We held the second round of auditions at Shelter Studios in Manhattan two days after the first in hopes of getting a better turnout than the first one. This was the day when we were able to fill out most of the key roles in the film. J.R. had acting class that day. So it was just myself and Kalen with Rose showing up later on.
The first actor we liked and cast was Emily de Villa as “DEA Agent Kristine Gerbino”. The part had been written for a Caucasian actress originally because I wanted a tough biker chick type straight out of the show Sons of Anarchy. I decided to make the role Asian descent when I thought the Chinese investors would take the film more seriously at the time. Also the actress I wanted had to have good chemistry with Drew Henriksen’s character “Agent Talbot” because they would work as partners and secret lovers in the film. I was drawn by Emily’s upbeat personality and her willingness to take risks. Those were key in casting her in the role.
The role of Miller’s police psychologist “Claire” was probably the most challenging to cast. We had more actresses submitting for this part than any other character because of the kind of twist that is set up for her in the film. Every actress who came in did a different take on the part ranging from very low key to very tough and aggressive. What I was looking for was someone who could dig into Miller on a mental level and also share some psychologically demanding scenes with Chris Corulla. In came Christina Roman. I had been on the same film set as her three years earlier on a short film called Dog Years that my comedian friend Ed Cho had directed. We had become Facebook friends afterwords and she had frequently gotten in touch with me about possible roles in my films. Though she was on my list of actresses to audition, I was not guaranteeing the role to her. But once she came in to read, I was amazed. Christina was more than real with the part. She could balance the psychologist aspect of her character with the ‘take no shit’ kind of persona needed to stand up to Miller. Her scenes with Chris would be the very moments of the shoot that I could not wait to work on.
Another role with some level of difficulty to cast was Stokes’ wife, “Linda”. Ebony Coles, the actress who originated the role in Dishonorable Vendetta had moved to LA a few years ago and would not be available to fly back to New York for a few days of shooting. She’s doing great over there with her husband and daughter as well as a very good job working for Universal. We wanted her replacement to capture part of her essence from the first film, but not be locked down to it because the character is in a different state of mind this time around. All the actresses who read for the part had to do a scene with myself where our characters get into a heated argument over my job. While most of them were good, they weren’t volcanic enough to capture the character’s years of holding back her fears and frustrations. But when Erin Sanderson came in, that was a whole other story. She started out as a model before turning to acting and had only done two roles in two very impressive films, Where Hearts Lie and Punkin Pie. We could feel the tension rising as we read. By the time we reached the end of the scene, I just paid attention to her and I could read the pain across her face, almost near tears. Erin was real. I felt she could bring truth to the family’s dilemma on screen as well as to elevate me to be at my best in our scenes together.
Casting was smoothing sailing afterwords. Philip Polite had come in to read for the “Annex” role. While I was already set on Bryan for the role, Kalen thought Phil would work best as his right-hand henchman due to his military background and impressive build. Matthew McCurdy came in to read for “Tuffley”. He’s the unlikable DEA agent who becomes the new boss in the main characters’ command center. Take one look at him and the kind of joy he delights himself in belittling the main characters, we did not have to look any further for a better actor. Lastly was Nicholas LaMar in the role of Stokes’ son, “Sean”. He was the only kid to read for the part that day. Very easy to direct, looked credible enough to be a child to myself and Erin, and he was at just the right age I wanted the character to be in. The remaining roles would have to be filled through referrals, video auditions, etc.
The next step in the pre-production process was to get a crowdfunding campaign started. Doing my research, I thought Kickstarter was our best bet at first because of the urgency that the backers would feel in helping creators reach their goal. But most of my crew thought Indiegogo was better because we would keep what we would raise. I mapped out the questions and booked Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn to shoot the interviews. On the shoot day, it would be myself, Kalen, and Rose on camera. Chris and J.R. would be filmed on a later date.
On the day we filmed the interviews, Rose invited her DP friend George Gibson to interview for the cinematographer job on the movie. I had checked out his resume prior to the interview and I was immediately impressed by the names he worked with like Andrew McCarthy, Christopher Meloni, Jonathan Silverman, etc. He has shot on many formats ranging from Super 16 mm to 35 mm before switching over to the digital realm. Among his filmography is a short film called Esther which won the Athens Film Festival and was even eligible for an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film. Besides his impressive resume, I felt at ease with George’s humbleness for all of his accomplishments. He was also big on being spontaneous with shot ideas during tech scouts and during the course of production which was something I was always a fan of doing in my movies back when I was in high school. We discussed my influences with films such as Heat and the Ocean’s 11 remake for the look I had in mind for the film, how they were lit, their aspect ratios, and the kinds of lenses used on those films. No push to shoot in 4K or to do fancy MTV-style shots in one continuous take. We would only go with the techniques that best serve the story.
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