Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

As we head into the home stretch, we're putting the final pieces in place. This means finding the right crew to make this film come alive. Although we don't have the biggest budget, there are some really skilled people out there -- generous, excited, creative and talented -- all interested in working on this little film. We put out three postings for some key crew and got more than 100 responses. It's interesting to see who responds and more importantly how they respond.

What are the things I responded to? People who actually read the ad. We're looking for specific skills, so don't tell me you can do everything. And positivity. People who were sincere and enthusiastic always got a response. And if you followed up, even better. Don't give me too many links. At least give me a list of your projects and your experience with the right equipment. Sometimes people might not have the time to detour through your extensive projects posted all over the net.

Our DP, Mike Epple, has been a great leader in helping develop a list of skills and helping select his crew -- Gaffer, Key Grip, Head Sound Master, AC. So far, our team looks rock solid.

For the next few days, we'll be checking off the little things to take care of... insurance, food, location details, and creating the schedule and final shot list. It's like planning a wedding, except of course you're marrying 25 people. Nice. So I'm rowing slowly along to make sure I don't forget anything. Frantic rushing doesn't accomplish much, except of course for creating stress and ensuring that you forget things. Merrily.

Illustration © Deborah Cavanaugh

The joy of working in film is that we all do it for the love of what we do. None of us - at least at this level - makes any money to speak of. We are all, cast and crew, just enthusiastic to be involved in creating a visual story and working on a real project. We are blessed to be following our dreams and it doesn't come without some blood, sweat and tears.

It's nearly 2010. My hope is that everyone follows their dream, whatever it may be. It's not easy to follow the right path and stay the course. It never is. But the reward is that much greater. Happy New Year to everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Climbing the Tree

As we have moved forward with production of this film, we've written two grant proposals, but really relied on people who have known about the film and close family friends for funding. The budget isn't high-cost. I was hoping to get $8500 from 3 investors. And with each request we have heard great supportive words:
- Sounds wonderful
- Can't wait to see it
- Great work
- Impressive
- What an amazing script

While I wish each of these words came with a dollar value, they don't. My DP is very concerned that we won't be able to have the equipment and crew that we need to make this film look decent. And I agree with him. We are concerned. Times are tough. And it doesn't help that our production schedule was pushed up three weeks, which means we're doing heavy fundraising around Christmas. Not an easy time for anyone.

But I think we've developed a fantastic Investor Prospectus. After reading this, who wouldn't want to be a part of this amazing film project?

The script is great. The cast is amazing. And we have a talented and skilled production and post-production crew. But ultimately, it's all about the story, which is inspiring, funny and bittersweet. The little film has the potential to go ALL THE WAY. We just need one person, or 3 people, with enough faith in that. $20,000 worth of faith. Better yet, can 100 of our film followers donate just $50 each to get us going?

Our first (and so far, only) investment has come from a single parent with 3 kids, who's working PT as a teacher at CSU Sacramento. That is true giving. And when I'm rolling quarters to buy bread for my daughter's lunch, I wonder about those NO's that I have gotten. It's disheartening. At the same time, I know that it's all relative and I can't begrudge those who have their own lives, their own families, and their own travels they're involved in. What is their motivation to invest in this dream?

I have done my fair share of fundraising, and film has always been the most difficult. People will give to charities, to cure diseases, even to performance groups and art museums, but film is its own beast. At some level it's perceived as a luxury. People love movies, going to movies, fantasizing about movies. But even experienced investors know it's a huge gamble, and for many potential investors, they just see a big black hole. But film itself is bigger than that. It's the place where dreams are made. Everyone loves a good movie. It's like good music. It touches something deep inside our humanity, going back to drawings on cave walls.

So I am climbing the tree, and moving forward with faith that someone, somewhere, will believe in this film and help bring it to life. I do truly believe that it will be good enough to recoup everyone's investment, including my own, which is substantial already, not counting the soul points I'm paying out. It's wicked funny, which in the end I think life should be... full of laughter.

May everyone be blessed this holiday season,
Maria Collette Sundeen

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nine Days of Christmas... the good, the bad, and the ugly

Today is Tuesday, Dec 15. A lot has happened in the last nine days. Let's start with rehearsal. On Sunday, Dec 13, our entire cast, the DP, Art Director, Storyboard Artist and Makeup/Hair crew all came to the Flux53 Theater in Oakland to work on character development, rehearse the lines, block the scenes, and prep for the shoot.

We launched the day by sharing with the cast the story behind the story, what each character represents, and the journey each character makes in the arc of the film.

While small groups went to hair/makeup/wardrobe, the rest of us went through the script to work out movements and interactions for each scene. It worked out perfectly, and I have to thank my DP Mike Epple and Art Director for making it seamless and smooth. Most importantly, big kudos go to my brother, who whipped up two fritatas and a big bowl of pasta, and brought it over for everyone.

We laughed and ate and joked around all day. Everyone was just great, and we got to hear the story unfold. It is really funny... even the cast was laughing out loud and hamming it up. The best part is that we have actors with the chops to carry it off.

On Sunday Dec 6, AD Wyatt Norton and I celebrated the end of casting by hitting the local pub for a celebration beer. Our lovely casting director Emmanuelle should have been there, so we toasted in her honor. It's thanks to her we got actors that rock.

Throughout all this, while in pre-production, I'm still in the middle of that insane IRS audit, and spent the last few days crunching two years worth of deposits and receipts. Today, two of my potential donors declined, while a potential third said he's leaving town until early January, all of which leaves the film high and dry for now.

But we plow onward. I have a few final presentations up my sleeve. At the moment, however, I'm a little disheartened. This film has been more than a labor of love, and up to now it has been relatively smooth. My birthday is Friday. I'll have to sleep on it and figure out my next move.

And I dedicate this posting to the memory and soul of Ted Beason, my cousin, who was killed last Tuesday when he was hit by a car while walking his dog in Malibu. I'm still in shock. Ted was full of life and positivity. His spirit will stay with this film ... he was the kind of guy who lived to have fun and didn't let any of it get too serious. Bless Ted's soul. May he rest in peace.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rounding UP the Cast

After Mick and I completed the script we asked a few people to read it. One very astute friend/reader (I forget who) said, "Wow, you're going to need some good actors to carry this off."

In that sense, the film has been blessed so far. But on Saturday, we will take on the final missing pieces to the casting puzzle -- the father CARLOS, the bride CARMEN, and of course the replacement for our beloved Mawiyah (who can't ever be completely replaced), the shop HOSTESS (affectionately named STELLA).

Scheduling is as follows:

3:15 - Angela Nicole Davenport (Hostess)

3:30 - Roque Gutierrez (Carlos)

3:45 - Teresa Navarro (Carmen)

4:00 - Andrea Covington (Hostess)

4:15 - Josie Alvarez (Hostess/Carmen)

4:30 - LaToya Johns (Hostess)

4:45 - Shannon Turner (Hostess)

5:00 - Reuben David Garza (Carlos)

And hopefully after that I'll be in such a splendid mood I can pop over to The Warfield to see The Black Crowes. Everything goes better with a little rock'n roll, that's my motto.

Break a leg to all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mini-Production on the way: The Casting Process

As part of our use of the facilities of the Community Media Center, we are obligated to produce a short piece from our sessions there. So while we have been casting, negotiating contracts, meeting with crew, talking with the cast, etc., we've also been editing a 27-minute piece together showcasing the actors that have auditioned and including interviews with our Associate Producer AD Wyatt Norton, Casting Director Emmanuelle Antolin, and the director, yours truly. We also got a great local actor Jeffrey Weissman, who stepped up to take part in the interview and share some of his hard-earned knowledge about the casting process from an actor's point of view.

My part-time shooter JC has taken all the casting footage and cobbled together something unique and interesting. Over the holiday, he showed some of the Campbell Clan the rough 18-minute cut and got some great feedback. We're making some edits to smooth out the rough edits, but I wish I had more time and some good lighting and maybe one other helper to really set this up. I'm not happy with the bad lighting, the out of focus moments, and the profile shots -- plus, I could have done something with that hair. Ah well... my hope is that the viewers -- and the funders -- will enjoy it.

Tonight I came home and reviewed 60 minutes of footage, took notes on which quotes/clips to use, and sent out another proposal for funding.... and that's after putting in a 9-hour day at the office. I'm tired, and still achingly optimistic that our film will get the funding it needs and look fabulous.

The 27-minute short, "The Casting Process," will be ready by mid-December.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Wonderland

Alice is one of my favorite childhood characters. My friend Delfina thinks that it's weird; maybe that's why I like it. That's where we are right now, in a magical place.... we have a unique and creative key crew; an energetic and inspirational group of actors; a beautiful, hypnotizing location -- and all we're waiting on is the infusion of dollars to make the film process move forward and escalate into "go" mode.

There is this strange nervous feeling about being in a lovely place but yet feeling at the same time that it's not quite right.

We're going to have to do another casting session for those last little pieces that are missing. We're now seeking support crew members. And the investment... oh, the investors. When the DP says we need a dolly, an extra lens, and a generator, my heart sinks. How can we make this happen? We need our angels now to join us at the table.

So on this wonderful Thanksgiving day, I give thanks for the talented people, the amazing location, and the people who are jumping in on this fabulous film.

And I will light a candle that the believers pitch in not only with their excitement and their support and their love, but also with an investment that will help make this dream -- this dream for all of us involved in the film -- come true.

Blessings to all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moving at Light Speed

With the change in dates, we have lost one key person to our cast, the lovely Mawiyah Johnson. She has other work and we're very sad. She is just beautiful to look at on screen and very very talented.

On Monday I'm bringing in two new actresses to fill in the missing pieces.

Angela Nicole (Hostess)

I'm also doing FT fundraising and making lots of calls. It is a brutal process and although I have done my fair share over the years, it gets no easier. But the story is powerful, funny and well-crafted. The team is great and experienced, and the cast is nearly pitch-perfect. The machine looks good.

Victoria Dorazi (Joan)
This should theoretically encourage more Yes's then No's but it is a tough time in the world and I have heard my share of tough stories. Ultimately it's all relative... here I am cooking grilled cheese sandwiches for my daughter and telling her to wait to get new clothes that actually fit. We have a goal this year and that's what it's all about.

There are a lot of things to finish up -- most of which cannot be completed without a fat check in hand. These include:
- Insurance
- Worker's Comp
- Light and camera rentals
- Food deposits
- Transportation rentals

The last few days have been a whirlwind. Is it already Thursday? I'm not so far from light speed. Technically, the speed of light = 299 792 458 m / s, approximately 300,000 kilometres per second or 186,000 miles per second. In the last 3 days I have driven 300 miles and flown to Dallas and Wichita and back. Tomorrow I'm flying to So Cal until Sunday, and hopefully will confirm another small funder during the process. These days, I am the light.

All is going well and we are on top of it. Once the funds come in, we will be settling into 5th gear and cruising. Donations are gratefully welcomed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mick Erausquin - our co-writer and spirit in the sky

After college I shared an apartment on the beach with a gal named April. She was a gorgeous, funny girl with talent oozing out of her ears. I always told her, "A, if I could sing like that, I wouldn't do anything else." I've always had this thing for talent, only because I really wasn't born with any -- just a lot of stamina.

So when I started writing this script, the first person I called was Mick. Mick is my talented production/shooting/writing guru. Neither of us was enamored with the idea of a "bridal shop film," but it's what I had and we used it as an exercise in discipline, crafting and writing. It took us a year to do it, but we created believable characters with sharp dialogue and a no-frills backstory.

I first met Mick maybe 20 years ago. For almost a decade our siblings were married to each other, so he was, and always will be, family. He is a talented writer, creator, artist, and all that cool stuff. Plus, I'm not really that funny but he is. His ideas are all over this film and I miss him every day as I plow through the work to make it all happen.

We were truly sad when he left this film project. Despite his personal ownership of it, he left early on. It's not his bag, baby, and that's okay. When we talked last week, he admitted to me that he just didn't have the bandwidth. He's working on a documentary and he's got a demanding home life with two adorable little girls. He said "I'll ride your coattails" but it's really me riding his.

Last fall, I wrote another feature film treatment that I'm currently shopping around, and for this I called in Mick yet again, as well as the awe-inspiring "idea man" AD Wyatt Norton. As a firm believer in the old adage, "You are only as fabulous as the people around you," I bow in humble gratitude and awe at my production team, and most importantly my co-writer. His spirit is here as we make it happen.

MICK ERAUSQUIN is an experienced filmmaker in both the nonfiction and narrative genres. His credits are many and varied, ranging from Canvas, a documentary he directed about the lives of professional skateboarders, to Down and Out with the Dolls, an independent feature film edited by Erausquin which chronicles the rise and fall of an all-girl punk rock band. Beginning in 2005, Mick joined the Emmy-winning and Academy Award-nominated team at the Promises Film Company in Berkeley, California where he has been working as a producer on the international documentary My Summer in Tehran.

An impassioned traveler and adventure-seeker, Erausquin journeyed to Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2002 to document the annual World Social Forum, a gathering of progressive-minded social-justice organizations, educators and individuals from across the globe. While there, he shot and edited a video, funded through the French-American Charitable Trust in San Francisco, which has helped educate nonprofit groups around the country. In 1997, while still in film school, he edited Caught in the Crossfire, a project focusing on the struggles of children with gay and lesbian parents that was nominated for an IDA Student Achievement Award.

Mick Erausquin holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego and received his M.F.A. in film production from the University of Southern California School of Cinema in Los Angeles.

In 2001, after moving back to his Bay Area roots, Erausquin founded Oceanhive Productions, an Oakland-based independent digital video service, to fully pursue emerging creative opportunities.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Meet CHRISTABEL SAVALAS... playing Concepcion Salinas

I believe that life is full of angels. Angels appear at magical moments in our life, to inspire us, save us and encourage us. Then they disappear. They're someone we don't know, or maybe perhaps someone that isn't really even there. When my friend Harvey was dying, his wife told me about a nurse who she ran into during a visit to the restroom. She didn't remember their conversation, but it comforted her and made her feel validated and freed some of her burden. The strange thing was that she had never seen this nurse before and never saw her again.
Three actresses auditioned for the part of Concepcion. They were satisfactory, but none of them really understood... the part is small but she's critical. SHE is the angel. Our Casting Assistant (Concepcion Calderon-Jensen, affectionately known as Connie) had been scheduling the actresses and told me that Christabel was the one. She hadn't seen her, only spoken with her, but she knew.

So Christabel walked in on the last day of auditions and delivered the lines so wisely, so poignantly, that we were all mesmerized. Here was our angel.

Christabel Savalas has been acting since childhood. Born in New York City and educated in Europe, she speaks five foreign languages. She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena and the Jean Shelton School of Acting. Ms. Savalas’ stage credits include “ The Critic”, “The Conduct of Life”, “ Hey Momma”, “ Well of Loneliness”, “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Suicide”.

Films produced in San Francisco, she acted in “Chivalrous Deeds of a Nincompoop” and “Deadlock”. TV and film appearances include, “Midnight Caller”, “Nash Bridges”, “Class Action”, “Ancient Mail”, “ Pacific Heights”, “I killed a Meter maid”, “Twisted” and more.

As stand-up comedienne she performed at the Boarding House, Old Waldorf, and Chez Jacques. She has also acted, directed, written and produced in two short films, “The Roommates” and “Endless Creativity” which were awarded in Houston, Berkeley, Honolulu and Palm Springs. She has been a resident of San Francisco for over thirty years and is active in the local entertainment scene.

For more information go to: www.christabelsavalas.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MONDAY 11/16 is the day...

We have found two beautiful locations, both of which will work for us. Starlet Bridal is our local favorite. The spot is easy to find and it has a beautiful setting. Allison has done an amazing job with the shop. However, with complications on dates and contract and bridal dresses, we also have Bella Bridesmaid on the radar. Bridget Brown (the Bella Bridesmaid entrepreneur and Queen!) has been in on the discussions since the film was in its early stages. Plus, they have this amazing back deck that will work fabulously into our script.

Due to deadlines with the Screen Actors Guild we have to have a signed commitment next week, so it's do or die for our location. Much thanks go to both shops for their support of this film. We'll keep you posted. Dates are still early January, which seems to work best for Bridget as well.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Production Timeline Moves Up Three Weeks

Stopped by the Bridal Shop the other day. Now that casting's nearly complete, I wanted to touch base with the shop owner and finally sit down to plan her 30-second spot and sign the contract.

Although it's only been two months (yes, we've been busy!) she informed me that the only days we could shoot in January would be Jan 11-12-13 (Mon-Wed), a full THREE WEEKS before we had scheduled the shoot. While I had selected the dates with the cooperation of the shop manager Jill, put it in their booking schedule, and also left a contract with late January dates, these didn't matter. We were moved. No negotiation.

Not great news, but we'll make it work. But I quickly had to inform the actors. Were they all still available? Also, this date is the Monday following our fundraiser fiesta, and that is not the way I had planned to spend the weekend before shooting. My cushion time to get production pieces together just got scrunched. That night I went to yoga class, but it didn't seem to help. So I went home and laid on the heating pad and worked on the laptop until midnight. I Am A Worker. I think that's the title of my next film.

Fortunately, the cast is still on board and they're very excited about the schedule of events.

Sun Dec 13 -- Rehearsal: Cast table reads
Sun Dec 20 -- Rehearsal: Cast blocking with DP

Sat Jan 9 -- Meet the Cast Fundraiser
5 pm to 11 pm
1300 Ordway, Berkeley

Mon-Wed, Jan 11-13 -- Production
* plus 2 shoot dates for Gil & Joan characters, TBD

We're currently still trying to find a rehearsal location, but all things considered we're okay on our status. There's just no fat left in the timeline. Lean. Lean. Lean.

On a happy note, progress on our 27-minute casting piece is moving along well. We were able to interview the lovely Emmanuelle as Casting Director and she was smart, articulate and just plain good. The whole thing should be done before Thanksgiving and will be broadcast on Santa Rosa Community Access Channel. We'll keep you all posted on when this will be broadcast. Hopefully we'll be able to show it at our little fiesta.

Check out the Fiesta invitation here:

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Tentacles of Film

We watched 4+ movies this weekend. Actually, that's not an uncommon occurrence at our casa, but what was interesting was the variety of films we saw.

- The Fly (the original 1958 version, with Vincent Price)
- The Shining (Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, dir. by Stanley Kubrick)
- School of Rock (Jack Black, Joan Cusack)
- Forces of Nature (Sandra Bullock, Ben Affleck)

It was fascinating to watch The Fly. The impassioned performance of the wife (played by Patricia Owens), who tried to save her husband and ended up having to kill him, was heartfelt and believable. I didn't need to see Jeff Goldblum sprouting thick hairs or puking on his food. Good thrills can be had in simpler ways. O spent the better part of the weekend squealing, "Help me! Help me!" which made us laugh everytime.

But it was Forces of Nature
which really hit home. Oddly, this film is rated (by a UK film reviewer) as one of the top 10 underrated films of all time. I don't know much about the rest of the list, but there was something extraordinarily compelling about the story. The script was well-written and tight. The dialogue is superb, witty even. The direction was well-done, even if casting was a bit off. Had it been filmed with unknown actors with a flair for comedy and character acting, this film would have been an absolute stunner. And I would have featured Maura Tierney as more charming and attractive in the early part of the movie. She wins us all over during the wedding scene, with a character that only emerges at the very end of the movie, in the middle of a hurricane that's lyrically photographed. And as I watched the film, I realized that this was a sister film to "The Once and Future Bride." How do you know when someone or something is just right? Well, you really don't, but it can be funny exploring why it is, or isn't, or just why you're thinking about it at all.

Movies should do that. They should make you think and laugh and smile and cry and all that human stuff. Good movies make us remember great lines, like "Redrum" or "Help me" or "Here's Johnny!" And it's always fun to watch teenagers say "Stick it to The Man."

I like to think that truly good films wrap their arms around you like an octopus and squeeze... until you can't breathe. And then the moment's over. But it stays with you, the excitement, thrills, horror, sorrow until it fades away again. It's a way to keep that imagination alive and humming, and to keep the soul believing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Meet Heather Shaw -- Bride #2, Mary Jones

Many screenwriters imagine a specific actor when they're writing a part. Maybe they've pictured Robin Williams or Jim Carrey taking a wacky crack at their lines and adding some funny little gag... or perhaps they've pictured Bridget Fonda beating up the neighbors or Juliette Lewis on a rampage. But we never did. When we wrote this, we didn't explicitly focus on a look or a person. We worked on the back story and creating believable characters with a little history in their back pocket.

I personally liked the idea of having a young teen pregnant bride -- because they're all too common. And of course a good opportunity for comedy. There are two ways to go with something like this... she could either be a caretaker kind of gal (who would naturally take care of her father after her mother died), or she could be just a little pissed off, because, you know, her mom was dead and she was pregnant and it's messed up. So we went with that. But who do you picture playing a role like that? Not Reese Witherspoon or Rachel McAdams or Anne Hathaway. Maybe Lindsay Lohan, but that's it.

We called in three actors for the part of Mary Jones -- the goth, pregnant teen with a punk rock attitude. They all looked so pretty in their headshots, but I wanted to open the door a little to see what they could do. During her screen test, Heather turned into someone else when she read the part of Mary. That sweet girl that walked in the door went away and Mary Jones, the spitfire, came out. We looked at the tape a couple of times but there was no doubt. We liked her Mary, testy and all. Plus Heather didn't care if we wanted her hair dyed black. No hesitation, no problem. Go goth.

Heather will be a great addition to our cast, if only because she'll be the best sport and we can play tricks on her. Thank you to Heather!

Heather Dayah Shaw was raised in Santa Cruz County, CA and has been active in the performing arts for most of her life. Heather is trained in many styles of dance and has a passion for choreography. She has danced as a company member in both the Santa Cruz Ballet Theater and the Teen Dance Company of the Bay Area. Other performance highlights include singing at Carnegie Hall with the Cabrillo Chorus and appearing as a guest on the television show “Q&A.” Some of Heather's musical theater credits include The Music Man (Zaneeta), Oklahoma!, Bye Bye Birdie, and Camelot. Heather began college at 15 years old. Now 19, she is continuing her education at UC Berkeley as a Philosophy and Theater double major with a Dance minor.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meet Holly Nugent -- Bride #1, Helen Everett

When the casting process began with Emmanuelle, Connie and Maria reviewing pictures and resumes, it was Emmanuelle who pegged our first key role -- she selected the actress to play the part of Helen Everett (aka Bride #1, better known as "The Future Bride" from the title). Helen is the catalyst in this film, and it is her visit to the bridal shop -- along with best friend Katie and mother Joan -- that the story revolves around.

We knew we needed someone who could play sweet, nervous, intimidated, and frustrated all while trying on couture gowns. She has to be able to play off of a kooky and cynical best friend as well as a demanding and opinionated mother. But she also has to be magnetic AND understated behind those two strong characters while not turning to mush in the background. Tough stuff.

When Holly Nugent walked into the room, we all collectively sighed, especially AD who wrote in his notes that she IS Helen. Holly was a breath of fresh air in her sunny yellow dress and positive personality. While we might have considered another "dark horse" actress with a strong visual presence, the more we looked at Holly's screen test, the more we were convinced she could pull it off. Yes, Emmanuelle had the eye on this one.

Holly Nugent was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre from The Boston Conservatory after attending PCPA's Two Year intensive Actor Training Program and ACT's Young Conservatory. After graduating from The Boston Conservatory, Holly continued training in improv and sketch comedy and began focusing on building a career in theatre and film in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently serves on the ACT Alumni Board of Directors, and is a member of Ray of Light and The Royal Underground's Theatre Companies. Recent theatrical credits include Emma Carew in "Jekyll and Hyde", Woman 1 in "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," and DeeDee Dulce (the wedding singer) in "Tony and Tina's Wedding." She also recently won the award for Best Actor of the San Francisco Seven Day Film Festival for her work in the film "Look Both Ways". Holly currently resides in San Francisco with her loving husband, Arik, and the other joy of her life, her dog Annabelle!

Find out more about Holly at www.HollyNugent.com.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Moving into Plank Mode

Since the pre-production process began in full force, it's been a lot of great work.... evenings, weekends, nights, early mornings. During this, I've tried to stay on the wagon -- running, biking, swimming to keep the juice flowing. On August 30 I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon, doing the half course (13.1 miles) with my running team. But within the next month, my body rebelled.
Screaming "too much," my back went into full spasms and paralyzed me for days. After a month-plus of inertia, I've slowly climbed back onto the wagon, and am now fully immersed in a low-impact, strength-building regimen.... yoga, weights, elliptical. I am perfecting the plank and embracing my inner hippie. Talk about commitment. The other half is business-gal agent 99.

But the work has continued, with me in recline mode on the bed, laptop in hand. We've cast all the major parts and are now planning THE big event: a fine tequila-tasting fundraiser where people can meet the cast and crew, and sing karaoke. The party to end all parties!

DATE: Saturday, January 9
TIME: 4pm to midnight
COST: $20 per person
LOCATION: 1300 Ordway Street, Berkeley

In the meantime, I'm creating a prospectus for two funders and hope to bring in $20K+ in the next six weeks. Cross your fingers. Light a candle.

And if you haven't yet pitched in, please click on the Paypal donate button and donate! If 100 people give just $50, then we are that much closer to our goal.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Domino Effect

This weekend, our three casting wizards will meet to go over the videos we shot of the auditions. As a director I am very open to the idea of call-backs, but want to be sure we're not wasting valuable time -- both ours and the actors'. So, with that in mind we'll make our "best decisions, go forth and conquer" (a line from the film, hee hee).

Selecting Joan is probably the most challenging part. She IS the whole story really. And while one actress captured the first part of Joan, another actress was able to play the second part with real emotion... The dynamic nature of her character is challenging, and we wished at the end of it that we could merge the two actresses, but that (as we all know with old boyfriends) can never be. Then, once we pick Joan, that will in some ways define who her daughter will need to be. Thus we're in the midst of the cliffhanger: a real fist-clenched, white-knuckled domino effect. Knocking off one will make choosing the rest easier. God Bless Joan.

Emmanuelle put it best: We want to be very deliberate in this final step.

This film is an internal film; that is, it takes place in the minds of the characters... what they're thinking, feeling and experiencing. There are no crashes or chase scenes or multiple locations. Just one place at one time with a bunch of people kind of losing their mind in this strange and superficial way.

Our actors will have to be top notch, or at least work very well together, and that's the key. A call-back would be ideal to see who plays off of who best. But we filmed everything as a screen test for a reason. We need to *feel* something from the actors... and what I remember may not be what I end up seeing on the screen. AD says, "It's the screen that counts, baby" but at the same time, I'm loathe to ignore my instincts. So we will have one final pow wow before making this next big CHOICE. Freedom can be a curse and a blessing, n'est-ce pas?

I have developed a great appreciation of the casting process, and cannot begin to fathom how actors channel characters and nuances. It is magic, truly.

Below is our list of finalists, and yes, we have made the final call for a couple of characters. Here we have it (drum roll, please):

Dee Marshall
Holly Nugent

Jennie Floyd
Dorothy Gallagher

Larissa Kasian
Jennifer Linkous

Heather Shaw

Randy Hurst
Jeffrey Davis

Christabel Savalas

Juliet Heller
Mawiyah Johnson

Juliet Heller
Mawiyah Johnson

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Today: 11 am to 12:30

Where: 80 Austin Street
between Pine & Bush, off of Polk Street
sign says "Frank Norris"

9/19/09 - FINAL AUDITION SCHEDULE (San Francisco)







Contact: 510-965-1685 for info

Friday, September 18, 2009

A gentle "no" from the heart

Today I received a personal phone call from Carol Dean, Executive Director of From the Heart Productions. Earlier this year I had submitted a grant application for production funds for this film. My initial thought... "Wow, she's calling me personally to award me the grant," dissipated into thin air as I heard the words "I'm sorry but we aren't going to fund your project this year." I'm pretty sure it felt like Taylor Swift after Kanye West deflated her award balloon.

She went on to tell me what a wonderful, funny, charming script I had written, and how much talent I had, and encouraged me to keep writing. She was kind, but it was still a resounding rejection. I asked her to keep an eye out for any potential donors, that we were moving forward with casting and pre-production, and that we were making pitches to individual donors. She listened with a heart, and for that I thank her. But I realize in the end that the ball's still in my court.

I didn't ask her who won or why we didn't. Perhaps my mind could have gone there ultimately. But I was proud that I could make my pitch to her, still, even after the rejection, believing ultimately in my film and its potential. In all honesty, I really don't care who got awarded the fabulous production prizes... I have work to do.

On that note, I hope that everyone who reads this clicks on the DONATE button at the top of this blog and sends $50. If 100 people send in $50 then we are well on our way to covering some important expenses.

Here's to tomorrow, and our final casting session. The light is on.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Last Lap of Auditions... dreaming our little dreamy dreams

Good casting in a film isn’t small stuff. It shows the ability to see beyond a picture, beyond movements and initial interpretation. I think of Joan Cusack when I say this. She’s strong and female and unique. And while her look is unusual, and her speaking style is peculiar, she makes it come alive and creates a character from it. Instead of trying to bury it, she uses it as a tool and becomes someone you want to watch and see and hear. In the end, you don’t see the flaws, you see the character and embrace it as real.

I thought of this when I replayed the auditions from last Saturday. I want to be open-minded and aware of actors that can offer anything unique and special and wild in a way. My personal philosophy is to try to always maintain a sense of abandonment in life, in whatever you’re doing or creating. Freedom within a character, that’s what I’m looking for.

For Round 2, we had different actors, mostly men. It was interesting to watch how and in what manner they chose to create the father figure of Gil. For one actor, I wanted to interrupt him and remind him that in his youth, he was a hottie… the mother had remembered him and mourned the demise of their relationship. Oddly, the guys were stuck in dad-mode, and not communicating the vision of older hottie-dad, which is actually the pivotal element of the character. That’s why I had them read from the table scene. (Jim Jarrett, where are you?) One woman gave the most heartbreaking read for Joan. She was lovely and sweet. And while she struggled with the “angry and mean” Joan, her delivery of the discovery scene was dead on. The close-up made me melt.

But we couldn’t absorb much more. My casting team was tired. We had two 6-hour days of actor after actor. By the end, I’m not sure how much we were able to digest so I’m grateful we shot all of it on HD.

Now, as we move into the final lap of auditions, each character will have another actor trying on the role, and at the end we’ll have a beer, watch the videos and see who makes us believe the story.

So we’ll end here with a poem, best remembered from the classic Willy Wonka movie. It’s from Ode (1874) by Arthur O’Shaughnessy.

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming—
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Round 2 Audition Finalists

With a room full of talent, visualizing the character and watching him or her come to life is an amazing experience. That being said, there are always those people who simply stand out--not only with their talent and interpretation, but more importantly by virtue of their fit for the role. Congratulations.

Actors still under consideration from Round 2:


Pictures and summary to be posted later.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Round 2 Auditions

We've notified all the actors for Round 2 about their audition times. Now that we have seen a group of actors we have a better idea of what's out there and who can work for the part. Looking forward to seeing the group this Saturday!

9/12/09 - ROUND 2 AUDITION SCHEDULE (Santa Rosa)

10:15 AM

10:30 AM

10:45 AM

11:00 AM

11:15 AM

11:30 AM

11:45 AM

12:00 PM

12:45 PM

1:00 PM

1:15 PM

2:00 PM

2:15 PM

2:30 PM

2:45 PM

3:00 PM

3:15 PM

3:30 PM

3:45 PM

9/19/09 - FINAL AUDITION SCHEDULE (San Francisco)







Cast from the original Star Wars film

Actors from Round 1 that are still under consideration will be notified if they have made the final cut by September 30. If there are still questions from the casting team after Round 2, we'll have an October call-back with more extensive readings.

To everyone: Break a leg!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Making a Work of Art: DP Mike Epple

There are directors who have their favorite actors -- think Martin Scorcese/Robert DeNiro -- think Tim Burton/Johnny Depp. And there are directors who only work with great Directors of Photography -- think Emmanuel Lubezki/Terrence Malick -- think Roger Deakins/Coen Brothers. And for this short film, we're working with DP Mike Epple.

Mike is not only a creative force who understands his gear and his light, he's also a great listener and someone who can see the big picture while making smart decisions. Most importantly, he's easy to work with. Never pushy nor opinionated, he's not a "know it all" who questions his director, but a true artiste who absorbs all the details, challenges himself and works relentlessly to find the best solution. My favorite memory of Mike is watching him move the ladder around, climb up it, look for the right shot, and move it around again... while of course working with John O. for lighting so he could figure out what worked and what didn't. Or, when we had a narrow hall and had to shoot through the keyhole: we put Mike in a wheelchair and pushed him through the doorway while he bent his 6-foot frame into a ball so he could get low enough to keep the shot at one take. Smooth.

Right now, Mike's in Las Vegas shooting a documentary, a mere 8 days before his wedding. We're lucky to have him on our team. To see his reel and website, click here.

Director of Photography
Camera Operator

Michael Epple is a freelance Director of Photography and Camera Operator who is equally proficient in both film and digital motion picture formats. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, Michael has clients all over the United States. Whether it’s a feature in Texas, music video in Oakland, or industrial in Los Angeles, he has what it takes to create a high production value. Helping to realize the director’s or agency’s vision, and crafting a visual aesthetic through cinematography that both reinforces the story or campaign, is at the heart of his philosophy and work ethic.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Round 1 Reviews

The actress Betsy Randle once told me that acting is a calling. "You do it because it's the only thing you ever want to do and there's no other dream in the world." I don't know if all actors feel that way, but at some level there has to be that deep commitment. Years of dedication, hundreds maybe thousands of rejections, glimmers of opportunities, and long-delayed dreams and ambitions. It is a hard road and I admire anyone with the skill and stamina to stick it out, because sometimes, just sometimes, you see passion, charisma, magnetic charm, and it is magical.

On Saturday Aug 29, our casting panel saw actors for 5+ hours auditioning for this film. They were all positive, nervous, excited and just plain charming. And while there were some who were truly gifted, there were others who were just better for the part.

Here is a list of the actors that are still under consideration, in no particular order:


We're currently prepping the list for Round 2, and due to the limited response from male actors it looks like we may have to have a third session as well. In the meantime, we still have a whole group of actors for Sept 12. Once we have seen that group, Round 1 actors will be cut more, with a final cast list to be announced sometime in mid-October.

I wish there were parts to give to all them. And I'll keep that in mind with the next script I write.

Audition times for 9/12 to come.

NOTE: Betsy Randle is family. She is my father's cousin, the daughter of Helen McCreary Miller, my grandmother's sister. Betsy has had some impressive acting gigs and she is the songbird of the family. You can check her out on IMDB here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

CASTING SCHEDULE & Audition Segments

After many calls, emails and rearranging, the Casting Schedule is set for Saturday, Aug 29. Second round actors and call-backs are scheduled for Saturday, Sept 12. We're bringing a Sony HD camera, two mics, and two sets of lights along with water & snacks. As a director, I believe that happy actors are good actors.

Each actor will read a page or two from the script as well as a selected short monologue IN CHARACTER. If they have something of their own they can read that as well.


- Helen
- Katie
- Joan (Mrs. Everett)
- Gil (Mr. Jones)
- Mary
- Concepcion (Mrs. Salinas)
- Hostess/Bridal Assistant



10:30 AM

10:45 AM

11:00 AM

11:15 AM

11:30 AM

11:45 AM

12 noon


1:00 PM

1:15 PM

1:30 PM

1:45 PM

2:00 PM

2:15 PM

2:30 PM

2:45 PM

3:15 PM

3:30 PM

3:45 PM