8/2/2021 - entry 04
Over week ago I landed in Cleveland, spent a quiet night with my mom and a bowl of chicken and rice soup from Corky and Lenny’s, and tried to convince myself that my super aggressive schedule for Shalik’s shoot day would go off without a hitch.
I can say with absolute certainty it did not! But that does not mean it wasn’t wonderful.
Shalik’s parents' very quiet neighborhood was not so quiet on Thursday Morning, July 22. I think everyone on the whole street was having construction done or mowing their lawn.
I got a bit concerned for Steve (cameraman)’s health in the back of the car filming while holding the camera for so long.
We had a couple conversations with the cops at the Akron Children’s hospital to buy us some time
We had a miscommunication of where to meet for one location and ALMOST missed the very small window we had with a key interview.
It was VERY sunny and for those of you who are production folks, you know, that’s never ideal.
The size of the camera makes a huge difference. Sometimes you have to go with the person over the right camera but if you’re trying to hit 5 locations in 1 day - GO LIGHT!!!!
Always have postcards about the film on hand. You never know who you will meet who is VERY Interested in what you’re doing.
It may actually be better to shoot guerilla style and ask for permission later (or after you get stopped by the cops)
It's not easy to back up footage in the back of a car
Shalik is amazing! And I can’t wait to see her again in Philly! Ok, Kevin is pretty darn cool himself.
I definitely don’t need to tote my clipboard around, but a fanny pack… that’s useful.
And now, I’m on to Philly with 2 key days of filming ahead of me. And if I'm being honest, these two days are certainly putting me in a financial hole. I have complete faith that I can bring this money in at some point and I guess deep down I know I will or I wouldn't spend a large chunk of my own to make this shoot happen. And boy oh boy do I have another whirlwind shoot planned but I’m pumped.
It better be less turbulent than my flight here was. I hope the pending storms stay far away from me and I hope that Molly and her infinite amount of friends actually have fun and enjoy their time on camera. I hope that very much for Shalik too even though I know she’s currently tossing and turning thinking about how nervous she is for part two of her tattoo.
7/20/2021 - entry 03
When I was in the “casting” process for the film, never in my life did I expect to find someone from Northeast, Ohio! I thought for sure my stories would hit NY, LA and of course Chicago but to tell someone’s story who grew up less than an hour from me, that was kismet. I’m extremely proud of my hometown of Cleveland and feel an immediate connection to people from that general area (even the Westsiders). When Shalik’s story fell in our laps, or shall I say “inbox”, and we had our first call, I felt an immediate bond. Who knows, Shalik may feel differently but I’m telling you from my perspective, the energy, the passion and the general midwestern vibe (despite her living in the east coast now) just hooked me. And from that moment until now, despite never being in the same physical space, we have continued to bond, and laugh ourselves to tears.
This woman is a force and to have the chance to film her in her hometown, in the place where life changed for her as a teenager is very special. To get a glimpse into her younger years is something I’m very much looking forward to. I’m also looking forward to lunch from Aladdin’s which happens to be one of her favorites and carries a lot of memories for me! But mostly, I’m looking forward to meeting the people who raised her cause they did a damn good job.
7/14/2021 - entry 02
Rochester is now behind and from what little I saw, I certainly enjoyed it – especially staying directly across from the art museum in a converted school building (named for Alexander Hamilton). And despite some next-door neighbor partying until after 4am (thank goodness I sleep with a sound machine) I’d go back and stay there again (just maybe not on a Tuesday night when 80% of the restaurants in the area are closed!)
Shoot day - what a thrill. The anticipation made it hard to wait until the camera was ready to see Loo in person for the first time but I did!
We were fighting a weather forecast that called for storms all day and with more than ½ of our filming planned for outdoors the producer in me stressed the whole time, even when I knew hourly we were in the clear.
Our Rented camera showed up missing 2 items so we were delayed starting as we waited for them to be delivered.
A last-minute funeral took one of our featured players out in the middle of the day (activating Cecilia and I to quickly swap things around)
One of our “talent’ had a few family emergencies pop up so we had to move forward without her.
And…there may have been a little “lost in a cemetery” action going on too. I should note that in regards to cemetery shoots, I am extremely creeped out being in cemeteries. But that shoot, with my mind focused on other things (like an eminent torrential downpour) I began to get over my fear. So much so that by the time this is published I will have been at 3 more cemeteries and likely not panicking while there.
One thing I’ll be including in all my shot day blogs is my list of lessons learned. Hopefully other filmmakers out there will already know some of these or could learn from them, though each film is quite different and some of my lessons may be a bit more person (like #2 on today’s list)
1. Always have a dedicated audio person on each of my “day in the life” shoot days and have them keep rolling even if the camera’s off.
2. Make sure the person you are featuring takes you to at least one of their favorite spots for a treat: coffee, juice, ice cream….(ok, this is just a personal note!)
3. It’s okay to not make advances in your friendship with the folks you’re interviewing on that day – there is plenty of time for that in the future. Your goal, get a glimpse into their life without you in it!
4. Capture the mundane: The sitting, the thinking, the cooking – and don’t make them talk while doing it!!!
5. If at all possible, especially with a small crew, make sure you, as the director have a direct line to the cameraman’s ear. The risk of ruining a wonderful and real moment is certainly more likely if you have to walk into a room!
Highlight of the day: A home cooked “Garbage Plate” made by Bonnie and Loo. A Rochester tradition that may sound a bit weird but tastes a lot good!
But boy, what a day. I truly feel I know Loo’s life just being in their home, seeing their world and dining at their table. Our team was made to feel so welcome. I know that Loo wants their story told just as much as I want to tell it and I’m so honored to get to do so!
That’s all for now! Thanks to Bonnie, Loo, Olivia, and of course, the adorable Kevin!
6/29/2021 - entry 01
Fifteen months, that’s how long I’ve been working on my first feature documentary, originally called, The Untitled Tattoo Documentary, Jews and Tattoos, My Body My Canvas and what finally became…. UnScarred. Fifteen months in which I have thought about the topic day and night, met countless people who are touched by the subject or passionate about having their voices heard.
When I say “met” I should clarify - the amount of zoom meeting recordings I have is insane. Actual personal interaction has been limited. Yet somehow in the midst of the pandemic I, along with the fearless Cecilia, my Associate Producer, have garnered support, connections and friends all over the world.
Thus far we have had five shoot days for the film, only two which we physically attended, behind masks in Chicago, many feet apart. And while I think I managed remote directing the best I could, nothing compares to being there in person. And now, the summer of 2021 is the time. This week I embark on the first of at least 6 days of filming before September. This week, I head to Rochester, NY to film with Loo and I can’t wait to give them a BIG HUG. I feel like I know everyone so well at this point and as a hugger, it pains me to have not physically touched ANY of the survivors throughout this process.
Then in July it's off to Philly and in August New York, another couple days filming in Chicago and then Colorado - So Molly, Shalik, Shako, Quemuel, Laura, Stephanie, Brenda and Melvric, I’m coming for you and you better be ready!
I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous - I haven’t been on a plane in fifteen months, the filming timeline is aggressive and I haven’t raised the money I need to do all of this, but nevertheless I’m gonna power through. After all, as I sit here watching my children avoid going to bed, running around screaming, I think about all I have juggled over the fifteen months - all the pressures of keeping a business alive, supporting two elementary school aged children as they navigated virtual school (one in spanish immersion), being a short order cook, serving on three non-profit committees or boards and trying to maintain relationships with my friends and family who don’t live in my home.
But what rises above all of that, when I really reflect on the past 15 months, is the education I've received, what the survivors in the film have taught me, and what my own deep dive into understanding hate, both of oneself and of others has allowed me to understand and fight to change. It's all of this that makes me realize I will persevere, this film WILL be made, no matter what! So stay tuned for more behind the scenes posts as I make my way through this nutty production schedule!