fault him for that."
As an example, when working on 11:11the first time around, in 2004, Costanzo says he told Thomasson he was looking for a Tobey Maguire "type."
"He went after Tobey Maguire! And he believed we were in a position to actually cast Tobey Maguire," Costanzo says. "I was like, 'Roy, he's not gonna do our film. We can't afford him.'"
Costanzo's a bit more realistic—or cynical—in a way that's reflected by LifeLine's logo, which features silhouettes of a man in various stages of being, from infancy to death. He has no illusions about where he fits in the cycle.
"I think we're old enough now that our heads aren't in the clouds as much as they were when we were younger," he says. "The reality of this is that you've got to work really hard and catch a lot of breaks. So it's not like we're shooting for the stars right now. We enjoy it, we love it, and if we can make a living doing it, then that's the greatest thing in the world."
The work comes at the expense of a personal life. Costanzo enjoys working with children, he says, in large part because he doesn't have any of his own, but he doesn't anticipate ever having the time to start a family, either.
"My parents got divorced when I was young, and to me, family means spending time with your wife and kids, and I just don't have the time to get involved in that." It may not be coincidence that all of the antagonists in his movies are wounded and abused children, though it's a coincidence Costanzo says he didn't notice until the Weekly brought it up.
Up next, he plans to finish 11:11, retooled in such a way that he can bring back the same young actors to play their older selves. "The two friends—the leads in the first part of the movie—reunite as adults 20 years later, so they're supposed to be thirtysomething years old now," he explains. "But that has to change. I have to turn it into something where they're now 16 or 17 instead of 20 or 30, so it'll be a challenge. But we've got to finish it."