... June rolled around. We had assembled a crew and opened our production office and design departments financed by credit cards, investors, (my dad and long time friend, godmother to my daughter, Catherine Rush, had invested, Paul and I scratched together the rest), against the dates scheduled and the production company monies promised.
It was a very talented crew of professional film people, our first crew was. I always like foreshadowing in a story, so now you know that there were two entirely different crews for this film all within a 2 week period of time. That last month of pre-production, the time when they took away the net from under our highwire act, when we had to decide whether we were still gonna fly, seems almost a blur ... several magic highlights and a certainty I've seldom known, propelled us through that intensely foggy time. But back to the first crew.
Hardworking, brilliant, and married to a hieracrhical structure that works well in job capacity and hatefully as pecking order. Sophia and I, as the filmmakers on this crew with the least credits, began to to feel patronized by our employees. Never good. The situation wasn't comfortable, and it was of our own making. Here's where more magic happens. We lost our production company budget, for a variety of reasons which I have come to understand are de riguer in this indie arena. We had $x in the bank with no expectation of more, and it was but a small fraction of our existing budget. This was the moment of truth.
The first thing we did was contact the cast. I mean, let's be real, what's the point of going on if we were gonna have to reconceive the whole artistic side as well? It would mean a cut in pay for the actors from the already low SAG low budget agreement to the even lower ultra-low budget contract. David and Melissa held strong, and as long as we had them in our corner we knew we could make this movie.
We called the crew together and told them the reality of our situation, of our inability to proceed as originally negotiated. We had been counseled to start the engine without alerting the crew, and then scramble to re-fund, but it seemed dishonest to Sophia and myself to proceed this way. Anyone who could afford to take this risk with us should do so with full knowledge of the committment, not find, mid-shoot that they were fucked.
Many crew members went away wishing us well, wishing they could stay. One or two were angry with me. Angry that I called this reconceived idea 'more in keeping with our original plan'. A scaled down found set/costume kind of film where it's about the performances, the story, making something out of nothing and not something out of too much. I mean where's the magic in that?
There were a few people left in the room when the smoke cleared .. very few, but they were integral. We had many costumes built, and actors, and we had a production space which Sophia had artfully exapanded in skillful deals with the landlord to include both storefronts and the apartments upstairs. Yuval and Lisa Sterer (The Big Cheese, Rosendale) owned the garage across from our prodcution space in the all but empty town of Kerhonkson, and they had given it to us to use as our art department. I was the writer, after all, and knew what was integral to the story and what was just fluff. So I went home and rewrote, possessed. I honestly don't remember the rewrite. But when finished we had relocated all of the scenes to locations we owned and winnowed down the story to just the story. And it was a better script for it.
Sophia and I sat in my living room with the 2 remaining producers from the first crew, realizing that they too would be returning to the city. They were nice fellows, and they were worried for us, we two wee babes in movieland. They told us what we had in the bank would enable us to make, at best, a home movie in my backyard. Sophia tells me that it was here I said something about 'A deer came to my window this morning. Deer never come to my window. It's a sign.'. I do worry sometimes, especially when I say things like this and truly have no recognition of the logic which propels the words from my mouth with such certainty, such authority. They looked at each other, then Sophia and me with such pity. It was here Sophia piped in: "If we find ourselves alone in the production office on Monday ... what should we do?"
We were alone that Monday, but we had a list, and we set out to check things off of it. Each of us needed to find one key person in order to move on. Sophia needed a line-producer and I needed a d.p. We set to find both with little over a week to go. We posted the line producers and d.p jobs on the shooting people website. That's where we found Arthur, our line producer, who was willing to come up and work on this project at this late date. He came to work because of David and Melissa and Giancarlo, he came because he liked the script.
We'd started looking at reels for d.p.s in the 845 area code. We couldn't afford to house someone. It was magic, Stephen M. Harris's reel. I said "I want him!" on first viewing. There was a confidence in his style which would allow us to convey our esoteric material without hestitaion or apology. But Stephen had won awards for his shooting, Clios and statues from Cannes, for his commerical work. The old crew told me I was crazy, "There's no way he's gonna come and do this for no money..." But Sophia and I prevailed with our mantra "It can't hurt to ask ..."
Stephen told us to send him a script. He emailed me that night to say "I am good and well hooked. When do we meet?" We met the next day. We talked art, we talked about the story, the actors, and it's here we discover that he knows David and had assumed it was he who had recommneded him. As we delve a little deeper we discover that our children, his son and my daughter, are friends having attended the same small school which David's children had attended as well. It was meant to be. It was like coming home. This veteren shooter with a crystalline eye and such a flair was to become my partner in lifiting the story off the page. Magic.
Now that we had actors, this new script, free locations and costumes, it was time to re-crew. Here is where the reel (real) magic happens. We stopped asking people for money and started asking fillmmakers to come take a risk with us, and they came. Deferred and backend, they shared our dream.
There were the other last minute crises that came and went. We lost Mary Louise Wilson to a high paying movie shooting in California. I panicked for about 15 minutes before calling her and wishing her well, then setting out to recast. We asked Estelle Parsons and other venerable women of the theater all of whom had conflicts or no affinity for the role. It was getting close ... costumes needed to be rebuilt for someone ... I woke up in the middle of the night remembering LeClanche Durand.
LeClanche was a legend at U.C. Berkeley where I had been an undergrad and she a phd candidate in directing. She had cast me in a reading in Rhinebeck a few years earlier so I knew she was local, and I knew she was good. I looked her up in the phone book. She asked me to leave a script in her mail box. She phoned that night and said "It's quite a good part. What do we do next?" I asked her if she could make a costume fitting the next day and be prepared to shoot by the weekend. She said "Of course, dear." I broke the news to Melissa and David when they came in for fittings, and it came out that LeClanche had been standing-by in David's first Broadway play. So tragedy once again became serendipity.
As would our final casting crisis. Tim Guinee had been cast as Edmund/Billy the third of the love triangle. Shortly after the loss of Mary Louise, Tim was offered a role in a Tony Shaloub film. By now I had come to realize that these shake ups,if viewed in this light, were gifts. Each time the refit seemed equal to the loss. I wondered which direction I ought to search for Edmund, because I was certain that there was an Edmund close by. We had thus far not lost anything without its replacement being close at hand.
That's when Jason Downs emailed me. Jason's married to my producing partner, Sophia, father of her child. He's also a member of Actors&Writers, and we had toured in a Romeo&Juliet out of Bard College, directed by Shelley Wyant, for a couple of years, so I clearly knew his work. He told me Sophia would kill him if she knew he was asking to be considered for the part, I doubt that, but I set about consulting those for whom it would have the most impact; Melissa and Sophia.
Once we wrapped our brains around the age difference actually working for us, we all agreed that he was completely the right choice. and Jason became the missing puzzle piece. We were now ready ... and the shooting began.