House of Hugs Productions

Julia Radochia's blog for her films, film festivals, and film in general, among other things...

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And now, the story behind "I Just Want to Eat My Sandwich" - Part 1

A few years ago I wrote posts on the stories behind the making of my films. I just realized that I never did this for I Just Want to Eat My Sandwich. I really just plain forgot but part of it may have been due to my having to confess a few things.


THE ITCH AND THE IDEA

It was either late January or early February of 2007. Jeremy and I had been in Arlington for about six months, both working full time jobs. It had been a little more than a year since I filmed anything, and getting close to three years since we filmed our biggest project, Eddie's Winning Date. Due to time and money constraints, it had taken us 14 or 15 months to complete Eddie's. I was then spending time shopping it around to festivals and attending them. At this same time Jeremy and I had decided to move from Los Angeles back to Boston so we had to put our efforts into saving money for our move. We both had a lot of OT opportunities at our jobs so we took them.

So that winter a few years ago I had a creative itch I needed to scratch. I really hadn't been thinking of doing another short, at least not another short that cost any money to make. I wanted to save the efforts for a feature. But we weren't anywhere close to doing a feature and the need to create took over. I figured if we were to do another short, it would be a simple, near no-budget film -- and really, that's all we could afford anyway.

I wasn't sure what to do until one day I was eating lunch at my desk and a co-worker of mine came by and said, "Oh, you like carrots?" I was a little annoyed, feeling the animal instinct to hide with my meal. I realized that that was my film. The story started forming in my head.

Now, I had decided that if I were to do a film that I wanted to get it done in time for the Plymouth Independent Film Festival. They had screened two of my films in their first two festivals so I knew I had a good chance of getting something in again. So I figured that we needed to film by the end of March and that meant that I should start looking for a cast soon. I wanted to get the word out as soon as possible as scheduling auditions and finding the right people would take some time.

Here's my first confession: I put a classified ad in newenglandfilm.com before I wrote the script. Now that goes against just about everything I'm about and I, as an actor, would never send my headshot in to a production that didn't have a script. I just knew I would get the script done, and I already knew what to look for in my main character, and for everyone else, I wanted a variety of types of people, so I just needed to state that.

I actually can't remember when I finished the script. I probably spend a week on it. When I sent sides to the actors I don't think they were from the final version of the script, but often that isn't the case any way.

CASTING

Here's my second confession, and any Sandwich actors reading this, please stay tuned, because it does get complimentary: I didn't get a lot of headshots. At the time, Newenglandfilm.com wasn't great at updating their classifieds in a timely manner (I believe they've gotten much better at it now, though) and I think a lot of actors just didn't always look there. I deliberately decided not to put an ad on Craigs List because I knew I would sifting through resumes of several people who wouldn't be right and then possibly auditioning too many people. I guess I don't enjoy long audition sessions. I told myself, though, that I was going to get the right people for the film, and that the actors reading the classified on NE Film were more likely to be serious actors, so that one ad was the only one I placed.

I neglected to mention earlier, that another reason I wanted to film again was to prove I could start and complete a film that was not a school project. This would be our first entirely non-student film. The great thing about school, though, is that it provides you with audition spaces. Now we were on our own. We didn't have the money to rent a space and nor would we audition people at our home. I then thought to ask the people at ACMI, our community cable station, of which we were members, to see if we could use one of their rooms. They agreed as long as they could show our films. Fine with us.

The evening of the audition, Jeremy wasn't feeling well, so my father came to help me with the audition. He did the camera as I read with the actors. My father also asked everyone how they got there and did they know how to get back. If they didn't know the best way, well, Dad made sure he gave them the best route. To my national readers, if there are any, it's a New England thing.

Well, anyway, every actor who came in did a very good read. The women all read for Susan, the main character, as well as one of the other female characters. Each actor fit into one of the characters so well that I felt I was already choosing the cast as the auditions went on. I found that while the women all read well for Susan, that I loved them in the character roles better.

I believe the first woman to audition was Zele Avradopoulos. Good Susan read but when she read Claudia, I knew I wouldn't find anyone better. I was so sure I would cast her that I started talking to her as if she knew she had the part. I had to catch myself.

With Penny Benson it was the same thing. When she read for Alexandrianna she claimed the part. With the part of Andrea, the young administrative assistant, I was a little torn between Nicole Levitre and Carolyne Gallo. I thought they both seemed a little young for Susan, even though they may have been a little older than they came off as. So they were both up for Andrea, but I went with Nicole because she had more of a contrast in type and energy to that of Susan's than Carolyne had. It had nothing to do with who was a better actor. I felt bad that all I had left to offer Carolyne was a one line part, but I hope she knows that I offered it to her only because I still thought highly of her talent. I do not throw just anyone into a role.

When I write scripts, I often already know the type of person I want for each role and how I generally expect them to deliver their lines. So I then look for the person to meet my vision. But, there's always the person that changes my mind. In Eddie's Winning Date it was Ryan O'Quinn, the guy from Virginia who played what was supposed to be a Boston guy's role. This time it was Michael Sullivan. I don't mean that he didn't come in meeting some of my vision. He had the laid back quality that I was looking for. The difference was that I had thought of the lines as just being thrown out kind of quickly and haphazardly, whereas Michael was much more deliberate and involved with the sandwich. His fixation on it was not just funny but had a certain vulnerability to it that you can't just force out of any actor. I love when humor has that kind of sweetness and vulnerability to it. I thought Michael was a true gem.

I also had him read for Dave, the guy at the end of the film who is also trying to eat his sandwich. At that point I wasn't sure what would happen with that role. I had asked my brother, Stephen, if he would do the part but he was still living and working in New York City and he wasn't sure if he could get off of work that weekend. I loved Michael's reading of Dave, too. I knew I would cast him, but just wasn't positive what in role. I was leaning toward having him as Jeff, even if Stephen wouldn't be able to play Dave.

Jonathan J. Donahue read for the role of Gary, the boss. With the boss, I was more open to the kind of person who would play him. My only real requirement for the role was that he come off as a bit inept, overwhelmed and trying to keep it together. Jonathan was a little nervous for his audition but it actually worked well for the role. I had more guys to see after Jonathan, but I felt happy after his read, because I thought he would be great in the role.

I was supposed to have more auditions another day but there was a snowstorm, and the few actors I had scheduled that day all had to cancel. One of them was Dan Bolton, who played Michael. I could tell from his headshot that he was a good actor and that I could cast him without even seeing him. There's a story to the character, Michael - he was originally a female named Lakshmi and Claudia, the HR person, couldn't pronounce his name. I didn't get any Indian actresses, though, so I needed to rethink the role. I then thought it would be funnier to have a guy with an easy name that Claudia thinks is more exotic than it is. Add to the fact that Dan is a very anglo-saxon looking guy, I thought it worked much better than the Lakshmi idea. I'll probably write a little bit more on Dan in part 2 when I talk about production.

Back to the role of Dave -- it turned out that Stephen wasn't able to come up the weekend we were filming. So I asked good ol' Bill McNally to do the part. I've know Bill since 1996, when we acted in Bill Millios' film Old Man Dogs. Bill McNally has also spent time behind the camera as a director and assistant director and so Bill also helped us out as an AD and our sound guy.

I didn't have anyone for Sam so I asked Sonny McCarthy to play the part. I met Sonny when we both acted in a Fitchburg State College film that fall. He was a nice guy and good to work with and even though the film we did was totally different from Sandwich, I thought he'd fit the role well.

Another person I asked to do a role is my friend, Ken Toomey, whom I've known since high school. I gave him the line, "Susan, do you really eat baloney?" Ken has performed in many shows in the past and he also performs every day as a fifth grade teacher. It turns out it's a good thing to put a teacher in your film. Because his students have provided many of the hits that Sandwich has received on YouTube.

This is the part I really didn't want to admit because I thought the actors would feel insulted. Just about everyone who auditioned for me got a part. But, actors, please read on. If I did not feel that they were the best people for the roles I cast them in, I would have kept looking. I am very picky about whom I cast from the main role to the smallest part (except for the tiny voice over part I cast myself for in Eddie's Winning Date which was two words -- "Eddie who?"). While I do not enjoy having lots of auditions, I will not settle on anyone who does not meet the needs of the role. I felt very fortunate to happen upon actors who were perfect for my vision. If I auditioned ten people for every role, I would have still picked this same cast. And just look at Richard Propes review. He loved the cast.

After auditions, the only role I still needed to cast was Susan. I deliberated over how to go about it. I then thought of my friend, Rachael Lillis, who lived in New York. Rachael has made a name for herself in the voice over world doing voices on Pokemon. But the woman really should be on camera. She's very natural and can tell the audience what she's thinking with the most subtle expressions. So I called and asked her, thinking she would probably not be able to do it. To my surprise she was available and totally gung ho for it.

I was afraid that the other actresses would think that I always intended to cast Rachael, and that I lured them in to audition for me under the guise of auditioning for the lead but never meaning to give them the part. As an actor, myself, I would be ticked if I were auditioning with false pretenses. I can tell you that there absolutely were none. I really meant to find Susan through auditions, but it just worked out the way it did.

Casting is a huge part of making a film. I really believe that a huge chunk of directing is taken care of in casting. If you cast the right people, you usually don't need to give them much direction, and when you do it's just little adjustments here and there.

OK, I had intended to write everything in one post but this part of it has already taken up some time. So I'm going to write about production and post production in another post.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wanted (and appreciated): Fans


I just created a page on Facebook and hope that you will become a fan!

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