One week to shooting. This must be why people don’t make low budget feature films very often. This week has been nothing but stress-- fighting our schedule, worrying over locations and putting out fires. And I'm probably only hearing half of the crises since Arma, the producer on the front lines, solves most of them before they get to me. Occasionally, mixed in with the panic attacks, there are moments of sheer glee.
About 10 days ago, the fine actor we had cast as Deputy Tillis became unavailable. Several harried days of calling Amy, our casting director, and pestering our existing cast for recommendations brought us a grand total of two actors to audition. One of them, Frank Roberts, turned out to be a perfect fit for the role. And he's available. And he likes the script. And he's a great actor.
As of this moment, we don't have a doctor's office to shoot 3 interior and one exterior scene. After driving around most of Saturday through every small town off I-75 with in 2 hours of Atlanta, I have one potential location. That scene has to be shot in 10 days.
Our lead actress, Claire Bronson, hasn't ever played guitar. Due to some previous commitments (like planning a wedding, getting married, and going on a honeymoon), she only has two weeks to become the guitar-playing, lead singer of a kick-ass 1966 garage rock band. Luckily, Jennifer Leavey, singer & guitarist for Catfight!, volunteered her Saturday to teach Claire the chords to all the songs she wrote for the Stomp! Shout! Scream! Claire picked it up beautify and has been practicing every day. We'll put her singing voice to the test next.
Rehearsals. Sunday afternoon, Claire, Cynthia Evans, and Mary Kraft-- collectively The Violas-- read with Jonathan Green who plays John Patterson, the scientist called in from out of town to help identify the mysterious debris that washed upon the shores of this quiet beach town. I left one scene in the film unwritten. It’s early in the film and the girls are diving their tour van. (Actually, now it's a station wagon because that what we can get, but for our purpose here, it’s the tour van.) The main function for this scene is to establish the personalities of the 3 girls. My plan is to have the actresses write, improv, and/or ad-lib this scene, based on the characters that are created from my script and their interpretation of it. We played around with this on Sunday, but came to the conclusion that it’s too early for this. Once we get into shooting and get to know each other and the story lines better, we'll know exactly what this scene is about. It'll all just come together. That's the plan. I hope it works.
Frank, Bill Szymanski, and Chris Hines—the police force for the town—read with Jonathan and Nancy Riggs, who is playing the town doctor, on Monday night. We read by candlelight thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne, which knocked out my electricity. It's very strange hearing my dialog read by actors who can make it sound like a real, natural conversation, even though it's often completely ridiculous. Only truly gifted actors can take lines like, "This creature is the missing link between man and ape. This is what scientists have been looking for, for decades. If we could capture him! Capture him alive!?" and make them sound believable. Right now, my favorite line is from Deputy Bob, who is a monster movie fan and is excited about there being something going on in this sleepy town. I love it not because it's great writing, but because Chris Hines can deliver it so well. "I don't like baloney sandwiches. Now fried baloney’s OK. Hey, that looks like a skunk ape."
This is the sheer glee part.