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All the Comforts of Home

Photo by Low Country RVOnce we secured St. Lawrence as our perfect location, we realized we had a problem of a biological nature.  While the cemetery is beautiful, it was built with a focus on the dead, so no restrooms or Port-o-Lets to be found.  And since we are filming in the middle of the night, it’s not like there are places nearby we can ferry people for bio breaks.  Granted the guys might be able get by, but taking a leak on someone’s grave is probably an excellent way to ensure a life-long haunting.  And since there are a number of women in the cast and crew anyway, we had to figure out an alternative.

We googled RV rentals in the area and found a great camper from Low Country RV.  Randy and Shy have started a business renting out their RV, with plans to buy more RVs for future expansion.  Their RV is exactly what we need – not only does it have that all important restroom, but the main room is the perfect space for makeup artist Ashley Brook Perryman and her assistant Lindsey to work their magic.  It also has another room where the actresses can get dressed, as well as a number ofJohanna, Ashley, and Joy inside RV beds for napping between scenes.  It also has a stove, range, and microwave to warm food for meals and snacks. 

Since nobody in our family has a car capable of pulling that giant beast (not to mention the skill needed to maneuver it), Randy and Shy have agreed to drop the RV off in the cemetery each evening and to pick it up bright and early each morning. Shy even said she would clean it in between so everything would be fresh for us.  Special thanks to them for their help on our project!  If you’re filming a movie in the area and need a comfortable space for your cast and crew, give them a call!

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A Grave Problem

Even though there are a ton of beautiful, yet spooky cemeteries in Charleston, we were having a tougher time than we expected finding a place to film our new short High Heels and Hoodoo.  Many of the cemeteries do not allow filming at night, and when we did find places willing to let us film during the witching hours, we ran into an unexpected issue: all of those places also allowed ghost tours.  Since we plan to film the week before Halloween, the ghost tours are in their prime season, and they have first dibs.  Therefore we wouldn’t be able to start filming until after midnight, by which time we would have burned up half our hours of darkness.Stuffy the Stand-in in front of St. Lawrence

Things were starting to look dire . . . like discussing making fake tombstones out of Styrofoam dire.  But then our dad suggested the cemetery search on the Find a Grave website he uses for his family tree research, and that’s when we discovered St. Lawrence Cemetery.  It’s right next to Magnolia Cemetery and across the street from Bethany Cemetery, which are two of the more well known historic Charleston cemeteries.  For some reason, St. Lawrence gets less attention, but it is just as magnificent, and more importantly, they were happy to open their gates for us. 

We ventured out to St. Lawrence today to decide on the perfect area to shoot.  All the grave markers were so captivating, it was tough to decide.  We knew we wanted a big oak dripping with Spanish moss in the shot, so that helped narrow things down.  Then we found the perfect spot.  It has a modern standing tombstone (since the Nanna character only died in the past few years), but it's surrounded by older, more photogenic tombstones.  It also has an empty plot next to it, giving us plenty of room to set up equipment without tromping disrespectfully over the final resting places of the dearly departed.

Cooper River Bridge viewed from St, Lawrence

 

The only drawback so far is that it is right next to the water.  While this offers some spectacular views, especially of the Cooper River Bridge, it’s the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  They swarmed us while we were out there, and those suckers were HUGE!  Brian even dubbed them birdsquitoes.  Hopefully the weather will cool down enough to take them out without freezing us to death too.

 

Other than the pesky bloodsuckers, we couldn’t be more pleased with our location.  A million thank yous to St. Lawrence for generously allowing us to film on their picturesque grounds. 
 

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Beverly Hills Cat

We mentioned a few weeks ago that we’re having our West Coast Premiere at the Lady Filmmakers Film Festival.   Whoo hoo!  Well, we now know our screening time: Saying Goodbye is playing on Saturday, October 15th at 12:30pm at the Writers Guild Theater (135 South Doheny Drive  Beverly Hills, CA, 90211). 

Click here for ticket information.

Over that weekend the LFFF will show 70 films from 18 countries featuring talented women like Bryce Dallas Howard, Maria Bello, Olivia Wilde, Rita WIlson, Anna Paquin, and of course our very own Rebecca Koon, Edith Ivey, Mary Elizabeth Cobb, and Jocelyn Rish.  You can check out the full lineup of films here.

If you live near Beverly Hills, stop by on October 15th at 12:30 to see Saying Goodbye’s west coast premiere on the big screen.  And if you don’t live nearby, but know people who do, please let them know about this chance to see some great shorts.  We appreciate the support!

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Overflowing with Joy

There are only three characters in High Heels and Hoodoo, and the one we were most worried about casting turned out to be the quickest and easiest.  Madam Josephine is a Gullah root doctor (aka a hoodoo practitioner), and we figured it would be tough to find an actress who could pull off a convincing Gullah accent without it sounding fake or campy.  But when we met with our casting director Richard Futch, the first name out of his mouth was Joy Vandervort-Cobb.  Richard had cast Joy in several episodes of Army Wives, as well as in a movie where she played a Gullah woman.  Richard showed us her head shot, and she had such a great look that we crossed all of our fingers and toes hoping she’d nail the part. 

When we received her audition, we did a little fist pump.  Not only does the accent sound great, but she has this amazing, smoky voice that’s perfect for working hoodoo magic in a graveyard at midnight.  She also easily conveyed Madam Josephine’s no-nonsense attitude.  We’ve found our root doctor!

Joy Vandervort-Cobb by DiDi Hendley

Joy is an Associate Professor of African American Theatre and Performance at the College of Charleston, and just a few minutes of googling reveals her students absolutely adore her.  In addition to her film and television credits, she has also written and performed her own highly-regarded one-woman show.  We are thrilled to have Joy portraying one of our three strong southern women, and we’re relieved the casting for this part turned out to be so painless.

 
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We’re Making Another Movie!

We are beyond thrilled to tell everyone we won another grant from the South Carolina Film Commission, so we will be making another short film.  This grant is one of the smaller indie grants through Trident Technical College rather than the larger production grant from USC, so it’s going to be a tighter squeeze to get things done, but we’re excited to see what we can do. 

The screenplay is based on a short story Jocelyn wrote called “A Spirited Discussion,” which won sixth place in an international writing competition.  She adapted the story into a script we are tentatively calling High Heels and Hoodoo, and it features a frivolous party girl who goes to extremes for one last conversation with her dead grandmother.  It has a very SC Lowcountry feel, since it’s set in a Charleston graveyard and one of the characters is a Gullah root doctor. 

We actually found out we won the grant back in July, but we were waiting to announce it until we finalized a title and decided if we were branching off into a new website or keeping all our film stuff in one place.  We still haven’t decided either of these things, but we were anxious to share the good news, so here we are!

We’ve been scouting locations trying to find a graveyard with just the right creepy look.  Fortunately, there are a lot of those in Charleston.  Unfortunately, most of them do not allow filming at night.  So we’re still searching for the perfect spot.  We’ve also spoken with our amazing casting director Richard Futch about several actors we’re interested in for the three parts. 

The SC Film Commission is providing the wise and wonderful Roberta Munroe as a consulting producer to all six grant winners.  We are so excited to work with her again.  She’s guided us in creating a “look book” to really nail down how we want things to look visually, as well as chatted with us via Skype about budget and production issues. 

We have the talented John Reynolds on board as our director of photography.  He’s been the DP for several of the SC grant films, so he knows what kind of low-budget insanity we have in store for him.  We’ve also been lucky enough to get Ashley Brook Perryman to agree to do hair and makeup for us.  Ashley is a big name in the Charleston fashion scene, so we're thrilled to have her on board.  In a change up from last time, Brian is being brave and taking the director reins into his own hands.  Earlier this year he directed a series of commercials for his paying job, and they just won a STARS Award for "Best TV Campaign" from the North Carolina Home Builders Association, so hopefully he knows what he’s doing. 

So we’ve been absent from the Saying Goodbye site because we’ve been busy getting ready to make the new movie.  But even with all that preparation, the planned shooting dates of October 21st-23rd seem to be heading our way at an alarming speed.  Stay tuned for more details!

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Four Shorts and Seven Beers Ago

The folks at Concentrix occasionally host movie nights at their studio, and this time Fred Story decided to showcase some of the short films they’ve worked on in the past year, calling the night Four Shorts and Seven Beers Ago.  We were honored Fred selected Saying Goodbye as one of the films, so we drove up to Charlotte yesterday to be part of last night’s festivities. 

In addition to the filmmakers from the featured shorts, Fred also invited other friends and folks involved in the Charlotte movie industry.  We were thrilled that our star Rebecca Koon (who lives in Charlotte) was able to attend because it’s always fun to catch up with her.  She told us she had just finished filming an episode of Showtime’s new Homeland and an episode of HBO’s Eastbound & Down

In addition to a yummy spread of hors d'oeuvres, Fred provided us with bags of popcorn as we settled in to watch the films.  Fred drew the movie names out of the hat for a truly random experience. 

First up was Dustin Pegg with his movie Broken, which is a beautifully shot thriller featuring several mysterious violent confrontations.  The driving music from Concentrix’s Michael McGinnis really amps up the tension to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. 

Then came Liberating Jesse from Rebecca Pryce.  Rebecca won the production grant through Trident Technical College the same year we won through USC, so it was great to have the chance to see the film from our fellow grantee.  It's set in a bleak world where a mysterious virus affects the citizens in unexpected ways; and given the sweeping scope of the film, it’s absolutely amazing what Rebecca was able to accomplish with the funds provided by the grant.

Next up was The Adult Who Cried Wolf from John Schwert and Jason King, which is a hilarious comedy about two co-workers with serious issues.  In addition to directing and producing, John and Jason also play the main parts of Monty and George (this is the third short featuring these characters), and their comic timing and deadpan delivery had the room rolling the entire time.

Last up was Saying Goodbye, and it was a complete 180 from the laughter of the previous short to the tears and sniffles of ours.

Thank you to Fred and the rest of the Concentrix crew for inviting us to movie night.  We’re looking forward to working with them again on our next movie!

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West Coast Premiere

Lady Filmmakers Film FestivalWe’re excited to announce that Saying Goodbye has been accepted into the 3rd Annual Lady Filmmakers Film Festival.  Previous years have featured films from celebrities like Courtney Cox, Laura Dern, Glenn Close, and Lilly Taylor.  The festival will be October 14-16 at the Writers Guild of America Theater in Beverly Hills, California.  We haven’t had a screening on the Pacific side of the country yet, so this will be our West Coast Premiere.  Whoo hoo! 

From the LFFF website: “We celebrate Lady Filmmakers in key leadership roles in the making of short and feature length films. A woman must fill the role of Writer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Producer, or Production Designer.”  Since Jocelyn was a writer and producer and has the appropriate lady parts, we qualified and are thrilled LFFF has included us as part of their festival. 

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to attend the screening, since that’s the last weekend of pre-production before we start shooting our new movie.  However, we hope our friends and fans in the area will help spread the word about our screening and come out to support the film.  We’ll let everyone know once we find out our screening date and time.  

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Partying in Spartanburg

We had two screenings in Spartanburg this weekend.   Our aunt and uncle (Mary Ann and Danny Crout) live there and were anxious to share Saying Goodbye with their friends.  Our grandmother Alma, who was the inspiration for the main character, was Mary Ann’s mother, so this filmJocelyn and Brian hanging with the Twilight crew has special meaning for her, too.  They threw a Hollywood-themed party at their house to screen the film with fancy food, movie-themed decorations, and plenty of enthusiastic fans. 

After the screening, we had a lively Q&A; and immediately after that, most of the crowd insisted on watching the movie again, which made us do a little happy dance.  And you never know when you’re going to make a networking connection – it turns out one of the party goers went to high school with the director of a film festival.  She emailed him right then from her phone to tell him about our film, and he contacted us the next day inviting us to submit Saying Goodbye for consideration and waiving the submission fee.  We have our fingers crossed that he likes it as much as the Crouts' friends!  And we can’t thank Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Danny enough for throwing us such a fun party.

Jocelyn, Wanda, Mary Ann, Roger, and Brian at Spartanburg partyThen on Monday, we had a screening at the North Spartanburg Rotary Club.  Our uncle is one of the officers and told them about his super-duperly awesome niece and nephew, so they invited us to show Saying Goodbye at their lunch meeting.  Brian had to go back to Columbia for work, so Jocelyn had to do the presentation herself with only Stuffy the Stand-in at her side.  With knocking knees and a quavering voice, she got through the introduction and then showed the movie.  After the enthusiastic response when it finished, she felt much more comfortable with the Q&A afterwards.  Since the crowd was made up of business people, there were more questions about the finances and budget issues than usual, which made for an interesting twist.  Thank you so much to the North Spartanburg Rotary Club – we appreciated the opportunity to share our film with the members.
 

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Saying Goodbye Invades Coffee Underground

After the delightful celebration at Agapé, we had to jump right in the car and zip up the road to Greenville for another Saying Goodbye screening that night.  The SC Upstate Film Community invited us to show Saying Goodbye to their group and talk about the grant from the SC Film CommissionSandra VanNatta is one of organizers of the Society, and she heard about our film from Mary Elizabeth Cobb (they are both represented by the same talent agency).  Then it turns out one of Sandra’s first big acting jobs was with Rebecca Koon in The Notebook, and in typical Rebecca fashion, she took Sandra under her wing and mentored her.  So with connections to two of our stars, Sandra looked us up and asked us to screen Saying Goodbye at one of their meetings.

Coffee UndergroundThey hold their meetings at the Coffee Underground in downtown Greenville, and the place has a fun, funky vibe.  It has a back room with a screen and a stage, with church pews set up to watch the action.  Andrew Kaplan was the first speaker, and he gave great tips on social networking for actors and filmmakers.  Then we showed Saying Goodbye and had a lively Q&A afterwards.  Since the members are filmmakers and actors, they had a lot of insightful questions about the grant program and how we made the film.  We got a lot of positive comments, and we thank Sandra and the SC Upstate Film Community for giving us the opportunity to share Saying Goodbye.

Also, we were thrilled that Rebecca Koon showed up with a few of her family members to this screening as well.  Two visits with Rebecca in one day is definitely a treat!

Since our sister Joanna (paparazza extraordinaire) lives in Greenville, our trip upstate gave us the perfect opportunity to show the movie to her friends and co-workers.  She decided that the Coffee Underground would be the ideal place for her screening too, so two days later we were back in the funky screening room showing the film to her friends.  She even had the Coffee Underground cater the party, and we have to say, if you ever get the chance to have the cookies there, make sure you do – they're delicious!

In one of those super freaky small world coincidences, it turns out Sandra’s husband works with our sister, so Sandra got to see the movie twice that week at the Coffee Underground.  We had a great weekend sharing the film with folks in Greenville, and we drank enough coffee to give us the shakes.

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Party at Agapé

Agape Premiere 1What a fun day in the life of Saying Goodbye!  Today we had a screening and party for the residents and staff at Agapé Senior, the assisted living facility where we shot the movie.  We worked with Cynthia Scherbaty and Amy McCormack to make sure it was a big event for everyone involved, but even we were surprised when we walked in and saw the amazing result of the hours the two ladies had put into transforming the cafeteria. 

As the residents started to arrive, we got them seated, while those who were extras were sequestered in the back room.  We had the charming Joe Pinner (Mr. Knozit for those of you who grew up watching his kids’ show in Columbia) as our MC, and he kicked things off by introducing each resident and staff member who had appeared in the movie.  Joe did a great job making them feel like stars as they walked the red carpet to their reserved seats up front.  Joe Nester, an Agapé staff member, recorded the action, and you can watch his video here.

Then it was time for the main event, and there were so many great moments as the Agapé folks watched Saying Goodbye.  The first scene has people singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” and as it played, all the residents started singing along – it was spectacular.  Then every time the cat came on screen they 'awww'ed not caring that he’s the death cat.  They also laughed a lot more than our typical audiences - especially at scenes we never realized were funny - but obviously their years of experience give them a different perspective. 

Once it was over, we thanked them for all their help – the movie never would have been so authentic if it hadn’t been for everyone at Agapé.  We presented them with a framed version of the Saying Goodbye poster where we added pictures of the residents along the top and bottom borders, and they had already put it on display in the lobby before we left. 

Then it was time to party!  We had popcorn and movie candy and ginger ale served in champagne glasses.  We also had a special treat playing in the background.  There was a lot of footage of residents and staff that didn’t make it into the movie, and since we wanted to make sure everyone who participated got to see themselves on screen, we put together a video of that footage.  We think it was more popular than the movie itself, since it played six or seven times while the residents laughed and pointed at themselves.  If you’re interested, you can see the video here.

Agape Premiere 2During the party, we got to catch up with many of our extras, and they were all so excited.  We also got to meet other residents who told us how much they loved the movie.  Making the day even more special, members of the cast and crew showed up to help celebrate.  Rebecca Koon, who did a phenomenal job as our star Alma, made the drive from Charlotte, and Dick White, who was one of the poker players, was there with his daughter.  We also had Cliff Springs (director), Sherard Duvall (first AD), Will Bryan (production designer), John Collins (video assist), Laurie Nicholson (production coordinator), and of course Stuffy the Stand-in, as well as our two executive producers Susan Hogue and Tom Clark.  It was a fun reunion with many of the people involved in making the film.  We even made the news – WLTX was there to capture the event and we were part of the top 7 at 7, which was a nice surprise. 

There have been a lot of ups and downs in this movie-making experience, but celebrating the film with the Agapé residents and staff was truly a special moment.  We hope they had has much fun as we did, and we thank them again for everything they did to help us.