Monday, February 12, 2024

Local film is a small world.


On the 23rd and 24th of September, I co-produced, directed and shot SWINE, a short horror film. Looking at the photo we grabbed immediately after we wrapped on Sunday night, I realized what a gift it is to work together with such a group. I started to reflect on how I got to know these folks and their amazing abilities. Left to right then: Wayne, Evelyn, Scarlet, Suzy, Henry, Caroline, me, Glenn, Brendan, then in front Kellan and Dillon. On the previous day actors Logan and Heather performed some brief scenes and Violet shot a lot of great behind the scenes work and took this photo.

Wayne is a 30-year veteran of the Burlington, NC police department. Wayne served as the Armorer for this film. I can't remember exactly how I met Wayne the first time, but it was back when the Internet was more like a bulletin board, and one of those bulletin boards was called TarHeelFilms. Wayne worked on several films with me in the miniDV days, including several films where I was using multiple cameras in a scene. He also did video stuff on the side for the Police department. He worked a variety of things, shot a feature film for some folks and gradually did less and less video. But we kept in touch and since I had a gun scene in my film SCENE a couple years ago, I called Wayne and that was the perfect solution. He owns some firearms and knows a lot about handling them safely.

Evelyn is pretty well-known in the Triangle for her non-stop makeup work. I think I first met Evelyn (at least 10 years ago, probably more) when I was helping on set for Aravind Ragupathi and Rob Underhill. I think we also worked together on one or two other films in the Triangle. I knew that she had done everything from glamor to aging to classic wounds and scars. In my mind, Evelyn was the queen of local makeup folks, so I called her with the expectation that she would refer me to someone less experienced who could be persuaded to work on the small project. To my surprise and delight, Evelyn thought it sounded good and wanted to do it herself. Mission accomplished.

Scarlet is almost the opposite story. I met Scarlet just about four or five months before. She had volunteered as a PA on Elena Hanae's film Us In Between. Elena had been a member of the Screenwriters Group which I moderate, and had brought her script to the group. I had encouraged Elena to follow her heart and do that film and I loaned camera gear to the shoot and helped in a couple other ways. But Elena brought together a great community of folks for that film and Scarlet showed up there. I quickly got the sense that Scarlet was one of those people who is ready and willing to help. It was clear that she had a great work ethic so I asked her to assist on this film in a kind of cross between PA and Assistant Director and she really helped keep us mindful of the schedule.

Suzy was on Elena's shoot as well, but we didn't really connect then. Instead, when I was looking for a sound person, I was referred to her. By the time we talked in depth about sound, I had found someone else but she expressed an interest in just helping on set. We had lunch and I thought Suzy might be a good person to assist with camera needs. She was game and proved to be ready to do whatever from the ordinary ("I need a new battery"รข€") to running camera on some shots so I could focus more on directing at those moments.

Henry wrote Swine and we also met in the screenwriters group. We all loved his script and Henry was interested in doing it both for the joy of seeing it completed and for all the hands-on learning. Because it is such a contained script (3 principal actors, 2 smaller roles and all in a single house) it was a good candidate for production and we came together to make it happen. Including Henry in more than the normal amount of planning and producing tasks ended up being great for both of us. And our planning really made the shoot go very smoothly.

Caroline is a local actor. I met Caroline on Twitter. Yes, you read that right. I'm moderately active on Twitter and anytime I see a film person who is local, I follow them. Caroline recruited me to help with a small scale personal film project and we hit it off nicely. She's very serious about her craft and her career in acting.

That's me, next to Caroline, still holding the camera and wearing my WGA strike shirt.

Glenn once owned the coolest camera there was (back in the miniDV days) the Canon XL2. I worked on two or three of Glenn's films back in that prehistoric period of digital video. Glenn was the one who introduced me to Eric Morales and Whitney, who later appeared in several of my films. Glenn's interests and abilities took him to New York, New Orleans, and lots of other places until he returned to Durham last year and we reconnected.

Brendan was our sound guy and Tom Hauser, who did sound for a couple of my projects, referred me to Brendan. I met Tom on the Rusty Buckets Kids project, a decade or so ago so thanks to John Demers. And just to keep the small world thing going, the day after Tom recommended Brendan, my friend and very active local actor, Larry Evans, was on a shoot Brendan was working and recommended him to me. Brendan was great to work with.

Seated in a bloody police shirt, Kellan actually wore the same shirt in 2020 for a brief scene in my film Last Words: Mary, where he has the daunting task of coming to the door to tell a guy that his wife was killed in an accident. So when we needed to fill this role, I called Kellan. Turns out he had moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in acting but he had a family birthday back in the Triangle two days before our shoot, so he was able to be in town and work on Swine.

Dillon, in the other police shirt, had been on set with Caroline in Charlotte in some production and clearly enjoyed some of the physical / simple stunts aspect of acting. Dillon had been a zombie on The Walking Dead as well. So Caroline was the casting link here and we loved Dillon's audition as well as the dramatic issues he raised about this character.

Logan played a wonderful scene (shot the day before this wrap photo was taken). Logan was also someone Caroline had worked with. Logan had some impressive experience and was perfect for the role. Another casting via Caroline! Logan, it turns out, is in more or less the same program at UNC that Henry went through.

Heather was a key voice on a phone call in the opening moments of this film. I had admired some of Heather's work on the stage and she played a supporting role in the same 2020 film of mine that Kellan was in. Then I recruited Heather as the lead in Fine Lines, another film based on a script from the screenwriting group, (written by Kristine Scruggs). (Heather's daughters also appeared in Fine Lines.)

And Violet - who did a ton of BTS photos - took this picture. Violet turns out to be another Caroline casting connection! I only met Violet on the first day of the shoot. She was great to have on set, got a ton of moments recorded and lent a hand to various tasks in addition.

So, a group of people some of whom I first met more than twenty years ago to meeting two days ago. This is truly one of the wonderful things about my experience of the local film community. It's definitely a case of think global but act local. I've found the local film community is just a great, fascinating, loosely interconnected group. And, because of the nature of film production, we each bring a different set of abilities, experience and desire to the project, which is what we need. On set and in life.

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