The Backup Plan

When a down-on-his-luck single father faces eviction, he begins stealing catalytic converters to save his home.

  • Daniel Earney
  • Daniel Earney
  • Dio Traverso
  • Daniel Earney
  • Alec Ploof
  • Todd Essary
    Key Cast
  • Daltyn Grace
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Runtime:
    26 minutes 48 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 11, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    9,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Daniel Earney

Daniel Earney is writer, director, and editor from Gastonia, North Carolina currently based in Austin, Texas. After graduating from Appalachian State University in 2010, where he studied broadcasting and creative writing, he began working as a producer and editor for NASCAR. However, Daniel's love of narrative storytelling drew him back to graduate school where he received his MFA in Film & Media Production from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017.

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Director Statement

The Backup Plan is my thesis film as part of a Masters Degree in Film & Media Production at the University of Texas. In a lot of ways, this film is about my hometown, Gastonia, North Carolina. When the project I had spent 6 months developing fell through, I looked to my hometown and the people in it for inspiration. I came up with the idea from a news story I remembered about some guys who were caught stealing catalytic converters from a local car dealership. All the characters are based on family members and acquaintances -- there's a little of my dad in there, along with uncles, aunts, and some skeevy people I knew growing up. What I really wanted to do was tell a story that captured the essence of Gastonia. It's a blue-collar town. When the cotton mills closed and all the manufacturing jobs left town in the early 2000's, they were replaced with low-paying retail and service industry jobs. Most people I knew were just getting by. They were mostly good people, but when they needed money, they found a way to get it, even if it meant breaking the law. Others were just looking to get into something.

I really wanted to put the impacts of poverty at the forefront of this film. Randall doesn't have much to be proud of in his life other than his son and his car. He tries desperately to hang on to them both, but poverty puts him in a place where he must choose between them. Poverty creates a kind of tunnel vision that helps us focus on the crisis at hand, but it also makes us less insightful, less forward-thinking, and less controlled. Living with poverty day-to-day can even affect cognitive function, making it harder to solve problems, resist impulses, and think long-term. It's something I saw regularly in my hometown, and I hoped to get that experience across in this film.

Grief and loss have also been a big part of my work. Part of what influences Randall's decisions is the fact that he's still grieving for his wife. Rather than moving on, he has fallen into a rut and lost control of many aspects of his life. He's even willing to put his son and himself at risk to preserve his memories of his wife. By the end of the film, Randall sees the hope that his son represents as a way of moving forward.

I want to tell stories about the South and its people. For this film I looked to other Southern filmmakers like David Gordon Green, Jeff Nichols, Kat Candler, and David Lowery for inspiration. I hoped to instill a sense of place in this film. From the locations to the characters, I want you to feel what it's like to be here with these people and experience the lives they lead.