Production Has Begun

The opening shot of “Isn’t It Romantic?”

Although our first shooting day with the full crew is not until Saturday, October 13, production on ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?  technically began tonight when my director of photography and I took a trip to our movie theater location, the beautiful Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut, to get the opening shots.  The head of maintenance at the theater graciously dressed the marquee for us to display the title of Danny Kresky’s latest film along with my fictional counterpart’s name.  It was a cool but clear night and it went off without a hitch.  We got terrific shots of the marquee from several angles.  It will be a nice way to start the film.

I experienced a true thrill when we pulled up in front of the theater and I got a look at the marquee.  Throughout pre-production, although the majority of my attention was focused on the film, it still felt abstract.  It was all planning and as busy as I was, I never truly registered exactly what was happening.  Tonight, as I stood behind the camera, looking at the shot on the monitor, it all sunk in.  It was actually happening.  I was there capturing the first ever images for my first ever film.

Kind of a surreal moment.  How does one describe the feeling of finally experiencing a long time dream?  I was a bit overwhelmed and I wished my still photographer had been there to record the moment, at least for me.  But, no matter.  The sight of that gorgeous marquee lit up against the night sky displaying an image that I had created and placed on paper is permanently burned into my mind’s eye.

This is not only the first film I am directing, it is also the first of my screenplays to be produced and it will be my film acting debut.  As a writer, I got a charge out of seeing a scene in front of me that previously had only existed in my imagination.  It was different.  Much better than I initially saw it.  The theater I envisioned when I wrote the script was just that: a theater.  I ended up shooting it at a movie palace.  Very nice upgrade.

Saturday will take things to the next level.  We are shooting the longest and most complex scene of the film and I will have my actors and my crew to direct as well as my role to play.  A challenge to be sure, but one I eagerly await.  No matter what I accomplish in my filmmaking career, this first one will always be special.  I want to remember this thrill, the childlike feeling of a new and exciting experience and let it carry me in all my future work.

I’m not dreaming.  I’m really making a movie.

The Cast Is Set

This past Sunday, we held auditions in a rented studio in Midtown, right around the corner from The Ed Sullivan Theater.  What a great experience!  I’ve always dreamed of making a movie and now it’s happening.  As an East Coast guy and a native New Yorker, I never had visions of Hollywood.  I’ve always had the desire to shoot on the streets of my home town and at the Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens.  I haven’t quite gotten there, yet, but our casting session gave me a little taste.

I was very happy with the caliber of the actors who submitted.  I spent hours watching reels and chose a nice stable to bring in and read for us.  We have our cast set and I am quite pleased.  I had a couple of tough decisions to make and the actors I’ve chosen are going to add greatly to the production.

The most difficult decision I had was in casting the part of “Lance Wilson”.  Lance is a movie star.  Good looking.  A heart throb.  It’s a tricky part to play because Lance has capped teeth and cosmetic surgery and deep inside is still the insecure nebbish.  We needed an actor with the right look and the ability to play it.

It came down to two candidates.  One was a terrific actor, very funny and extremely creative.  Low maintenance. I got the feeling he wouldn’t need a lot of direction.  He didn’t quite have that matinee idol look though.  I was on the fence about bringing him in for that reason, but he was such a good actor, I decided to take a look.  He gave an outstanding audition and impressed all of us.

The other actor was good, but not as good.  He did have a great look.  Truly like a movie star.  I was impressed because he learned the lines.  (I sent all the actors the scenes they would be reading.  I don’t  like cold readings, I want them to have every chance to succeed.)  He didn’t bring the script with him.  My co-star pointed out to me what a risk that is and that an actor really shouldn’t do that.  Honestly, I admired the boldness and confidence.  It’s like something I would do.

It was an incredibly difficult decision.  You love casting the best actor when you can.  Ultimately, we HAD to have a guy the audience will buy as a heart throb.  I chose the lesser actor with the right look.  He was still good and seemed like a nice guy.  I got a good vibe from him.  I feel that I can work with him and get him where he needs to be.

I do feel bad though.  I so wanted to cast the smart, funny guy.  Good looking guys always win.  I feel like I betrayed my own kind.  Nevertheless, I did what was right for the movie and I feel good about that.  As my co-writer pointed out to me, I created the character.  So I had to cast him.

The other two parts are small; two lines each.  I honestly wish they were bigger, the two actors I cast are that good.  The parts are two female movie goers who exit a theater and discuss the film they just saw, which was written and directed by the protagonist.

The first one I knew I wanted when I saw her reel.  She has a lot of experience in short films and I watched her clips about four times.  She is a Kathy Bates type and has a fire that touched me.  Very subtle and natural and she comes across well on camera.  Her audition was dynamite!  She touched me from across the room adding a poignancy to a comedic scene that gave it depth.  Her first take was great, but I had them all do it twice.  The second time I gave them an adjustment to see how they took direction.  She made a very slight, but palpable change that was equal to her first take.  She had a quiet confidence about her as well.  She was in.  It would have taken Meryl Streep walking into that room to change my mind.

The other woman I cast was also very good.  She’s a friend of my co-writer, so I know she is a professional that I can count on.  She was natural, made her adjustment well, and visually will work very well with the other woman.

So, there it is.  We have the cast.  Four excellent actors and me, the comedian who’s basically playing himself.  This is going to work.  I’m proving to be the genius I always knew I was.