Behind the scenes of Chronicles Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass [slideshow].


Veterans Day weekend 2012 marked the shoot of my first official short film Chronicles Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass, based on the play of the same name by Rolin Jones. Adam O'Byrne produced. My wife Emily Topper served as Cinematographer. Several dear friends showed up to help out. It was a heavenly weekend. Here are three of our stars: Alexa, Maleah and Gianna. Each brilliant, professional and focused like a laser beam.


Maleah Renee Galian as Chronicles Simpkins.


Alexa Hodzic as Rachel Melendez


Gianna Gomez as Jessica


Brice Fisher as Billy Conn


Special guest star Justin Kirk, who shot on the day we didn't have a photographer, burns with the brightness of a thousand suns. Just standing up and turning around during a take made the crew have to stifle laughter. Who IS this man?


Alexa was a ninja of the greenscreen. Or rather, I guess the greenscreen will be the real ninja. But Alexa crushed her monologue repeatedly.


Cinematographer Emily Topper chose to use one light, and specified that it be 93 million miles away.


Question being: will the intended special effect work, and can BI figure out how to key it out without having to spend extra money in post?


Not one to leave the hauling to her team, Emily will leap onto the grip truck without a second thought.


Leah Cameron worked wonders holding it all together as script supervisor, while I pretended I knew what I was doing.


Between takes, I blocked the sun for Brice, who took the opportunity to explain a few things to his director.


Adam O'Byrne was born to produce movies. In part because of his healthy skepticism of both what comes out of my mouth...


..and what comes out of the monitor.


Leah and I discuss bedeviling eye-line issues created by my somewhat aspirational shot list.


Brice, alone in the right side of the background, was perfectly comfortable under the scrutiny of lots of adults and equipment.


One thing they never tell you about directing on location, is how chapped one's lips get. Like bleeding level chapped. Very different than theatre.


Our camera department was not afraid to go 19th century as the situation demanded.


AD Danny Giles (L) runs one hell of a set.


Gianna's character is particularly fond of one lunch item that she finds out is within reach. She was profoundly easy and fun to direct.


Maleah and Gianna had to spend a very long time just standing around and did so with big smiles on their faces.


Emily is an old pro and knows how to dress for two days on a blacktop. She and the actors had a wonderful bond over the two days.


Andrea Meller came to help out the camera department and be media manager, which is basically as important as the anesthesiologist.


Must. Buy. Location. Hat.


Kate Hamilton is my sister's niece and just moved to LA. She was indispensable to us, clapping the slate, filling in on make up, doing runs, AND she just got cast on Criminal Minds!


Everyone is facing in a different direction in this photo. Which happened. Now and then.


Emily has eyes like a hawk. Kelly (our boom operator) has ears like the same hawk.


Adam and I went into fourth and goal mode at the end of day two and started working with three camera units at the same time. And somehow, we were able to shoot probably 30% of the movie in the last 5% of the shoot.


Canon 5Ds are not easy to shoot motion on. Luckily this woman travelled for six weeks in India shooting a documentary on this otherwise impossible (but deliciously cheap) piece of equipment.


Our high tech way of simulating the ultimate aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Let me say this: 1.66, 1.85, these are pedestrian aspects that look like uninspiring, undramatic zone-out television... 2.35 on the other hand, you are in a cinema. You have left your house. Things on screen matter. Lives are being changed. All because it's a little more rectangular. It's so weird.


Danny was a pied piper all day. The background kids were total pros.


Samantha doesn't realize it, but I'm studying her hair color to see if she could stand in for Gianna for a shot downstairs.


It wouldn't be a short film without a Mickey Rooney. I mean am i wrong?


This is a bonafide non-staged pointing shot. I always thought those were completely fake. But this happened. I pointed at something. Actually I did a lot more pointing than I realized I would.


Our extras. From left, Xavier, Lila, Lauren and Justin. Perfect in every take. All day.


Playwright Jen Haley came and visited us on set!


Monica prepared Samantha for the all important insert of Sydney Burrows.


We chased the sun all day. Shooting outside in November involves some serious hustle.


Lens flares are all the rage these days. Although I don't know if there's be any in this. Emily is an assassin and we shot on pretty wide lenses.


In two days, I was so busy I never figured out where the snack table was. And I missed out on all those free snacks.


Brice had several costume changes throughout the day, but none that would meet the eye. To say anymore would be a spoiler.


Emily and I met one November, started dating the next, got married in a month near November, and then shot a short film together in November.


Those shadows started to grow long.


Justin is Maleah's brother. He is a featured extra as "Billy Eugene" and also as a crucial body double. This kid bravely saved the movie in a way I am not at liberty to reveal.


Andrea brought several metric tons of pep just when we needed it.


The kids stayed up and happy from 6am to 4pm straight.


Brice, hangin' with Emily. Soaking up the experience.


Bending back at the waist is good for comedy.


Then, we wrapped the kids!


Leah continued to hold down the fort in the last crazy minutes.


And there were several high fives given.


Gianna was rock solid. Took fast sophisticated direction and adjusted instantly every time.


Here, in the background, Adam congratulates Danny for bringing us home with milliseconds on the clock.


It's odd because it gets profoundly intense and fast, and then suddenly stops.


Danny Giles is a prince among men.


We loved the vines on the fence, and chose the location partly for them.


After the kids wrapped, we got some last b-roll of the tetherball.


The tetherball was terrible at taking direction, no matter how in its face we got.


I think we were all so zorched, the simplest acts of tetherball manipulation confounded us.


Or, Brendan anyway.


Luckily Emily knows how to translate.


That sun. We had such a complicated relationship with it.


The last moment before we wrapped. Andrea took this.


Operation Shoot First Short Film: successful.

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  • The Pizzicato Effect

    In classical music, Pizzicato is the plucking of a muted string on a violin. The effect (in my opinion) is the indication of the note for your heart to play.

    This can also be achieved in directing. We do not go to the theater to admire an actor have an emotion. We go to have the emotion for ourselves.

    The Pizzicato Effect is theatre and film in their highest forms. This is what I'm after.

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