Return to Sender: Shoot Day 1

It finally happened. The first shoot day for my latest short film Return to Sender took place on Sunday, March 11. After holding auditions and weeks of planning, we were finally ready to go.

I needed to be on set at about 8:00am, so before that we needed to pack the car. Then, we had an hour commute to the shooting location. We got there early to begin setting up and make last minute decisions for set design. Luckily, we had a lot of this done days in advance so there wasn’t too much to do.

Crew time was 9:00am. This is when we started working to set up lights, balance the steady cam set up, put markers on the floor, get the boom pole ready. About 30 minutes before the cast arrived, we started setting up the craft services table.

10:00am was the talent call time. I was very glad that we had everything set up and ready to go before our actress arrived. It really saved a lot of time, and I think it made a good impression. It looked like we had our stuff together.

Overall, I think the shoot went really well. The actress we cast as our lead was just as impressive on the shoot day as she was at the audition. I’m really happy with the performance she gave.

There were some pretty tricky shots that we wanted to get for this part of the film. We had spent a lot of time leading up to the shoot practicing them, but they still required a lot of time on the day. These shots included a bit of gear. We had a steady cam rig, a slider, monopods for tighter spaces. I’m very grateful for all of the prep we did for those shots because it helped us be more prepared on the day. I’m always happy to be prepared.

I did end up making some decisions on the fly that diverged from my plans. I was a bit worried about how that would work out in the edit, but based on our rough edits after the fact, it all seems to be working out perfectly.

I’ll talk more about the editing process when we are officially in post production.

As for directing, this is the first time I’ve been in the director’s chair since we filmed 3:03 in 2016. It definitely took me some time to get back in the swing of it. There were a lot of mistakes I made at the beginning of the shoot day that I find pretty embarrassing. By the end of the day though, I think I was good. I think I was back to normal.

Hopefully I’ll still be ready to go for the next shoot. This shoot will be on Sunday, March 18. The upcoming shoot will be in a smaller location with three actors instead of one. It will be a different experience for me. I hope it goes well.


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When a virus that causes people to act out their wildest and most violent impulses puts a company building under quarantine, newly fired Derek Cho fights his way to the top floor to settle the score with the executives once and for all.

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Return to Sender: Prep Work

It’s been a long time coming, but I can finally say that filming for Return to Sender is right around the corner!

With principle photography beginning in a matter of days, there are quite a few things that we’re working to finalize and prepare.


We have some intricate camera shots planned for this first day, including many that are done with a steady cam rig. We have been meticulously planning these shots for a while now, but there is definitely a benefit to actually, physically, practicing them ahead of time. There were several things that we figured out about our rig set up while actually running through the moves that caused us to recalibrate the entire thing. I’m very glad we didn’t stumble upon those issues on the day of the shoot.

Since we were on a roll with those shots, we figured we’d test out some of the other shots too. This led us to have a much better idea of how everything was going to work out on the day that we filmed. I know I definitely got a better idea of how I wanted to block things and direct my lead actress by running through the scenes myself.

I really can’t stress how much prep work really helps with my work flow. There is always an element of uncertainty to film shoots, but with enough prep work, I can eliminate so many potential problems from a day where time is very limited. I don’t want my cast and crew to sit around all day because of issues that could have been easily prevented.¬†They’re volunteering their time for me, and I want to respect their time as much as possible.

We’re also working on set design and prop design, but since that’s still in progress, I may reflect on that process more at a later time. These are both new things for me that I haven’t paid much attention to in previous projects. We’ll see how much I have to say about it by the end.

Return to Sender: Casting Decisions

As I mentioned in my previous post about the audition day, there was a ton of talent that came out for Return to Sender auditions.

This is the first time I’ve actually had this many good options for people to play my characters. There was so much talent that I actually had to make decisions on who would be in my film and who could not be in my film. I guess in the broad scheme of things that’s a good problem to have, but it didn’t make it any less difficult to make the cuts I had to make.

One thing I learned through this process is that there is so much that goes into casting. It’s not just about the level of talent. Everyone that came in for auditions was talented. It’s also about chemistry with the rest of the cast. This is where my puzzle really started.

For my lead character, the actress we cast completely blew me away. She walked in and she was able to deliver exactly what I was looking for. Casting her was exciting. The project felt like it was finally coming to life.

When it came to my supporting character, I had many more options. There were so many actresses who came in and could do the part in one way or another. This was a more difficult decision to make. It came down to two actresses, and the casting team was torn.

We ended up having to go into extreme detail, cutting together their auditions with the audition for the lead actress. After that, I wanted to go a step further. Since a lot of the supporting actress’s lines are spoken over the phone with no visual reference, we needed to take out the visual aspects of their performances. We needed to judge based on the pace and feel of the phone conversation.

That process helped us to make a decision that was best for the film, but since this was my first time having to make a cut like that, I felt guilty. I still feel guilty in a way. I’ve been told that actors know not to take it personal, but I can’t shake the feeling.

The other actors that we were casting for were minor characters, detectives for the final scene of the film. They didn’t have many lines, but there was a level of emotion to the scene that not a lot of the candidates were able to convey. I had a few that I felt I could work with, but that all changed when our final candidate for that role came in.

This actor didn’t just read the lines. I could tell that he was feeling the lines. He was able to portray that emotion that I’d been struggling to find throughout the day. I was very moved by his audition.

However, this success unlocked another issue that was very similar to the one I described above. With this actor’s performance, I was having a hard time finding a good chemistry with the others who had come to audition for the detective role. I needed two detectives who could portray a good partnership. My other top contender had a performance that was too similar. There wouldn’t be a good contrast between them.

I was lucky enough to have an actress who had auditioned for the lead roles, but had indicated that she’d be open to the minor role as well. We managed to get her back to read for the detective role, and I could immediately see that chemistry I was looking for.

All of this came together in a way that I’m really happy with, but I honestly had very little idea going into this how much chemistry actually played a role. You can’t just cast based on performance alone. There are way too many other factors that you have to consider. Casting is such a big job, and I’m definitely finding that it’s not easy. It may be rewarding, but it’s not easy in the slightest.

Hoping to have my lead and supporting actress meet up and get a flow down before filming starts, but if that doesn’t come to pass, I’m confident that they’ll be able to pull it off.

Production starts in March! Look forward to more updates!