Brooklyn Based Filmmaker

Meme Shooting Update: Tommy’s Living Room

Sarah with the Tape-Small

We picked up shooting for Meme again on Saturday, January 17th. We’re shooting the film location by location as we can get schedules lined up and we decided that the first places we should try and shoot out would be those that had the most pages that needed to be covered. Those are scenes at Tommy’s (Shivantha Wijesinha) apartment and Lesley’s (Lauren A. Kennedy) apartment. Tommy is lead character Jennifer’s boyfriend and the two characters share an apartment. He is a VHS collector and the difficulties the two are having in their relationship are a part of Jennifer’s arc. Lesley is Jennifer’s best friend and the person that she turns to for support as she tries to cope with difficulties with Tommy and her clients (the scenes we shot back in November). Tommy’s apartment covers over 24 pages of script between living room and bedroom scenes. Lesley’s apartment is over 19 pages.

We chose to go with Tommy’s apartment first for several scheduling reasons and also it works as far as the story chronology. We focused our efforts on the Living Room scenes first as those are over 17 pages of script and also contain some pivotal moments in the film (one such moment is represented in the image at the top of this post). We had planned to also shoot the bedroom scenes in this block, but it just didn’t quite work out and we’ll be scheduling those for a future date.

Our location for Tommy’s apartment was wonderfully accommodating. The owner is a friend of our lead actress, Sarah Schoofs, and was happy to let us invade her apartment, rearrange her living room, take almost everything off the walls, and put up our own stuff. Then, she let us leave our set dressing up for the entire week between our first weekend of shooting there on January 17th and 18th and our last day of shooting in the space, January 24th. We remain very grateful for how accommodating she was for our project.

Shooting the scenes for Tommy’s apartment was a fun experience. Nothing ever runs perfectly and one of the key skills in working in film, I think, is just rolling with the issues that crop up and making the best of it. This is especially true when you’ve got no budget and are relying on the good will of a lot of talented people. That said, I don’t think we had any really major setbacks. There were complications but nothing that we had to create major workarounds for. In fact, cast and crew should be commended because we actually finished all of our planned shots for January 17th early and squeezed in shots planned for January 18th, which freed us up more on the 18th to stay focused on the scenes we ended up shooting that day.

January 17th and 18th had scenes that involved only our lead character Jennifer (Sarah Schoofs) and her boyfriend, Tommy (Shivantha Wijesinha), but when we came back on January 24th, it got a bit more complicated. We brought in Kitty Ostapowicz and Chaz Cleveland to play Tommy’s friends and fellow VHS collectors Carrie and Kyle. The scenes with four people also had a lot more movement and so blocking became a lot more time intensive than the previous weekend. In addition to that their scenes were longer. So, the 24th ended up being a long day and a fairly exhausting day for everyone. Still, cast and crew alike did a great job of bringing the energy needed throughout the day to make it a success.

I’ve only worked with Sarah Schoofs and Kitty Ostapowicz on set before these shoot days. Both of them originally entered my life for Meme back in 2013 and since then we’ve shot a few shorts together. Kitty has become one of my favorite people to work with and I’m eager to share our film, Time Signature, with the world soon. Sarah and I did some other small things and then, of course, she was on camera playing Jennifer back in November for Meme. It’s great to finally be working with them on the project that we met for back in 2013 and they’re both embodying their characters wonderfully.

Shivantha Wijesinha and Chaz Cleveland are new for me to work with. Shivantha was brought in for Meme back in 2013 and we just haven’t had a chance to work together until now. He’s doing a fantastic job with Tommy who rides a line of likability through the script. Shivantha is playing that perfectly and I’m so glad to have him with us. Chaz is brand new to acting. I met him on set while helping on a shoot for my friend, and new Art Director for Meme, Nicole Solomon. He was playing an extra. That was pretty much his first time on set. I liked him so much that I decided to see if he’d be interested in playing VHS collector Kyle, a role I’d been having some difficulty finding the person I wanted for. Chaz responded with interest but also telling me he had never acted before. I asked him to do a brief video audition and after showing it to my producer, Carolyn Maher, she agreed with me that Chaz just exudes the natural charm and positivity that we want for Kyle. So, we cast Chaz for Kyle. I am so happy with the work he did and he was great to have on set. He was very positive and interested in the process.

I could probably go into more detail on everything. I won’t for now, but I would like to make sure that I extend thanks to Peter Westervelt, Carolyn Maher, Erin Clayton, Diana Molina, Nicole Solomon, Kima Baffour, Cheryl Hampton, Warren G. May III, Ian Bibby, Jessica Mannion, Alley Scott, Sarah Schoofs, Shivantha Wijesinha, Kitty Ostapowicz, and Chaz Cleveland for all doing their parts to make our first weekends back shooting Meme a success.

When we complete our scenes in Lesley’s apartment in two weeks, I will post an update about how that goes.

Now, some fun behind-the-scenes photos: