So I shouldn’t even call it pre production until being done with the script.. but I did. I meet with all the actors individually & let the actors know that once the script is done a table read will decide where they are placed – even though I’m already placing them based off looks, in my mind. At this point the draft is 14 pages with ten or 11 characters and I have 10 seriously interested actors. That ten quickly becomes 6 as they fail to respond to emails or make it to scheduled lunches. Showing up for a scheduled appointment set ahead of time Is a proving factor.
I was slowly collecting all the props needed in my adventures around town. Just walking around town I literally found a blanket in the middle of the road in the rain, a winged lapel pen by a bike share, a working Trak phone on a traffic light, a backpack with only one strap and other things needed to make the characters feel real. In the beginning of March when I booked the conference room at my workplace for the table read I also made the order for a uniform to be delivered by March 6th. I also ordered name tags for the Chili workers, Park badges and a clapboard. All that was left was cigarettes, a fifth of liquor, a box, a broken phone and some soap.
As far as locations, there are only two that are interiors. The food spot and the cell store. At one point I wanted to include a bathroom, but that was nixed in re-writes. I have a spot for the food place called the Irish Times, that agreed to let me film whatever I want there as long as the crew eats lunch there. But while eating during our weekly production meeting, the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl said we had a chance talking to her daughter and filming there. Ben’s opens early and stays open late, giving us the opportunity to film pretty much whenever throughout the day. And after our talk with Mrs. Ali, we felt pretty good about it. I emailed her daughter and she took my number – things were looking good. We scheduled another Sunday as I went from location to location taking photos for a potential Director of Photography. I also needed to lock down a mobile store. I planned out a path and Tim agreed to drive and help out. All the stores were Boost mobiles. I planned to hit some Metro PCS’ bit after my failed first attempt early on, I figured we would have more luck with a smaller (& honestly jankier) chain like Boost. The thing with these mobile stores, where there is one, they have competition near by. So every stop we made we hit two stores. A Virgin store, a Metro store, a cricket store. We hit 7 stores and generally were given the same response “contact our manager”.
That was until we headed to the last boost mobile, we saw a store waving the many flags of a mobile store, Simple Mobile. After perfecting the pitch over a handful of stores, I gave it to him and he simply said “Yes” and gave us his card.
I eventually stopped hearing from the owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl and it started to worry me after I had finished the script. I hit her up on a alternate email address and went up to the spot to hand deliver her mom a Script for her, but she wasn’t there. She eventually responded she was out of town and wouldn’t be back until the 6th, but practically gave her okay on the date, March 10th via email. She never responded to my emails once she was back in town as production drew closer though..
It took two more weeks from ur meeting at Ben’s before I got anything done with the script that I cared about. I then had to reach my screenwriting mentor to run it by him. This time it took him forever to respond, but I got his final critiques. I loved his critiques but I often got frustrated because he didn’t understand basic concepts that I felt came across simply. So I abandoned the only professional screenwriting advice I had, feeling I was close to solid on the script. Organizing the table read and gettin’ everyone on board wasn’t hard but there was just the issue of the yet uncast female security guard and “Colin”. Then the crazy actor
Richard backed out because he didn’t want to drive 40 minutes from where he lives. Said it was outrageously far and Clark often failed to respond. so i dropped them both. The shootbook was completed from a schedule breakdown of the script and sent out to Tim. Tim couldn’t make it to the table read and we had 4 actors, with a Script that calls for 8. I had 2 of them covered via friends in my office.
We were still without a female security guard and our crazy Jacob backed out, and that was just the start. I began planning to play Jacob myself. I always worried about the actor for Jacob (
Richard) being unreliable, but I felt like he was a perfect fit for a homeless man on drugs. It gets crazy when you are down to the wire. One of the actors (Brook) fit pretty well as a crazy person in the table read so I gave him Jacobo. I had to find a chili manager and a female security guard but after looking at the diverse cast, I decided to switch the two. Female manager, male security guard. So the one female we have in the film is in a prominent role. Eric, now our Second lead gave me the name of a guy for the security guard and I accepted him without meeting. He only had 3 lines & to find the manager, I went to one of the We Act Radio Wednesday open houses. I explained the concept to Kymone Freeman‘s new intern and she asked me if she could do it. I love Kymone’s place. So then we had the cast on lock. The Sunday before the shoot, the 2 main characters linked up with me and the director for the first rehearsal. Tim expertly guided them through the scenes.
On that day we found out we were going to be rained out for Friday. So we moved all the scenes with bit players to Saturday and planned to reschedule the entire shoot. It was devastating for me, but Tim comforted me by saying he would like a little more time to get the lead actors polished. That rang so true in my ears. Tim met with them separately and made some changes to the script that he called rearranging & when he sent me the edits his name was in the ‘Written by’ space, beside mine…
To be continued…