Monthly Archives: November 2009

Casting Update

Three days before thanksgiving and two days after my first anniversary.  No casting this week.  I will focus all of my energy on getting my shot list finished by Monday.  I need this to start processing how the film will actually be made, shot by shot, cut by cut.  I am choosing to make a descriptive document “shot list” instead of storyboards or even a previs of some sort for a few reasons:  It is more detailed written account of each shot which gives more information [character notes, background props, feel of the shot or scene etc] to the key people who will need that information and it leaves less open to interpretation.  Plus, it makes it easy for me to complete in my own timeframe, since I am not waiting on or working with anyone else. It is comprised of my ideas…not my idea translated through an artist of some sort…so it is a better representation of the film as I see it.

Last week was pretty cool, especially the end of it.  I had the privilege of meeting an amazing artist/actor/writer/singer.  We had originally made an offer to this person for the lead role of Ezekiel.  After some thought and prayer he came back and said it just wouldn’t work out for him to play that part.  Of course I was bummed because, without ever hearing him read a line from the script, I knew he was the guy.  He IS that character.  He is an amazingly talented actor with a great, soft face.  His eyes tell the story…anyway, so I let that go and told Bev we should ask him to at least do a song or something for the film.  I felt strongly, that he needed to be involved.  So Bev went back to his people and it turns out he was into that so we set up the Friday meeting.

When he walked in, I knew what I had seen on his audition tape [for another film], was accurate.  I was having lunch with my lead character.  Ezekiel had joined us.  Crazy but true.  Anyway we sat and talked for 2 hours.  He played some music and original score he had written for another piece that fell through.  All of his stuff was incredible and beyond that it fit with the character so well, it was as if it had been written for this film… for this character.  I will – once this all plays out – tell you guys who he is and ask that you all go out and buy his band’s CD’s…as they are truly amazing songs with incredible lyrics.  Needless to say I was thrilled to have met him and will be praying for his role in the film to be ironed out.

Beyond that we saw a bunch of new faces and got some good choices for callbacks.  It has been a super productive casting process so far…not to mention a fun one.  Bev, Jessica and Alese have all been great. Not only are they good at what they do, they are wonderful people who enjoy their jobs and like to have fun.  My kind of people for sure!  We are all but through with this initial wave of casting.  We have good solid choices for the key characters and will now sort out callbacks and do a day of casting at church to fill in the cast.  So far so good!

We finalized…kind of anyway, our list of callback actors for the week after this one.  Hopefully, we will be cast by the end of the first week of Dec!!  That will be such a relief…wait, I should say we will be cast in as much as we can be from here, I will still need to cast once I get to India…

We also had a few hour production meeting on Saturday afternoon.  It is always great to see Steven and Alan.  Steven argues the point to save money [as he should!] and Alan makes notes and sits quietly the majority of the time.  They are such a great team and we truly are lucky to have them. Steven is okay with my talking about his amazing film lineage which is good because being a fan of film one can’t help but mention his father!  Michael Ritchie was an amazing director.  One of his many great films just came out on Criterion DVD.  Go pick it up if you are a film fan.  You won’t be disappointed.  The film is called DOWNHILL RACER and stars Robert Redford! Joth [first AD] was there as well.  He is the only one that has not actually been to India and so I am sure feels like he is playing a bit of catch up. He is a great guy and brings a lot to the table as well.  And of course Abe was there.  He is always great to have around.  His energy and excitement for the film has never wavered or waned.  He is going to be a huge part of the equation of making this film.  He will be the single closest collaborator I have in the actually film making process.  He has to get what I want and be able to almost read my mind.  We talk in film speak and a sort of developed short hand that seems to work well for us both.  We both love film and have seen a lot of movies.  We share a similar aesthetic and can relate to and understand the film references we each use back and forth to make our points.  We have a solid team and I am confident in each of them…which means I can relax and focus on my job knowing they all are doing theirs.

As the film starts to take shape I am seeing it more clearly in my own mind. I have seen that it may evolve into a more song driven music bed than an actual score, I have seen that it has a view point, it has a life of it’s own.  A way the story wants to be told.  If I listen carefully the story tells me how it wants to come to life.  God’s gift for sure as it has been from conception.

Anyway, I hope everyone reads this has a wonderful thanksgiving holiday!! Remember to say a prayer for those less fortunate.  God has been good to us, lest pass that on.  Be well and as always thanks for reading.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

J

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Casting…Week 2

So, it is now Sunday night at 7:23 only it feels like it is midnight to me. Last week was a very long, but productive week. I was in LA for 2 days of casting last weeks and am going back for 3 days this week. We have a lot going on. I saw a ton of actors for Ezekiel, Audrey and a few for Bhupinder. One guy who came in on Thursday was amazing. He played Bhupinder the way I pictured him as I was writing. He used broken English and self translated [Bev’s words:)] and the character came to life. It was really neat to watch this guy create something so close to my heart. Bhupinder needs to be believable one hundred percent…all of them do, but if we don’t buy this guy as a poor destitute peasant, we are in trouble. I don’t know if this is the guy God wants on the role but he sure made a lasting impression.

Brent was able to come down on Thursday. It was nice to have him in the room. So let’s see, where do we stand so far…we have nine choices for Ezekiel – solid ones. Of the nine, probably five of the guys could play the role and do an amazing job. We have 6 or so choices for Audrey and three or four of them could play the role. And, we have 3 choices for Bhupinder, with one being a stand out for me. Not bad for two weeks of casting.

This week, we move into the other roles…the frat buddies, the prayer warriors and the little girl, Lindsay… a part I wrote for my thirteen year old stepdaughter to play. We will read for all those roles and see how things shake out.

Also, I had a good meeting Saturday with Abe…very productive. He asks good questions…I search for answers. We discussed spiritual journeys and emotion…tone of scenes and shots. I would stand up in Starbucks and try to illustrate what the shot I was thinking for a certain scene would look like… Sometimes he would get it and sometimes not. If he did not understand I would try different ways to illustrate what I was looking for…mostly by using other films for reference. That seems to work well with us. We both like film and have seen a lot of movies and I have a very specific pallet of movies that I am referencing for this film. We spent a lot of time discussing the particulars of a few scenes…like what exactly the camera would see and why would it see it? I am trying to be as specific with him as possible. I need to really continue to pull the script apart, word-by-word and line-by-line to continue mapping out the emotional tracking of the characters as well as Ezekiel’s spiritual journey. The camera will be the visual representation of E’s spiritual journey.

We have another actress interested in reading for a pivotal role and also one actor who dropped out, he was my favorite for the lead role of Ezekiel…but can’t do it, has agreed to meet about writing a song for the film. I am super excited. I won’t say his name yet…but after I meet with him on Friday, I will let you guys know who he is and send you to his web site. He is an amazing talent and a man of God for sure.

Thanks again for all who are reading this and praying for the film. The response during casting from actors who took the time to read the entire script has been pretty amazing. God is blessing the project through good feedback. It is my hope that we continue to build a loyal following and that together we can in fact change the world.
J

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Casting

Monday morning. I am researching possibilities for the role of Sarah and then will start going through the script and tracking the spiritual journey of our lead character. If I assign a number to the level of intensity, when on set, I can then guide the actors to where they should be emotionally in any given scene.

Anyway, last week was nuts. I spent all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Bev’s casting. It was an incredibly productive week. We saw tons of actors, some really strong and some not so much. We saw friends of friends, people who have read for Bev before, and of course a ton of strangers to us all. I really did not know what to expect…everything I have cast before, was done on my own. I have never used a casting director, so was a bit hesitant going in but that hesitation disappeared immediately. Bev was great. She has a very sweet spirit and is incredibly nice to her actors. That may sound odd, but having worked in Hollywood for over twenty years I can attest that actors are not usually treated with kindness as a general rule…unless of course they are “name” actors, then it is a whole different deal. Bev made it a point to put every actor that came in at ease as much as was within her power. She remained pleasant throughout the incredibly long day, again a testament to her character and why I am glad we are working with her on this project.

Brent and I have had many conversations regarding casting…it makes or breaks a film. It is really that simple. We discussed and prayed about a casting director and finally settled on Bev. So far so good!

Bev has a few great people working with her. Jessica read against most of the people on all three days. Elise [not sure on spelling] read for a few and then Brett came in to read against the girls reading for the role of Audrey. All three readers were professional and a help to the actors for sure. Bev has a small conference room set up with a table, a few chairs and a small digital camera on a low tripod that sits on the table. Jessica or one of the other readers would sit just off camera and the actors could roam the room, sit in a chair lean against a wall, whatever they wanted to do. I personally like this style, as it is loose and seemed to be very conducive to the style of acting that I am looking for. She gave me a printout listing all of the scheduled people for the day…one every five minutes! I was drained by the end of the first day…but I have to say, seeing a good actor bring a character to life is such a treat. Conversely, hearing a bad actor kill the words…well, let’s say…it is not an amazing feeling. Fortunately, the majority of the actors were competent, even if not right for the part.

When I first got there, before seeing any of the guys reading for Ezekiel, Bev showed me a few tapped auditions she had conducted for another project a few months back. I think it was the first or second tape she showed me, I knew about five seconds into this actor’s read that he WAS Ezekiel. I did not have to continue watching. His look was perfect, his acting style was perfect and his attitude and subtleness was exactly what I was looking for and thinking when writing Ezekiel. And now here he was on tap, in this same room, a few months earlier. I hopped online and googled him. I got to his website and it turns out he is, in a round about way already associated with a human trafficking organization…kind of. I can’t say too much, but it was pretty cool to see that he shares our passion for the subject. I tried not to sound like I was too excited [not sure if it worked or not, you’ll have to ask Jessica or Bev] and asked about him, who was this guy, was he available, how old was he, etc. Bev gave me his particulars and said she was check into his availability. I asked throughout the day as she would get a little more info on him…he is a regular on a soap, he does not live in LA, etc…but, to me I had seen Ezekiel and put him on the top of my list from the second I saw him. He became the standard for the casting sessions from the first morning on. It turns out he could be available. Great! Again, I am reluctant to say too much…but, things are moving forward. I will continue this story when it has an ending.

So, having that happen before even starting the first day of casting was pretty cool. Day one was long. There were good actors throughout the day that kept us all hopeful. I think we saw four or five solid choices for Ezekiel on the first day. A great ratio, based on how many people we saw read for the part. I left feeling really good. Day two was similar. Good actors smattered in with not so good actors. Friday had more Audrey prospects in the mix, so it was a good change of pace for all of us in the office. We saw two girls I really liked. It was funny, I really liked one of the girls and Bev really liked the other one…but, ultimately we both liked them both.

Well, as it normally goes with these blogs, I get interrupted…by all sorts of things, today some good and…some not so good. The good one is that Brent rang me [I love getting good news from him. He is always so excited and has such a wonderful spirit] and said he spoke with Bev and someone we sent out an offer to responded saying “they are interested.” This is very good and exciting. Now, we shall see how it goes from here but like they say, that’s better than a kick in the teeth.

I better gets this over to Jessica for her to proof, clean up and make me sound semi-normal before it is posted.

As always, thanks for reading and following Not Today. Things are certainly heating up and I will try to keep you posted at least once a week. I am back in casting all day tomorrow and then again on Thursday…so, hopefully I will report back with some good news on Friday or early next week.

God Bless.
J

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trip to kolkata

Last Tuesday, we headed back to OM for casting. I met with 9 little girls from the DEC (Dalit Education Center) there on the campus. They were a little nervous, so we played Simon Says with their teacher and that seemed to loosen them up and help to them to relax. They are only 7-9 years old, so there was a pretty big language barrier. Fortunately, one of the teachers was there to help translate. I talked with each of the girls individually, asked them some questions about their families, what they liked to do, how old they were, etc. and then would have them say a few lines from the script and role play some improv situations. It was cool to see them respond – some more than others – to the games and the situations. They would giggle at each other and the teacher would sshhh them – it was fun. Hopefully, we can find a Kavya in that group. If not, we’ll keep looking.

Ramoji Film CityAfter the casting, we shared lunch with the other Friends team and then headed off to Ramoji Film City – kind of like our Universal Studios. Only this place is 3,000 acres big! Because of an OM contact, we were allowed to drive right through the gates and were met personally by someone who toured us around to the various sound stages that we were interested in – train station, airport, night club, etc. Bollywood in action During our tour, we saw them filming a Bollywood movie – it was pretty cool! Evidently, the male actor is one of the biggest stars in Bollywood films – how cool is that! We also met with their equipment department regarding our need for rentals. They will be extremely helpful. Ramoji is the biggest film studio in India – and it is right outside of Hyderabad (well, OK, that means it takes 90 minutes to get there!). They can also help with casting, crew and location shoots, too. This was a great part of the trip and gave us many answers.

On Wednesday, we got up early, checked out of our hotel and made our way to the airport. We flew to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and met up with another OM friend, Rev. Mahadeb Mondal. He was with Jon, Abe and me in February as well. It was great to reconnect with him. He has been working in Kolkata with OM for over 16 years. He took us to the places that we visited in February. We went through the Red Light District (well, one street of the 10 streets that make up the Red Light District in Kolkata). I was pretty blown away. In February, we saw maybe 10-20 girls. This time, there were 10 times that many – probably close to 200 girls, many of them appeared to be 12 years old – on just the one street. The streets are more like alleyways and as our SUV honked it’s way down the narrow passage, the girls were literally right outside of our car windows. Some of them made eye contact and flirted with us as we drove past. It was nauseating and disgusting. It isn’t their fault – their pimps were sitting right there telling them what to do as this car with, in their minds, potential customers drove by. It was pretty awful.

After this, we headed to the Ganges River – the holy river of India. We toured through a Hindu cremation temple and saw bodies burning before being pushed out or dumped into the river. Again, this experience continues to blow me away.

We headed to the old train station in Kolkata next. It has over 25 platforms and it was busy with activity (video above). So many people getting off of trains or waiting to board trains to unknown destinations. We hope to shoot here as well. We also found the street that we discovered in February. It has an old, abandoned house there. Oh, yeah, and a mongoose that is leashed! It was there in February, too! Gotta love India!

Kolkata Mongoose

Our host took us to an amazing Chinese restaurant for lunch. It was different from the one we went to in February. It was probably the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. Since Kolkata is in the northeast of India, it isn’t far from China. The Chinese influence can’t be overlooked on the city – and especially the food. I want some more of that Wonton Soup!

Mother Teresa's Tomb

After lunch, we headed to Mother’s House – where Mother Teresa spent 58 years of her life. It is such a peaceful place. She is buried there and people come from all over the world to visit her final resting place (pictured above). In the middle of this city, boasting a population of over 12 million people, this little, humble house still stands as the headquarters for the Sisters of Charity that Mother Teresa started so many years ago. This amazing, Godly woman changed the culture of a nation from that house. Her selfless, sacrificial example is still being felt today. You can feel the peace and the humility permeate your body while you are there. It is life changing.

We traveled back to the airport and flew home to Hyderabad where we spent a quick night in a local hotel and then headed to the airport early the next morning for our 25-hour journey home. As our plane took off, I was eager to get home to my family (my wife, Elaine, has been really sick since I left and now has a secondary infection in her airways). At the same time, I can’t wait to return, to see how God will use this movie to impact the world and the country of India. There is so much to be done. I am humbled to be a part of it. God, please do amazing things.

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