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Jack of All Trades

Rebecca Koon teaches a new card gameFate had already told us that Rebecca Koon was meant to be in our movie, but we had no idea how much of an asset she would be on set.  It almost goes without saying that she is an immensely talented actress who completely brought Alma to life.  But in addition to that, she has taken on many other roles.  She is our liaison to the residents - going to their rooms to spend time talking with them and giving them guidance when they are in the scenes.  She is an assistant cat wrangler – in several scenes where Mason wasn’t sure he wanted to cooperate, she's been able to coax a performance out of him.  She helped with set decoration – she brought several family photos and other items from home to help bring Alma’s room to life.  And teacher – while setting up the poker scene, she had several students gathered around her as she taught them something with the cards.  Knowing how many varied skills Rebecca posseses, she was probably teaching them to count cards in order to take on the Vegas casinos.  Hopefully they will win enough money to finance our next movie!

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Stormy Weather

The past three days were typically warm and beautiful South Carolina fall weather, but we were stuck inside filming from sun up until sun down so we couldn’t enjoy it.  Today was the first day we moved filming from “our hall” to a different area on the other side of the facility… so of course it is cold and rainy.  Rather than taking the short cut across the parking lot, which would drench us and all of our equipment, we had to go the long way around through the building.  As usual, our industrious crew moved and set up in frenzy of efficiency, so we were soon filming some of the opening scenes where people around the home react to Gabriel as he goes on his mystical mission.  

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Colorful Cast of Characters

Bob Hungerford and Dick WhiteWe have found a number of more “mature” actors to help add flavor to our cast.  The roles may have practical names like Piano Man and Poker Player #1 and Woman in Audience, but there are fascinating people playing them.  Lou Kaplan, Ruth Moore, and Caroline Judson are all in their mid-nineties, with very interesting life stories.  John Allen rocks the piano in two different scenes.  Bob Hungerford and Dick White are brave, brave men willing to strip down to their boxers to make sure a flashback scene is funny.  All of their little touches have helped bring the nursing home scenes to life.

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Kick Up Your Heels

Talent show anticsAlthough the day started with depressing weather, this has been the best day of shooting so far.  Not only does Mason the cat seem to be getting the hang of things, but we filmed the two fun flashback scenes today.  The last scene of the day was when Eunice and Alma play poker with two gentlemen who the ladies literally strip of all their belongings.  It was hard to keep “quiet on the set” with all the laughing.

But the scene before that was even more of a blast.  It’s a flashback of Alma and Eunice on stage dancing in a talent show.  We gathered a cafeteria full of Agapé residents to film the scene.  As we helped them to their seats, we learned that many of them thought they were attending a real talent show, so a few of the actors and crew members did quick little dances to keep them entertained while we adjusted the lights and camera.  

Rebecca and Edith are born entertainers, so they made the most of the scene once Cliff called action.  The residents clapped and cheered, and they kept the enthusiasm up over several takes from a variety of angles.  Everyone in the room had huge grins on their faces, and it’s nice to go into the two day break with such a great afternoon of filming.    

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Mmmm… Mmmm... Good!

Agapé Senior cafeteriaAmong the many, many ways Agapé Senior has helped us on this shoot, they agreed to provide lunch for all of us at a very reasonable price in their cafeteria.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to do a taste test before the first day, so we were a little nervous the food might be bland, easy-to-chew “old people” food and that our crew would revolt on the first day.  Fortunately, the cooks at Agapé are top notch and create absolutely delicious meals for the residents.  Fried chicken, hot wings, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, fried okra, seasoned vegetables, a full salad bar, cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, and on and on and on in a yummy progression each day.  There was a nice variety for picky folks, and the food was hearty for people working long, hard hours each day.  They even had iced tea and lemonade sweet enough to make a southern belle swoon.  Food is a key component in keeping the cast and crew happy, so thank goodness Agapé helped make that part of our job so easy.

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Crocodile Tears

Mary Elizabeth lets the tears flowLots of crying today, but it was all on cue rather than a meltdown.  Mary Elizabeth and Rebecca had several emotional scenes together today, and of course those scenes had to be shot from a variety of angles, so that was a lot of time turning on the waterworks.  But the ladies did an amazing job and are not showing any signs of dehydration.  It’s educational watching them work - Rebecca tends to stay in character the whole time, while Mary Elizabeth turns it on and off in an instant.  It’s almost funny watching her go from stricken crying nurse to her normal cheerful self the second Cliff yells cut.   

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Long Hours Take Their Toll

Wade SellersLes Stringer has been the gaffer associated with our project since we applied for the production fund, since he has been in the business a long time.  He managed to hang with the young whipper snappers for the first two days, but after seeing this was going to be a week of 10-12 hour days, he realized it was too much for him.  It takes a big man to admit that, and we really respect him for making that call and then finding us such a great replacement.  Wade Sellers stepped in to the gaffer position this morning.  He’s a man of few words, but his calm confidence keeps everything running smoothly.  We are very grateful Wade was able to take over in a pinch.
 

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Busy Bees

Trident Tech studentsThe five students from Trident Tech arrived in a swarm of efficiency on Thursday’s prep day.  Corey, Jimmy, Mathew, Ryan, and Shaun showed up as a group and immediately got started unloading and setting up all the equipment.  Since then, everywhere we look we see them buzzing around making sure everything is just right. 

At times they are doing so much it’s hard to believe there are only five of them and that they are only students.  Trident Tech does an excellent job training their students, and we are very lucky to have them on set. 

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Just Standing Around

Jocelyn stands inSo remember how much I love being in front of the camera... as in not at all?  Well, it’s even worse when there are 20+ people in the room looking at you.  As the script supervisor, I didn’t have much to do until the action started, so they decided to put me to good use as Alma’s stand-in.  At first I wondered if I should be insulted (I don't have that many grey hairs yet!), but if Rebecca doesn’t mind playing older, then I shouldn’t mind standing-in older. 

So before each shot, I get into position and everyone stares at me while they make adjustment to lights and gels and fans and stands and on and on while I fidget uncomfortably wondering if I still have any of the bagel I ate earlier in my teeth.  Every once in a while Dave will mutter something like, “Oh, that’s so unattractive.”  He’s talking about the light, right?  Right?!?  And it doesn’t help that I can see myself on the monitor – yikes!  I’ve heard the camera adds ten pounds, but even if that’s true, I’m still going on a diet when all of this is over.  I seriously don’t know how actresses do this every day. 

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Gracious Hosts

 

Agapé Senior resident showing her SC Film spiritThe staff and residents of Agapé have been amazing.  We’re not sure they knew what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to let us shoot there, but they have all been real troopers.  The residents have been patient as we lug equipment around the hallways and generally make a lot of noise.  And the staff has been great about finding us things we need, like a mop when a soda gets spilled.  Even though we’re a big, boisterous bunch, they actually seem excited that we’re there, especially after we bribed them with T-shirts.

The really fun part is that many of the staff and residents have agreed to be extras, so the scenes look more authentic with people milling around in the background.  Cynthia Scherbaty, the resident life coordinator, has been a huge help in getting us the people we need.  A few of the residents have been bitten by the Hollywood bug and are the first in line when we need some “atmosphere.”  It will actually be a fun drinking game once the movie is done – take a shot every time you spot the same lady in multiple scenes.