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

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