Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Sarah's Choice," Part Three, The Shoot

When last we left the making of "Sarah's Choice," Tim Ratajczak and I had finished up the script.  At this point, a new person entered the equation.  Producer John Molli.

John Molli is the husband of an old friend of mine, Stacey, an account executive I used to work with at the much-lauded advertising agency Smith Burke & Azzam.  John always wanted to get into the movie business.  Although he was a banker by occupation, John had once been in show business himself:  as a successful male model.  Ah, looks and money.  The poor guy....  Fortunately, I never had to concern myself with those handicaps.

John had read my script "Then The Judgement" and expressed interest in producing it.  We were working to set up the project with director David Butler when "Sarah's Choice" arose.  I contacted John and told him that I thought this would be a great project to get his feet wet on.  Also, I told him, as an investor, this project was a sure thing.  (I was right on both counts.)  John eventually got involved on "Sarah's Choice" as well as "In The Blink of an Eye"  -- the film off which Tim and I had been fired.  The irony wasn't lost on me, but I eventually returned to the project as the editor.  That film made money, too.  As a producer, John is batting a thousand.  Hopefully that will continue with "Then The Judgement."

Producer John Molli during the audio mix of
"In The Blink of an Eye" at Clean Cuts

Tim and I had already decided not to go to the Los Angeles shoot.  Although I now felt very comfortable with director Chad Kapper, considering our initial edginess, I didn't want to be too much of a presence on the set.  There's always enough tension trying to meet the days on these budgets.  Plus, why fly to California when the production was coming east for some location shooting in Canton, Ohio?  This would give me the chance to visit my wife's family in Youngstown and drop by the set to get the obligatory photos with the stars for Facebook. 

Tim Ratajczak and director Chad Kapper with
America's favortie fatman.
Still, producer David A.R. White involved Tim and I in the California shoot by getting us on the phone periodically with some of the people involved.  David called me and put me on the phone with Rebecca St. James.  Rebecca was very kind and very complimentary about the script.  She asked how long it took us to write it.  I think she thought I was lying when I said two weeks.   Tim got to talk to one of our favorites:  Staci Keanan.  She had been in our first two PureFlix films, "Hidden Secrets" and "Holyman Undercover."  My only problem with her is that she hasn't been in the rest of them. 

I was very happy with the cast of the film.  Casting Director Billy DaMota-- the aspiring actor's best friend -- did a great job.  It's amazing the casts he puts together for our budgets.  I think Rebecca St. James gave a marvelous performance.  Very understated.  Very contemplative.   Great reaction shots.  You always get the feeling she is actually listening and thinking about what the other person is saying.  That's actually a rarity.  You'd be surprised by the number of actors, who, although they can deliver a line, cannot deliver an honest reaction shot.  Most of them look like they're impatiently waiting for the other actor to stop talking so that they can say their line.  (You see a lot of that in real life, too!)  However, in the pivotal scenes, Rebecca was also able to deliver with genuine emotion and conviction. Bravo.

Since Rebecca spoke with an Australian accent, we needed her film family members to speak with an accent as well.  Staci Keanan did a great accent, and her performance in general.  She has never let me down.  Linda Bisesti also did a great job as Rebecca's mother -- and she would re-appear in Tim's film "The Book as Esther" as the evil Haman's wife.  We had Sarah's home front nailed down.  The other principal female role, that of Sarah's boss and confidant, when to Andrea Logan White.  She did a marvelous job as well.  We knew she had the skills to play a character with a hard exterior hiding a vulnerable heart.   Another notable actress in the film was Judy Lewis -- a fine actress who was actually the illegitimate child of Clark Gable and Loretta Young.  "Sarah's Choice" would be her last film.

I really enjoyed the guys in the film, too.  Brad Stine, the king of Christian comics, gave a wonderful turn.  This performance in this film was all the evidence one needed to see he could easily move from stand-up to acting.  I wasn't familiar with Julian Bailey, but he did a great job -- perfectly inhabiting Sarah's charming, if immature, boyfriend.  I expect to see more of Julian in the future!  Plus, we had Robert Miano played Sarah's boss.  I couldn't believe it, Sonny Red from "Donnie Brasco" was in my movie....

Tim's schedule didn't permit him to go to Ohio for the location shoot.  Sadly, neither John Molli's schedule -- although he did go to Los Angeles for the main shoot.  That only left my wife Debbie and me  While we were driving from Baltimore, I took a look at the most recent revision of the script.  I was a little surprised to see some new scenes that we hadn't written.  In fact, Tim and I had written any of the dialogue that was going to be filmed on location.  I had to laugh.  Here I was, driving to the set of one of my movies, but nothing I wrote was being filmed.

Ah, the life of a screenwriter....  (Can you see why I am turning to books?)

PureFlix partner and producer Russ Wolfe was less amused than me.  When I arrived on the set, he pulled me aside and asked me if I had seen the changes.  I said no.  Russ said we had to sit down and cobble something new together.  Fortunately, when Chad joined us, he said the dialogue was only an outline.  The main dialogue scene being shot in Ohio involved Rebecca talking with a real-life pro-life activist.  Chad didn't want to burden her with lines -- especially since she was talking about the activities of her own group.  The outline only existed to give their conversation a desired flow.  All was good.

Yours truly and Russell Wolfe

I had a great day on the set.  I got my obligatory photos for Facebook.  I was very happy to meet Rebecca St. James.  Frankly, I am always nervous when I meet a Christian with such a public ministry.  I am afraid they will not be who they present themselves to be.  Fortunately, she was the real deal.

Yours truly, our friend Cher Devlin, Rebecca St. James, and
my lovely wife Deborah.
The Ohio shoot was a great success.  Fortunately, we got the snow we needed for the sleight-riding sequence and, more importantly, the balloon release at the end of the film.  Chad had done a great job.

Now all we had to do was wait for the edit.....

Next installment:
"Sarah's Choice," Part Four, Post and Beyond

Previous installments:
"Sarah's Choice," Part One, "In The Blink of an Eye"
"Sarah's Choice," Part Two, The Writing

Read about the making of my other features:

21 Eyes
Hidden Secrets
Holyman Undercover
The Encounter

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

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