CT Film

RingNation is Ready for His Close-Up

By daryl_mitchell, Flickr Creative Commons

Connecticut filmmaker Danny LeGare (writer, director, lead actor of the movie) was kind enough to allow The CuT to cover the open auditions he was conducting for his feature film, Love & War, and during that process, he asked me if I would like a small role in his movie. I would play a guy who hits on the leading lady and then mouths off to him. Since I’ve had a lot of practice mouthing off over the years I figured I could do well with that. The hitting on part…not so much.

The set was a restaurant that had yet to open called Basil’s in Stafford Springs. The owner of the place opened it up for the movie a week before the place’s debut. Upon getting inside the restaurant around my 6 p.m. call-time, there were a number of crew members hustling around setting up for the shot. Camera operators, lighting people, sound technicians, assistant directors, make-up artists…the size of the crew was quite impressive, especially considering this is not a high budget movie. And the cameras being used were huge, like the size of a 12 year old boy from Arkansas. Big stuff.

First things first: if you were going to be shown on camera, you need to sign a waiver which basically says they can use your image and likeness in the movie…or something, I didn’t really read it so hopefully it was on the up and up. Next, a make up artist came to put some anti-shine stuff on my face. Cause, I shine so much. Not figuratively.

Then I was seated in my spot at a table with my two movie friends, one of which happened to be the owner of the restaurant. The next table over was that of LeGare and his girlfriend, played by actress Gloria Stewart.

After chatting up the other people in the scene for a few minutes, the set up begins for the big scene. For this movie, there was no script. It was all improv so I had a few days to think about my lame attempts at hitting on the lady and the insulting things I’d like to say to Mr. LeGare. Finally after all the prep work was done, we heard the word from an assistant director: “Action!”

The scene called for me to get up from my table and sit at LeGare and Stewart’s table after he went to the bathroom. I would then start hitting on his girlfriend. (Do guys really do that?!) When LeGare returned to the table, we would have a back and forth, insulting each other (Yes, guys do that. Often.)

We did about four takes of this scene, each one being different than the other. The character I created for myself was that of a pompous, smug, rich, douche bag named Tad whose biggest threat to LeGare was that he was a yellow belt in karate. This allowed LeGare to more or less laugh in my character’s face and get the better of me, which was the point.

Numerous barbs flew around the restaurant, a good number of them not fit for print as this will definitely be an R rated movie. I thought our jabs flowed pretty well with a lot of quick responses and funny lines. When I initially went over to sit next to Gloria Stewart, I was acting as if she were a Russian mail order as my character thought she was way too hot for LeGare under normal circumstances. LeGare returned to the table, I went on about how amazing I am, he threatened to kick my butt, I suggested that was a bad idea because of my karate powers (yellow belt, sucka!) and it went on and on. In what was I took to be a good sign, I actually saw some of the crew laughing out of the corner of my eye.

I saw an edited cut of the scene this week and wow, I look awful! I make Gollum look tan. But the scene itself looked like it came out pretty darn well. LeGare and Stewart were total pros and definitely made a novice look less novice-y. And I didn’t look into the camera once. You only do that in porn movies…so I hear.

Overall it was a great experience. The crew was courteous and welcoming, and the restaurant was more than accommodating, even providing a big dinner for all involved. (Seriously, go to Basil’s in Stafford Springs! It looks like it’s really good.) The movie should be completed within the next few months and The CuT will a) let you know when and where that will be and b) give a report on the premiere. And I’ll be happy to sign any autographs afterwards.

Also, Danny LeGare wanted us to pass along word to any aspiring actors out there that he will personally be running an acting workshop called “Living Truthfully” on three consecutive Saturday’s starting February 12. (Hey, we’ve got no problem plugging someone who gives us access!) This is a great chance to learn from someone who really, really knows what the heck he’s doing. He’s not the type that will sugar coat things and be all nicey-nice with you. If you’re looking for that, take a class from some goober who’s looking to bang you. But if you’re looking to be a much better actor this would be a great way to do it. For more information go to blackholestudios.net and get yourself learned in the ways of the Meiser Technique. And if you don’t know what that is, all the more reason to attend his class.

Advertisements

Movie Magic: Casting

By brtsergio, Flickr Creative Commons

Connecticut filmmaker Danny LeGare is embarking on an ambitious film project right in our own backyard. The accomplished LeGare is planning to film a feature length movie, titled Love and War, from November 15-23, over eight grueling days of non-stop shooting. (Generally feature length movies take at least a few months to complete.) What makes this project even more unique is that while the story line has a set arc, there’s no actual script and lines will be totally improvised, from start to finish. It’s a pretty bold move.

While a few of the roles for this movie have been cast (LeGare will be playing the lead role) there were other key parts that had not yet been cast as of last week, such as the leading lady and various supporting male roles. So what’s a filmmaker to do when looking for a leading lady and a few supporting male cast members? Open casting call!

Last Tuesday, LeGare, along with a few of his ball-busting cast and crew, held an open casting call in Vernon to scout potential talent for this upcoming movie. The CuT was able to sit in on the auditions to get a sense of how these worked. No, there were no “casting couch” situations (at least that we saw) so get your minds out of the gutter.

The first person we saw audition was a young woman (didn’t catch her name) who had never acted before but was looking to get some experience. She arrived with her professional headshot but no resume. To the crew holding the auditions, she seemed very nervous, which is understandable given her novice status.

Another young woman, Catherine, who looked to be 23 years old, then came in for an audition. She had quite an extensive background mostly in theater. It’s pretty easy to tell when a person has been in theater; they annunciate…everything. That’s not a bad thing but as LeGare pointed out, it doesn’t always translate properly over to film.

Her resume included different accent training, various animal movement training classes (she acted like a wolf for the crew which was unusual to say the least) and sprinting. Once the official audition process got underway the questions ranged from “what would you like to do with your career” to “tell me about your childhood.”

While the answers she gave were generally good, LeGare quickly decided that she was not a “leading lady.” Although she didn’t say anything, it obviously didn’t go over well. She responded politely: “Well, there are all types of roles so that’s ok.” But she was certainly stunned by LeGare’s bluntness. Even though she did not have the qualities he was looking for in a leading lady, LeGare informed her that he can definitely find a place for someone as talented as her in the movie.

The next person to audition, after a lull, was a guy named Jason, who was auditioning for one of the douche bag/thug type guys. Jason was a tall, relatively unassuming guy who you wouldn’t normally think could play a tough guy. His resume was loaded with short films that have been shot in the New England area and he had experience fighting on camera (even as a ninja). While Jason was ok with doing fighting scenes for Love and War, he requested that the action be somewhat choreographed. Apparently a fight-scene gone wrong on another movie had ended with a knee-injury in a previous movie.

For his audition, Jason was asked to pick a verbal fight with one of the cast members in the room, without making physical contact with him. Cue the derogatory comments! It’s never comfortable to see people talking crap to each other even when they’re faking it.

Even though it seemed like Jason did a decent job of talking smack, almost as soon as he exited the room LeGare told one of his crew to pitch his head shot. The fighting had to seem as real as possible (without actual ass kicking) and he didn’t want to choreograph it at all. So there goes that.

Unfortunately, it was slim pickings after Jason’s audition, much to the disappointment of the crew. While conventional thinking might say “that’s because there isn’t much of a demand in Connecticut,” LeGare was quick to point out that “if this had been in LA or New York, it wouldn’t have been that much different.” Apparently non-union acting gigs don’t draw well no matter what city (or suburb) you’re in.

Regardless of the lack luster turn out, the always confident LeGare strongly believes that this movie will reach a viewing audience via box office. Hopefully for the sake of Connecticut film, he’s correct. If you’re in the Stafford Springs area, be on the look out for a film shooting there in the next few weeks.

We Are the Gilmore Girls

If you pay very close attention to the Asian Persuasion and I, you may have noticed something: We love Gilmore Girls. Ever since The Boyfriend moved in over at the Asian’s Palace, they’ve had DVR. What’s the one thing she records? You got it: re-runs of Gilmore Girls. This doesn’t make sense, even to me, but considering I own three seasons of the show on DVD, I suppose I’m not in a position to judge.

What you probably don’t know is the show is based loosely on our lives. We’re not sure how this is possible as we’ve never met the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, but nonetheless it seems to be true.

I came to the GG party a little late, after realizing the show takes place in a sleepy Connecticut town called Stars Hollow. I consider it my duty to give any show set in our state a chance — though Judging Amy never made it into my regular viewing schedule — but soon found that I loved this show. Many people complain that the characters talk too fast, which I take to mean the person complaining is stupid and can’t keep up. As I once told a co-worker whose girlfriend was also obsessed with the show, “You have to talk that fast to pack all that wit into an hour.” And Slate agrees with me that this was a show for smarty-pantses. Dana Stevens called it “the most bookish show on television.” Over the years Lorelai and Rory counted Norman Mailer, Madeleine Albright, and Christiane Amanpour among their special guest stars.

I’ve always been one of those people who takes in references I don’t understand, internalizes them, and either figures it out via the context or looks it up — and then it sticks with me. I’d say about 65% of the trivia rolling around in my brain came  from book and TV references that I retained. Gilmore Girls is probably responsible for 35% of that info. But it isn’t the Faulkner and Tolstoy references in Rory’s valedictorian speech that make me cry (perhaps blubber is the more accurate term) every time I see the episode. No, it’s what she says about her mother and grandparents because, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this show is a sanitized version of life.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrrlaC4w7B0

(FYI I couldn’t actually watch this clip all the way through because I’m at work and it was making me cry.)

You see, much like Rory Gilmore I grew up with a single mother and my grandparents. We weren’t rich like the Gilmores, and my blue eyes come from my father’s side of the family, my mother never ran an inn, and my step-father can’t cook to save his life — so he’s no Luke Danes — but I did drive a Prius (like Rory) and grew up to become a journalist (like Rory). I mean, I didn’t get to cover the Obama campaign right out of college and I do not want to be Christiane Amanpour–that’s too much traveling for me — but you get the idea.

And then there’s Lane Kim, Rory’s best-friend. Much like the Asian Persuasion, Lane came from a religious household where she couldn’t watch TV or eat junk food, and had to hide her music in the floorboards of her house. Throw in some hymns, Bible camp, and a penchant for dying her hair and you’ve pretty much described the Asian Persuasion. As far as I know, she doesn’t drum and never dated the adorable Adam Brody. Oh…and AP is Chinese, not Korean.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q4NL0Aq5iQ&feature=related

I’m not sure the Asian Persuasion gets as choked up as I do about this show (though Whale Rider really seems to get to her). She does, however, occasionally send me a text that says something like “Paris is learning Krav Maga” or “I hate Jess.” We forgive what the show gets wrong: Hartford is where rich people live, but New Haven is a cess pool; Stars Hollow seems  to be an half-an-hour from New York, New Haven, Hartford, and Boston but is also likely part of Litchfield County (Sherman-Palladino was allegedly inspired by a trip to the Mayflower Inn in Washington). What is important is that our friendship more or less exists because of this show. Back when we were first hanging out Dr. Gold and I insisted that we have a Season 1 marathon because it was, well, unthinkable that the Asian Persuasion hadn’t seen the show. She soon became addicted and over the next year or two we got her all caught up via DVD so that by the last season she was able to watch in real-time as one of our favorite fictional worlds came to an end. This is how we bonded.

So next time you’re reading this site and wondering who is responsible for this abomination, blame the Gilmores–they made this all possible.

The Worst Place to Live (On Film)

Last night I laid down on my couch with one of those little pillows filled with smelly crap that you put in the microwave and then apply to whatever ache or pain you might have. In my case it was my back that was the problem. I carried a bunch of boxes of books out to my car and before I knew it I was hobbling around like an old woman. Since I am currently without a boyfriend who can be forced to massage the wretched pain out of my lower back, I spent the night with the smelly pillow and started flipping through my Netflix queue and before I knew it, I was watching a movie called The Vicious Kind.

As soon as I saw the bleak November landscape I said, “This must be Connecticut.” Of course, many parts of the country are dismal and gray in November so it could have been anywhere, but I know my state when I see it. I was vindicated a few minutes later when the truck the three main characters were traveling in rolled past a green sign with an outline of our fair state on it and “Norfolk” printed in the middle.

I immediately started to wonder if this was going to be another one of those movies about how awful it is to live in the suburbs, as it seems 85% of movies set in CT are. (Even though we give these folks a shiton of tax-breaks to shoot their movies here.) Take a minute and ponder many of the more recent movies that take place in our state: The Ice Storm, Far From Heaven, The Stepford Wives and that soul-crushing piece of shit, Revolutionary Road.

When did Connecticut become synonymous with suburban wasteland? I mean, are we really any worse than the rest of the country? Seems to me that the areas outside of Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles are all as bad, if not worse, than the place we call home. Personally, I’d rather be exiled to the island from LOST than ever have to live in Florida (and that includes retirement). I mean, at least we have lots of old houses and stonewalls instead of McMansion-tract homes.

I suppose part of the reason we get a bad rap is because so many “creative types” move to Fairfield County from NYC and then proceed to become souless, dead-eyed hordes of Ralph Lauren-loving zombies. (The Prissy Bitch had that whole act down years before leaving “the city.”) But why not pick on Westchester County or New Jersey for that same reason? (Well, maybe NJ has enough other stereotypes to contend with.)

Weird thing is, contemplating this got me thinking about two books: The Lost Continent and Eat, Pray Love. As it turns out, the Constitution State’s bad rap extends to “literature.” In high school, I thought Bill Bryson’s written account of his cross-country roadtrip was hilarious–or at least the first half of it. He spends a lot of time talking about Des Moines and how it’s “the most powerful hypnotic known to man” but he glosses over Connecticut, basically calling it one giant suburb.

Then Elizabeth Gilbert went on and on about being a WASP from Connecticut and how that ruined her life, and so she needed to go eat, pray, and love all over the world. (I was working in a major publishing house when that book was first out and felt I had to read it to be informed. Don’t hold it against me.) This infuriated me. I am a Connecticut WASP and pretty much do whatever the hell I want and have never once considered getting married and moving to suburban hell just to make someone else happy. So, basically I wanted her to shut up and accept the fact that her life sucked because she sucked.

As it turned out, though, The Vicious Kind wasn’t so much about how rotten suburban life is. It was dark and moody, and there were some seriously disturbed human beings in it…but nothing about it screamed “Connecticut Sucks” to me. And I think I know why this movie was so much different.

Those other movies are about well-to-do folks, usually in Fairfield County where, I am willing to admit, the people do kinda suck. But this one was about working-class folks in Norfolk, and I’ll be honest and admit I don’t even really know where that is. Out in Eastern CT somewhere is my  best guess… There’s even a guy with a New England accent who says “wicked” a lot.

So, I think the movie studios are looking at CT in much the same way I–and probably most of New England–do. That is to say, Fairfield County is just a suburb of New York, and we only keep it around for the tax revenue it contributes. The further north you move, the more “New England” the state becomes. (This can be confirmed by the ratio of Yankees to Red Sox caps in any given area.) And as Hollywood can also tell you, New England is filled with nothing but fishermen, college professors, and farmers–as well as the occasional pizzeria worker.

Since I’m not really sure where to go with the rest of this post, I’ll simply leave you with this:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzUUqmXVMHw

Connecticut Goes to the Movies

New York has Woody Allen, and Connecticut has…well…no one really. That is, of course, except for us CuTters. Someday we’ll have the money to film our own celluloid love letter to the Nutmeg State (that doesn’t include any unhappy housewives) but for now you’ll just have to settle for hearing about our favorite movies set here…none of which is Revolutionary Road.

Anti-Couric – The Ice Storm

This was a tough one for me. I remember seeing Riding in Cars With Boys after being offered free tickets to a sneak preview. I was  with my ex-boyfriend who was from Wallingford–where much of the movie takes place. I liked that movie a lot. Also, there’s Outside Providence to be considered, which takes place largely on the campus of a CT prep school. The three-legged dog and Alec Baldwin are enough to sell me on its merits. But then I remembered The Ice Storm. If you’re not familiar with this gem, here’s the basic gist: it’s about a bunch of rich people and their kids in Fairfield County. There is a “key party,” an actual ice storm, and Christina Ricci lets Frodo Baggins feel her up while she wears a Richard Nixon mask. What’s not to love? The best part is, though, now every time I go out to dinner in Fairfield or Westport and I see some WASPy ice princess sucking down a martini I conjure images of a drunken Sigourney Weaver throwing herself at Kevin Kline and I wonder if couples out on a double date are going to do a little wife-swap at the end of the night. A girl can only hope…

RingNation – PCU

Without question, the best movie to take place in Connecticut is PCU. The two writers of the film, Adam Leff and Zack Penn, were graduates of Wesleyan University and based their screenplay on their experiences there. While college campuses in Toronto served as supplementary shooting sites, the film had a number of scenes filmed at Wesleyan, one of our finer institutions of higher learning. What makes this movie so great? Where to begin?! First off, it’s hilarious and easily quotable: “You’re wearing the shirt of the band you’re going to see? Don’t be ‘that guy!'” How about a pre-Ari Gold version of Jeremy Piven providing comedic gold with nearly every scene he’s in? His lines and delivery were priceless throughout the movie. This movie also made it cool to pretend to be into George Clinton and P-Funk. The rebellious tone in the movie is pitch perfect and inspiring, almost making you want to toss meat onto a group of protesting vegans. There are also scores of Connecticut references in the movie; talking about 84 to Hartford, CT Blue Laws prohibiting liquor sales after 8 p.m. (boo!), The Civic Center…they’re all over the place. So it it my contention that PCU is the greatest movie based in (and partially filmed in) Connecticut. Since this movie is so awesome, there’s really no comparison.

Asian-Persuasion – Mystic Pizza

For most of my childhood and adolescence, I lived under a rock. The Boyfriend calls it my “Dark Period.” My parents were very strict about what I watched, read, and listened to. So, when we decided to each write a bit about our favorite movie based in CT, my pickings were slim. However, despite its premarital sex and depictions of well-to-do dads banging the nanny, I was somehow allowed to see Mystic Pizza. While nothing about it really screams CONNECTICUT to me besides the title, I have liked this movie for a long time. First, who doesn’t love pizza? Second, most young girls sort of fantasize about being an “adult” (well, teenager) with a group of girlfriends who stand by your side no matter what happens and boys who romance you just for being a pretty girl. Listen, it’s a a standard childhood fantasy even if you realize as an adult that the guy is more likely to bang you for being a pretty girl. Although as I’ve gotten older, I will say my favorite part is the end, when the yuppie dad who Kat was having an affair with comes back and tries to give her a check for Yale, essentially demoting her to “prostitute”…and she destroys it. It’s a nice antidote to the sweet “happily ever after” of Jojo marrying a big oaf fisherman and Daisy’s country club guy showing up and helping to scoop ice cream (although forcing him into manual, domestic labor is pretty good too). However, the one thing that sort of kills the movie, and the fun of it being set in CT, was finding out that the pizza at Mystic Pizza wasn’t that great…yet seeing scores of tourists lined up outside of it every summer. But just this past weekend, I watched Beetlejuice for the first time (I hope this gives you an idea of how sheltered by upbringing was). While it wasn’t filmed in CT,  it’s supposed to take place here, as is mentioned several times. I’m not sure I fully appreciated the movie as much as The Boyfriend as he and his sister watched it countless times as children. For some reason I think it’s held in esteem more as a childhood memory, than a truly great movie. But, it was nice to see Winona pre-shoplifting, as well as a young Mr. Baldwin.

Gay Guru – Far from Heaven

Disclaimer: **DO NOT watch this movie on a rainy day!!**  While Far from Heaven is amazing and well worth the oodles of Independent Spirit Awards it won in 2002, the subtext of the movie is depressing as gay hell!  I just don’t want you seeing it on a gloomy day and then offing yourself afterward…because you know how the Gay Guru worries about you my sweets.  It’s because I care. Though it was filmed mostly in Dirty Jersey, Far from Heaven is set in suburban Hartford. The story takes place in the 1950’s and centers around Cathy Whitaker, an a-typical 1950’s housewife played by Julianne Moore. The film details Moore’s character as her seemingly charmed life careens off the tracks. I can’t be the only one who derives a sick little pleasure when seeing the walls of someone’s life (“someone” being a movie character, of course…or sometimes an actual movie star) get a little crumbly, right?  It’s sort of like how you loved seeing Tori Spelling’s character getting picked apart in the movie The House of Yes.  It’s just a little sinful pleasure, what can I say? I love this movie for a host of reasons. It deals with WASPs, the horrors of being a closeted mid-century homosexual, an interracial love affair and Julianne Moore not attempting to fake a Boston accent. I’d have to say though, what I appreciate about Far from Heaven the most is the charm of the film’s setting and style. I imagine that this was the world my late grandmother saw in the 50’s, and in a strange and sappy way, it makes me feel closer to her.

Silk City Flick Fest Leaves the Silk City

The Silk City Flick Fest made it’s debut last year, and was so successful it can no longer actually be held in The Silk City (Manchester, for those not in the know.) Oddly, they don’t seem to be looking to change the name. This year’s fest, which runs from October 7–10, will now be showing at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

John Ramagila, one of the film festival’s organizers, told The CuT that Hartford will better suit the needs of the growing event: “We partnered with The Wadsworth, Young Studios, Hartford Marathon and other venues to create a walk-able flick fest…a vacation destination.” In other words, when October 7 rolls around, there’s going to be a lot going on in our fair city, and outsiders may want to plan accordingly when driving through it on their way to leaf peep.

The CuT is looking forward to attending the fest this year and seeing some great movies from all over the world.

Walking with the Criminally Insane

Last week my boss and I decided we would start walking on the days that she’s in the office. So, we noticed that around the corner from our office people were walking dogs and pushing baby strollers through what looked like an abandoned school or hospital, and decided to explore it.

We headed over on Monday and took a lovely stroll through the Fairfield Hills Campus. We wandered along the sidewalks for awhile, discovering that they seem to be rehabbing the place and turning it into a sort of town building campus with some private offices. We admired some of the architecture, and really dug the nature paths. We even got to see a rather serene doe who didn’t seem bothered by our presence and just hung out 10 feet from us.

We wondered what the place had been, but then kind of forgot about it. Today, though, we went back and my curiosity got the better of me. I Googled “Fairfield Hills Campus” and just got information about the renovation project of the former Fairfield Hills Hospital. Booooooring. So, I then Googled “Fairfield Hills Hospital” and I got a whole different story. (more…)