From dream to screen: Wadlow's Living the Lie

What a difference a year makes.

Last year Jeff Wadlow opened the Virginia Film Festival with screenings of two of his short films plus the five-minute trailer for Living the Lie, his entry to the 2002 Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival which won him the chance to make a million-dollar feature length film.

Exactly one year later, Wadlow, the younger son of the late state senator Emily Couric, is back in Virginia, this time gearing up to shoot the film in Richmond. The process, he says, hasn't been easy.

Though he originally believed that winning the contest guaranteed that Universal Pictures would distribute the film, the reality was a bit tougher.

"You actually win a development deal," he explains. "The prize was conditional on the green light from the studio."

Wadlow and his film partner, producer Beau Bauman, had their work cut out for them.

While the original script featured L.A.-based 20-somethings who learn firsthand the dangers of lying, studio execs saw things a bit differently.

"They said, "Make it younger, and take it out of L.A," Wadlow recalls.

Two dozen script "treatments" later, Wadlow and Bauman wrote a final version featuring high school seniors at an unidentified prep school.

Next challenge? Recasting the whole movie.

Wadlow and his crew spent about three months in L.A. looking for "fresh new faces." In the movie world, where top stars are paid as much as $20 million a film, Wadlow says a million dollar budget requires creativity.

"On The Hulk," he laughs, "they probably spent a million on cell phones."

Once casting was complete, Wadlow turned to picking a location. He had dreamed of shooting in Virginia, but it was hard persuading others in the industry to agree.

"When we finally got the green light, a lot of folks advised me to take it to Canada," says Wadlow. "They said, 'You'll get so much more for your money.'" Wadlow won the argument, and now says it's the best thing that could have happened for the movie.

After Rita McClenney, director of the Virginia Film Commission, stepped in to help the Living the Lie crew, "the whole state rallied behind us," Wadlow says.

Officials and students at the University of Richmond, the setting for the unidentified prep school, have been supportive from the get-go, says Wadlow, providing access to buildings and offering their help as extras.

And Bob Chapel, director of UVA's Drama Department, is also offering support in the form of advice and possible help with set design.

"I've known Jeff a long time," says Chapel, recalling Wadlow's high school internship for the Heritage Repertory Theater back in the early '90s.

Though Chapel hasn't seen the Lie script, he says he has high hopes for it. "Jeff is a wise soul at age 27," says Chapel. "I'm sure it'll be done in great taste and will be an interesting film."

Richard Herskowitz, director of the Virginia Film Festival, says Wadlow's presentation at last year's event has led to a "mutually supportive" relationship. Wadlow, whom Herskowitz calls a "skyrocketing talent," now sits on the Festival board, and students in the festival's Film 101 class will visit the set of Living the Lie during its month-long shoot, which begins October 9.

As for a release date, Wadlow says it's too soon to tell. As soon as shooting is finished, he'll head back to L.A. and begin editing. From there, the fate of the film is in the studio's hands, and all Wadlow can do is hope.

"I'm still on the cusp," he explains. "I'm still broke, still have student loans looming, and still live in an apartment that's very unpleasant. The only reason I can keep my nose above water is that I've had very supportive parents."

Wadlow will take applications for extras on the set of Living the Lie until October 6. Anyone 18-26 years old, of any ethnicity, can apply by calling 804-226-9871 or emailing

Jeff Wadlow.