The Waiting Game

Our precious film is out of my hands and into the palms of scrutinizing judges ready to tear the script, acting, lighting, and camera work to pieces. While there are some tenacious feelings enveloped in this process, there’s nothing left to do but wait. And wait.

But let me be realistic, there is no use in simply waiting! There is much to be done! And much have I done since the temporary conclusion of this project:

This November, on the 19th, I released my second music project as a singer/songwriter titled “Cry of My Heart.” This project reflects an honest evaluation of my life and faith. The album can be purchased via iTunes and Amazon. Find out more about my heart behind the project and where to find the album through my website: annamariecarey.com. During the process of collaborating with musicians, photographers, and graphic designers to sculpt this EP, I have made a venture back to my theater roots by acting as a stage manager for a Christmas show called “A Christmas Pudding” at The Open Window Theatre. In the midst of this time, I started constructing the outline of a new film. The purpose of this project was to give me an opportunity to work with a new director of photography, who happens to be a dear friend of mine, also a DP for Pinstripe Productions in the Twin Cities. Furthermore, it would allow me to work with actress Hannah Cox once again, in order to stretch her talents (Marina in Mother of Us All). But as ideas began to flow, the project soon became far more complex than intended; a good thing in some ways! I won’t be recounting the process of that film in great detail, as I did this film, but you can hear snippets about the project and my other creative endeavors through my new blog: strategicdreamer.wordpress.com

There is still an adventure to be had with my little “Mother of Us All,” but the course is still being molded. And while that process is taking place, there is much to be done! Thanks for following me in this insanity, known as film, and for continuing to follow me through my music and my various creative projects.

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Post Mort

As outlined from day 1 of this ambitious feat, Mother of Us All was completed on May 14th in it’s final form and presented to the Senior Project Class of 2013 at Northwestern College. While I was certain my efforts and my 384 page book detailing the filming process for this short piece would guarantee me a good grade, I was more anxious for the responses from my peers, family, and other critics who would eventually see my film. If I still wasn’t 100% confident in my final product, would others see value in it?

Allow me to  re-wind a bit before I get too far ahead and catch up on the tales from the final days of shooting and editing. With each project I pursue, I have come to expect some sort of “catastrophe” which would define the project among the cast and crew. For my last big project Charioteer, this was the wide-spread food poisoning episode, which we dared not repeat. This project never saw epic happenings like that, but we were not shy of of fair share of challenges. As aforementioned, weather continued to be a massive complication, so much so that we not only had to re-locate most of our outdoor shoots to indoor locations, but we even had to brave a watery, icy, snowy, and windy storm early in the morning on one occasion. After that incident, we worked extra hard to avoid shooting outdoors. We also apparently wore out our lead actress Pauline, causing her to get a high fever in the final week of shooting. Nevertheless this incredible woman pulled together her last bit of energy to perform one of the most intense scenes of the film in a last-ditch effort. Our younger lead actress, Hannah, experienced a small sprain in her wrist, hypothermia, and much smoke inhalation throughout the filming process. But she, like Pauline, laughed off each situation and moved on with more intensity than before. As locations and schedules began to complicate themselves, we had to split our remaining two shoot dates into a week’s worth of shooting, fitting them in wherever we could. There were times when it looked as though some scenes were never going to get shot and if it weren’t for my hard-working and creative-thinking producers, we probably wouldn’t have finished.

As I pulled together the final pieces in the editing process, which I did myself because I don’t trust any editors to handle my work (something I will have to get over in the future), I grew incredibly weary with the project. I feared that there would never be a day where I would fall in love with my film. But once I finished my final picture-locked cut of the film and got a chance to remove myself from that process for a while, I had some time to reflect on the positive aspects of the project. The moment that my feelings really began to turn however was when I handed the project over to my audio editors. This is when new life was breathed into the crevices that had caused me to dislike the film. We created the most complicated audio design that I’ve ever come to work with. I wanted to play with space and focus on where dialogue and sound effects were coming from. We also had the insane task of creating montages from scratch which featured battlegrounds, television shows, and a re-creation of the California Primary in which Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I wanted these pieces to come directly from Leo and Virginia’s own imagination.  They would prove to be more powerful and more telling than the visuals within the film.

The final piece of this elaborate puzzle was in composing the soundtrack. I began this process back in January as I started developing the aesthetic with a local musician who also possessed a degree in film, Zach Lemmens. We toyed around with ideas of blending a futuristic sound, featuring elements reminiscent of the 1960s, with sounds of the past. Essentially we wanted the music to dwell in the punk rock/modern energies of the 1970s and present day with the wailing pop music of the 1950s. We looked to bands like the Yardbirds (1960s), Bad Brains (1970s), Grizzly Bear (2000s), and The Platters (1950s) for inspiration. While Zach couldn’t continue in the writing process, I still used his ideas for influence.  I teamed up with my brother Brett Carey who is also a local musician (https://www.facebook.com/brettcareymusic?fref=ts) to finish scoring and recording the project. What seemed like a hodgepodge of sounds translated into an energetic, dissonant, woe-is-me underscore which nearly perfectly fit the tone of the film. This rushed effort turned out to be the favorite element for most who watched the film. And with that, the film was “finished.”

This brings us to May 15th 2013 which will forever stand in my mind as one of the most wonderful days of my short life. It was this evening which premiered Mother of Us All in front of an enthusiastic audience at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. Folks got all gussied up in their gowns and suits and waited in anticipation for the film’s start; even my family came out in support by wearing hints of yellow on their clothing. As people continued to file into the theater, the lights dimmed and the film began to play. Audiences laughed, more than I expected, I believed they even collectively gasped at one point. I never thought I’d even have the opportunity to experience that in my lifetime.

And that marks the end of the production stages of Mother of Us All. Crazy to imagine that after a year and a half of work, I would tell the story that I had strongly desired to tell in an effective manner. Some people merely enjoyed the film, which is more than I could ask for, while others had the film impact them in some way. Few recalled memories from 1968 of the fallen, the oppressed, the fearful, the fearless. One woman recalled how fortunate she was to have a job during that period, where most of her capable friends were unable. Even my own grandfather who could care less about film has watched it nearly every day since it’s release, though I’m still unsure if that’s a good thing or not. But as this chapter closes, my film still has a new life to pursue.

This final stage is what I will call the post-post-production process. I would not be content if the film were to premiere and sit on a YouTube or Vimeo account to only muster up a couple hundred views. Though I’m not completely satisfied with the final product of this project, I still believe wholeheartedly in the story and questions driving it. Therefore I have decided to continue to premiere the film in various capacities. First of all, I would like to do more screenings so to encourage questioning of the subject matter and the film making process. Secondly, I will submit the film to festivals across the United States. This means that this is not the end of this blog either! I will use this to keep my readers informed of where Mother of Us All is headed next and hopefully when you will get a chance to see it for the first time or possibly a second time!

I am truly excited for this next stage: it’s uncertain, anxiety-filled, and thrilling. Who knows what God has in store for this little film of mine?

Until then, enjoy some of the photos from the film’s premiere. More photos and updates can be found on the film’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MotherOfUsAll

 

Me with my film professor Ann Sorenson. (Photo by Peter Guth)

Me with my film professor Ann Sorenson. (Photo by Peter Guth)

The lovely Abby Anderson who played the role of Mitch (Photo by Peter Guth).

Ryan Vanasse who played the role of Steve (Photo by Peter Guth).

Me with my principal actors: Dave Jensen & Pauline Gates (Virginia and Leo Donaldson). (Photo by Peter Guth).

Me with the stunning Hannah Cox who played the role of Marina (Photo by Peter Guth).

My incredibly creative and supportive family (Amy, Bryan, and Brett) (Photo by Peter Guth).

One of our hard-working producers, Erin McGregor.

 

A (Resentful) Ode to Minnesota

 

 

Lush, towering hills paint your body’s frame

       My fingers caress your golden hairs as they fold within the wind

Reflective, glittering lakes quench your frozen skin

       My feet skim your surface then sink beneath, enveloped

Loud, striking forests guard your gentle soul

       My body grasps your foundation, protected by wooden spears

 

But now

       Now

What once was a blissful covering of white

Now penetrates my skin

Turning my spirited blood into an icy cold

       Now

Now

You’ve lingered on

 

 

 

My every longing is for this white caged dwelling to end

My every longing is for this stiff bundled existence to cease

 

       Dearest Minnesota, love of my life

End this cruelty

This unpredictable penalty

My heart feels distant from you

It longs to be near your warmth

Your light

The returning of your inhabitants

       Dearest Minnesota, muse of my poem

Restore my hope

My wavering faith

                     My heart feels distant from you

I wouldn’t desire to live anywhere else, but for a filmmaker who likes to know no limits, I must admit my beloved Minnesota is the most challenging location to attempt a film project. This land of 10,000 lakes is cursed with inconsistent weather patterns, particularly, long and harsh winters. You would think that being a Minnesota native, I would have learned by now to write stories for the screen which do not require sun-filled afternoons and lush green foliage. After many single-digit-temperature outdoor shoots, snow-capped “summer” settings, and incongruous exterior shots, I continue with my optimism. With no surprise, that optimism has failed me yet again. I have pleaded with God, begged with Belinda Jensen, and propositioned Mother Nature to withhold this snow storm until the conclusion of our last few days of shooting Mother of Us All.

Though, contrary to the words of this ode, I have not lost all faith, for I know it’s all in God’s hands.

Prayers accepted.

Happy spring sledding to you faithful and intrigued readers.

Settled in the Unsettling

I rest in an unsettling place in the film making process where production is nearing its end, and the initial editing stages have begun. Both the bittersweet feelings of wrapping production and the distaste of seeing the story’s images for the first time tear at my every emotion. I am constantly reminded by peers and professors that this is exactly the stage I should feel stuck in. I should welcome questions such as: “Is this the film I intended to make?” “Will audiences connect with this piece?” “Will this production meet expectations?” Some days, I am quick to answer “no!” other days I repeat a resounding “yes!” The life of a director is constantly filled with this tumultuous flip-flopping and undulation of emotions. While it’s an incredibly uncomfortable purgatory, surrounding oneself with critical, encouraging, and honest friends and professionals provides justification for this tough process.  While I am able to see the value in the hard-working crew, organized set structure, and high quality filming process, the only thing audiences will be able to judge and recall is the final film itself. Such a stinging reminder both pushes me harder and scares the living daylights out of me. But for now, I shall remain settled in the unsettling.

 

The lovely Jordan and Micah capturing stunning images and audio. (Copyright Christopher Behnen)

The lovely Jordan and Micah capturing stunning images and audio. (Copyright Christopher Behnen)

Reviewing the footage (Copyright Christopher Behnen)
Reviewing the footage (Copyright Christopher Behnen)

The beautiful and talented (small portion) of the crew! (Copyright Christopher Behnen)

The beautiful and talented (small portion) of the crew! (Copyright Christopher Behnen)

 

Breathing Out Hoping to Breathe In

“Breathing out hoping to breathe in. I know nothing’s wrong, but I’m not convinced.” – “Breakers”  by Local Natives, off of the “Hummingbird” album

These stinging lyrics have been my person anthem through this last week of production. As the process on set is incredibly physically, mentally and emotionally draining, it has not been highly favorable for me through my various experiences with it. Through Mother of Us All, however, I started becoming enamored with the energy, adrenaline, and the tension of that setting. But soon enough, the energy has to weaken, adrenaline becomes anxiety, and tension rises. Unfortunately, that shift happened much earlier in the process than I would have liked. The pieces were seeming to fall apart at rapid speeds. I could easily breathe out, but was too scared to discover what I would breathe in.

It took a passionate crew of people to develop a plan to look forward, when I desperately wanted to halt life for the moment.  During these times of transition, re-evaluation, and re-structuring, I had to continuously remind myself to not let my personal feelings and doubts seep into my work and my role as the leader of this production. I will continue to live by my belief that there is no failure, the word doesn’t exist in my vocabulary, and there is nothing that can limit this production, it will only cause us to think even more creatively. I spent months dwelling in piles of research about the 60s decade. That is a success in itself. I internally battled over each version of my script, ending with a 34 page final draft. That is a success in itself. I raised my desired budget through Kickstarter. That is a success in itself. I collected the most dedicated and hard-working crew. That is a success in itself. And I pulled together a lively cast. That is a success. There hasn’t been failure thus far – and there won’t be any failure to come. Some people think I believe I am invincible, I believe I just have a willful and positive way of looking at things.

Now, with a revitalized and refreshed crew we head into our second act of production knowing that we can safely breathe out and breathe in.

 

 

Bubble Up

In what seemed like mere minutes: three full audition days quickly turned into four, a fresh and talented cast was decided upon, producers worked tirelessly hour after hour on every minute detail, the production design department flipped upside down bringing new eyes to the set, major props were purchased mere hours before shooting…

And then it came.

This past Friday afternoon was the first moment Mother of Us All was captured on screen. Everything I had been working on since last May, everything my crew had been pulling together, had all been constructed for that single moment. In two days, we shot for 18 hours; 11 scenes worth of stunning footage.

There is a phrase we use on set constantly to keep us motivated, which stems from a faux audition our DP had undergone one night. I suppose I give away my audition “secrets” when I tell this tale, and I might embarrass the parties involved, but I will proceed nonetheless. In auditions, I have the actor first read their sides according to how they had been practicing it on their own. After hearing that initial reading, I will then instruct the actor to do something completely irrational, irrelevant, and ridiculous with their second reading, merely to see how they react and interpret my direction. In the case of our DP, I had told him to re-create the scene, he was pretending to audition for, by imaging that he was relaxing in a bubble bath and attempting to seduce the reader with his knowledge of cultural references. After stunning him with such insanity, I then ordered him to “bubble up!” Since then, the phrase has become standard language for the rest of the cast and crew. In one sense, it plays to the energetic and sometimes goofy nature of our life on set. But in another, it reflects the bubbling passion and serious dedication we all possess on set. For me personally, it also matches the nature of my own state during the shooting process. For the majority of my time on set, I am trying to remain relaxed and focused while directing my actors and crew, but when filming is over and I find myself sprawled out on the floor, trying to process the day’s events, 30 types of emotions tend to bubble inside me: relief, joy, emptiness, fullness, excitement, exhaustion, disappointment, disbelief, to name a few.

Now, a day later, I still struggle to sort those emotions but look forward to the shooting days ahead with my ridiculously crazy and hard-working family of filmmakers.

#BubbleUp

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Thirty Four and Then Some

Yesterday was the 34th birthday of my boss and dear friend. She had been anticipating this day for her entire life, sitting on edge for its arrival. Though strange, she has always had the desire to reach age 34, a seemingly insignificant number to most. And yet here I am staring in torture at the number 34 which lies before me – 34 pages of Mother of Us All. Peter, my director of photography, is right when he calls it The Mother of All Scripts, for that very reason. 34 pristine white pages, seemingly innocent, but piled high with complex characters, detailed sets, and a sense of loyalty to the historical accuracy of the 1960′s. There is much that lurks around the corner as I enter into this next month without school to attend to. While my crew is slowly building and our blood pressure is quickly rising, there is much to accomplish in that short amount of time. I wish I could say that in this moment my excitement overwhelms my fear. But yet another number comes to haunt my conscience. January 14th holds the first of three auditions that will take place; auditions for 20 characters that is. January 14th also marks the day in which all of those productions aspects need to be secured on some level. 34 pages planned out to every detail in an amount of time that I can count to in mere seconds. Holding my breath, seeking God’s grace – I’ll see you on the other side.

My Boss Sarah Pierucki - 34 and Loving It! (Gentlemen, She's Single)

My Boss Sarah Pierucki – 34 and Loving It! (Gentlemen, She’s Single)

Funded!

After 30 anxiety filled days: Mother of Us All has been completely funded through Kickstarter! It has been an incredible blessing to see family members, friends, and strangers band together to support my vision. Even the poorest of college students alike to me gave up their remaining dollars to show their support. I could not feel more gracious and indebted to those individuals. This only fuels my desire to make this project of the highest quality!

But where do I go from here?

My script is in its final stages after a dramatic and emotional rewrite and will be finalized by the end of this week. This evening I am hosting a reading of the current draft (reaching 34 pages) with a group of actors. This will allow me to hear my dialogue in a different context so that I can make the necessary changes. This is my favorite piece of the entire filmmaking puzzle: hearing my words in the minds and through the mouths of others.

My crew is slowly but surely coming together: I have an incredibly talented Director of Photography who has accompanied me on previous projects (Peter Guth), a hard-working producer (Ashley Herubin), a color specialist (Joni Van Bockel), a production designer (Jay Carlson), two costume consultants (Liz Yoder and Katelin McRaith), and a man we call Kentworth (Kent Svenson) who is our “everything man.” Production aspects like props, costumes, locations, etc. are already being organized by my producer and I.

Every step from here on out will force us to continue to work diligently to bring this script to life! We’re in for a tumultuous wave of events nearly similar to the “year that rocked the world,” 1968. “The score to beat is 7.9. Keep your head in the game, that Japanese judge is very tough. ” (Brothers Bloom)

 

The Mother of All Promotions

One of the most encouraging pieces of this entire filmmaking puzzle is the support I have received from friends and family. While some have been able to give financially or promote my blog/Kickstarter profile, others have offered up their talents and their time to help with promotional efforts. I have inherited a PR manager to conjure other methods to help draw in funds. We are looking into contacting gender equality groups, feminist organizations, and historical societies to see if they will be able to financially support Mother of Us All.

I was also recently approached by an artist friend of mine from college named Joni Van Bockel who offered to design original posters to promote my Kickstarter page, and eventually create the film’s poster. Her attention to historical detail and color reflects both the culture of the 60s and the film. It is incredible to see my vision translated so well in the minds of others; to see it come alive through art and text and to see my passion instilled in others. God has already used my project in unexpected ways, even before the film has hit production. Here is the incredible poster my graphic designer created, and for more information on Joni Van Bockel’s work check out her portfolio (http://portfolios.aiga.org/jonivanbockel)

The promotional poster for the Mother of Us All Kickstarter Project

Kickstarter

As expected with any film, but particularly a period film, funds must somehow be raised in order to insure the highest quality, and in my case, an historically accurate film. With my previous period piece Charioteer, I was able to  save a portion of each paycheck I received months prior to the start of the project and tried to borrow props and costumes as much as possible. But with Mother of Us All being on a significantly larger scale, I had to think a little more creatively. I had exhausted bake sale and car wash ideas (surely, I jest) and thus had to look into more promising options.

I had heard of a recent independent film Blue Like Jazz being funded through a website called Kickstarter (kickstarter.com) and wanted to check it out for myself. Anyone needing funding for a creative idea (film, music project, food product, art piece, etc.) is eligible to create a project profile with a specific monetary goal in mind. Anyone who is interested in the project is able to pledge whatever amount they desire and is rewarded with a gift of sorts as determined by the project’s creator (for example: a DVD copy of the film or the backer’s name in the credits). The money however will only be received if the goal is met. While it’s quite a risk for those putting their projects on the site, it is really a unique way for people all around the world to get involved in supporting the arts, even if they don’t consider themselves creative individuals.

So after much consideration, I too have taken a risk in calculating a very specific budget, researching the best possible prices on equipment rental, important props/costumes, distribution materials, and catering for my cast and crew and creating a Kickstarter project for Mother of Us All. Now, you who have graciously followed my journey through this arduous and emotional process can help make this effort a true reality by donating (any small amount helps).

You can view my Kickstarter project profile here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1914074749/mother-of-us-all.

Thank you for your continued love and support!