Productiondairies.small

Diary Of A Feature Film: A Place Apart

By Theresa Schwartz


Two years ago, David Roy and I began our collaboration on a new screenplay, A PLACE APART.  We had known each other long ago as kids, and the year before, met again and fell in love.  David is a filmmaker, a writer and teacher. I am a musician, teacher and counselor.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would leave my familiar world of public school teaching and music making, and move to California to try my hand at screenwriting and independent filmmaking

TeresaOrange   Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 4.05.54 PM   083

The Vision

David has always been interested in uncovering the beauty and mystery behind the seemingly commonplace and familiar through writing and film.  A band of enthusiastic French film theoreticians coined a word for this long ago – photogenie.  Our central character is on a journey that in the end helps her rediscover the wonder and awe of the world and her special place in it.  Our goal is to illustrate this woman’s journey in the most visually beautiful and compelling way possible.

The Story

Of course, most writers write about what they know.  Who among us hasn’t questioned the path we’ve chosen in life, or allowed our fears to choose for us?  I am currently going through the process of reinventing myself, and not for the first time.  We’ve both had the experience of caring for elderly and ill parents.  David’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, so he knows firsthand what it’s like to deal with a parent who didn’t always recognize him. From moment to moment he was never certain whether she was living in the past or present day.  Our protagonist, Amy, grapples with all of these issues throughout the story.

A PLACE APART is a story about a young woman, Amy Sumac, who has a very close relationship with her successful architect father, George Baxter, who suffers from dementia.  Amy discovers a secret her father has harbored for over 30 years, somehow involving a mysterious torch singer, an old drawing and a model of his fantasy house, hidden away in the attic.  Her quest for answers leads her to re-examine the choices she has made in her life, as well as her relationships with husband Roger, and colleague Max, and ultimately questioning even her own identity.

The Plan

After finishing the script, we of course wanted to make the film, but finding the time to do it was an issue.  David was teaching full time with little time off. A last minute opportunity then came for him to take a fall semester sabbatical, but that created another problem – we now had only four months to do all of the pre-production and filming. Besides our shared creativity and ability to work well together, we knew between us we had a number of strengths, including David’s experience with the aspects of filmmaking and my organizational skills.  We also had a number of key people interested in helping us, so we began gathering our resources and are now in the process of filling in the blank spaces.

The Production Team

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 9.59.09 PMWe are incredibly fortunate to already have a great deal of equity wrapped up in our project – professional filmmakers, state of the art equipment, fabulous locations.  David’s reputation as writer, editor and director of his 2003 movie MAD SONG (LA Times listed it as one of the “most promising directorial debuts of the year”) and documentary THE LUCKY MAN (he received an Emmy for his camera work) proves that he knows what he is doing as a filmmaker.  My organizational skills and attention to detail should transfer well to the job of producer.

Many of David’s colleagues and former students have agreed to join us in this endeavor.  Karl Ulrich, DP has worked in television as well as directing and producing award winning short films, documentaries, commercials and music videos.  Paul F. Ryan, Producer, is a founder and partner of MOR Entertainment, a film production and financing company located in Manhattan Beach, CA with clients such as Miramax Films and the Weinstein Brothers.  Julliard trained composer, Steven Argila worked with David on his movie MAD SONG, creating a hauntingly memorable soundtrack before going on to write for NBC’s comedy “The Paul Reiser Show” and a number of Nickelodeon TV Specials.  Dale Angell, Sound Designer and Audio Mixer will work for us from his new state of the art studio in Salt Lake City.

The Equipment and Resources

Each of these team members bring an enormous amount of varied experience and resources with them.  We plan to shoot with the Epic camera, utilizing an underwater housing where needed.  Also available to us -- an extensive grip and electric package, dolly, steadicam, and full high definition post production facilities for picture and sound.  We are also fortunate to have the use of professional sound stages at David’s school, where we will create some of our restaurant and bar scenes.

The Locations

David found the key inspiration for our story a few years ago while scouting locations for another project.  This amazing Gaudi inspired home is built in the vast wilderness outside Santa Barbara, CA.  Ornately arched windows and doorways, spiral staircases and a reflecting pool set the illusion needed for the “Fairy Tale” house that the architect, George designed.  We recently found another stunning location north of LA - a lovely three level home built on a wooded hillside.  The entry level (living room, kitchen, dining room) is the top floor with a fabulous view of the back yard pool - three stories below! One location we thought we’d have to build on a sound stage at the school where Dave teaches.  We needed a record store - one that sold only vinyl records that date back to long ago.  We asked around and found a shop where the owner did business out of a storage garage, almost exactly as described in the script. The owner of the store could even be the shop owner in our story! These and a few other locations are pretty much locked down. Overall, the owners seem pleased that we think their property would be perfect for what we had envisioned for our film, and we are grateful that they have agreed to provide it at no cost. We are still looking for a large older home – one that is conventional and well appointed – for successful architect, George, preferably in the area near Ventura.  We also need a small detective office for our gumshoe, JJ Kinser.  We have our feelers out for these and will report back as we find them.

The Cast

We have done some casting, calling actors that we know and asking friends for recommendations.  We have found some highly talented people, but are still looking for some of our leads.  We decided long ago that we would like to have a name actor or two (or three) to fill some of the smaller (yet integral) roles, hoping this would help generate funding and also Festival attention. The question is:  Which comes first?  The money or the name?  At this point we do not have a casting director.  The other question we are currently contemplating is whether to be a SAG or non SAG production.  This for us is mostly a financial consideration.  When we determine which course to take we will most likely post our cast breakdown on Breakdown Services.

The Schedule

The script is 86 pages and David would like to make this a 24 day shoot (approximately 4 pages per day).  Our original start date was the end of October, and has already been revised to early November.  Much of this has been determined by the availability of our crew, and will no doubt be revised again pending the availability of our cast. With David’s detailed class notes from the Producing class he teaches, I did a script breakdown the old-fashioned way – with a ruler and colored pencils.  It was good practice for me even though our producer, Paul, did it all again later with a computer program.  My “strip board” is index cards that I have shuffled and reshuffled to create a schedule (still being revised).  I am happy to say that it is similar to the computer generated schedule!  Right now the schedule is based on which actors we have cast and locations we have already procured.  Since we have not yet raised all of the money we need to complete the film, we are considering filming for two weeks and taking a break to cut a trailer to use to help raise completion funds.  This could also be used to potentially attract a name actor to the project.

The Issues

I’ve mentioned above all of the things we have going for us.  We have a beautifully written and poignant script that is lauded, especially by the actors who have read it. Then there is the incredible talent that has committed their time and sweat equity to help us realize our dream.  We estimate that we have at least $150,000 worth of equity committed to the project in locations and equipment.  As wonderful as these things are, we really can’t proceed without additional cash.  Even with our actors agreeing to a back-end deferment, funds are needed to pay the crew and to cover all the fees and insurance costs required.  And did I mention the cost of feeding everyone? It’s been a roller coaster of emotions as we go from “let’s do it!” to “how in the world are we going to make this happen?” David and I are generally very private people and it’s somewhat uncomfortable for us to ask for help with anything.  But we have discovered that when talking about our film project, we hear a lot of “let me know what I can do to help.”  People just want to be a part of a great creative project (of course we’re all hoping for a lucrative back end!).  It’s amazing what you can get if you just ask!   Most of the phone calls and emails we’ve sent out have had favorable responses.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  We are learning it’s to our advantage to think big!

I’ve been asked to write about our project as we go along, to maybe give readers an idea of the ups and downs and what’s all involved in making an ultra low budget indie film.  This is my first film project, and I am learning a lot.  Maybe it’s yours, too, so let me know what your questions are.  If you’ve been around this block a number of times, please feel free to offer suggestions or advice.  I am also continually updating and blogging on our website (also a new endeavor for me!) so check back often to hear about our progress!

Theresa Schwartz

A PLACE APART is Theresa's debut as a screenwriter and Producer.  Prior to moving to California a year ago, she worked for the Iowa and Illinois public schools as a School Counselor and Jr. High School Band Director. Theresa is an accomplished clarinet player and teacher, playing for 25 years with the Classique Quintette and various other musical productions in the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities.  She is married to David Roy and has two children and three grandchildren.

David Roy

David is a director, writer, visual designer and editor.  His new screenplay A PLACE APART is in pre-production with plans to shoot in the fall of 2013.  

In 2003 his feature film MAD SONG was cited as “the most promising directorial debut of the year” by The Los Angeles Times.  National Public Radio lauded the film, favorably comparing it to Robert Altman’s early work.  In 2004 David helmed one of five individually directed segments of MAN OF THE YEAR starring the late John Ritter.  The film played in competition at the Slam Dunk Festival in Park City, as well as the Pasadena Method Festival where it won the “Best Performance” award.  In 2005, David received an Emmy for his photographic contribution to THE LUCKY MAN, a documentary about one man’s tragic battle with ALS. David has been a member of the senior faculty at Brooks Institute in Ventura, CA since 2001, teaching writing and directing in the Film and Video Dept.  In 2005 he was listed in the Who’s Who of American Teachers. Born and raised in Iowa, David holds BA degrees in History, English and Philosophy from Marycrest College in Davenport, and an MA in cinema from the University of Iowa where he also studied at its renowned Fiction Writing Workshop.  His visualization of Heidegger’s “The Clearing” won him first place in the national Refocus Film Festival. After winning numerous local and regional awards for shooting and directing commercials in the Midwest, David moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s, where he employed his multiple skills towards a wide variety of documentaries and commercials, as well as music videos for such artists as Luther Vandross and the Beastie Boys.


 
The Production Diary 

 

Stay tuned for their IndieGoGo campaign...

Friday, June 13

In many ways our movie project is stalled right now. We can’t move forward mainly because of lack of funding, and also because we still have to find locations and cast members. In spite of this (or because of it) we are busy talking with “the experts” now about crowd funding. We’re getting advice from two sources about raising funds and with yet another about whether or not to use a casting director or not.

We are learning that the more personalized our crowd funding campaign is, the more successful it will be. The wider we cast our net, the more successful we’ll be. The average donation on any campaign is $70. We’re being advised on what would be a realistic goal to aim for.

A colleague of David’s has told us that her daughter is willing to deliver our script to a name actor that she works with. We are drafting a letter of introduction to go along with the script. Fingers are crossed!

Tuesday, June 10

David has been spending time this last week with the Associate Editor cutting together one of the scenes from our week of filming. I got a chance to see it today and it looks great! David and Jeff are having fun looking at the many options there are for interpreting this scene and asked me to weigh in on some of their decisions. It’s interesting to see how a little smile or a look can change the emphasis of a line.

Thursday, May 29

Day 8 of filming!

Today we plan to film four scenes with Amy and Max in Max’s car. We start the day at our “scenic vista” location - a beautiful spot overlooking Lake Casitas near Ojai, CA. The sun came out just as we started and everything went really well overall. We used a doorway dolly for one shot, placed the camera (and the operators) in the backseat for several others, and used sticks for the remaining shots.

Our second location for the day was an alley off of Main St. in Ventura. We had heard that the mural in this alleyway was to be painted over and since we’d done some preliminary shots here, we were anxious to get these shots in to finish the effect. There were already some workers there and they graciously let us move in while they took a break. The results were terrific!

One final location was left with two scenes to film. The camera was mounted on the hood of Max’s car to get some of these shots. We arrived at the location expecting the parking lot to be empty, but discovered three vehicles parked there. We talked with one of the property occupants who told us we could go ahead with filming, but the cars would be there for the evening. With daylight beginning to wane, David and Karl jockeyed the car around to get the the best shots they could. The camera was also placed in the backseat of the car which was a bit frustrating for David because we didn’t have a wireless monitor and he couldn’t see what was happening in the car very well. This is when we are glad to have the expertise we have on the camera crew.

Tuesday, May 27

Karl, Aya, David and I went to one of our Thursday locations to determine what shots we could get without calling too much attention to ourselves and the fact that we would be filming. That particular location is an out of the way “scenic vista”. While we were there, a number of cars pulled up to enjoy the view - something we hadn’t counted on - so there was a discussion on how we would handle these “interruptions” on Thursday. It was decided that all we could do was to wait between takes if it was indeed an interruption…

We were also able to talk about needed equipment and logistics such as “where is the nearest restroom?” and “how many batteries and data cards will we need?” and the most important question - “what will we do for lunch?”

Saturday, May 24

It’s a Holiday weekend, but we’re busy calling and texting our crew to arrange to film on Thursday and Friday next week. It looks like we will have a very small crew (8 plus our actors) and will shoot at least four outdoor car scenes with Amy and Max. The locations have already been found and we’re hoping we can get it done quickly without calling attention to the fact that we are filming!

Friday, May 23

This morning we had coffee with our lead actress, Stefanie. She is such a delightful young woman, very intelligent and well read. She can talk about so many of the films that David is drawn to - many I’ve never heard of! She asked us if she could approach a producer she knows about finding money for us and will also see who she knows that could refer us to actors who might be right for some of the smaller roles we need to fill. She’s been a wonderful resource for us already!

As we were leaving the coffee shop, we literally ran into our camera operator, Keith. He has been a source of inspiration for David in so many ways - a wonderful example of a true independent filmmaker. We stayed to have lunch with him and talk about crowd funding. David has been talking with another gentleman about helping us develop a crowd funding campaign and Keith weighed in.

David and I also talked with Keith about his availability for filming in the next week or so, a question we also posed to Stefanie. We will check with the others in our crew about whether we can film at the end of next week for a day or two. We have decided we can afford to film for two days if we can get the key people together.

Tuesday, May 20

David and I met with the Production team for the first time since the shoot to determine what is next. I shared with them the costs of our week of filming and they were surprised - especially of the bottom line for transportation, catering and Art Department costs. We want to continue filming, but are trying to decide how we can get the most for the little bit of money we have. We have a couple of options and will look at which locations will be the most cost efficient at this time. We also have to arrange for a number of locations. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

We have a lead on someone who helps facilitate crowd funding campaigns. This person was recommended to us by our composer, Steven Argila. It will be interesting to hear his ideas about what we can expect to raise and how to go about it.

We’ve gotten some conflicting advice about getting a name actor and how much to offer them. One side tells us we need to offer a big chunk of money up front with a promise of a back end payout. The other side tells us that most older names just want to have a great role to play and don’t care so much about the money. Who’s right? Who knows!

Monday, May 19

I’d spent some time at the beginning of the month going over the receipts and checkbook and roughly adding up the costs we had over our week of filming. Today I went over the figures more carefully and typed up the numbers to share with the various departments. I was right in my estimation that catering was far over what we budgeted for. The Art Department also went way over as well. We underestimated our transportation costs by not figuring in gas money for our crew and actors. As a result, we had about $3,000 of unexpected costs. Now for most film shoots, that isn’t much, but for our uber-low budget it was about a third over what we had expected to pay out.

There was an article in today’s LA Times about how many low budget indie films were cutting costs. Many are not getting film permits and rely on favors from friends for locations and even acting. It all sounded very familiar…

Monday, May 12

While I was in the Midwest visiting family, David spent much of his time reviewing the footage we filmed during the week of April 21 - 27. Everyone has been very happy with what we’ve gotten so far. The plan has always been to cut some of this footage together to create a trailer to show potential investors and name actors. This would hopefully demonstrate the acting, directing and cinematography of our movie and would help us get the funding we need and also help us to complete our cast.

David and our 1st assistant editor determined there was not enough footage to create a trailer, but they were able to put together what they are calling a “reel of the dailies” from that one week of filming. They’ve even added music and some sound effects. The resulting reel has received many favorable responses from those who’ve seen it. David is very pleased!

Wednesday, April 30

I am on a plane to Iowa and am using the time to write!

David is spending time with Jeff, our 1st Assistant Editor, looking at the footage of what we filmed last week. Karl and Aya are also with them and everyone is excited about how it looks! I am a bit jealous that I’m not with them, but know I will spend lots of time in the coming weeks looking at the video with David.

During the shoot, I kept records of what we spent - the checks we wrote and the cash we used. My job now is to go over receipts and check registers to determine how much we spent and how close we were to staying on budget. My sense of it so far is that we overspent on catering. I also know that we hadn’t really budgeted for reimbursing people for gas money. Other items, such as the cost to rent the Movi wasn’t in our budget at all. It will be interesting when we get the final numbers.

Tuesday, April 29

There is still much to do, things we’d used from our house - props, lamps, pictures - all needed to be put away. Coolers and dishes used for catering needed to be washed and stored. Wardrobe needed to be laundered and hung up. And I needed to get ready for a trip back to the midwest to attend my niece’s wedding. We also needed to sleep!

I was so busy last week with everything, that I didn’t have time to write the diary entries or to write the blog for our website. I had really hoped to post something each day and only ended up posting a couple of times on our Facebook page. I took a lot of pictures and hope that will help me remember some of the more significant events that happened throughout the week.

Monday, April 28

I had set my alarm for 8:00 AM in order to call the piano company to find out what time they would be there to pick up the piano shell at our Woodland Hills location. Soon after I received a phone call from the movers - they were already outside the house ready to pick it up! The problem was that we were at home - about a half hour drive away. So off we went to let the movers into the house. While we were there we did a final check and contacted the owners to tell them the piano was out and we were officially done.

After a quick breakfast, we headed to Ventura to help unload equipment and return the van we’d rented. We were exhausted, but still had to unload things from our cars when we got home. Another long day after only a few hours of sleep.

APLaceApart.DaveandTheresa

Sunday, April 27

Day Seven - the final day of this stretch of filming.

The day today started at 5PM and we were scheduled to go until midnight. We set everything up for the first shot of the day and then waited for the sun to go down enough to start. Because we were uncertain about whether we could even shoot today, the original schedule and the schedule we were creating as we went along were completely different. At times I really didn’t know what scenes we were doing, which made it interesting because I was helping the actors with their wardrobe.

We were able to finish all of the shots we needed for this particular location, except for the scenes in the bedroom. It was decided we would find another location for the bedroom scenes and would schedule these for the next round of filming, hopefully in late May.

At midnight we packed up our equipment and began cleaning up, leaving things as we found them that first day. I made one final trek up the three flights of steps from the pool and cabana with the trash and turned out the lights. We all stood outside the house for a while longer, reluctant to see this week end.

Saturday, April 26

Day Six - We went until midnight (or so) last night and today’s start time was 6PM - an overnight shoot. Last night just as we were packing up, I received a text from the caterer saying that she would not be able to provide any food for the next day. I was in a panic about what to do! Should I cook or should we cater in? I decided to cook, so my day started early at the grocery store. No sleeping in for me!
I’ve mentioned earlier that the house at this location is three levels built on a hillside. We set up Craft Services on the lower level in the cabana by the pool. A lovely setting for our cast and crew to sit and eat and relax. The only problem was hauling all of the coolers and boxes and bags down three flights of steps! David made sure I had help each day carrying the cases of water and pop and bags of ice down. At the end of the day I hauled the trash up the stairs to take home. I didn’t want to leave anything more for the owners to have to deal with.

Today it was G&E who had a new toy to play with. We wanted to get a shot of the pool from the highest level of the house and needed more lighting than what the existing pool lights would provide. David and Karl also wanted to create the effect of shimmering lights reflecting on the back of the house, so we rented two Hydroflex lights to light everything from the bottom of the pool. Most of us know that electricity and water don’t mix, but these lights are designed to go in the water and the G&E guys had a great time setting it up. The results were exactly what David and Karl wanted and the house looked stunning on the outside as well as the inside!

The pool was lit and now one of our actors was scheduled to swim across the pool directly over a camera in an underwater housing. Only, the pool wasn’t heated and it was a chilly California night. Andrew was a brave soul to even agree to do it, but the shot turned out great with only a few takes. We also had one of the Art Dept. guys swim as a body double for the long distance shots from the balcony above. Those guys deserved their hot chocolate and warm shower afterwards!

It was a bit surreal to watch the sky light up as morning dawned. It was hard to know whether to say good night or good morning as we packed up for the day and headed for home.

Friday, April 25

Day Five:  Each day we start by unloading the trucks - it takes about an hour and a half to unload and load.There is no place at this location to store things. We can only use half of the short driveway and one car parking space to set up. Our guys were amazing and just did what they needed to do with out complaint. They worked so well together! I can see a definite division in job responsibilities. G&E generally worked together and the Camera crew did their job and so on. Each one knew their job and that’s what they did. Over all they had fun.

Spirits were high and everyone was excited today because the Movi arrived. David had decided to use the steady cam in a couple of shots and Karl said the space would be too tight for that. One of the camera guys suggested we look into renting a Movi instead. It is basically a small steady cam-like piece of equipment. The camera is suspended within a frame and is controlled by a remote control with joy sticks to manipulate the camera. Only one of our crew had used the Movi before and the camera crew had fun practicing the shots and discovering what it could do. They did an amazing job getting David’s more challenging shots! At one point they handed it to me to see how it felt to hold it. The shots worked well that day and I could see that having the use of this new tool was worth the price to rent it.

Rain was in the forecast today. It was cold and overcast. You have to remember that our equipment was spread out on the driveway and lights were set up outside to light for day on the inside. Tarps covered the equipment truck and the guys put aluminum foil tents up to cover the lights. We just hoped the wind wouldn’t pick up too much! The rain was mostly drizzle at the end of the day, but over all much was accomplished and we felt we had made up for what we lost yesterday.

APlaceApart.Filming

Thursday, April 24

Day Four: In Woodland Hills, CA today, at a beautiful three level home built on a hillside. We are scheduled to be at this location through Sunday. The owner greeted us first thing with the news that her mother was seriously ill and us being there Sunday was in question. We asked her if it would be better for us to reschedule and she assured us it would be OK to get started. Our schedule is ambitious - four pages each day. In the event that our time was cut short, it was decided to do the scenes only in the kitchen and living room and save the scenes in the bedroom for either another day or another location.

We rented a baby grand piano shell for some of the scenes here and set our start time back to coincide with the delivery of the piano. We were set and ready to go but the piano was late. We started the day already running behind schedule.

There were some parking issues for us today - a couple of the neighbors weren’t happy about all of the cars parked on the narrow street and even though we had a permit and were parked legally, we decided to shuttle the actors and crew to the location from a nearby parking lot.

We experienced a number of other complications today. As a result, we only got three shots done for the day. After consulting with the owners, it was decided that the best use of the rest of our day would be to prepare for day five so we can get a fresh start in the morning.

Wednesday, April 23

Day Three: Our location today was a record store in Ventura that sells vintage vinyl records. American Pie Records was the perfect location for “Bill’s Record Store”. David had seen in his mind’s eye a dark and dusty space filled with stacks and bins of records. Our DP, Karl, suggested using black lights to make the space seem a bit more funky and out of the ordinary, like the character Bill. We decided to open the scene using Karl’s suggestion and it looked great! Doing this of course took more time for set up and halfway through the morning it became apparent that we would spend the entire day at this location.

The store is actually a storage garage so we set up DIT, makeup and catering outside in the parking spaces. It was hot and there was no shade and I came home with a sunburn that day. At one point the lawn sprinklers came on and there was a mad dash to cover the sprinkler heads near the DIT cart. It was a serious situation with all the computer equipment in the line of fire from the sprinklers, but also a bit comical as the crew scrambled to cover things with apple boxes and trash bags.

Our lead, Stefanie tipped us off about an actor friend of hers that she thought would be perfect to play the role of the record store owner. We checked his reel and agreed. David Yow was perfect for the role and he was fun to work with as well!

At the end of each day, after everything had been packed up and everyone had been sent home, David and I would spend about an hour talking about our day. He was always on the inside with the actors and camera crew and I was mostly on the outside running that end of things and we didn’t interact much. He would then tell me how each scene went and I would fill him in on what had transpired with catering and outside events he might have missed. It was one less hour of sleep, but it was a good way to connect and stay informed about each day.

APlaceApart.LocationFilming

Tuesday, April 22

Second Day: Today we are in Ventura at the home of one of David’s former colleagues. This family has two young girls and their home is perfect for our character Max’s house - complete with drawings on the wall and toys on the floor. With all that already present, dressing the set didn’t seem to be necessary. I have learned that it’s not just making sure the props are there, it’s also about making certain the frame looks good with the background arranged as well

It was sort of a party atmosphere today. The homeowner knew most of the crew and was happy to see former students. This was the caterer’s first day and she cooked breakfast for us. A friend was with us taking pictures….Everyone was happy.

One of the first shots we did was a steady cam shot that started on Max in the kitchen and followed him to the front door where our lead, Amy was waiting. I was watching the monitor and tears literally came to my eyes! It was so cool to actually see this shot come to life exactly as David had planned it out. Our dream was coming true!!

As the day went on, it became apparent we would not have time for the company move that was scheduled. At one point David cleared the set of any extra crew. The scene he was shooting was a very emotional scene, a pivotal point in the movie and he wanted to remove as many distractions to the actors as possible. We did get the shots David wanted in that one location and he was very pleased with our actor’s performances.

The day went over what was scheduled and we had to provide an extra meal for the crew that wasn’t planned for and wasn’t in our budget, but what can you do? We have to take care of our crew and actors and I’m happy to do what is necessary. I even helped sweep the floors and take out the trash at the location!

I’m so glad we opted to stay overnight in Ventura!

Monday, April 21

First day of filming! This is the day we have been planning for with great anticipation! Every one is really excited to get started! Spirits are high as everyone gathers and the camera is set up. Our actors are in makeup and we do the final selection of wardrobe. Everyone knows their job and they get right to it.

We’re ready to go when David and the Camera Department decide to change a lens on the Scarlet. Now we are an hour behind schedule already! It takes a little while for everyone to settle in once we begin again, but the set is beautiful and the acting is wonderful. David keeps saying, we’re going to make a beautiful film!

APlaceApart.FilmingSet

Sunday, April 20

The day before…

I’ve decided to cook for the crew on the first day, so spent the afternoon chopping veggies for salads and cooking a crockpot meal. We have two vegetarians and a dairy allergy to consider when planning the meals. I think I’ll have it covered with Italian Beef sandwiches and a great quinoa and veggie salad.

The rest of the day was spent packing all of the wardrobe and serving dishes and whatever else we’ll need to make the day go easier. I want to make this a great experience for our crew, so have tried to think ahead to anticipate what all we might need for the next wee

Saturday, April 19

Two days before it all starts!

Yesterday there was quite a discussion with the DIT, the DP and the 1st assistant editor about the number of hard drives we will need. I’m told that this is not the place to skimp and hard drives are not cheap. They have suggested an 8 terabyte hard drive to store the footage as well as two one terabyte hard drives to transport. Karl will store footage on his hard drives at home and the DIT and 1st assistant editor will do the same. We will have three back ups all stored in different places. David and I will do some shopping today for everything we need.
I am a bit nervous about the catering - it’s not totally locked down for the week yet. I plan to shop at CostCo today to get some things for the first couple of days and if needed we can cater in food from some of the restaurants in Ventura like we did on Friday.

Friday, April 18

Today was a big prep day for our crew. They gathered together all of the equipment we will use for this seven days of filming coming up next week. I was amazed at the volume of stuff they had stacked up! Now I understand why those movie crews you see parked on the streets in LA have so many big equipment trucks.

The Art department has painted the set on the sound stage we will film in on Monday and has dressed the set. We will film two different scenes on the same stage. Half of the walls are painted red and half are green. One angle will appear to be a nice restaurant and the other angle will look like a beach bar. I guess this is what you call movie magic! If the camera doesn’t see it, it doesn’t exist.
Karl’s crew can now set the lights so we can be ready first thing on Monday. Our 1st AD had arranged for a friend to be a stand in for us (usually my job) which freed me up to run errands all day. I was able to pick up things for the Art Department, but my most important job for the day was picking up the food we had ordered for the crew and setting it up. At the end of the day they all thanked me for being fed so well

David spent quite a lot of the day going over his shot lists. Karl and Aya have been bugging him about getting things finalized for a while now. As important as this is, it’s been difficult for him because it takes a lot of focused effort and David has been so busy, first with his classes and school responsibilities, and also with a lot of producing tasks. It was a welcomed block of time to get this important job worked out and he was happy to have it completed. Now Aya can get busy on the shooting schedule.

Thursday, April 17

Our 1st AD, Aya is amazing! She has been busy filing insurance, applying for the permits and arranging for equipment rental. I know this is the job of the 1st AD, and she seems to know it well. She has created contact lists and is keeping in contact with all of the cast and crew, sending schedules and fielding questions. We are grateful to have her on our team.

Aya informed us that it was too late now to file permits for any alternate locations we might find. There are two holes now in our schedule that we will try to fill with scenes that can be done almost anywhere - some of the car scenes in particular.

Wednesday, April 16

David decided today that the location at his school we had planned to use for “JJ Kinser’s” office was not really what he wanted. The office we had selected was a bit too “institutional” than what he has in his mind’s eye. He has a couple of other locations in mind, so we will need to check them out.

Tuesday, April 15

I’ve been worried about feeding the actors and crew during this shoot. We had an inquiry out to a culinary student and discovered today that he would not be available. Fortunately, our actor, Jess, and his girlfriend had also asked us last Sunday if we needed anyone to cook for the crew. They are planning to start a catering company and thought our shoot would be “good practice” for them! Now to work out the details.

Karl, has now requested a box truck for equipment. After some research, I found that a box truck is not available for the dates we need it. It’s just as well, because the cost then goes up considerably per mile, and that does not factor in the cost of gas. Back to plan A.

Monday, April 14

I took Andrew shopping today and we found a relatively inexpensive suit for him in downtown Los Angles. Problem solved!
My focus was mostly on wardrobe today as I organized “Amy’s” wardrobe selections, washing and ironing a few things and hanging and tagging each outfit.

Saturday, April 12

Today David rehearsed with Stefani and Andrew, the actor playing her husband, Roger. Again, it was a great day with discussions about each character and how and why they would interact in the way the script was written.

Again, we spent some time discussing wardrobe and determined that we needed to get a suit for Andrew - an expense we hadn’t counted on! I’ll have to spend some time exploring our options.

Friday, April 11

Today is the first rehearsal day. We met with Stefani who will play the role of Amy and Jess who will play the role of Max and went over the scenes they are in together. These two are such fine young actors and David is very pleased with what they are doing. They both seem to understand their characters and motivation and there was a great chemistry between them - very important as Max is Amy’s love interest. We are very excited to have them on the team!

Both actors brought in clothing from their own closets and we also spent some time deciding what we can use and what else we will need to get for them. At one point in time our living room looked like someone’s suitcase had exploded!

Wednesday, April 9

Another long day today…We met for quite a while with the Production designer in the afternoon. David showed him some video of an audition scene we did last May to give him a better idea of what David wants for the Restaurant set. The Art Department is going all out for us with some of the sets they’re designing, but so much of it isn’t necessary. We won’t even see a lot of it because of the tight shots that are planned.

Our DP, Karl has requested a rental van or box truck to haul equipment in. The original plan was to load equipment in everyone’s car, but as the crew has grown, so has the equipment list. I understand how this will make the logistics of the shoot more efficient, but I am also adding up the costs and it is much more than we had planned. I think he is looking at that $19.95 cost per day and is not figuring in the cost per mile and the cost to fill up those gas tanks.

 

Tuesday, April 8

We had a very productive production meeting today! Things are coming together and those things that are still up in the air are being addressed. The crew has been determined. We’re finalizing the schedule. The sets have been designed and the Art Department is ready to get things set up starting next week. We’re in the process of locking down the equipment and props we need to rent. One of our biggest set design issues was finding a prop baby grand piano. We got a friend of a friend who is an Art Director help us with this and we were even able to get a better price with her help! We’re starting to have to pay for things and put down deposits now. A lot of companies want your credit card number for this…I have to remember to call my credit card company!

Monday, April 7

I got to stay home today for a change and spent part of the day sewing table cloths and napkins for one of our restaurant scenes.  I also began gathering those things on the prop list that we already have and plan to use. Our living room is now a staging area and will fill up with boxes and equipment as we prepare over the next two weeks.

I also spent some time looking on-line for tips and ideas about catering and Kraft services for the shoot. Everyone seems pretty adamant about not serving pizza – only offering healthy food to keep everyone’s energy levels up. I’ve planned on taking care of most of the Kraft services and also a couple of meals. I thought that I would do a lot of baking for our crew, but I’ve come to realize I will not have the time to prepare meals for 20+ people that week on top of all of my other duties. Mostly, I’ve begun to see that my job as producer for this shoot is mainly to oversee and coordinate all that is happening. Either I will be very busy, or if things are well planned, I will get to watch it all happen!

Sunday, April 6

David and I spent much of the morning today going over the schedule and fine tuning it, arranging and rearranging the scenes according to the time of day in real time and in script time. We’ve found we will need additional night time to get the right look for certain scenes and I was a little apprehensive about asking the owners of the property if we can be there for one more night than we had originally asked for. We sent an email asking for the extra time and it turns out they were very agreeable to our request. As we look at the schedule, David is also looking to determine which scenes are essential and which scenes we can let go of if time runs short. The script is already pretty lean, so there really is not much we can drop. We’ll have to be efficient and also mindful of the time throughout the shoot. Our 1st AD has her work cut out for her!

Saturday, April 5

Our DP, Karl met with his crew today to go over the equipment they will be using. They put the camera together and tested a variety of lenses so they knew what all they had to work with and what all the equipment would do. A couple of the guys had not yet fully committed to the whole six days of shooting. Karl talked to them about the script and David’s vision for the shots and by the time the day had ended, all were fully on board for the week of April 21st.

We still need to find a couple of actors – day players. One role is very small – only a couple of lines. The other role is a bit more substantial, and we’ll need this person for a half a day of shooting.

Friday, April 4 

At the end of the day, David and I went to one of the locations we’re waiting to confirm so he could get a few more pictures for the story boards and shot lists. We were also able to enjoy a great Vesper Martini there as we looked around. This is the sort of location scouting I like! We’re keeping our fingers crossed about being able to use this great place!

Thursday, April 3 

The Art Department guys had given me a list of the props needed for the scenes we are shooting and I went through their list today and marked all of the items we already have. Hopefully this will let them focus more on some ‘specialty items’, as well as dressing the sets on the sound stage. They also shared with us a list and pictures of lights and lamps they’d found at the local big box hardware store. Guess I’ll be doing some shopping this next week.

Friday, March 28

We stopped by one of the local High Schools today to talk with them about whether we could use the school as a location and to get a look at how the building was laid out. Being a teacher from the Midwest, it is interesting to me that most of the schools here in California have outdoor corridors. The student’s lockers are in these outer corridors. Our script calls for students at their lockers in a more “traditional” situation. This may not matter in the long run. We also discovered what the fees were to use the school and it’s quite a bit out of our price range. Guess we now need to form an alternate plan…possibly using a private school or even the classrooms at David’s school.

David will spend time this weekend reviewing his story board pictures and working on the shot lists for the scenes we’ll shoot in April. He will also use some of the video from the auditions, looking at the timing of the dialogue in relation to the use of the space we’ll be working in. This is the part of pre-production that he likes!

Wednesday, March 26

We spent the afternoon doing story boards at another location in Ventura today. This is the home of a family with young children and it is perfect for Max’s house. It comes complete with children’s drawings posted on the walls and children’s toys all around. There is even a keyboard in the living room – Max is a Choir Director - We will hardly have to do any Art direction here! The owner is a former colleague of David’s and got a kick out of taking pictures of David and Karl “at work”.

Tuesday, March 25

Production meeting day today. We are talking now about using a new piece of equipment called a Movi which is used when a steady cam is too big for the space. We’re finding out that there are not too many of them out there yet because it is so new, and the ones that are out there are already spoken for. If we can find one, it will be fun to be able to use the latest equipment. There are still questions about who is available to be on the crew. I think this may work to our advantage in some ways. We will need a larger crew the first two days and then smaller crews until the weekend when more people will be available and there will be more to do. It looks like this will have to be another consideration when creating the schedule.

We are checking out some of the smaller and less expensive hotels in the area to house our actors when they are on location. I want to find the best hotels we can afford, but want them to be comfortable and feel like they’re being well taken care of.

Sunday, March 23

We spent the evening at the location we have for Amy and Roger’s house, taking still pictures and video for David’s story boards. At first it was a bit uncomfortable for me to go to this beautiful home and go through the motions of the scenes, walking around and taking pictures of everything. But the owners have graciously allowed us to do what we need to do. I know that the more we can plan our shots ahead of time, the more efficiently we can use the time we have while we are there. David was very pleased with what he was able to get.

Saturday, March 22

I asked David this morning at breakfast what I should write about for this week. We’ve had an up and down week overall. Some creative differences have surfaced, and there is also the anxiety over whether we will be ready to start on April 21st. We are somewhat concerned about keeping our energy levels high for this prolonged period of time. That’s one reason for shooting this film in chunks as we’ve planned, but in doing so we hope we aren’t creating another set of problems. It will be important for us to keep the momentum going for our actors and keep as much continuity as possibly with our crew. An advantage to them is that they would be able to work at other jobs around our schedule and could be making money to supplement our meager offerings. We would be able to use the time between filming days to prepare story boards and shot lists and all the rest. We need to feel we are on top of things as we go along and this type of schedule will give us the time to do that.

Wednesday, March 19

David had breakfast this morning with a former colleague who is helping us with locations. He is, in fact, our liaison for the Fantasy House location. It all seems to be still available to us whenever we are ready to use it, which is a great relief to David!

Tuesday, March 18

We’ve decided to have a production meeting each week on Tuesdays. David shared the pictures and ideas he has for his shot list at the location we visited last Friday. We’ll go back there over the weekend to finish the story boards for that location. We talked about the DP’s crew and who has made a commitment to the first week of shooting and to the project in general. These guys won’t be paid much more than gas money and expenses, and we understand they may not be available to us if a better paying gig comes up. We do, however, have a number of people just starting out who are willing to work for the experience and the credit!

Friday, March 14

An exciting day today! We visited the location for Amy’s house so David could start the storyboards there. He has always drawn out the storyboards as is traditionally done, but decided this time to use a camera to take pictures instead. We bought a Lumix LX7 several weeks ago for this purpose. It takes pictures in the 16:9 aspect ratio and also indicates the equivalent 35mm focal length for each shot. David had already created a shot list based on his memory and the photos we had, so in we went to try it out. It worked well generally, but the actually geography of the house dictated a much more mobile camera than he had originally envisioned. Because of this he plans to use the camera’s video capability on a return visit. The house itself is stunning with so many possible angles and perspectives. Overall, David is very pleased with the shots he found.

Wednesday, March 12

Our insurance questions have been answered and we’ve found a relatively inexpensive source. We are now also talking about the pros and cons of filming only 7 days instead of 12. If we shoot at one of our locations, we will have to go back a second time and finish with some of the cast we don’t have yet. Ideally, we would want to get that location shot out at one time. We’ll take another look at the schedule to see what will work best. David says that creating a shooting schedule is much like “juggling water.” When one thing changes it changes everything!

Friday, March 7

We met with part of the Production Team at noon today. We talked more about possible locations and tech scouting the locations we already have. There was also a great deal of discussion about the second week shooting schedule and we rearranged a few scenes so we can be more efficient with our time and resources. Karl wants to schedule two full days to test the equipment with the crew so they will all be versed in what we plan to use and how to set things up, etc. One of those days will include a lighting and makeup test for our lead actress.

Aya and Karl asked about the possibility of renting walkie talkies for the crew. Even David agreed that the noise level at a shoot with walkies was considerably less. Aya will get prices and we will take another look to see if the budget will allow for that.

We are up in the air right now about insurance and how much it will cost us. David and I need to decide this soon so we can determine what “extras” (like walkie talkies!) we can afford to add.

Thursday, March 6

Today was lunch with our actor who is playing the role of Roger. Andrew grew up in Switzerland and got his start as an actor there. He’s only been here 5 months or so and seems to have adjusted to life in LA quickly and is finding work. We feel fortunate to have him on our team! We also met with a potential makeup artist this evening. She and David had been emailing for several weeks and we finally had the chance to talk in person. We weren’t really certain we would need a makeup artist or whether we could even afford one, but after talking with her, we decided she would be an asset to the project.

Wednesday, March 5

I took some time today to drive around Ventura looking for our motel location. We need a structure with two floors and a balcony overlooking a parking lot. There were a number of places that would fit the bill and I took pictures to share with the production team later this week. David and I also looked around at some of the alleyways in Ventura and found a great “back entrance” to our record store location.

Monday, March 3

 

I met today with our 1st AD to start work on the 2nd week schedule. The list of things to do keeps growing! We are still without a couple of locations and David needs to find the time to do his storyboards and shot lists – all while teaching full time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all there is to do and we have to remember that we have a lot of people on our team to help us. I spent time today catching up on these diary entries and will have to do the same with my blog on our website. There was a time when I was struggling with what to write about and now there is much more to tell!

 

Tuesday, February 25

Another production meeting today, this time with talks about the camera package. We had been planning on using an Alexa, but recently learned that it will not be available to us as we had hoped. We will have a Scarlett to use, but will continue to look at any other options we can find. This is an incredibly resourceful group and I know we will come up with the best camera package available.

Monday, February 24

I am on my way to Chicago for a few days to visit with my daughter and her family. Erin has agreed to be our graphic designer so we will also talk some about the art and design of posters and logos for the film. David is reconsidering the title of our film, so she won’t be able to get started on that until we decide for certain.

David had a production meeting with the DP and 1st AD today. They went over the first week’s schedule and approved what we proposed. They also talked quite a bit about who the crew members will be and what the responsibilities are. It was noted that we are still looking for a couple of locations and will need to remember to start applying for permits soon.

I learned a new term today when a tech scout for two of our first week locations was requested. Apparently the heads of each department go on a tech scout for each location to determine what their needs are for that site. We will coordinate that with David’s visit to do storyboards so the home and business owners are inconvenienced as little as possible

Sunday, February 23

Earlier this week I made a list of the scenes we can do with the cast we have in place. David and I spent some time today going over that list and sketching out a preliminary schedule for the last two weeks in April. We should be able to film close to half of the script in that time frame. Some of this scheduling is complicated by the fact that I will be flying to Ohio the first weekend in May for my niece’s wedding. I am really torn by my responsibilities here and my desire to be with my family!

This evening we met with two of our actors over dinner. We wanted to get to know each of them better and also wanted them to get to know each other. They are both excited to be working on a feature and it seems the chemistry between them will work well for their roles together. We will meet with our other supporting lead sometime next week.

Thursday, February 20

David made a call today to the actress he’s chosen to play the lead role of Amy. She was “ecstatic” that we offered her the role and is excited to meet with us this weekend to talk more about what’s next. It will be difficult to call the other three and tell them that we’ve made a decision….

Now that we have our lead and supporting leads in place, we can start really planning the shoot. David will be on a break from classes during the last two weeks of April, so that is when we will start filming. Lots to do to get ready

Monday, February 17

We seem to have a problem deciding who our lead actress will be. There are two contenders at this time who each have very desirable qualities. Both are beautiful women and look great on camera. Both are very good actors. But each has a slightly different quality of character than the other. So now the question is, which quality of character best fits the role? We’ve had a picture in our minds all along about what this character would be like. Now, when the flesh and blood reality presents itself, the character takes on new life. We will spend the next day or two considering our options. Maybe it’s not such a bad problem to have!

Friday, February 14

We have finally seen the video of the callbacks and have cut together several of the takes to get a better sense of how the actors interacted to each other in each scene. Now to study and compare and decide!

Wednesday, February 12

We had breakfast this morning with our Producer, Tara, who is an award winning Director in her own right. Tara is one of David’s former MFA students and she’s told us repeatedly that she wants to be involved in our film however she can be. She had some interesting ideas about our first two weeks of filming, suggesting we should make sure we first film scenes with the most production value to use for our crowd funding campaign. We will meet with her again soon to decide more specifically what those scenes could be.

Monday, February 10

We are waiting anxiously to see the footage of the auditions. There have been a lot of things going on for all of our student helpers and we have to remember that all of this uploading and downloading and posting of video takes time, especially for people with busy schedules. All of this leads to our discussion about getting the equipment and software we will need to edit the film when the time comes. David has already talked to our Post Production Sound man about which computer would be best for the money and for our purposes. Now to start shopping! It will be a worthwhile investment.

Sunday, February 9

We travelled to Santa Barbara today to attend the screening for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s 10-10-10 Student Film Competition. Excitement filled the iconic Arlington Theater as instructors, students and their friends and families gathered to see the final outcome. David had a small role in his school’s film and we hadn’t seen any of the footage yet. We were so proud to note that so many of the people involved in the school’s submission will also be involved in our film project. Oh, and his school won the collegiate division of the competition!

Friday, February 7

Today is what we hope will be the final callback for the lead role of Amy. We have four actresses scheduled to read with the actor we are considering for the role of Amy’s husband, Roger. We started a little behind schedule as it took a bit longer to set up this time. The room is different than we’ve had before and our crew is also different. The first audition goes well, and we look in the waiting area for actress #2. She’s not there. I realize I do not have her phone number (note to self: always have everyone’s contact info!) I finally contact her via email and discover she is sick and has totally blanked out about this audition. I hand the phone to David, and let’s just say I learned another lesson: I need to handle this sort of thing myself and tell David about it later. The rest of the auditions go well, thankfully and the day ended at a great Italian place around the corner for a mid afternoon lunch.

Wednesday, February 5

There has been no word from the potential investors in a week, so David and I decided to send an email asking if they were still interested in talking with us. We wanted to know if this was a real possibility or if we should check them off our list and move on. We’ve spent a lot of time in the past months waiting for this or that to happen and decided this time to be more proactive. The answer came back fairly quickly – they apparently were not very excited about the script and wondered about the horror script David had mentioned we were working on which they seemed to prefer over a drama. David was not surprised at their response – he had a feeling from the first conversation that our script was not their cup of tea. As for the more genre based script? We told them it had a budget of $6 – 7 Million. We haven’t heard from them since.

Friday, January 31

I have to admit I am feeling a bit frustrated with our progress right now. David tells me that movie making is all about “hurry up and wait.

We had a long talk today about whether to go with the best unknown actors we could find or to hold out until we had the money to pay a known actor to play our lead. David has always wanted to make films using really good unknown actors. He wants to give these people a chance to do quality material to help launch their careers. For him, it’s about making art. In the end, we decided we were on the right track by hiring the best unknowns we could find, and we believe we’ve found some!

Wednesday, January 29

A script written by one of David’s students is a part of the 10-10-10 Student Competition in the 2014 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Today we spent the afternoon on a movie set in a Santa Barbara care facility because David had a role in the movie. The script is a heart-warming story of an elderly woman’s longing for her husband. It is funny and poignant all at the same time. David played the role of a Viet Nam veteran who provides a great deal of comic relief. The kids had a lot of fun watching their professor in this new role!

I am always amazed when I look at a movie set – all of the lights and stands and cameras and electrical cords and bounce boards and people! Then you look at the monitor and magically, it all disappears! But there is a lot involved in making the magic happen. Many of the current and former students working on this film will be working for us on our project and it was fascinating to watch them work. It was a very well run professional shoot. These kids know what they are doing! I know David was very proud of them. Good luck at the 10-10-10!

Monday, January 27

We received an email from the potential investor today asking, “What are the chances that this film will go big?”  Legitimate question, but what’s the right answer? There are so many variables! If we had additional funds, we could attract a name actor who could help to get our film noticed. We could do more with props and wardrobe and could spend more on promoting the film once it’s completed. The answer we gave them was that there was no way of knowing for certain, but we believe the theme of the story has universal appeal and could strike a cultural nerve in today’s world where fear too often dictates the decisions we make. 

Thursday, January 23

Callbacks are scheduled for today. Four lovely ladies were on our schedule today, slated to read with the actor we are considering for the role of Max. We had hoped to have the actor we want to play the role of Roger there today as well, but there were schedule conflicts. One of the actresses couldn’t be there due to illness, so as it turned out, we had more time to work with each remaining actress to really see what they could do. David had two favorites based on their first audition, but one of the ladies surprised us and moved up to tie with David’s first choice. She was actually one I had encouraged David to callback, so I was very pleased!

We heard from our post production sound designer yesterday about a potential source of funds. Dale Angell is at Sundance this week (reporting for REAP mediazine!) and mentioned our project to this person who is looking for movies to invest in. He encouraged us to contact this man, so David made the call and ended up leaving a message. Of course, our hopes are up as we wait for a return call. We even decided that we would make the drive to Park City to meet this man over the weekend if he’s willing to meet with us. Our fingers are crossed!

Wednesday, January 22

David, our DP, Karl, and I had a meeting today to catch him up on the latest since the Holiday break. The guys discussed any potential problems regarding lighting and camera angles for the actresses we are calling back on Thursday. Karl has looked at most of the footage of the auditions as we have done them and has also weighed in on those decisions. He suggested that when we do make a final choice, we should do a lighting test just to make sure we know what type of standard lighting looks best for that particular actress and then just avoid the lighting that we discover is not flattering. We want to do all we can to make this a beautiful film to look at and to show our actors in the best possible light.

We also discussed at length the pros and cons of shooting a week or two and then cutting together some of the footage to help with fundraising and attracting a name actor to play the role of George. The cons are that we may lose some momentum and it may be difficult to get everyone back together to finish it. It could take several weeks or even months to get to a point of finishing. The pros are that it may be less expensive to work at finishing it piece by piece and the actors and crew may not be as fatigued as they might be by the end of a normal shooting schedule. I would just like us to have the money needed so we can schedule as it works best for everyone involved!

Tuesday, January 21

With Steven’s approval now, we met with one of David’s students who has encouraged us to consider using the singer mentioned in the last entry. We talked about what exactly we would want her to do and how it might be best to approach her. She’s just signed with a major record label and we voiced our concerns about whether her managers would even allow her to be involved in such an unusual project as ours. We would love to have her be a part of this however she would like to be. Her music and her voice fit almost exactly the description David and I wrote about the music over a year ago: “A VOICE like an angel. Plaintiff but crystalline pure. The phrasing of Nina Simone and the soaring high register of Maria Callas. Singing words Bob Dylan should have written for Roy Orbison. Aria, rock anthem and gin-soaked torch song. Wistful yet soul-stirring.”

Saturday, January 18

David talked today with our composer, Steven Argila. We have a lead on an up and coming singer we want to approach about singing the title song and possibly even co-writing it. We wanted to get his thoughts about this possibility first, so we sent links of two of her performances that we found on YouTube. He was highly impressed and told us to go ahead and find out if she was interested in collaborating with us.

Thursday, January 16

We had lunch today with two of David’s former students to discuss how they could be involved in our film project. One of them is an accomplished DP and cameraman, the other is a fine writer/director in her own right. Both are currently promoting the student film they worked on together which recently won the DGA award for Best Student Film. Their film has been accepted into a number of film festivals and they are having fun traveling and meeting other film makers. Dan wants to be a part of our film crew and Tara will help us produce. We are excited to have them on board!

Monday, January 13

I am back from my extended Holiday in the Midwest, so it’s back to work! The first thing to do is organize callbacks. The actors have been notified and are reading the script. We now have to book a space and crew and decide on the scenes we want to see. David is hopeful that we’ve found our lead and two of our supporting roles. As soon as this is decided, we feel we can begin planning the first phase of our filming schedule.

I am forming a list of tasks – things I’ve put off until the start of 2014. We haven’t formed an LLC yet which is at the top of the list. Starting the SAG paperwork is also on the list.

All of this is somewhat complicated by the fact that David is teaching full time again this semester. His focus will now be divided between his duties at the school and pre-production for the film. This is where I will have to step in and take more initiative in keeping things going. It’s time to get busy!

Wednesday, January 9

David met yesterday with Keith, our 2nd Unit Cameraman. Keith never fails to inspire David as they talk about the film, the auditions, the fundraising and whatever else might be possible. They both agreed on which actresses should be called back for a second audition. There was also talk about what name actors should be approached for the role of George, the lead character’s father.  Keith encouraged David to be up front when approaching the agents and managers and find out first what it would take to get our script to the actors themselves. David is convinced that these actors will be interested once they read it.

The subject of crowd funding came up and Keith has ideas about how we should approach it. Another student of David’s is also encouraging us, so we may have them work together on this aspect of the project. The important thing is that David seems even more hopeful about how this new year will progress.

Friday, January 3

Happy New Year!

We’ve spent some time over our Holiday break looking at the auditions we held in December. David has narrowed it down to 4 actors he would like to callback for the lead role of Amy. He’s shared some of these auditions videos with trusted friends and most of them have agreed with his top choices. David also talked with these friends about some of the ideas we have for getting names associated with our film. Their enthusiasm has been a green light for us to go ahead and see what we can do to make them happen.

I’m very glad we are getting back on track with this film project. It seems we have been stalled for several weeks with our Holiday travel, and several of our colleagues have also been unavailable for the same reasons. David is back in LA getting things going again and I am still in the frigid Midwest with my family. I’ll continue to write for this diary and also for our website blog and will also begin contacting actors and setting up the callbacks.

Tuesday, December 17

I am back in the Midwest for the Holidays. David will join me in a few days just in time to celebrate our first wedding anniversary! I will try to write occasionally while we are in the wintery Midwest, especially as we review the video from our latest auditions. In the meantime, I am getting back to my neglected musical roots and will play alongside many long time friends in a fantastic orchestra for a wonderful and inspiring annual Christmas Program. I haven’t yet found the opportunity in LA to use my musical skills, and in playing again here in my home town I’ve realized how much I’ve missed it!

Thursday, December 12

Dec 10 auditions1This is the end of the semester at David’s school. He’s been teaching these last three weeks to finish out the semester for a colleague who suddenly had to leave. With all of the end of the semester projects now being completed, we are having to wait to see the video of the auditions we did earlier this week. We hope to see them sometime over the weekend when David will watch them several times before making a decision about who he wants to call back.

Wednesday, December 11

Three of the actors we had planned to see on Tuesday cancelled on us. Of course we understand when things come up and schedules change, but one situation in particular really bothered David. He was impressed with this young woman’s resume and reel and she had been recommended by a friend. We were communicating directly with her when we suddenly received an email from her manager. This manager had several questions about the project, the dates and the casting breakdown. It turns out that this particular manager wanted this young woman to be available for the four weeks of pilot season and told us she would not audition for us. We wondered what a disservice the manager was creating for their client. For one thing, it was just an audition! For another, here was an opportunity for the client to have a lead role in a feature film. We just have to believe that her involvement in our film was not meant to be and that someone even better would present themselves to us.

Tuesday, December 10

Dec 10 auditions2Auditions went very well today! We were encouraged by what we saw! I had been concerned that we would fall behind schedule because we only allowed 15 minute time slots for each actor, but it actually was easy to stay on time. Each actress did three takes on the scene we asked them to prepare. David was able to give them notes after each take and most of them took his direction well and their performances improved. I had a chance to see how this audition process really works – several other productions were also casting. So many actors were sitting in the waiting area waiting their turn to go in and read. I could see how our process was a friendlier and more personal experience. Many thanks go to Hollywood Casting for providing a great space for us to use.

Monday, December 9

I spent part of the day today finalizing the audition schedule for tomorrow. David has high hopes for this one – he’s convinced we will find our lead! There have been a couple of last minute additions to our list and also some subtractions. In all, we’ve scheduled 22 actors. We’ll see if everyone shows up as promised.

It’s been somewhat difficult to know what to write about in this diary lately. I feel like I’ve been writing about the same thing for a while and I don’t want to bore anyone out there who’s still reading it! But this is how it is right now. We’re casting. And it’s taking much longer than we had expected. Each time we think, “this is gonna be it!” And then we hear from another person about this great actor we should really see. So we schedule another round of auditions and so on. We are trying to keep a positive spin on all of it. There have been many discussions about whether to just choose a cast and get on with it or wait and find the very best we can for the (little)money we have. I’m certain most indie filmmakers have these very same discussions with their friends and colleagues. We really want to get the best cast we can to make the best film we can.

Wednesday, December 4

Out of the 241 submissions from LA Casting, we’ve invited 18 actresses to read for us next week. Of the 241, only 109 had reels attached. Many of the submissions had no resumes of their work or training. That made it easy to go through the list! I am beginning to see what David is looking for when selecting actors for auditions. There is what he calls the “it” factor - that look that demands your attention. It’s not about hair, eye or skin color or size or any of that. It’s really quite difficult to even say what exactly “it” is. But after looking through so many head shots and reels, it’s easier now for me to pick it out. The other thing we’ve noticed is the poor quality of the reels we do see. I feel bad in a way for some of these young people who are trying to put their best effort out there and all we see is a few seconds of their scene as a waitress or hosting spot or other day player role. It’s got to be incredibly difficult to get any sort of bigger role when this is all they have to show.

Monday, December 2

Our breakdown was approved on LA Casting today after a long wait over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. In just 4 hours we had over 100 submissions! There will be several hours of video watching ahead for us this evening!

Friday, November 29

Just as we posted on LA Casting, we received two calls from friends who expressed interest in helping us find our lead. One has a friend who is an assistant casting director and the other has contacts with a Hollywood agency. This could get interesting!

Wednesday, November 27

hillsidepark3We spent part of the day today revisiting the locations we’ve found, this time with several of our student helpers. Two of them took lots of still pictures and video with the art direction in mind. It was also a chance for us to talk with the owners to make sure they were still on board with us and to explain our revised time table. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the students as well as the business owners.

We’ve decided to continue casting for our lead. We have plans to callback two of the actresses we’ve already seen and to follow up on a couple of leads we’ve gotten recently. We will also put our casting breakdown on LA Casting this weekend to see what the response is.

beachatrrtracks    viewofventura

Saturday, November 23

More auditions yesterday and also some pleasant surprises! David was very encouraged by one young actress and plans to call her back to read more for us after the Thanksgiving break. Things are beginning to look up! We still are holding the hope that we may be able to do some filming for a few days before the end of 2013. David was also encouraged by some of the PAs we’ve been working with who told us once again how committed they are to helping us make this project come to life. We really do have so many people who believe in us and our script. We couldn’t do this without them. We plan to meet with some of these individuals again early next week and reassess where we are. Maybe now with a renewed spirit we can begin to make some forward moving progress.

Tuesday, November 19

We held auditions yesterday for two actresses reading for the lead role of Amy. This time we rented a studio space in Hollywood called The Space Station. The studio was great, as were the people running the place. It had been suggested to us that holding the auditions in Hollywood might get us more interest, although most of our actors seemed very willing to drive to Ventura for an audition. The accommodations were great, but we felt rushed because we had only rented the space for two hours.  I’m not sure we will do that again – it could become very costly! We’re told there are other studio spaces that are free – we’ll need to do more research!

Saturday, November 16

The producer we planned to meet yesterday changed the plan on us at the last minute and we ended up cancelling the meeting. I always tell David that if it doesn’t work out it’s just not meant to be – that there is a better option out there waiting for us to find it.

David and I talked more today about finding help to get this project moving along financially. We decided to talk to another of David’s colleagues to see if he would like to be involved or would at least have ideas for us. We are concerned that we’ve lost momentum and that the people who have agreed to be involved are losing interest – or maybe getting busy with other projects that would make them unavailable to us.

We’re also talking more about crowd-funding. Indiegogo looks best to us because you can keep everything you raise even if you don’t make your goal. We’ve been a bit reluctant to do this because we would essentially be going to our friends and families to raise money. It’s not easy for us to ask for help – especially in this way! I guess you hope that they will want to be involved and then will spread the word for you even if they don’t feel they can contribute. Crowd-funding has always been in our plan, but we thought we would start filming first and then put some of our footage on-line to give people a sample of what we are doing and of who’s involved.  It seems now is the time to begin sketching out our campaign.

We’ve gotten a lead on a new actress that looks very promising and have heard from two others that we’d contacted before – both unavailable at the time but available now. We’ll be busy next week with more auditions.

Thursday, November 14

Last week we decided to rally and contact two casting directors we’d talked to early last month. One of them replied and said they had just started a big casting job. The second one did not reply. We also contacted two producers who expressed an interest in our project this past September. One expressed an interest in meeting with us, and the other did not reply. We have a phone meeting set up for later today with this first young actor/producer. We’ll see – David is not feeling hopeful about this one.

It’s been somewhat of a challenge to write this diary without revealing specific names and situations. David and I decided right from the start that we wouldn’t mention the names of any actors we were auditioning or even considering until they were locked down. The same goes for potential Production Team members, financiers or even locations. Some of these names, I’m certain would be very interesting to our readers, but we don’t want to say anything specific until it is certain. The same goes for some of the disagreements we’ve had (thankfully not many!) over the past several months. Hopefully I’ve given out enough information to give the reader a good idea of what we’re experiencing.

Tuesday, November 12

We did a new audition and a callback yesterday.  Actually we had two other actors scheduled, but one called in sick and another one texted just before and cancelled.   Doing these auditions one or two at a time is really dragging this casting process out much too long.  David had a conversation with our DP Karl and they decided to try again on Friday of next week.   We also decided that we would continue to cast until the end of the year and figure out a filming schedule for sometime in early 2014 - after we find our lead.

We are getting all kinds of conflicting advice and everyone is absolutely certain that their way of thinking is the way to go! We’ve heard so many opinions, especially about the actors and the fundraising.   There are many, many approaches to take and it can be confusing and overwhelming.  Believe me when I say we have considered them all! What we do know is that we will just “know it” when we find the right actors and then we can really get moving on making this dream come true.

Friday, November 8

Today was to be the first day of filming.  Actually we first talked of starting at the end of September, then the end of October.  November 8 was selected because that was when the crew would be available.  Of course we’ve known for several weeks that we would not be ready.  Still it is somewhat bittersweet to see “begin filming” on the calendar.  We have hopes to still get some filming in before the year’s end, but that looks unlikely at this point in time.

There are many things in the works right now that I really can’t write about.  All are just possibilities and only that.  We’ve seen so many ‘potential’ developments come and go – that’s where the rollercoaster analogy comes from, I’m sure.  We hear of a possibility and we get our hopes up.  We wait.  And then after a time, we let it go.  Sometimes the possibility resurfaces, only to disappear again.  Right now there are a couple of things resurfacing and we’ve learned it’s better to wait and see before we get too excited.  I’m from Iowa, but I went to college in Missouri, ‘the show me state’.  I guess it’s not a bad attitude to adopt for this business! 

Thursday, November 7

Auditions scheduled for tomorrow will have to be rescheduled.  Things are not falling into place as well as we’d hoped.

Right now we are waiting on a number of people who are reading our script - one possible producer, a number of actors and also a potential investor.  We are trying to keep busy during this time, but it feels like we are on hold.  It probably is a good time for us to take some time for ourselves to catch up on other projects.

Tuesday, November 5

We are back in the saddle again after a few days of feeling somewhat down in the dumps about our progress. It actually feels good to be working instead of worrying!  We’ve regrouped and have sent emails out to two of the casting directors we talked to earlier in October, and we also emailed two potential producers who expressed an interest to our mandy.com ad last August.  Better late than never!  At the time we thought we had it all covered and we worried that we didn’t have the money to pay anyone. We still don’t have the money, but we need the help and we are willing to find a way to make this happen.

More auditions are scheduled for the end of this week for a number of new actors, plus callbacks for a couple of ones we want to see again.  As always we have high hopes…

Sunday, November 3

It feels as if we are now at the bottom of the up-hill climb on this indie movie making roller coaster.  We’ve had a rough couple of days this weekend trying to determine what is next.  We’ve even wondered if we should continue on with the project.  David had such high hopes for two of the actresses we auditioned – he is still considering one, but we have decided to continue casting.  Three of the men we auditioned are “on hold” and we will determine who is cast once we find our lead.

The good news is that we have new leads on actors.  We will continue to cast. One of David’s friends in the business has given the script to his (Producer) boss who read it (after it sat on their desk for several months!) and said it is the best script they’ve read in a long time and are interested in talking with us.   A casting director told David last week that our script is a remarkable asset!  We KNOW we have a good script – the trick now is to get it into the right hands.

“The clock is ticking” is something I hear almost every day.  David is keenly aware that his sabbatical is on the last stretch and is concerned that he will not have the time to devote to filming when the new semester starts in January.

Friday, November 1

We are now half way through David’s sabbatical and feel that we are not really any closer to filming than we were in September. Casting and fund raising have been the stumbling blocks for us.  We’ve auditioned friends and friends of friends. We’ve posted our cast breakdown on line and auditioned the actors who responded. We’ve interviewed casting directors and haven’t felt comfortable with that. The question from them is always, “what is your offer?” The answer right now is “the opportunity to be a part of a great film.” One of David’s colleagues is encouraging us to use a casting director. We are talking about asking two of the people we talked to earlier in the month to see what they can find for us. It would be so much easier if we had more money!

Even though we are a bit discouraged right now, we are trying to keep our hopes and spirits up!  We really want to see this project through, so we will persevere! We have leads on three new actresses that we will follow up on, as well as a second callback for one of the actresses we are considering.
David now has the onerous task of calling the actors we have decided not to use.

Thursday, October 31

David spent the afternoon today with the student PA who has been helping us with syncing and editing the audition video. They cut together the footage of two of the actors we are seriously considering. The scene really comes to life when you see the actors actually reacting to each other and makes it easier for David to see if they are really listening to the other or are just “acting.”

Wednesday, October 30

I’m on my way back to LA today. I’ve felt a little out of the loop where the movie is concerned. Almost felt a little jealous hearing about David’s meeting with our DP yesterday as they reviewed the callback video and strategized about the next steps. Karl has always thought the best way to go was to film for a week, then cut the footage together and decide if it’s working or not. At this point, David is undecided about whether he can get what he wants with the actors we are currently looking at. Karl’s plan may give him the opportunity to find out for certain.

Monday, October 28

I finally got to see the audition video today. It was interesting to view it with my daughter and son-in-law and to get their feedback. They had some great perspective on personality types that each actor gave off in the audition and how that would play with what they knew of the character. For instance, they thought one actress seemed like a “popular girl” type and that would not be the personality we would want to portray for our lead, Amy. I will discuss it all at length later with David.  He is interested in getting feedback from many sources, but ultimately the final decision is his.

Sunday, October 27

A major delay today. We had hoped to have made a decision by today about who our actors would be for the roles of Amy, Max and Roger.  It turned out that the video of the auditions was not synced properly with the sound, and cannot be corrected until tomorrow.  David has watched the video, but I haven’t seen any of it yet and probably won’t until after Monday.  It is very frustrating.

We’ve known for a couple of weeks that the projected November 8 start date was not going to be possible.  We are now hoping to be able to start right after Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 25

Yesterday David held the second day of callbacks all by himself.  He did have our regular crew of student helpers there to set up and run the camera and sound, and all went well.  He even stayed on schedule!  Now David’s students have to download the video so he can review all of the takes.  I look forward to seeing them when they are available.

Tuesday, October 22

Baby1Travelled to Chicago today to be with my daughter and her husband – on the way to the airport they sent a message announcing the arrival of their new son!  Did I time this well or what!  I’m excited to meet my newest grandchild!

Before I left LA, I made certain everything was lined up for the second day of callbacks to be held on Thursday of this week.  The actors are scheduled and confirmed.  The props are all packed in a box ready to go.  David has his crew to set things up and run the camera.  I will wait anxiously in Chicago for them to send the footage they get.

David and I have already had a long phone conversation about his impressions of some of the footage he’s seen.  He will spend more time tomorrow reviewing the video before deciding on which actor we will ask to play the part of Amy.  Again the question came up about looking at some of the actors suggested by his friend and the various casting directors who have weighed in.  David is painfully aware of the potential benefits a few talented/recognizable TV names might bring us. But he’s also talked a lot about wanting to ‘discover’ new talent and give them a chance.  He feels that we may have one or two already that could be that new talent.

Monday, October 21

Dave.2We held our first call back auditions today. Four actors for the role of Amy, and one each for the role of Max and Roger. I’m all about keeping everything on schedule, David is all about working with the actors to get everything he can from them – whether or not they’re fully “in the moment” and whether or not they can adapt to a change in direction...There was a last minute schedule shuffle, but over all everything went well.  David wanted the stage lit to show each actor in the best light.  Our second unit cameraman and director, Keith was there to help.  David watched from a monitor to see exactly what the camera saw – to better evaluate and give direction.

On the way home Keith gave us the name and information of another actor to consider. We’ve also recently gotten names from another friend of David’s – actors with good credits.  Where were these people a few weeks ago?   When do you decide that you are done looking?  The search for the right people could go on forever!  Yesterday a New York/L.A. casting director told David he was under valuing our screenplay, that it would almost certainly draw a talented (and established) TV actor or two, which would conceivably help us get our “little movie” seen.  That kind of talent often bring powerful agencies and publicists with them – potentially improving the chances of getting the film into bigger and more competitive festivals with much higher exposure.  

We’ve now heard this from most of the casting directors who have read our script.  They have good credits and more experience than we do and without exception all believe in it, knowing full well we have almost no money to pay them.

Saturday, October 19

We had hoped to audition three actors today that we had recently found out about through friends and through Backstage.com.  All three of them were unavailable for today.  One asked a lot of questions about what the compensation would be and two of them never replied back after we asked about scheduling them in with the callbacks on Monday.  We totally understand about wanting to be paid for the work you do – we wish we were getting paid, too!  We’ll get our crew and actors paid one way or another. What we don’t understand is how you can be offered an opportunity and just not even reply.

Yesterday we heard from a friend we had written to three weeks ago about being our Executive Producer and helping us find the funding we need.  It was great to hear that they would read our script and consider which of their contacts might be interested in helping us.  A ray of hope!  We had worried that we might have offended this friend with our request, but it seemed they were flattered that we had thought of them!  David had talked to another friend a couple of weeks ago about finding investors, and now that friend has been off the radar and difficult to reach.  It’s frustrating.

I am having to think and plan ahead and use today and tomorrow to prepare for Monday’s callbacks.  Then on Tuesday I am headed to Chicago to spend time with my daughter who is expecting her first child any day now.  From there I will also try to help David organize the rest of the call backs and to give him feedback on each audition.  Thank goodness for Vimeo!  I’ll be able to watch what is posted while I’m in Chicago and weigh in on the decisions that need to be made from there.  I will also keep writing and submitting on these posts and on our webpage.

Thursday, October 17  

I spent the day today looking up information on the SAG New Media contract – there’s a lot of reading for me to do to make sure we file all the paperwork right.  I’ll spend more time tomorrow reading the details, but it looks like we can file preliminary paperwork up to one week before we start shooting.  I figured roughly what we will be paying out in salaries. It’s not too high, but more than we have right now. David reminded me that we can also make it deferred, so we pay when the money comes in from any sales and distribution. I would love to be able to just send everyone home with a paycheck at the end of the shoot! I also realized that we have to have contracts and W-2 forms…lots more than I have ever had to deal with before now, and it seems a bit overwhelming.

I also refigured the budget this afternoon, figuring in those salaries and some of the insurance and camera expenses I mentioned yesterday. The bottom line is not too bad considering what we are trying to do, but it’s much more money than what we have right now. I received a comment today from yesterday’s entry that told me that there are many indie filmmakers that are facing budget issues and are just going ahead with their projects anyway. I was encouraged to hang in there and not lose the faith! Thank you, Wayne!

Wednesday, October 16

As I go through each day now I try to remember what it is we are doing/talking about that I can/should include in this diary. This morning the conversation was about insurance for the shoot. We had planned to get insurance through David’s school, but we’ve discovered that the deductible is incredibly high. We will have to supplement it and so we’ve added $2,000 - $3,000 to the budget. Another “freebie” was to be the use of an Epic camera.  Now we are told that we will have to rent it - fortunately the cost will be about half of what we would pay if we rented it from another source.

It’s been decided that we will work under a SAG New Media contract because several of the actors we like are SAG actors. Now to start the paperwork – which will most likely set back our start date and, of course, cost us more money.  If we set back the start date, the location we had planned to start filming in will not be available to us until after Thanksgiving.  So now we will be rescheduling everything.  Thank goodness the script lends itself to being filmed in chunks – most locations have only two or three characters playing in them.  It will be fairly easy to “shoot out” a number of characters and locations in a reasonable amount of time.

David met today with a former student who just got back from filming in Paris.  Keith is on board to help us in any way we need him to, so now we have another Producer to help move things along (and another ear for David to bounce his thoughts off of)!  He will also be our 2nd Unit Cameraman and Director.

Monday, October 14

Yesterday we spent a lot of our “down time” discussing the call back schedule and deciding on what sides we would have everyone read.  We knew we could use the sound stages and equipment on Monday the 21st, so figured out a schedule that would accommodate having the four Amys we liked read with the two Maxes and two Rogers.   All of the actors were emailed and we crossed our fingers hoping the proposed schedule would work for most if not all.  This morning the replies started coming in – several of our actors were not available on the 21st.  So now to figure out how we can accommodate their schedules and ours.  We are encouraged about the talent we’ve met, but coordinating it all has been a bit frustrating!  I’ve tried to maintain a positive view during all of this, but that’s not always easy.  David tells me that the pre-production phase is the most difficult part.  He also says the movie can be won or lost in pre-production.  The logistics of putting all of these pieces together is infinitely more complicated than I could’ve imagined.

Sunday, October 13

Today we have nothing scheduled so will take the opportunity to get organized for this next week.  We plan to do call backs a week from now, so I’ll spend some of my day emailing people and sending scripts and sides.  We have some wonderful student helpers who are also organizing the audition space and equipment.  They are already earning their credits as PAs!  The rest of the day will be spent catching up with family and friends and taking some much needed time for ourselves.

APA title page 1    APAfirstpage 2

Saturday, October 12

Dave1We’ve been holding auditions yesterday and again today. Four actors were scheduled for each day. On Friday, two of them cancelled – it was a disappointing day. It’s embarrassing for me to have all of the people and equipment there to work for us, and then have only a couple of people show up.  It doesn’t make me look very efficient!  Today, all four showed up on time and we saw some wonderful stuff.  The difference in what we saw seems to be that the actor’s we liked had a more natural affect – they were more believable. They weren’t “acting”. You could see it in their eyes more than anything. David says “The camera is like an x-ray machine of the soul. It looks beyond the actor’s facial expressions to reveal the inner life behind their eyes.  We get a sense of what they’re thinking and feeling without them having to say anything.”

We then went into Hollywood to meet another actor that was recommended to us by a student.  We were tired after a long couple of days, but were glad we took the opportunity to see this young actor’s work.  We now have three prospects for our lead and more for the supporting roles. Maybe we don’t need a casting director after all!

Thursday, October 10

I am preparing for more auditions tomorrow and Saturday. We are still debating whether we will use a casting director or not.  David had lunch today with two school colleagues who are both also Producers.  They each had opposing views about the issue.  I think David is leaning toward using Casting Director #2 to help us find the character of George and possibly Mya.  We are still hoping to shoot in mid November for two weeks and then the plan right now is to cut the footage we have into a trailer of sorts to try to raise funds and possibly also to attract a name actor for those two roles.

Wednesday, October 9

Back at home, David got a call from our Producer, Paul who asked us if we thought a casting director would really get us better talent than what we could get ourselves if we didn’t go for a name.  He’s so darned practical, but that’s what we need right now!

Today we had plans to meet with Casting Director #3 for lunch.  When we got there, she was only going to have something to drink, so we were polite and only had coffee with her (even though we were famished!)  She seemed nervous as we discussed the progress of our project to date. She thought our script was a good enough piece to interest good actors.  She talked about putting most of our money into getting an up and coming actor for the lead and mentioned a couple of names that we liked, but then talked about how it would be more realistic to have a number of good no name actors read for us.  Suddenly, she said she had to get back to her office.  We were left with a slightly uneasy feeling, so stayed to discuss it over lunch.

We have a good script with well developed characters, but at this time we don’t have the money to offer an actor with a recognizable name. Unless you have money or actually know someone who can get a script to them, it’s next to impossible to get through to a name actor.  A name actor will also require more perks that will cost us more money.


Finding a name actor will set back our start time considerably.  There are many great actors out there that would love a good role in a feature film, we just have to find them.
In fact, we have found some – we just need to finish up this next round of auditions and then do call backs.  If we go with really good actors that are not names, we can get started faster.

Monday, October 7

My article “Diary of a Feature Film” and diary entries were published today!   I spent a lot of the morning updating our website and Facebook page with pictures and links.  I am proud that something I wrote is now being read by so many others, but it is also slightly weird to think that something I wrote is now being read by so many others! David and I are fairly private people. This “self promotion” is uncomfortable for me.  There is always that underlying fear that what I am promoting may not pan out and that would be embarrassing, to say the least.  I’m telling myself that this is one way to chronicle what is happening with the movie and it’s also a way to let my family and friends know what I’ve been up to in the last couple of months.  I just try not to think that there are all those other people I don’t know who are reading it as well!

We met this afternoon with another casting director. This one was a bit older and seemed to have more experience. He really liked our script and suggested that we go for an up and coming actress to play the lead role of Amy. He said that it might be difficult to get a name actor involved in the supporting roles of George and Mya because there would not be much advantage for them to be involved unless we had a really great actress in the lead. It was interesting to hear his strategy about what it takes to woo the agents, especially since we are unknowns and have a limited amount of money. We talked also about just getting the movie going with great unknown actors, which is what David has wanted to do all along.

There is one more casting director to talk with mid week and then we will decide the best course.

David and I met each other three years ago today.  Little did I know then what a ride I was in for!

Saturday, October 5th

Spent the day today casting for the roles of Amy, Max, and Roger.  We had hoped to be on one of the sound stages at David’s school, but the stages were being used by students shooting their films so we had to set up in another room.  I was surprised at the difference mostly because of the outside sounds that came through – airplanes, traffic, even the wind.

We had 5 actors scheduled for the day, each having an hour to work with David.  We received word that one actor cancelled his audition.  Three of the remaining four were very late, so it made for a day with long waits in between.  Even our sound guy was late, so I held the boom at one point!

David likes to set up his auditions with lights and props.  We had a table set with wine glasses (and juice) for the restaurant scene between Amy and Max. This set up also works well for the scene we selected for those auditioning for Roger.  David takes a lot of time talking with each actor about the scene and sets it up with information about what happens in the script leading up to it.  The camera is focused on a medium close-up so we can see the actor’s face and especially their eyes.  We heard from all of our actors that they really appreciated the way this audition was set up.  They said that it was easier to get into the character by actually doing the scene, rather than just standing and delivering lines to a panel of producers.

We were able to see the tests when we were finished and were pleasantly surprised by a couple of them.  It is interesting to see who the camera “likes” and who it doesn't.

 MG 0009.1     MG 9998.1

Thursday, October 3rd

We met with one of the casting directors that submitted his resume to our CSA listing.  Our first impression was that he was very young!  He listened carefully to all David had to say about the project and then told us that he loved the script and talked about some of the actors he could “see” in some of the roles.  He offered to send the script to a famous Oscar winning character actor, but we heard back later in the day that the actor would not be available for health reasons.  We did like this young man and appreciated his nuanced understanding of the script.  We have a couple more interviews scheduled for next week.

Monday, September 30

David has been on sabbatical for one month now.  When I look back at this month, I can see how busy we have been with meetings and phone calls and writing and emails.  We spend a great deal of time conferencing with each other – hours of conversations about possible courses of action and ideas to pursue.  It is almost all that we talk about!  We have accomplished a great deal and have also discovered a lot of what doesn’t work.  We have many resources in people and services and locations lined up and we are hugely grateful!  I spent a great portion of the day preparing sides for our auditions and sending emails to those who responded to our invitation to audition. Now I feel like a producer!

Sunday, September 29

More time spent this weekend looking through all of the submissions from Backstage and we selected the ones we wanted to call in for an audition.  We also discussed again if we should look for a casting director.  David had contacted two that he knew of – one was not interested in working for deferred pay, and the other said she would read the script and let us know.  ‘Time is ticking’ as David would say, and we are no closer to having a cast in place.  We have many “possibilities” but nothing definite.  Several of our friends have suggested contacting the Casting Society of America (CSA) to ask for advice. We met with a young actress that we used in our camera test last spring to talk about her interest in the film.  David really liked her performance on that test, but she has a slight accent and we aren’t certain how we can cast her without addressing that issue.  She is willing to come in for call backs in a few weeks and will work on her ‘American’ accent in the mean time.

Friday, September 27

I spent the day looking through actor’s submissions from Backstage.com.  By the end of the day we had 64 to look through.  Many were obviously not what we were looking for.  Others did not have the film experience we had hoped to find.  Even though we were specific about age, there were actors who submitted for roles they were either too young or too old for.  In looking through them with David I got a better idea of what he was looking for, not only in appearance, but in acting style.

Thursday, September 26

I was finally able to talk with my daughter about the whole issue of writing two different blogs and the SEO issues.  She suggested that I use links from our webpage to the E-magazine Diary so as not to duplicate content.  Then I could write more of an overview on our website and the details would be on the E-magazine site.  We also talked about the possible ways we could use our web page as a money maker.  I just don’t want to have a lot of flashing, garish ads all over the pages.  She cautioned us to make sure the ads would be appropriate to our site and suggested we have an exit strategy in case it doesn’t work.  I knew she would have great advice for us! Tina told me she wanted the poster art work from MAD SONG and the trailer to post with my article.  David had to dig in our storage bins to find an old format of the trailer.  Now to find a place that will have the equipment to turn a Betacam tape into a Pro Res 422 digital file!  

Today we also posted our cast breakdown on Backstage.com.  We started there (even though we were told it would be better to post on Actor’s Access) because we were told that it was easier to post and free to use.  We found out it is free to join and to look, but cost us $25 to post a breakdown.  We’ll see what interest we get…

Wednesday, September 25

We are meeting another old friend of David’s this evening.  She had read the script and liked it and was willing to ask around about finding a house that we could use for another location.  George’s house needs to be large and imposing.  She said she also knew of a number of actors in the area that might be interested in our project.  We’ll cross our fingers!  Another bonus was that we were told we could probably use the restaurant we were dining in as another location!

Monday, September 23

David is meeting today with an old friend who helped him a great deal on MAD SONG.  We are hoping he can help us raise some of the money we need to make this film happen.  He told David he would ask some people he knew if they would be interested in funding us, and he also talked about how we could use our website to also raise money.  I will be interested in seeing the information he sends us about that.

Sunday, September 22

My deadline for this article for the E-magazine is tomorrow.  There is a hold up now as we figure out how I can still write this Diary and also write for our own website blog.  I’m learning so much!  Apparently the SEO doesn’t like to find duplicate content on two different websites.  I will have to write two very different submissions so we won’t get in trouble with the SEO.  Can I write two different blogs while I am helping to produce this movie?  I need advice, but my daughter the web designer is not available right now…fortunately Tina is willing to push back the deadline.

Saturday, September 21

Spent much of the day writing today.  Our friends have asked me to write a diary for a new E-magazine they are developing. I understood at first that they wanted a daily blog of sorts, but soon discovered that they wanted a whole article as an overview of our project.  So back to the drawing board to write more details about what we are doing.  My one page blog is now a three page article!  Not including bios for both David and me.  This is a bit intimidating for me.  Writing is a new endeavor and now I am writing for an E-magazine with several thousand readers!  I’m a newbie at filmmaking, but I guess that is also an interesting angle to our story…”School Teacher Turns Filmmaker” - stay tuned!

Thursday, September 19

Went into Hollywood this evening to see a documentary done by an actress David worked with in his film MAD SONG.  There were a couple of other people there that he worked closely with.  It was nice to finally meet some of the people David has told me about.  I think he felt a bit nostalgic seeing them again.

Wednesday, September 18

Another meeting with our Producer, this time at David’s school.  We were told that with our tiny budget we could reasonably shoot for only nine days. He presented us with a schedule that accommodated only half of the script. David is very discouraged. Two more screen tests that evening.  I forgot the props at home, so did some scrambling to give the actors some ‘business’ to do while reading for us.  The students who are helping us are great!  They are already becoming like family as often happens while working on a project like this.

Monday, September 16

That meeting originally scheduled for last week on the 12th was cancelled for the third time.  Three strikes, you’re out!  We wish her well!

Sunday, September 15

Working on this film project is all encompassing.  It seems that the movie is all we talk about, all we think about, and all we have on our minds, especially David’s mind.  I can busy myself with the usual day to day things such as grocery shopping and laundry.  David is very focused on our film and is constantly thinking of how he is going to light this scene or that, or worrying about how we can find the money we need for insurance and permits.  There is so much to do and it sometimes seems like we are the only ones doing it.

Saturday, September 14

More screen tests today, but first we looked at a home that belonged to a friend of a friend as a possible location for Amy and Roger’s house.  This house was fantastic!  Built on a wooded hillside – the top floor was the entry level with one wall of windows looking out to the pool three stories below. Our DP, Karl was with us, taking pictures of everything.  We went down to the pool and David and Karl started talking about how the script could be revised to make use of the pool and cabana that was there.  I found out that the owners had always hoped their home could be used in a feature film. They were very accommodating and offered to let us use their home for no charge.  Back at David’s school that afternoon to test two actors each reading for the parts of Roger and Max.  Both were very different in how they looked and how they interpreted the roles.  Since we didn’t have an actress scheduled to play opposite them, I read the role of Amy.  During a break between takes, one of them asked me how I was involved in the film.  It was kind of fun for me to point to my name on the title page of the script and say, ‘um, that’s me’!  We had dinner that night at the home of our composer, Steven, and his family.  Steven has been very busy on a variety of projects, and it was great to catch up with them and also to tell them about our progress so far.  Over all it was a very good day.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 10.19.50 PM    Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 10.22.43 PM

Friday, September 13

Screen tested two actors today for the lead, Amy and her colleague, Max.  We set up on one of the sound stages at David’s school.  We lit the stage and I brought props from home.  Several of David’s students ran the sound and the Cannon DSLR camera, etc. The scene was a restaurant scene – the actors were sitting at a table so there was no blocking to do.  David used a small lamp on the table as the key light.  It was nice to have two actors reading so they could play off each other rather than play off a reader.  The rescheduled meeting from yesterday was cancelled again – this isn’t sounding very promising at all!  Above all we want to work with people who are reliable. We will try again for early next week.  Because we had some extra time, we were able to look at the screen test.  I was surprised at how different the actors looked on screen.   Many of the gestures and facial expressions looked so much bigger on screen than in person.  I understand now what David means when he says “rather than illustrating the character, a good actor has to find the character in themselves.  The camera looks into your eyes and your soul.”

Thursday, September 12

We had a meeting scheduled with a young director/producer who helped one of David’s students with his film last spring, but the meeting was cancelled.  I looked this woman up on IMDB and thought, ‘my, she is young’. David reminded me that she was the same age as my daughter, who is very successful and I rely on her a great deal for advice about so many things.  We rescheduled for tomorrow.  Hopefully she can help us find the money and actors for our film.

Wednesday, September 11

We are eating out so much!  And of course we are buying – the least we can do for all of these people who are willing to help us and give us their time and advice.  I am keeping all receipts! 

Today had lunch with one of David’s former students who is a cameraman/director.  Keith is currently working on a feature film that he shot in Paris with a tiny crew and only a handful of actors.  They spent so little it’s hard to believe, even including airfare.  We’ve seen some of the footage and it’s beautiful!  Right now Keith is David’s inspiration to keep going with our project.  He is also willing to work with us in November when he gets back from his next Paris trip to finish his film. Received an email from the EP asking to meet with her on Friday to make up this lost week.  We were very surprised because we thought we had heard the last from her last week.  We are very uncomfortable with the whole thing – she was the one who lost a week, not us!  Decided to reply back that we had decided to strike out on our own – her vision of the project and ours did not seem to be the same.  We wished her luck and hit the ‘send’ button.  A few hours later came her reply – ‘no worries, good luck’.  Finally some closure.

Tuesday, September 10

Dinner tonight with our Producer who is helping us with the budget and schedule.  The good news is that we only need $50,000 to go ahead with filming.  The bad news is that we only have $10,000 and that will get us about a week of shooting…or will pay for insurance and permits…
As far as the schedule goes, I was pleased to note that his schedule was similar to mine, only maybe in a different order.  He wants us to shoot 6 pages a day and David wants to go for 4 pages a day…David is all about doing this well, not fast.

Sunday, September 8

Had a friend over for dinner and discussed the EP situation.  She suggested that we try Mandy.com to find a Producer that could help us raise money and find either cast or a casting director.

Friday, September 6

Meeting scheduled this afternoon with the EP…no show as David predicted.  So I guess we proceed without her.  Now the question is do we try to find another EP or go out on our own?  

Wednesday, September 4

At David’s school today – one of his former colleagues has agreed to work post production for us on sound design and mixing!  All for free!  Amazing given his many credits and decades of experience.  He showed us pictures of the new sound studio he is putting together in Salt Lake City, and seems anxious to put it all to use for us.

Tuesday, September 3

Another meeting tonight with an actress friend to catch up – she’s read our script and is giving us advice on casting and possibly helping us find a casting director.  Dave called the EP this afternoon and told her we didn’t have the money at this time to pay what she requested yesterday.  That was a really difficult call for him to make.  The call was a short one.  He thinks we won’t ever see her again.

Monday, September 2

This is the first day of David’s semester long sabbatical.  

Met with our Executive Producer this morning who talked more about product placement in the movie.  Not exactly what we expected from her given her IMDB list of credits.  We’re wondering what company would invest in our film with no name actor to help attract an audience.  At the end of our meeting she asked us to pay her $2,500, half right now and half at the end of the production.  Red flag!  She knows we don’t have that kind of money and we thought she was supposed to help us raise funds and take her cut on the backend like everyone else!  It might be a different story if we could see any results from her.  What to do? Had some friends for dinner at our house this evening.  We told them all that was going on with the EP.  They agreed with us that her request was unusual.  They offered to help spread the word for us among their friends that we were looking for actors.  That’s the kind of help we get, without even asking!

Like Tweet

Add comment


Security code
Refresh


Back To Top