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Saying Goodbye to Lou Kaplan

On July 6th, Columbia lost beloved actor Lou KaplanLou was the star of one of our favorite scenes in the screenplay: when a man with a walker encounters Gabriel and backs up crossing himself.  Lou played the scene with the perfect amount of fear with undercurrents of comedy that we imagined when we wrote it.  Unfortunately, due to timing issues, we had to cut the scene, but our production was better off for having Lou on set.

He brought with him a joy and enthusiasm that perked all of us up after several long days of shooting.  It was hard to believe he was 95 years old since his energy put the rest of us young whippersnappers to shame.  Because he shared his scene with the contrary cat, he had to repeat his takes many times, but he met it all with good humor as can be seen in this funny behind-the-scenes interview with him.

May his wit and zeal for life be an inspiration for all of us.  Our condolences go out to Lou’s family and friends.

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We’re baaaack!

Birthday bash at AgapeThe one consistent piece of feedback we’ve received from test viewers is that the time jumps are confusing.  So we decided to go back to Agapé and film more scenes of life around the home as transitions to give the feel of time moving forward.  And fortunately for us, Agapé welcomed us back with open arms, so we must not have traumatized them too badly last time.

Today we assembled a small, but mighty team (thanks Cliff, Lamar, Sherard, John, and Chris!) and headed back to Agapé in the blistering heat (always a fun time to be toting heavy filming equipment).  There we met with Cynthia Scherbaty and Amy McCormack.  Last time we were there, Cynthia exhibited superpowers in helping us get extras in the scenes.  This time she and Amy blew us away with their awesomeness.  We just hope that when we reach our golden years, we are fortunate enough to have people as caring and enthusiastic as Cynthia and Amy in our lives.

It was a lucky day to be at Agapé, since the men were having their annual summer cookout.  We got to join the party and film some of it as one of the transition shots.  Today also happened to be the day of the June birthday bash (including a lady who was turning 101!!), which was a perfect activity to shoot.  The bright balloons and decorations will look great on screen, and a birthday celebration is a terrific way to show the passage of time. 

The third scene was one Cynthia and Amy set up especially for us – BINGO!  Since seniors love their bingo, we just had to have a bingo scene in a movie set at a retirement home.  We picked an adorable lady to get bingo, and as we filmed the scene several times with her winning again and again, one joker in the crowd shouted out that he wanted her bingo card.  Once we finished, we got out of their way and let them play for real – they take their bingo very seriously.

It was a fun day of filming.  We got some excellent shots (including a nighttime shot of the exterior of the facility), and it was great to see the residents and staff members again.  They even fed us another delicious lunch and “forced” us to eat cake and ice cream.  Thank you for having us back, Agapé!

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The Peek Has Been Sneaked

“Wonderful! Heartfelt! Well scripted and acted! My heart is touched and mind flooded with memories!!”  “Emotional but has a healing spirit.”  “I would tell everyone to see it – bring tissues.” 

These are just a few of the comments we got tonight that brought giant goofy grins to our faces. 

Tonight’s screening of the SC Production Fund films was a definite success.  The auditorium was packed, and it was gratifying to see so many people supporting local filmmakers.  And it was great for us to get the chance to see some of the previous films produced due to this amazing grant.  It's interesting that even though all three films tonight were very different, they were all inspired by true stories and ended on hopeful notes. 

Saying Goodbye was the middle film shown.  We made sure everyone knew it was a work in progress and asked for volunteers to fill out feedback forms.  After the credits rolled, we exchanged nervous glances, because no one clapped at first, and it sounded kind of ragged even after the applause finally started.  But once the lights came back on, we saw that everyone was busy sniffling and wiping their eyes.  Mission accomplished!

We then shared with the audience a little about where the story came from and some anecdotes about the ornery cats and filming at Agapé.  We also answered a few questions from the audience.  It was a nice way to ease into some of the things we’ll have to do once we hit the film festival circuit.

Saying Goodbye's poker sceneAt the end of the evening, many people came up to tell us how touching and moving they found the film.  And it’s official, the strip poker scene is the clear favorite – everyone mentioned how funny it was.  Wonder how much it would cost to have Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” playing in the background?

We then read through the feedback forms people turned in and the comments were so positive and encouraging.  The best news is that 100% of the people said they would definitely recommend the movie to a friend!  In our first focus group, only 40% said they would definitely recommend to a friend, so we now feel really confident about this version of the edit.

The feedback does show there is still some confusion about the time jumps and flashbacks, so we still need to tweak a few things, but we’re definitely getting closer to picture lock.  Thank you so much to all of the audience members who took the time to offer comments and feedback.  Every little bit helps us make the movie stronger.  And on that note, here’s our favorite comment from the evening, since it’s exactly what we set out to do and we’re thrilled that people are responding to our work:

“It was a thoughtful, sensitive, humorous, and wonderful portrayal of a difficult subject – the reality of aging and end of life issues we all face.”
 

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Sneak Peek

Attention fans in the Charleston area!!  You can watch a “rough draft” of Saying Goodbye on June 2nd.

Charleston County Public LibraryThe South Carolina Film Commission has arranged for a free screening of the films financed by the SC Production Fund as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.  Although Saying Goodbye is still a work in progress, our film will be part of the program on Wednesday, June 2nd along with Song of Pumpkin Brown and The Cannon Street Boys.  If you are a fan of local films, you can also go on June 3rd to see Appalachian Dreams and The Four Children Of Tander Welch, which was produced by our 2nd AD Matthew Sefick.  On both nights the screenings start at 6:00 (changed from 5:30) at the Charleston County Public Library.  

Keep in mind, our film is still a work in progress, so it’s a little rough.  We haven’t done audio mix or color correction or those other tweaks that go into making a movie look seamless.  Also, we don’t have our original score in yet.  We have a few places with canned music so the whole thing isn’t eerily silent, but this is not the music that will be in the final version.

We’d love to have y’all come take a look and tell us what you think.  We will most likely grab people we recognize and ask them to participate in a focus group after the screening, so be prepared to play movie critic. 

And don’t worry if you can’t make it, we still plan to have a fancy premiere in Charleston once the film is officially complete.  

Click here for details about the screening.  Hope to see you there!

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Snip! Cut! Chop!

Roberta MunroeOur movie is shrinking!  The original cut was about twenty-five minutes, but after the feedback from our focus group, we made some drastic edits to bring it in at just over twenty minutes.  However, the prevailing wisdom about film festivals says we still really needed to lose another five minutes to have the best chance at succeeding on the festival circuit.  But at this point, we are so immersed in the movie that it’s tough to be objective about what needs to stay and what would be best left on the cutting room floor.  So we decided it was time to bring in the big guns.  

 
Roberta Munroe (right) has years of experience as a filmmaker and festival programmer, including five years programming short films at The Sundance Film Festival.  To have her sage advice on our film as a story consultant pretty much makes us giddy.  Although now we’re wishing we’d read her book How NOT To Make A Short Film: Secrets from a Sundance Programmer before we filmed our movie.
 
We also brought on Ann Collins as an editing consultant.  She has more than twenty years of experience and edited several documentaries that premiered at Sundance, including Sound and Fury, which was also nominated for an Academy Award.  We knew her keen eye would help us make the edit as smooth and tight as possible.
 
The nausea returned as we waited for these experts to view our film, and we braced ourselves for the worst before our conference call with each consultant.  Fortunately, both Roberta and Ann were fantastic to talk to – they were kindly honest about the things that weren’t working and enthusiastic about the things that did work. And underneath it all, their passion for filmmaking was apparent.  Our conversations with them left us with the feeling that with some tweaking, we would have something special on our hands.  
 
So we spent this weekend trying to reconcile the advice we had received from both Roberta and Ann along with our own gut feelings about what we felt needed to be onscreen, and then we started editing.  There were some very tough moments where we had to cut scenes that looked really pretty or scenes that took forever to get the cat to cooperate or (most distressing of all) scenes with some of our favorite supporting characters.  But we knew it was all in service to the strongest story possible, so we gritted our teeth and pressed delete.
 
After the cutting frenzy was over, we had shaved another four and a half minutes from the film.  And as painful as some of those cuts were, we know our movie is now better for it.  Thank you Roberta and Ann for your guidance!

 

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Kitty Cat Dance

OK, so it's not a trailer (we promise one is coming), but we hope y'all will enjoy this mash-up of kitty cat behind-the-scenes footage. As you know, working with a cat on the set of Saying Goodbye was like... well... herding cats. Here are some of our "favorite" cat moments--at least the ones where no one was cussing or crying.

Special thanks to two of our USC students, Karmen and Amanda, for making us aware of this purr-fect song, and a HUGE thank you to the great Steve Ibsen for letting us use it!

If you can't see the video above, click here to watch it on YouTube.

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It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

Karmen's SG PosterToday was a very bittersweet day – the last day of class for our project.  It’s almost impossible to believe that two semesters of working with the students on our movie have flown by so quickly.  We know they have been looking forward to this day, because they are ready for summer and many of them are graduating and moving on to what we know will be successful careers, but we will miss them.  We have enjoyed every minute of working with them, and they have been such an amazing source of energy and inspiration for us.   

For today’s class, they presented their final project – a press kit for our movie.  It’s great practice for them as they get ready to embark on their filmmaking careers.  Plus, we can stea—uh, we mean borrow— some of the things they came up with when it’s time to create the official Saying Goodbye press kit.  In addition to their press kit, they each had an additional project to help with the film.  Fred and Matt created an extended version of their behind the scenes featurette, Kasey researched film festivals and selected the ones that are the best fit for Saying Goodbye, Cassie put together a targeted marketing plan for us, Amanda composed a memory book from the set photos, and Karmen designed a new movie poster (right). 

It’s been a blast working with all of the students from both the first and second semesters.  We truly appreciate all the help you have given us, and we hope to work with you again in the future.  Good luck as you go forth and take the world by storm!

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Fred Story comes to townLike the Pied Piper, Fred Story came to town this weekend to enchant us with his music.  Fred will be scoring Saying Goodbye, and his company Concentrix will be handling the sound design.  Fred guest lectured in class yesterday and it was his idea to treat it like a spotting session, which is the meeting he has with clients when watching a movie for the first time.  This way he could teach the students while they got to participate in a part of the post process they don’t normally see.

At the beginning of class, we all watched the latest version of the film together.  Fred really seemed touched by it and said he was thrilled his team was going to be a part of it.  Of course, we loved hearing that!  Then he talked about some of his ideas for the score.  He wants to make sure he keeps the music subtle, so it doesn’t distract from the emotion we’ve created on screen.  He plans to pick an instrument to represent Gabriel the cat (he’s thinking either violin or oboe).  Fred also said he can use music cues to help people recognize the time jumps and flashbacks.  All of this sounds great to us, and we can’t wait to see the magic he works on our movie.

Then today the SC Film Commission hosted Fred presenting a workshop on sound design to filmmakers from around the state.  First he showed us clips from films he had scored and talked through how he made his musical choices.  From our interactions with Fred, we already knew he was good people, but after experiencing examples of his work, we are thrilled to ‘hear’ our film is in good hands.  Later he showed us various scenes from other movies and talked about what the music did and did not do for the film.  He also offered everyone pointers on how to find the right person to do your score and sound design, and how to communicate with them to make sure everyone has the same vision.  The whole weekend was music to our ears.

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Ah, the Memories

Fred with cameraOne of the topics for this semester is editing, so the students attended a SC Film Commission workshop on editing and Cliff also conducted a class on editing for them.  Then to practice what they’d learned, the students were divided into three teams of two and tasked with creating a 3-5 minute Behind the Scenes featurette using the footage Nate and Fred filmed on set. 

Today’s class was the big unveiling of their projects, and it was so much fun!  The teams did a great job of selecting interesting moments and putting them together in an entertaining way.  And because the two of us spent a lot of that week of shooting running around stressed because of misbehaving felines and other issues, it was great to be reminded of how much fun everyone had.  We’ll be posting the students’ videos over the coming weeks. 

With the class starting out in such an entertaining way, poor Jocelyn then had to follow that up with a lecture on press kits and all the pieces that make a great one.  It’s good stuff to know, but it’s not exactly riveting material. 

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Hippity-Hoppity Death Cat's on His Way

Easter bunny and death CatLook what the Easter Bunny left us! I guess even holiday characters are eager to help us promote the upcoming release of Saying Goodbye.

We're still hard at work wrapping up all the loose ends on the edit and hope the film will be hopping into film festivals near you in two wiggles of a bunny's tail.

Did anyone else get something cool in their Easter basket?