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JIMMY'S HOUSE OF HUGS was my second sync sound film, again, with no real equipment but a 3 chip dv camera. So the sound is bad in this, too, although you can still understand the dialogue.
This film I put together quickly in a week and shot in one day. During this semester I had to do three shorts films, the third being, SALLY'S DREAM HOUSE which was for my advanced cinema production course. Most of my energy needed to go to that film. JIMMY'S was the second project for Joni Varner's dv class. Originally, Jeremy and I were going to do a short documentary on Marine boot camp in San Diego, but the war in Iraq just broke out, and a week before we were going to shoot, they called us and said they couldn't let us do the project at that time. Now, I still needed to film my second project very quickly, otherwise I wouldn't have enough time to work on SALLY'S. So, on a Sunday, I shut myself in my bedroom until I came up with an idea. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Then, an idea I had previously considered about a hugging business came to mind but I didn't know what to do with it. I kept looking around my room, thinking about how there was a rumor that this 1929 Spanish style apartment complex using to be a bordello. Hugging.... bordello.... a-HA -- a hugging bordello!
I thought I could do a mockumentary on a hugging bordello for women. I thought how women can always go into a bar and get sex if they really wanted to (not recommended by me, of course) but how men didn't have that same certainty, therefore, the business of prostitution helps them out with that (not recommended by me, either) . However, women could not always be guaranteed HUGS accompanied with genuine understanding.
I still was trying to form the structure of it. Then, an actor, Gianfranco Russo, who had auditioned for a role in SALLY'S DREAM HOUSE, came to mind. I didn't cast Gianfranco in Sally's because I went with an all-American kind of guy for the part. But he had a great presence and a sexy Italian accent to boot. I started writing the role of Jimmy for Gianfranco, hoping, of course, that he could play the part. I saw Jimmy as a reformed player, who started a hugging business as a way to show his newfound respect for women... and so he could be around women.
I called Gianfranco and asked if he'd like to do the film. He accepted and I emailed him the script. When we met, he said to me, "This is me -- I am this guy!" He said that he, too, had been somewhat of a playboy when he was younger but had since changed his ways. He still retained a large dose of smoothness, but was actually very (and surprisingly) genuine.
When I started writing the script on that Sunday, I had just one week to put the whole film together. Everyone I cast was a friend/co-worker or was someone who had auditioned for me before. Megan Molloy, who played Christine, had auditioned for me for a part in the scene in my directing class, and was my second choice, but I went with Emily Brooke Hands, instead. I thought she was great though, so I called her and offered her the part.
Alfred DiMaio, was the only non-actor in the film. We worked together in QA. He's a musician (now a full time musician). I didn't care if he could act well or not. I thought he just had a great thing for the role of Tim, and I think it worked.
The rest of the cast was to be PJ Marino, Stacy Marr, Eric Casaccio, Dwight R. Williams and Sherry Mattson. But on Sunday morning, Sherry called me up extremely apologetic and extremely sick. I decided that it was too late to get anyone else so I did her part (Rachel). I ended up cutting the part down on the spot. I cut a brief intro scene with Jimmy because now it didn't seem necessary. It was easier to cut with me playing it. I would have felt bad if I were cutting Sherry's screen time down. (FYI - "bad" is correct English here -- ask my mother, the former English teacher -- one may do badly but one feels bad.)
My crew was Jeremy, as always, Thomas H. Davis as DP and Stacy McDonald who could help out half the day as a grip and second AD.
Because we had to accommodate actors' schedules on such short notice, we had to schedule most people in 2 hour blocks of time. Gianfranco was the only actor who stayed all day. We spend the whole day running up and down the stairs between the apartment lobby and my apartment. The last scene we filmed was with Eric and Stacy and at that point our pace slowed down. They're both good friends of mine so we just had fun with that scene. They did a lot more improv than I showed in the film. It was funny but as I edited the film I realized that I needed to keep the pace quick.
I went over the 5 minute time limit, accepting points taken off my grade for every second I went over. The class voted it as one of the three films to be screened in LACC's end of semester screening.
Later I did a very slight re-edit in one scene and Jeremy did the best he could to fix up the sound. There was very little that we could do to make the sound better, but Jeremy's work did result in it being a little better. I decided to try to send it to a few festivals. It got into the 2004 S.N.O.B. Film Festival, the 2005 Faux Film Festival where it won an audience award, the 2005 Plymouth Independent Film Festival, 2005 Fiery Film Festival, 2006 Marblehead Festival of the Arts, 2006 Hovey Summer Arts Festival and last month it played at the START Moving Image Festival in the UK as part of an exchange program with the Plymouth Independent Film Festival. So, not bad for a little film with bad sound, shot in one day!
To this day I feel blessed to have had such a talented and energetic cast and crew who came through for me on such short notice. (I wish I could talk more about each and every one of them but I don't want to make this post too long!) This is a film I'm looking into develop further. I just need to find a way to get Gianfranco Russo back to the States for it. He's currently in an Italian soap, "Vivere". I guess he's wanted all over the globe!
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