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Friday, July 01, 2005

Notes From The Underbelly - Part One

My friend and Assistant Director on The Face of the Earth Jeremiah Kipp and I talked about having an open dialogue regarding the making of the short film. The following is an excerpt from that conversation. This conversation makes reference to scenes in the film so if you haven’t seen it you can download it on the sidebar in a large or small Quicktime file format. I will break up the discussion and post it as a reference point for anyone who wants an inside look on how this film was made from the people who made it. Because we did this via instant messenger I took the liberty of cleaning up the text and editing for clarity.

JK: We never talked about where you got the idea for this. I know at the time you were a livery cab driver. Dave and I always assumed this had happened to you or something, but never wanted to ask.

WS: You guys could have, it was no big deal...I drove for a car service outside the Bronx in lower Westchester for about 12 years. I was driving when I made the film...I had a lot of experiences with that job and I would make note of them but this was different. Two guys in my car where just talking to each other. They came out of a bar and they were just going back and forth. I started piecing a life, background and scenes in my head and it was heartbreaking

What intrigued me about your script was it dealt with characters from the underbelly of New York. It had grit and authenticity and it felt personal. How did you know this was something you wanted to make into a film? Meaning, you were gonna invest your time, money, heart and soul into turning this idea into a reality.

Yeah, the funny thing is everyone thinks New York is all nice and squeaky clean now but I didn't feel that way.

The locations we were shooting in were definitely not cleaned up. Did you know what parts of the Bronx you wanted to shoot in when you were writing the script?

That was simple.

Those locations felt like crime.

I wanted to capture this boozy, fringe world in that borough.

What came first: assembling cast or assembling crew? Or was it at the same time?

At the time I was just trying to put it all together myself to streamline the entire process, really feel I was making the most of my resources. If I can remember, I think it was crew first.

Did you know how much money you had to make the movie?
Or did that number just keep going up?


I had an idea, I did make a budget but you know how it is, you plan and plan and something happens.

When did you interview me at Starbucks?

You were one of the early interviews. I was really just trying to get a grip on who was going to be my core. You sounded like you had your shit together.

I remember it was a pretty quick interview. I said I was intrigued by the script, which felt real and authentic to me. I got the sense you wanted to tell this story. I felt like I'd be able to help. And, of course, I love a technical challenge. Your movie's technical challenge was unique: Half of the script took place within the confines of a moving vehicle, with two passengers in the back seat and one in the front.

You really turned out to be my right arm on that shoot. It made the difference because you really committed to the project.

God damned right.

I was recently interviewed for an article about a film I worked on in 1999, and had to call up the filmmaker to remind me of some choice anecdotes. All I remembered from that gig was working back-to-back 18-hour days, and the director of photography speaking in tongues by the end of the shoot. However, The Face of the Earth remains vivid to me.

Yeah, vivid like getting assaulted and thrown in a dumpster...

to be continued....

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