I directed a film

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John Zervas and Gwen Lehman (the dream team)

I’ve been meaning to start blogging for awhile now, but I’ve been waiting and waiting indefinitely for something super exciting and blog-worthy to happen. I thought about waiting until graduation (only two months from now, dude! Whoa!), and soon after moving to Ocean City and beginning my life as a real, non-student working girl.

Then I got impatient and decided to start blogging today. It’s my first ‘day off’ of spring break, because for the past three days, I’ve been directing a short film. Sunday was my official directorial debut, which happened at the Atlantic United Methodist Church on 4th street, in Ocean City, because OC in the off-season is secretly an aesthetically perfect but totally underutilized location for shooting a film.

The fact that I just directed a film is probably only ~super exciting~ to me in particular, but I figured that somebody, somewhere out there, might be the slightest bit curious as to why I did it. Because, like, I’m a journalism student and most of what I’ve been doing lately is understandably writing and photography-related.

The short answer is that I just really like the Golden Girls and wanted to do something creatively fulfilling over my week-long break from school and work.

BL and I wrote the script for “Shady Shadows” in January, over winter break. We’d just finished shooting Erich Gelling’s short sci-fi film “Takeaway,” where BL was the cinematographer and I did production design. Erich’s script was 30+ pages, and after about one day of pre-production (finding actors and locations, buying props and wardrobe) we shot the film in a total of three days, mostly in Ocean City, plus a diner scene filmed in Selbyville, DE.

It was an intense shoot, and by the time it was over, the creative juices were still flowing within us (ew) and BL and I were inspired to write something, for the first time, together. Thus, “Shady Shadows” was born. A title which BL initially hated, by the way, but I wanted something that alluded to Sophia Petrillo’s ex-nursing home Shady Pines that was also really cheesy and dumb, because that’s essentially what the film is (also, what I am). There’s some important stuff, too, though. Our two lead actors are 63 and 70, because ageism is super real in Hollywood (this is an issue I care about). Our other two leads are both college-aged, and they play super indifferent and underpaid interns at the Shady Shadows nursing home. No matter where your passion lies, why should you care about your work if you’re not getting paid and can’t afford to support yourself, let alone someone else? Hence the mistreatment of patients at the assisted living facility, which leads to the older couple escaping the home. Misadventures ensue. Characters don’t arc so much, because, like, that’s life.

Anyway.

I’m really, really happy with the footage we got between Sunday and Tuesday, and while I’ve worked on several film sets before, I have never seen a cast and crew of such talented, passionate people, and I still can hardly believe that it was *my* film they were working on. Like, I’m a first-time, journalism student of a director, and I just happen to be so lucky?! Dude.

John Zervas and Gwen Lehman are incredible talents, who could not possibly be any more professional than they both are. Danielle Gibson and Ian Postley approached their roles more improvisationally, and that worked perfectly with the mockumentary style in which we were filming, and they played off each other really, really well (suspiciously well?). Dan Crerand is an excellent sound guy, who makes a cameo in the film, because on that particular day he happened to look super sound guy-ish (beard, all-black outfit, Joy Division shirt). Thanks, Dan the Sound Man. Reggie Hyman played the character of Reggie with a certain style and grace that can only come from years of experience getting into bar fights with people who claimed you clogged their toilet in April, 2009.

(BL is the most talented cinematographer I know but I don’t have to say that because he’s my boyfriend. Conflict of interest.)

Basically, I’m insanely happy and #blessed to have worked on my first film with such a wonderful group of people, many of whom drove three hours on Sunday just to get to our set.

If anything, this experience, though ridiculously tiring and stressful but ultimately fulfilling, has got me even more excited for the Ocean City Film Festival in June. BL and I have been tirelessly watching submission after submission of short films and feature lengths, and after these last three days, I think I can appreciate more the amount of effort that goes into every. little. detail. of a film.

I didn’t go into this blog post thinking it would turn into one large thank you note/love letter to the good people who worked on “Shady Shadows,” but I guess I should have been prepared. They made it real, and I am forever grateful + indebted.

I hope to keep blogging regularly in the future, because I am tired of spending money on notebooks and gel pens, and because life for me is about to change a lot, with graduation + moving + finding a job, etc., and I have to keep a record of these things somehow.

I’ll be back soon and probably (hopefully) still doing cool things.

Pictures below are by BL.

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Gypsy is also in “Shadows,” and she was very excited to film on the beach

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At Oasis, directing the infamous JZ

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Ian plays Ian and is really good at it

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Danielle plays Jennifer and is also really good at it

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