Talisman Production Update #3

They always say that you need to be prepared for anything on a film set. And while my past shorts were relatively controlled environments, I’ve already learned that you can never be prepared for everything.

We shot Talisman on a Monday and Tuesday in what’s been one of the rainiest summers in recent memory. When we began putting this idea together and scouting locations, we had been in the middle of a dry spell at the beginning of Summer. I’d written Talisman with a very specific location in mind. It was perfect. A wide open field that backed up to thick woods, with an access road that ran through the middle. That road would be perfect for us to have the space we needed to set up.

On Sunday, the day before the first day of filming, I decided to take another walk to my perfect location. What had been an ideal spot was now swampy and completely overgrown. Worse yet, was that it was also tick infested. I knew at that moment I was in trouble.

On Monday, day 1 of production, we took another walk with the crew and made a final decision. Our “perfect” location was a no go. So we pivoted and drove to a local park. We walked deep into the woods and found the ideal spot to film. It was literally perfect and better than what I had initially envisioned. We ran through everything and finalized the choreography. On Tuesday evening, we would return to shoot it. Crisis averted

Or so we thought.

We returned Tuesday night, after having shot all but the woods scene and one final scene. We had fallen behind schedule on day 1, but thanks to the preparation of the cast, we were able to make up ground and get back on schedule. We filmed a quick scene, then loaded the gear and headed back to the park, ready to finish this thing up.

As I pulled into the parking lot for the park, my heart sank. It was a Tuesday night in August and there were people everywhere. As I got out of my car, I realized we’d driven into the middle of a jazz concert in the park. There were police everywhere. I knew we were sunk.

Of course we’d be able to finish the film at some point. But it wasn’t going to be tonight. And since we were already approaching our budget, adding a shooting day would have destroyed the budget.

I walked to where the director of photography, Danny Gevirtz had parked. Danny carried a huge light and some other gear in his hand as he walked passed the police officer. I saw him stop and exchange some words with the cop and then continue walking. I looked at him and he waved me on.

I ran back to the car and got the rest of the gear and gathered the rest of the cast and crew. We drew some strange looks as we walked past the crowd, but we made it. We were going to get our scene in.

I later found out that the cop had asked Danny what we were doing. Danny told him we were making a movie. The officer had asked if it was a prank video, and Danny told him no. He then let everyone pass. It wasn’t easy getting clean audio in the middle of a jazz concert, but we waited until between songs and then we’d roll. It was unorthodox and took a long time to get our shots, but we were getting there… until the rain came.

It goes without saying that film gear and rain do not mix well. It started as a light mist, which didn’t scare us off. But as the rain intensified we reached a point where we knew we had to shut it down. We stood to lose thousands of dollars in equipment if we didn’t.

We pulled what equipment we could under the canopy of the trees and set up a make shift shelter out of fall mats for the rest. And then we held our breath and waited. I constantly checked the radar on the weather channel app on my phone. It looked like the worst of it was yet to come. I was so disgusted, I couldn’t even speak. I had tried to prepare for everything, but on this night, Mother Nature had bested me.

Just as we were ready to sprint from the woods with the equipment, I checked the radar one more time. Danny yelled to me that there seemed to be a break. And the app on my phone that had seconds before shown dark greens and reds and yellows on the radar was now showing clear.

We shot the final scenes and packed up. Somehow, we had gotten it done. It was an exhilarating feeling that I won’t soon forget. An hour or so later, we wrapped the last scene and production was complete. I got to yell “that’s a wrap” on my first production as the cast and crew gathered to watch a secret scene that wasn’t in the original script. It was an incredible feeling. Despite the obstacles, Talisman was complete.

Talisman Production Update #2

As the shooting date for Talisman drew near, we decided to get the cast together to do a table read. We wanted to make sure the script was right and that the dialogue didn’t come across clunky. It was also a great way to meet the cast in person.

Our Director of Photography, Danny Gevirtz was away working on another project, and Jack Ligenza, who will play Connor in Talisman was starring in a production of Footloose three hours away. While there wasn’t much we could do to have Danny in two places at once, we were able to Skype Jack into the table read.

The cast arrived, along with producers John Manning and John Magee. It was great to finally get to meet everyone in person and also to see what kind of chemistry they had together. Hearing the cast deliver the lines that we had written was a strange yet exhilarating experience. And deliver they did. The cast did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life. Even through Skype in Jack’s case.

After a couple of small tweaks to dialogue and some clarifications, we ran through the script a second time. And that was even better. After, we had some snacks and refreshments and got to talk and discuss plans and answer questions. It struck me that we were really lucky to have chosen a cast that is talented, but also made up of great people.

The morning of the table read, I couldn’t shake a feeling of doubt. Not doubt in the cast that we had chosen or even the script… rather, it was doubt that I’d be able to pull this off. That maybe I’d bitten off more than I could chew. In reality, as a writer-director, I’ve only really shot 3 short films. And Talisman, by far, is the most complicated of them. A funny thing happened though… after going through the script and meeting everyone, my nerves calmed and the doubts went away. It was clearer than ever to me that we were on the right track. And even more so, that we had chosen the right actors.

Talisman is now only a few days away from beginning production. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. As I write this, we are busy moving furniture, hanging posters and turning a home into a film set. Final preparations are almost complete. Stay tuned for some behind the scenes looks and hopefully more posts on the making of Talisman

Talisman Production Update #1

In January, I began working on a short film that I was hoping would serve as proof of concept for a web series I’ve been developing since 2015, called Event344. I had an idea for a story that centered on three friends who have an incredible experience one night while they gather to comfort their friend, who’s just lost someone very close to him.

The idea was solid, but I really wanted to inject some humor and snappiness to the dialogue. When I let John read my first draft, he really liked it. Inspired by a recent conversation/fun argument we’d had, he set about capturing the spirit of our argument and used it as the backdrop for these characters. All of the sudden, the characters popped.

Responsibilities and obligations in the real world often prevent me from pursuing what I love most — crafting stories and then turning them into films. With this really fun script sitting there collecting dust, I decided I wasn’t going to continue stalling. It was time to go after the dream instead of hoping I could find time.

I published a casting call and we began to take video auditions. We were incredibly fortunate to get to watch amazingly talented actors perform the lines we had written. It was an overwhelming experience and a tremendously difficult decision picking between such talented people. After much lamenting, we had our cast.

They’re beyond talented and even better people, which only makes us more excited to get this project off the ground.

Recently, we added Director of Photography Danny Gevirtz, a Philadelphia area native, to the project. Danny brings a host of experience with him and has even worked with James Yoder, the actor who will play one of the leads.

With everything falling into place, there’s only one thing left to do… make the movie. And we can’t wait to get started and to bring you a fun, energetic story that will introduce you to the Event344 universe.

This is only the beginning. We hope you’ll follow along with us as Covered Sun Films gears up for Talisman, which films in August.

Stay tuned for behind the scenes photos and updates.

James Yoder, who will be playing Ryan in Covered Sun’s new short film, Talisman.

The Final Confession

What if the Allies hadn’t won WWII?

As the fighting of WWII makes it to the US mainland, a sinner enters God’s house in 1947 Philadelphia looking for forgiveness… Instead, he finds a priest in an unusual condition. The two men share stories, a jug of wine and their final confessions.

This short was written and directed by a good friend of Covered Sun Films, John Caruso and features CSF’s own Wayne Cella in the lead role (for better or worse). While it’s not technically a Covered Sun production, we wanted to share it with you.

Written and Directed by John Caruso
Starring Wayne Cella, Paris Ahrens-Nichols and John Caruso

Filmed March 19, 2017