Return to Sender Teaser

I’m a bit late to the punch here, but I released a teaser trailer for my latest short film Return to Sender over the weekend!

I’m pretty happy with how the promotional materials for this film are turning out.

Next up on my list is an official trailer that would give a bit more about what the story actually is. I’m unsure if this will actually come to fruition though because there is so much that I wouldn’t want to give away.

I guess we’ll see. I’m sure there’s some way I can give more details without spoiling it all. I’ll attempt working on that.

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Return to Sender Poster

I finally put out an official poster for my latest short film, Return to Sender!

I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about it so far. I think it might be my favorite poster I’ve done.

Next up on the promotional list is a teaser and official trailer! Coming soon!

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!

Return to Sender: Auditions

The auditions were held for Return to Sender this past weekend, and I’m happy to report that, despite all of my worries, they went incredibly well.

Leading up to audition day, we had a good amount of responses. We received about as many responses as I was expecting to get, so that’s a plus. I’ve heard on many occasions that there’s a sliding scale between confirmed responses and how many people actually show up for auditions. That proved to be true.

We had a few people cancel the day before and the day of. There were a couple of people who confirmed their time but never showed up. Of course, there were also people who we assigned an audition time to, but they never confirmed and they didn’t show up. From what I can tell, this is pretty normal.

Even with these drops, we still had a great amount of talent come in front of our casting table that day. My whole idea of holding auditions was to be able to have options. I’m very glad to say that I definitely had options for my characters at the end of the day. That’s an entirely new and very pleasant situation to be in.

I really wanted to make a good impression on the actors who came in, and I really hope that I did. I tried to make them as comfortable as possible. I tried to put myself in their shoes on many occasions. This led to the decision to leave the tablets at home and take handwritten notes on paper.

I figured if you’re already nervous, a line of people sitting behind tablet screens wasn’t going to make you more relaxed. For all you know, they could not be paying attention to your audition at all. They could be on Facebook. I didn’t want people coming in to feel that way. I have no idea how they do auditions through more official channels, but I’m happy with the decision that I made. I think it allowed me to really be present in that moment.

Chicago-area weather definitely didn’t help us out that day though. As the day approached, I was really upset to see a foreboding snowflake in the forecast. On the day, I was even more upset to see that the snow was set to hit during the exact hours when my potential lead and supporting actresses were scheduled to come in.

The snow did end up coming, and it was much more than some basic flurries. The roads got pretty awful. I’m so thankful for all of the actresses that braved those roads to come out and audition anyway.

So now, the next step is to review the audition tapes and our many notes in order to make the best casting decision possible for this project. We started this process as soon as we got back to the studio, and I’ll write more details about that later.

This is all a learning experience, and I’m happy to be learning it.

Return to Sender: Casting Call

It’s taken me a while to decide when to actually post the update about auditions. Should I post it once I design the casting call? Should I post when it goes live and we start getting responses?

For the sake of actually having content on my blog, I decided to split it into a few different posts. There will be one post about the casting call itself, another post about the audition day, and a post about making the casting decision.

So, here we go!

When it came to designing the audition notice, I felt completely out of my element. I’ve never done official auditions for my films before. I had an idea of what needed to be said, but I was terrified about saying it correctly.

I did a lot of research. My colleagues on the project did a lot of research too. Eventually we put something together. There were still doubts about how we designed some things, how we worded some things, what things we left off. It was stressful, but we made it though.

On the day the casting call was initially posted, I was really grateful for the response it received. It was shared around to a lot of different networks. It got a lot of attention. We even got some headshots submitted on that first day! We got a lot of responses for the minor characters, but responses for the lead and supporting characters were slow.

After some time, I talked with a friend of mine who is a professional actress, and she gave me some tips. I learned that it’s a lot more helpful to give potential actors the specific shoot dates rather than leaving it open for discussion. Apparently, it helps potential actors to know the dates ahead of time so they can determine whether or not its worth it to audition at all. I had no idea.

We uploaded a new casting call with this updated information, and we got even more responses. These responses even included actresses who were interested in the lead role!  I was very grateful.

The whole thing was a really thrilling process, but of course, my experience with thrilling situations always includes a ton of stress. I am still stressed out. It’s stressful. I’m freaking out about possibilities that will probably never come to pass. It really can be a curse to have an overactive imagination.

I completely understand why big productions have casting directors. Casting is such a daunting job! Next time, I should probably have less of a hand in the processes leading up to the audition. It would likely help my stress levels tremendously.

We’re still accepting applicants until February 10th, although we have removed the minor characters from the casting call due to the overwhelming response given for those. The day of auditions is February 17th, so I’ll be back with more information about that at a later date.

2017, Year in Review

As the remaining hours of 2017 fade away, I always try to take time to reflect on the accomplishments I had. I don’t typically write them on this platform, but this year, I felt this was the most appropriate place.

This was definitely a long year. It feels so foreign to look at events that transpired in January, and hold them in the same year as events that happened in November. I think this is why it’s such a good idea to reflect.

In the first few months of 2017, I worked with E Leal Productions to finally finish a project that began in 2011. Reborn, a film project that was the launch pad for so many of the people in my network, was finally complete. We held a screening for the cast and crew. It served as a reunion for so many of us who had moved on. It was also a culmination of many years of experience.

Shortly after the Reborn screening, I worked on some employee appreciation videos for Clare Oaks. Through this, we were able to use some of our new equipment. The people involved in this video project were so wonderful and accommodating. It was a great experience.

In the spring, I helped produce Exit Interview for Jason Rugg. It was a submission to the My Rode Reel competition for the year. The shoot day was long and difficult, but as a crew, we were able to finish everything that we had set out to do. The aches and pains were worth it.

Throughout the summer, I worked the Xcelerate summer camps for the 5th year in a row. This was definitely the most difficult year for me for a variety of reasons. The class load that I had this year was the largest it’s ever been, and it covered a variety of topics that really expanded my comfort zone. We’ll see what the upcoming year has in store for me on this front.

While handling all of those summer camps, I finally put together a trailer and poster for my short film, 3:03. I needed to put together these promotional materials in order to start submitting to other festivals. I’m still waiting on word from many of those submissions, but the experience has been a great one so far. The film was actually a semi finalist for Outstanding Female Filmmaker at the Stormy Weather Horror Fest in the summer season!

303-poster-laurels

In October, I produced another short film for Jason Rugg. This film, titled Pin 5:29, was a submission for a Film Riot competition. For this particular entry, the film was condensed to 60 seconds, but a longer, director’s cut is still on the horizon to show off more of the director’s ideas. It was a fun shoot, and I feel like it went really well. It was a great example of expanding experience.

As the final months of 2017 approached, I found myself heading back to the pre-production plan for my upcoming short film, Return to Sender. My pre-production work for this film began at the end of 2016, but was put on hold for a variety of reasons, mostly stemming from my work load at the summer camps and my personal life. I also got engaged, planned a wedding, and got married this year! It was a big year!

It’s nice to be getting back in gear for that project! I know I’ve said this before, but this time I’m hoping to stick to it.. Let’s hit the ground running in 2018!

Pin 5:29 – Production

While 31 Days of Reviews was dominating my blog, I didn’t have much time to write about the newest production I’ve been a part of. Throughout October, I jumped back into the producer’s chair for a new short film by Jason Rugg called Pin 5:29!

I don’t have a ton of insight about pre-production because I was incredibly busy with other things. The other producer on the film helped with casting and some script doctoring. I managed to be able to help with securing the location and planning for the actual shoot day, making sure everything ran on schedule and all that.

On the day of the shoot, we had an early crew call. This allowed us to get the equipment set up and start practicing all the things we would have to do. It helped us to be a lot more prepared. When the actor showed up at his call time, we were able to brief him, get him in costume, and jump right in.

Everything was in the same location, just different rooms. This made it easier to transfer equipment from scene to scene. It was just a matter of moving things. We had craft services set up in a nearby room. I think the location served everything really well.

For the most part, we shot in chronological order. I had it organized as much as possible by what lens we would be using to get each shot. There were definitely some interesting shots included in the shot list for this one. You can get a peek at one of the interesting shots in the picture below.


There were a couple of hiccups along the way, something I attribute to having one less set of hands than what we were planning to have. In the end though, we finished everything pretty close to the scheduled time, and the director is very happy with it.

From what I’ve seen in editing thus far, it’s looking really good. The director is excited about it. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to show it off. We’re aiming for a 60 second cut at first. There may be a secondary cut that is a tad longer, but for the time being, the 60 second cut is the main focus.

Stay tuned for Pin 5:29!