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That Darn Cat, Take Two

Mason the cat with Kelly the trainerOr rather cats in this instance.  Of course we’d heard the old adage about never working with animals in a movie, but since this was the story we were telling, we had no choice. Like we mentioned earlier, the cats haven't been as cooperative as we had hoped they'd be.  The trainers tell us that Marmalade is under the weather (would this be kitty flu rather than swine flu?) and that’s why he’s refusing to cooperate.  So his backup Mason has been promoted to hero cat – unfortunately, this is his first movie, and he’s still learning the ropes.

In one of the scenes today, Gabriel was supposed to jump up on the bed with Alma.  Mason could not be lured onto the bed with food.  Kelly, one of the trainers, was determined to get us the shot we needed.  So she hid under the bed with Mason pretty much sitting on her head and pushed him up onto the bed at the right time.  Desperate times called for desperate measures, and from the angle we were shooting, it didn’t look too obvious.
Luckily, later in the afternoon we discovered the secret to getting Mason to “act.”  Most cats perform for their food reward, but Mason didn’t seem to care.  For the walking down the hall scene we were trying to capture, he would turn away from the food and head in the opposite direction.  Several of the crew members figured out he wanted his kitty carrier - the little fellow just wanted a cat nap.  So for the rest of the shots, when we needed Mason to walk, we lured him with his kitty carrier rather than food.  It was great to see the team work together to get the footage we needed when things didn’t go according to plan.
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Sleeping on the Job

Edith Ivey sells the sceneAll of the scenes in Eunice’s room are pretty emotional, so Rebecca and Edith had some heavy lifting to do today.  Although for the second part of the day, Eunice was in a coma, so Edith just had to lie in bed.  But the way she did it – yikes!  Makeup had done a great job making her look like she was at death’s door, and she got so still, never reacting to anything around her… not the grips moving equipment, not the cat being wrangled, not the calls for action and cut.  After the scene was done and everyone was moving out of the room, I actually worried that maybe something terrible had happened to Miss Edith, but then she popped out of bed as her usual vivacious self.  It was kind of freaky.

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Confession Time

I went to the parking lot to have a quick cry after lunch today.  The morning was pretty bad – the cats weren’t cooperating, our gaffer told us he had to quit, and a bunch of other things went wrong.  On top of that, I haven’t slept in three nights because of nerves and excitement.  I felt the emotions simmering to a boil, and we were getting ready to film the scene that still makes me cry every time I read it.  I knew I couldn’t be on set blubbering while the actors performed, so I went outside for a pre-emptive cry.  And it totally worked!  When we filmed the scene, I was completely dry-eyed, while around me, several of the manly men were welled up and sniffling.  That scene is going to be so great on the big screen!

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Kitty Explosion

Cats everywhereToday is the second day of filming, and all the scenes take place in Eunice’s room.  Since Eunice is a big fan of cats, the art department has gone to town decorating with cat stuff.  Luckily, we did not have to hit every store in town to find such a plethora of kitty tchochkes because Jocelyn has several friends (Mary Rudisill, Cary Davy, and Jenn Ludwick) who had cat paraphernalia they were willing to lend us.  From figurines to towels to a quilt, all these touches to the room help convey the fact that Eunice is a cat lover.  Thank you, ladies!

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It’s Finally Here!!

First day of filming!Today was the first day of shooting!  The entire crew worked together like clockwork and in no time we were shooting our first scene.  It’s not the first scene in the movie, but it’s the first scene chronologically (it’s a flashback) where Eunice welcomes Alma to the home.  Edith and Rebecca nailed their parts, and it all went off without a hitch. 

We wish we could say the same thing about the rest of the scenes.  Unfortunately, the cats were not really feeling it today.  We put Marmalade in for his first scene, which was a simple walk down the hallway, and he flopped onto his side and refused to cooperate.  Then we tried Mason, and he said if Marmalade didn’t have to do it, neither did he.  Eventually the trainers were able to coax a performance out of him, but it was not the smooth sailing we had been hoping for.  Hopefully things will go better tomorrow.

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We Made the News!

Well, at least one of us did.  I can only be seen in the background for half a second, but Brian did a great job representing us.  I think both Brian and Cliff really conveyed the passion and excitement all of us have for this project and what an incredible learning experience this is for the students.  Check out the clip here.

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Getting to Know You

Getting to know youBecause we’re bringing together students from two different schools, as well as professionals from around the southeast, we wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to get to know each other before we start filming tomorrow morning, so we gathered everyone for dinner tonight.  Cliff generously agreed to let us host it in the big studio at Genesis, and we had Rusty’s cater dinner southern style – fried chicken and bar-b-que – yum!   Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, although you could feel the nervous anticipation in the air... or maybe that was just Jocelyn giving off all those vibes. 

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We’re Almost There

Matt SefickToday was the big prep day before we start shooting tomorrow.  The four principal actors arrived for their hair, makeup, and wardrobe tests.  After only seeing videos of them playing our characters, it was strange meeting and interacting with their real selves.  They were all extremely nice – not a diva in sight.

The animal trainers also arrived with Marmalade and his back-up Mason.  The cats have that regal “Yes, I’m a star” look, but then again, most cats do.  The trainers also brought two absolutely adorable orange tabby kittens.  They are brothers who are in training to be doubles for Marmalade and Mason; and if they aren’t careful, Jocelyn is going to run off with the kittens when the trainers' backs are turned. 

The crew was there to unpack the truck and get everything set up and ready to go for tomorrow.  The art department was also running around like crazy bringing Alma and Eunice’s rooms to life.  The staff and residents at Agapé were probably wondering what they had gotten themselves into… and seeing that overwhelming amount of activity, we may have been wondering the same thing!

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Truck Chock Full o' Stuff

The giant truck full of equipment arrived at Agapé Senior this afternoon.  Trident Technical College has been a tremendous help in letting us use all of their equipment for the low, low price of FREE.  We’re not sure how we would have gotten this done without their generosity.

The only snag is that TTC is located in Charleston and we are shooting in Columbia, and the truck had to be driven by someone with a commercial driver license.  Luckily we remembered that our Uncle Derwin still has his CDL, and he was more than happy to do us this huge favor of retrieving the truck.  So it’s now sitting in the Agapé parking lot hogging several spaces just waiting to be unloaded tomorrow. 

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Meet Stuffy

Stuffy and WillDuring a pre-production conference phone call with the department heads, Dave Insley suggested that we get a stuffed cat to use as a stand-in for lighting purposes.  What a great idea!  Plus, we figured if we could find one that was really realistic, then we might be able to use it in a pinch for those scenes where the cat has to stay still on the bed for long periods of time. 

So Will Bryan, our production designer, scoured the internet and found many freaky cat things.  They actually have some that breathe (it wasn’t quite the right color), and the Japanese have a realistic robotic cat that meows, blinks, purrs, and even sheds.  Ummm, okay.  Finally Will found this gem, which we gave the extremely creative name of Stuffy.  Honestly, it’s a little creepy, and we’re not sure who normally orders these things; however, we’re happy to welcome Stuffy to the team and hope we never have to use him except for stand-in purposes.