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The Shadow & Act Filmmaker Diary Series (w/ Matthew Cherry) Episode 2: "We're Funded. Now Casting!"

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 20, 2011 at 4:00AM

Continuing on with this new S&A feature, which I introduced last week...
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Continuing on with this new S&A feature, which I introduced last week...

In case you're just joining us, here's a recap: I'm calling it our Filmmaker Diary Series. Essentially, filmmakers who are about to embark on projects (in this case, feature film projects specifically) will be given space on this site to document their journey, from script to screen, diary/journal style. That's about it, in brief. But I think you get the overall picture.

It'll be a weekly series, and, to start, Matthew Cherry, who was 1 of several filmmakers on our 2011/2012 Black Filmmakers To Watch list (HERE if you missed it), has agreed to kick things off. Matthew (whose resume includes directing music videos for the likes of Kindred The Family Soul, Common, Bilal and others, plus a short film titled This Time, starring Reagan Gomez, which played successfully on the film festival circuit) is currently in pre-production for his feature film debut, titled, The Last Fall.

In last week's episode, Matthew talked at length about his pre-production/fund-raising process (click HERE to read that entry if you missed it); this week, as he states, the project is fully funded, and now casting begins, which he talks more about below. So, without further ado, here's the second of many entries in this inaugural Filmmaker Diary series from Matthew Cherry, in his own words:


CASTING, CASTING, CASTING

Hey guys Matthew. A. Cherry here again talking about my first couple of weeks of pre-production for my independent feature film "The Last Fall". So last week ended on sort of a cliffhanger as I was waiting to hear back from my investors to see if they wanted to back the project or not. Luckily we were able to see eye to eye and we signed the contracts. We are now fully funded and ready to go. LET'S MAKE A MOVIE!!!

Now that we have a budget in place we can move forward locking in a crew and we can start casting. First off I want to talk about some key people that I have put in place. First my producing partner Scott Hebert. He is a celebrity photographer in his own right but he is now transitioning into being a film producer. He has helped me produce the last 8 music videos I shot this year and we make a great team, glad to have him. I brought on Producer Nikki Love onto the team as well. This is a sister from Chicago who is extremely knowledgeable from everything to locations to budgets and her addition is greatly appreciated as she has worked on some great films. I decided to go with the same DP (director of photography) that I have been using on all of my music videos, Richard Vialet. He is a young brother that graduated from Howard University and he really knows his stuff. He has also shot my last 6 music videos and more than anything he is just as excited to work with me on this project as I am to work with him. He is currently shooting a feature film with my good friends director Corey Grant and producer Chevez Frazier but when he gets done we are going straight to work. Our casting director, Michelle Adams. Michelle has casted a lot of your favorite movies (Caddilac Records, Not Easily Broken) and thanks to a referral from a friend and fellow casting director in her own right, Natasha Ward we were able to hire her and we are glad to have her on board. Finally Ellis and Monique Hobbs. Ellis is a NFL player that plays for the Philadelphia Eagles and Monique is his wife. Monique is the person that reached out to me on twitter by chance and said that she read the "IndieGogo" synopsis for our film and liked it and brought up the possibility of working together on the project. That one tweet started a process that now has them Executive producing my first feature film. I am glad to have them both on board and look out for a cameo from Ellis in the final film.

So about casting. The casting process is a tricky one as it can make or break your movie. I am in a unique situation where I live in LA and I worked in production as a PA already so I have more of an advantage than your average indie filmmaker that lives in a small city, where I can reach out to "name" talent directly if I want to and that has been my biggest dilemma. To use names or not to use names? I do see the advantages of casting familiar faces in roles because certain actors have established fan bases, it's a fact. But I will admit that their is a HUGE void for new young black actors and actresses. There are really no filmmakers that are taking chances on new talent on a regular basis and because of that there are way less young black stars then there were back in the early and mid 90s. Look at actresses like Nia Long and Jada Pinkett. They got their shot when they were young new faces on TV shows like Fresh Prince and A Different World. Spike Lee gave so many young actors their first big break (Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, Tisha Campbell,etc.) and they are still working today. I would be remiss if I didn't say that I didn't want to do the same things. One of the biggest dilemmas that I'm facing is that if I did decide to shoot my film with all new faces then I doubt that would people even want to see it. Another big dilemma is using too many names or rather using the wrong names. I'm sure we have all went to Target and Blockbuster and have see horrible black movies with all kinds of name talent on the box. I'm not trying to do that either. I think that my approach will be one that is a hybrid of new and established faces.

My film calls for two young African American leads that are 25 years old, Kyle and Faith. The guy has to be convincing as a football player and the girl has to have a girl next door feel about her. I am more open to casting a new face as the football player than I am for the the lead girl but we'll see how it shakes out. I also do have some opportunities to cast some names in both sets of parents and in the role of the the father of Faith's child, Rell in the movie. I am also a big fan of the work of Nicole Beharie, Yaya Dacosta, Tessa Thompson, and many other young black actresses but I wonder if a lot of them are even interested in doing independent cinema. A lot of them live in New York too. Indie black film gets such a bad rap sometimes that it becomes difficult to even approach actors with projects because they think your stuff is going to end up in the value bin at Walmart as soon as it comes out. Now while I currently do not have a distribution deal in place right now, I do know that my film will have a theatrical release (even if I self distribute it) and will have a robust ancillary life. Confidence is key and I know that I have a great movie on my hands so let's work..

Earlier this week I attempted to reach out to a name actor that I know a lot of you are familiar with to play Kyle. He has done movies and TV shows and everything else in between. This situation is unique because I have somewhat of a personal connection to this actor because we have a lot of mutual friends. Now I wanted to offer him the lead role in my film but I wasn't sure if he would even be interested, I mean this guy probably has the script to Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained sitting in front of him or something. One of my best/worst qualities is that sometimes I just don't know any better so I decided to say fuck it went for it. What do I have to lose right? s I decided to send him the script and sent it out last Wednesday. This actor is with one of the most powerful agencies in the world and that also made this task also very difficult. Indie films are not big money makers for actors (at least on the front end) and my film falls under the SAG Ultra Low Budget agreement (Under 200K) so I knew going in that it was going to be a long shot. This entire week has been a roller coaster ride of emotions as I waited for a response. I tend to worry a lot, especially because this is the "only" thing that I am working on now but I remain hopeful. Today is Friday and still no word :/

Last night I locked in our casting director, Michelle Adams. She is great and about her business. She sent the script to breakdown services last night so that they can break it down so Monday we start sending it out and start casting. I personally wanted to start sending offers out left and right to actors who I like but she suggested that we send the breakdown out and see who submits and gage who is interested. I like that idea better. Who knows who will submit? This is exciting. Maybe some of the people I mentioned will submit. I know for a fact that there are not a lot of leading roles that are being put out on Actors Access and Breakdown Express for African American actors so it should be fun to see this process unfold. There are a few roles that I have already casted and they are actors that I have worked with in the past that I truly believe in. I do believe in loyalty. It is a key to success. I like how Judd Apatow operates, he gives actors small roles in his films and if they're good enough, eventually they get leading roles. It's a mini farm system of sorts. I'd like to be able to do that as well.

Today marks the end of two full weeks of pre-production. Myself, Nikki and Scott have to go over the budget and start locking in crew and locations next week. We start casting next week and I just booked a music video for Kindred The Family Soul and their new single "Magic Happens" that I will be shooting next Thursday. I know I am crazy for trying to shoot a music video while I am in pre-production for my film but I can't help it. I love directing. I am debating on whether or not to upload the script so that you guys can check that out as well. Not sure yet. God willing I'll see you next week and remember that I'm just a broke struggling independent filmmaker trying to make sure I have correct change for the train. Peace and love.

-Matthew A. Cherry
Transparent Filmworks
"Go hard, or go home."

Follow me on twitter @MatthewACherry
Follow the film on twitter @TheLastFallFilm
Add us on Facebook http://facebook.com/thelastfallmovie

This article is related to: casting, Filmmaker Diary Series


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