CHRISTMAS IN ARGENTINA (Based on the Novel ‘Different Flags)
December 4, 2022 marks the first of many film Concepts I will be shooting through 2023. Mission accomplished! ‘CHRISTMAS IN ARGENTINA’ pulled from the pages of ‘DIFFERENT FLAGS’ by Eugenia Renskoff was complete. I was able to plan, execute, cast and work with a great group of people and essential crew.That alone was a great feat and timing IS Everything! With all production processes there were a few bumps in the road and challenges. I began with contacting Cast members who I know follow the project. Yes, they are still interested. This is important as many actors drop off as time passes and these troopers have been waiting for some type of shooting for a while.
I contacted a Cinematographer that I saw who did some amazing work on a Wedding. It looked like a Movie, high quality and I found he worked with the location I had been trying for about 2 years to get because of its amazing asthetics and Authentic Spanish Architecture and style. The perfect location for a film, short or feature. This irony and fate perhaps found familiarity all the way around. It felt right. Next I contacted a friend who had been working locally as a Videographer/Cinematographer on many productions big and small in the community and timing was perfect for him to go in a different direction. Next was through affiliation of my friend who had been working with a great sound guy, this guy is really good! So, the first phase of Pre-Production was well on its way, I had the right actors lined up a few maybe’s and now needed my Extras. I thought finding Extras would be an easy task. I was wrong. I wanted the shoot to be private, and hand pick my Extras, that did not work at all. But, it did make the set more secure.
Now, I wore many hats as they say to get this project done. As Adaptor/ Producer/Director I had to do everything to keep this engine running. I solidified my location, did a walk-through with crew and the cast that showed up, which was the Performers ‘Tango Dancers’. The Tango Dancers how amazing they were. I had contacted a Ball Room Dancing studio in my local area, to try to raise money for the feature project by using Ball Room Dance talent to entertain contributors and Gift givers by holding an event. But, that plan fell through and the timing was not right. Post Pandemic, it almost didn’t happen, but after a bit of convincing and explaining the Concept of the shoot and how valuable they would be to participate they accepted. The owner also knew of a Professional Dancer whom she danced with before that may be interested. She was right and they were both on board.
Budgeting, This is how you create a budget when you don’t have one, You just Do It! Count your cost and keep your receipts. Next was the final call for Cast and Extras, I refused to get nervous, I understand the organic and well spiritual nature of any project whether on stage in a painting, or on the screen it all comes together organically IF you let it. All productions have those nail-biter moments right before its time to perform. Shooting a film is Perfoming. So, with no Extras, I ask the entire Cast and Crew to bring and invite someone. My thinking if people who know people know people they are more comfortable to be around each other and we all will have a better atmosphere not knowing all the stress we are under during production.
Okay, Cast and Crew is here Except the main character, the lead called off. Oh no, I did not have an alternate, my backup didn’t show either, I looked around to see who could play the role there was one actress who could but she had a line as another character. But, low and behold someone came through that I totally forgot and never expected to show up. My co-worker. Omg! What a relief because by this time, the crew was on edge and actors were getting fidgety let alone cold. I’ll talk about the Atmosphere and weather in a moment. My co-worker a young girl who never acted, turns out to be perfect for the role. See how things work out organically? I love to allow the story in this case to take over and do its thing. Projects will align the people you need if you step back and allow it to happen. That was a piece of advice I received from my mentor years ago while attending college for film, he was right.
Now that we have our Cast, Extras, Crew I needed to get the food. Time was a big factor, Everyone was sitting in the dining area waiting to be called to do something. I told cast and crew I had to make a dash to get the food. Although I had a PA and a Foodie I did not have the food pre-ordered because although earlier in the week I did have a pre-ordered meal plan that fell through due to cost and expenses. It’s a balancing act. Not only did I need to get food, but I needed plates, utensils etc.. So, thankfully, my pre-order was noted and they gave me a great deal with a reduced price. I was able to feed cast and crew and extras luckily I didn’t have that many and all were satisfied so that worked out nicely. Now, lets talk about the weather.
The story CHRISTMAS IN ARGENTINA, is unique scene in itself because in Buenos Aires, Argentina their Navidad is during our the US summers. The weather is very Hot. They Barbeque and mingle with family and friends. In the case of DIFFERENT FLAGS they go to the Church Party to mingle with friends, neighbors, and parishoners even the Padre and women of the Legion is there. Music is playing, it is festive and most likely they won’t have Tango Dancers at a Church event, but in this case they did. Now the weather of course was Not Hot in December in the States, just the opposite, it was cooold. 42 degrees. Now as a Director I made sure my cast was taken care of, always asking if they were okay, they could go back in the dining area as we were shooting outside on the patio as if it was a Hot Christmas day in Argentina. They were troopers and continued on. Now sometimes crew with their technical abilities can get a bit overzealous and hold the actors longer than they need to be ..while setting up for example or changing lenses etc.. so keeping them outside was not a good thing. Sometimes and in this case you bump heads with Crew until you let them know why we are all here and what role each of us are working towards. This was a challenge but we pulled through.
As a Director I learned alot. I needed to step back and let the crew do their thing. I made sure the cast was taken care of and I had to stop the shoot becasuse we had run overtime. Timing IS Everyting. So, the actors did their scenes, and the Tango Dancers performed their Dance and that was the highlight of the shoot except for the fact that the story was not about Tango Dancers. Due to time constraints and butting heads I could not get some actors into the scene Concept although, with the pause and hesitation in the Editing room I could see what the Cinematographer was doing but, it wasn’t in sync with what the story was about and that is My job to get the story done. No matter, it all worked out, but we all were a bit stressed when it was all done yet we kept our spirits up.
In the end everyone was happy they came, challenged their abilities as actors to be in cold weather-acting as if they were in Hot, The extras enjoyed their time and the lead girl was so brave to do her best and pull it off. So I left not stressed at all but so very proud of myself to be able to complete the project I set out to do, To keep my vision for it for the most part and come up with a Pitch Concept that I hope will make Producers and Investors take notice of this feature film project.
So you see Shooting something small is sometimes the best way to start your filmmaking process. Some filmmakers jump into the challenge of a feautre right away, but there is soo much to know and learn. The Editing was amazing, the quality of Cinematography and shots were top notch, the acting was well done, even with the challenge of castillian accents needed by American actors on such short notice they did a great job. Spanish Accents now THAT and is a whole nother story. Well its now time to work on more Projects! Happy New Year 2023!