The Bacchae, The Watermelon and Beginning Blue

Well, hello. I’ve been avoiding blogging for a long, long time. But these past few weeks, I’ve been blogging as part of another project and I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. And since I’ve never written that autobiographical first novel, maybe this will suffice for satisfying those particular itches

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In 2008, I produced The Watermelon. Brad directed and edited, of course, and did his usual brilliant job. I am so immensely proud of the work we have done together and the road it has taken us on. As I look back on it, there is very clear path that started on our first date and led inexorably to The Watermelon. We met that first night and talked for hours. We talked about history, physics, our families, the 60s and mostly, music. We’re the same age and we had seen many of the same shows. We actually bonded over The Fugs – something only true children of the sixties could say that. As the evening wore on, he told me about a production of Euripides’ The Bacchae that he had done years before in Baltimore. He talked about the rituals that he and cast had created and how the audiences responded. I have a hundred pagan girlfriends running naked through Topanga Canyon and dancing over Zuma Beach during the full moon, and I knew we could sell a million tickets. Within a year, Brad was writing the script and we were in pre-production on the stage show. The show ran for 10 weeks and sold out for 7. I had never produced a show before and it was a real growth curve. Brad did the bulk of the producing – along with our brilliant and wildly talented choreogragher Kim Weild. But I began to learn about casting and that alone was valuable.

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As the run ended, I decided I wanted to produce it as a feature film. Brad set about writing the script, and I set about finding investors. The Bacchae saw producers come and go and budgets from $3m (committed at one point) to the micro-budget we wound up shooting with. Various Brits took to the script and passed it around. Various celebrities attached and then were detached by financiers and producers. In the end, it was shot in a fashion that was compromised and we literally had to steal the footage from the film vault. But we made several friends and learned a lot of lessons.

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Ultimately, that turned into a project called Hollister – a true life story based on the experience a wealthy friend had with a con artist husband. That feature fell apart when another friend, whom we knew to be treacherous, was invited onboard. Unhappy with the lack of a lead role, he found a way to sabotage the project and our relationship with the executive producer fell apart. Perhaps that was a blessing because the people we met from there on out were much more productive and far less ego driven. Brad began editing and before long, had a thriving business. As he edited, he learned a great deal about the kind of mistakes indie filmmakers make.

Then two summers ago, Brad was approached by Ann Baltz to do a documentary about OperaWorks – her training program for opera singers. We went to work together shooting. It was a blazing hot summer, and we were toting 60 pounds of equipment across Cal State Northridge in the 113 degree heat. The resulting documentary film has the improbable title SING*ularity, from the famous Shakespeare line “put thyself into the trick of singularity.” We learned a great deal about planning and shooting from that experience but we also learned an enormous amount from the program and what Ann’s teachers were teaching as well. And all of that went into The Watermelon.

The Watermelon was the first script I read when I went looking for a project. It was perfect – very few locations, a handful of beautifully written characters, a whimsical story and superb dialogue. The first page had a sight gag that made me laugh out loud at my desk. I went on to read maybe 150 more scripts but nothing else came close in either charm or doability. It also had roles for Kiersten Morgan and Elyse Ashton – two actresses that Brad and I both knew we wanted to work with.

I met Larry Malloy, our DP, at another shoot and knew that I wanted him to light the movie. He was perfect and he and Brad made a first rate team. He brought his crew along, and we shot like clockwork. I can honestly say that movie is as much mine as it is Brad’s and for the first time, when I see my name in the credits, I’m proud of the work I did. All the lessons we learned in other projects – how to cast, how to relate to the cast, avoiding narcissistic personality types, using a strong script to attract production crew that would normally be beyond the project’s budget, where to get the best buys on stuff – all that went into The Watermelon. It’s very satisfying.

Along the way, of course, there were smaller shoots and stage productions where other lessons were learned as well and they too added to the final value of The Watermelon. And it’s come full circle – while looking for a particular piece of footage, we were approached by a band that is fronted by our lead actress from The Bacchae. How funny.

Our next project – a story I created myself entitled Beginning Blue – is  far more romantic. It’s a film about music – ooo la la! It’s a bigger piece with a far larger budget and I cannot wait to really sink my teeth into it.

Lorenda Starfelt
January, 2008

© Copyright 2011
LightSong Productions
All Rights Reserved

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