I'm honored to announce that 'Uncovering Eden' is an Official Selection of the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival! You can check out the complete schedule here! <--- click!
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At 5:00am I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. I knew that this was the biggest day of filming because of how many people would be involved in the shoot.
Thankfully my Assistant Director, Toro Adeyemi, showed up at the apartment at 12:30am to help me the following day… and to rag on me in any way possible because she’s my close friend and I lived with her for 3 horrible years.
We arrived at a local private school and was let in by an amazing employee, coincidently named Darren, who stayed with us all day as we worked with about 20 or so extras plus our cast and crew.
The first scene we shot was in the hallway of the school lined with blue lockers and amidst fellow students. I kept my ensemble cast in a holding room until I was ready to bring them to set to start choreographing them. Once I blocked out my lead actors, Victoria, Marrick, David and Julia, I had my AD bring down groups of students at a time. In order to make this work, I needed to make sure that everyone knew where they were going to end up: some starting down the hall and walking to a classroom, others grabbing books by their lockers and mingling with classmates.
After my cinematographer, Jason, and I framed up the shot, piecing together how the ensemble would interact with others came together with a few run-throughs.
We had two hallway scenes to work out, one that is early on in the story and another leading up to the climax.
The second hallway scene actually leads into another shot in a classroom. With the jib, Jason and I were able to connect these two scenes with some amazing movement. I think our entire crew would agree that the shot where we follow Edie from the door all the way to her seat is pretty amazing, visually.
After that, we headed to a small library on location where we see Edie interacting with June, Chad and Darren. We also get to see how mean June is to other students… for a 16-year-old, Julia Sismour blew me away with her acting ability. She is completely captivating to watch and plays to June’s cruel nature. The way that David Laws plays Chad is equally impressive. Chad is June’s right hand man and needed to be very loud in character with not many lines. I chose David because he is excellent at adding little touches to his characters to bring them to life… in this case, his body language and the presence of a hair comb as his prop is pretty fascinating to watch… Trust me, you will understand when you see the film.
Marrick and Victoria’s on-screen chemistry felt so real that some of our crew couldn’t figure out if they were rehearsing or flirting with each other. Either way, they looked great on camera, even for some of our darkest scenes. Both Victoria and Marrick are actors who ask many questions about their characters in order to truly become them. Victoria is wonderful at putting herself emotionally into a scene and channeling inner struggle. I am very glad that I chose them to play these roles.
Our last scene of the day was on a school’s unused baseball field. Originally we were going to have this scene on some school bleachers, but couldn’t get permission to use any. If there is one thing I’ve learned about filmmaking, it’s always to have a Plan B. In this case, the baseball field actually worked out better visually and we were all very happy at how it turned out.
I find that as a filmmaker, I can’t always get the perfect location, but there is always a way to make it work. In fact, I didn’t have a location for the school until a week or so before we needed to film. I had contacted about 15-20 schools and people either didn’t get back to me, said no, or it was too expensive to use.
…Remember, there is always a way to make a scene work!
On Saturday, August 3rd, I drove to the train station to pick up Uncovering Eden’s cinematographer, Jason Krangel, and cast members Marrick Smith and David Laws.
I had been waiting for about five minutes when suddenly I heard a bang on the hood of my car and loud laughter coming from my aforementioned actors. They clearly had the uncontrollable need to scare the wits out of me… Clowns.
I took them over to the Johnsrud home to meet the rest of our amazing cast, Victoria Pedretti and April Woodall, and crewmembers Michael Russo, Kevin Johnsrud, and Chaz Boyd. (Erik Kristiansen, Toro Adeyemi and Ryan Hansen would complete our crew the following day!)
They bonded almost instantly and I felt a sense of pride for picking everyone involved in this project. The one rule that I follow when making a film is ‘always choose people that work well together’. Having a good vibe on set with a small crew is paramount in creating a successful project.
Once all the cars were loaded with our camera and lighting equipment and the actors were prepped, we headed out to our first location: a small, privately owned grocery store named Centre Fruit Gourmet. In all honesty, I think the owner allowed us to film there not just because he is ridiculously nice, but because my dad regularly buys their eggplant salad on a weekly basis.
Setting up our gear and establishing our lights was a breeze, courtesy of Jason and Mike, and we were ready to film within half an hour.
This was the first time that the cast worked together in front of the camera and it is literally the only scene that they would all be in. Whatever worries I had were quickly diminished as soon as I called ‘action’. It was like I wasn’t looking at Victoria, Marrick, Julia, David and April… I was watching Edie, Darren, June, Chad and Edie’s Grandmother in the grocery aisle… the scene that took place felt real to me in a way that I only imagined while writing the script. Seeing it on the little monitor of the RED Camera and even just watching them all interact was a director’s dream come true.
In this scene, the cool kids interact with Edie, while her grandmother is blissfully unaware. Darren, played by Marrick, is starry eyed as he says hello to Edie, bumping into the aisle as he passes, while June, played by Julia, cattily assesses the situation. Chad, David’s character, delivers the blow that hurt’s Edie’s feelings. All in all, everyone took direction well and brought this scene to life.
After a much needed lunch break of beer and pizza, (for everyone except Victoria and Julia who are 18 and 16 years old), we headed out to a public park for magic hour.
The scene we shot was with everyone having fun with some sparklers… I don’t want to give too much away, but this scene is juxtaposed with a very climactic moment later in the film.
We ended up using the Jib for most of these shots and Mike and Kevin kept running back and forth between the actors so they always had a lit sparkler… it was extremely chaotic and a huge amount of fun!
I was afraid we would be caught at some point with all of the smoke we were making and in about 30 minutes, we saw lights in the distance by the park’s patrol…
…Who then decided we could have a few more minutes because they thought it was very cool that we were making a movie and even asked if they could be in it. HA!
15 minutes later, we were told we had to leave because if police caught us there after dark, we would be slapped with a hefty fine. The patrol explained we actually needed a permit to film in the park… cough cough… and were nice enough to stick around until we left so we wouldn’t get in trouble.
I couldn’t have asked for a smoother first day of filming and I can’t believe how nice people were to my cast and crew.
… Day 2 was even better.