A Sacramento filmmaker’s teenage suicide note finds new life onscreen
Tom Botchii, filmmaker
Tom Botchii has a problem with Michael Bay. Botchii believes filmmakers should personally connect to their work, and let's face it, Bay probably doesn't know how it feels to be a Transformer. So the News10 promotions producer and filmmaker decided to put his money where his mouth is and embark on his first serious short film, 11 Minutes, which will actually clock in at less than 11 minutes. It centers around a workplace shooting, using, as part of its framework, a suicide note that Botchii wrote when he was 15. He filmed the whole thing one weekend earlier this month with its stars Kevin Gill, co-host of the Fuse network's Insane Clown Posse Theater, and local wrestler Gabe Jimenez, also known as “Big Ugly.” Botchii aims to have the film streaming online by March 3. Then, it's on to film festivals. Botchii recently talked to SN&R about filmmaking, Facebook and weird music.
Tell me about your start in filmmaking.
My first movie was called $4, and it was made for $4. I was 16, and I worked at this grocery store, and they let me shoot there after-hours. It was a silly little story about a phone call I got that made me really angry, so I started breaking things around the house and around the grocery store. One of the things I broke and had to pay for was a gallon of milk, and it was $4. That was my first little dorky movie I did on my own—other than the films I did on ninja turtles, which I'm not gonna tell you about.
Fine. Have you done any proper short films before?
No. I've directed a few music videos, and I had a pro-wrestling TV show for a while and a documentary series on unconventional touring acts. I used to be in a band, and we would always tour with really weird bands.
What kind of weird?
We played with band called Captured! by Robots, and it was one guy who played guitar and he built all of his other band members—they were just robots.
There's a band called Uberkunst, and they're super weird. They're like this 11-piece noise crew that gets naked and beats on trash cans and lights everything on fire. But we were just a two-man band, and half our shows were like stand-up—not because we had a routine, but because we were just so terrible.
Sounds cool. So what’s the concept for your new project?
It's a short mind bender, where you're wondering if what's happening is really happening. Imagine a Quentin Tarantino-style film about a workplace shooting without guns. No guns, no blood.
That’s an intense topic.
I feel like a lot of people are afraid to touch on workplace shootings, especially with the whole Facebook age we're living in. Everyone has something to say about everything, and maybe people are afraid to get scolded for talking about it. I don't care if my film is controversial or makes people mad. I'm not making any money on it. I'm paying the actors in high fives, big hugs and thank-you cards. I'm really just trying to make a project I'm proud of. I kinda feel like right now, the way films are made is one person with an idea that'll make some money. I feel like a director should be the main actor—not star in it, but they should personalize the film and really understand it. That's why I used my own suicide note. You should truly be part of your project, or else why are you doing it?
We should address this suicide note.
I don't think I ever thought I was going to do it, but I wanted to get my emotions out, so I'd write little notes. And one day, I wrote a suicide note. I always kept … it and would look back at it whenever I got depressed, and I'd think, “I'll probably never be that bad again. It'll never be as bad as the day I wrote this note.” [Ages] 15 to 16 were really bad years. So, a couple years later when [the Columbine High School shootings] happened, I remember thinking that I was so depressed before, I could have done the same thing—if i knew how to operate a gun and wasn't too afraid.
I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of how those two things relate to each other. I wanted to take a really controversial topic and personalize it. … Now, it's like, when I think about projects I want to see, I think, “Why does no one tell real stories anymore? Why is no one talking about anything?”
And it all comes back to Facebook. Why haven’t you deleted your account?
I use it to network. Every now and then I'll post a joke like other people, but then I'll delete it, because I feel like jokes evaporate. They're funny for what they are at the moment, but I won't want to look back on it later. I use it to network—I've met a lot of filmmakers that I work with now through Facebook.
Yeah. I usually try to post embarrassing photos of myself.
Oh, wow. You take selfies?
On Facebook I actually have an album that makes fun of selfies. Like, what's more hipster, right? On Instagram I'll post those pictures with cutouts—like there's a dolphin, and you put your head in there. I have a whole collection of those. I've been Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. I'm super serious about my Instagram account.