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Forever’s End – Pre-Production…


(Setting up the production office – Lt to Rt: Line Producer Lindsay Rice, Costume/Makeup Designer Julia Rosendale, and That One Director Guy)

People like to think that movies are made when the camera starts rolling.  That may be when the footage starts rolling in, but any filmmaker will tell you that a movie is really made in pre-production, without it, there would be no cameras, no footage, no food, no sets, no locations, no lights, no crew, and quite simply, no movie. If making a film was like building a house, Pre-Production would be it’s foundation.

On Forever’s End, as with most indie films, we had a very tight timetable, but even more so given the restrictions we faced with a limited budget, limited crew, and especially (at least for us) limited time. We had only six weeks from the date the film was funded until our first day of shooting, this was in large part due to the restrictions involved in everyone’s schedules… and keep in mind, we may have had six weeks, but the script had not even been written yet! The film was funded based on a pitch and a promo/trailer, not a finished script, and obviously it’s near impossible to start pre-production on a film without it’s blueprint.

I had the entire script for the film already ingrained in my head and on a smattering of 40+ pages of hand-written notes, nothing more than a slew of ideas and outlines, so once the film was funded, I literally shut myself away in a room for two weeks and wrote it, page one to finished draft in 14 days.

While that sounds fast (believe me, it is… still a personal record at least), there went the first two weeks of our six-week pre-production window.  The moment I was finished, my line-producer (Lindsay Rice) and I started steamrolling through the script and creating all the breakdowns, budgets, location lists, prop lists, shooting schedule, booking crew and flights,  knocking it all out in a matter of days (sometimes fewer people can do things faster), while I simultaneously roped in several local friends of mine in Ohio (I was still in LA at that point) to start location scouting.

We had our first round of auditions (in LA) for our leading man literally the next week (see my post Casting Forever’s End for more details on that), I flew out to Ohio two days later and hit the ground running… and by running I mean sprinting.


(Test Photo – Charity & Warren’s first meeting during auditions)

The most important element to lock down at this point was our primary locations. My location peeps in Ohio had done an excellent job of finding me a variety of options, sending piles of location photos and videos of places all around the region, the trick was that I had never seen any of them in person and there’s only so much you can tell from pictures.  The first few days on the ground in Ohio I spent in a car, driving hundreds of miles around the region visiting location after location, finally landing on a fantastic 1800’s house located just outside the small rural town of Eaton, Ohio (near the Indiana border).  It was a heck of a drive from where I had been staying but I managed to make it out there several times to negotiate a deal with the owner to rent the place for a little over a month so we’d have an extra few days to start set-dressing the place (it was an empty house so we had to bring everything in: See my post on Production Design for that whole story).

The next location was all our outside fields, which were indeed shot in an entirely different place from where we shot the house itself (more than 100 miles away in fact) located in a remote countryside in northern Kentucky.

The last primary location to find was the downtown city streets and alley needed for the film, which we would need to completely shut down and control for several scenes. We ended up shooting them in downtown Cincinnati, and while it may seem backwards, the process of getting the required permits and police to block-off/shut down streets for us for a full day/night was actually one of the easiest things we did.  Unlike in Los Angeles or New York, there are very few film shoots in Cincinnati and as a result there was no big complicated permit-process to go through, and at the time: zero permit fees!  I had the permit in hand within 24hrs of requesting it and we were good to go. This was one huge reason for deciding to shoot in Ohio to begin with, not only did I already have a number of connections there from my years running the Film Fest, but from a financial perspective, there was simply no competition when it comes to cost-effective filmmaking.

While I was driving around scouting and locking down locations, I’d also stop at every garage sale I saw looking for older props and furniture, anything and everything we would need to outfit an entire house from the ground up. At one point we had half-dozen of the crew’s friends and family all out looking for items as well, anything we couldn’t borrow for a month, we bought second hand, including a piano (you’d be amazed at how many people are dying to just get rid of them!).

In the midst of everything else, I was in constant contact with my costume/hair/makeup designer, the fantastic Julia Rosendale Martin, who was still in New York starting to gather wardrobe options, effects makeup and everything else we might need.

When we finally hit the last week before production, everything seemed like a whirlwind, there’s always a point when you wonder if everything is actually going to fall into place, and for me, this was it.  This was the week Julia and the rest of the crew all flew in from NY and LA and daily back-to-back production meetings started immediately.


(Costume/Makeup Designer Julia Rosendale and I reviewing wardrobe options)


(Julia custom designing Sarah’s ‘pivotal’ dress)


(Finding and selecting wardrobe options for each “day” in the film that fit each character’s personality and progression is not an easy task)

Because I was filling so many different roles (as were most of the crew) it was a balancing act between 3 days of cast rehearsals, costume fittings, makeup/effects tests, and driving the hour out and back from the main location to set dress.


(About 1/4 of the picture FRAMES used to decorate just one set. You never realize how much you need until you starting decorating an entire house from scratch)

Even with all that, my focus went to rehearsals. Rehearsals are extremely important to me, and depending on the type of film and complexity of the roles, this time could have been spent in a number of ways. The big thing for us on Forever’s End (as with most films) is that this was the first time we’ve had the entire cast together in one place and the first time I was able to work with them as a group. We had the chance to do some basic run-throughs of some of the more complicated scenes,  including incorporating general blocking. The idea of rehearsals, at least in my mind, isn’t to get everything down and “locked” (like you might do in theater) but talk through and then work through any questions or concerns an actor may have regarding a specific character or scene and then walk through any potentially complex blocking. The end goal of rehearsals was really to get everyone on the same page, and to build confidence and trust, to give the performers a  chance get to know each-other, get comfortable working together and working with me. While rehearsals are certainly important, it’s just as important (from an acting/performance perspective) to avoid “over-rehearsing”, since the last thing you want is for the scene to feel staged, or come off as fake when you actually shoot it. I’ve found that more often than not, the best, most natural performances happen when actors feel the confidence and freedom to be spontaneous on set, quite simply, the freedom to act.


(Our full cast together for the first time during rehearsals – LT to RT: Lili Reinhart, Charity Farrell, Warren Bryson, Dave Wetzel)

With rehearsals complete and shooting only days away, there was no time to relax, the energy and excitement seemed to take over, the focus on getting everything done was only trumped by the joy of watching the pieces fall into place.

I’ve often told people that good movies are really made in pre-production, it’s the time when all the details  are ironed out, when you try to anticipate as many potential problems as possible and solve them before they ever happen, so that by the time you get to set, you can focus on actually shooting the movie; because once filming starts, once the machine starts rolling, you can’t stop it… and fixing any issue becomes ten-times harder. There’s no way to anticipate everything, but you can at least be confident that when those unexpected issues do arise during the shoot, you have the knowledge and preparation to resolve them without having to worry about all the petty details that could have compounded had they not been resolved earlier.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on hundreds of sets and in my experience I can say it’s immediately obvious from the moment I walk on set which productions did their due diligence in pre-production and which did not. While every production is unique, the majority of the issues that arise on most troubled sets could have been resolved in pre-production before they ever became a real problem. On big-budget studio-fare, issues are often resolved by basically just “throwing money at them”, but on an indie set like Forever’s End where finances are tight, there’s little room for error, pre-production was our invaluable foundation.

**Here’s some special Bonus Photos!  [These were “family photos” taken during rehearsals, later framed and placed around the main house set]


(‘White’ Family Photo)




(Framed – a nice addition to the family living room)

Forever’s End is feature Apocalyptic Psychological Drama available worldwide November 25th, 2014 on Video On Demand, DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming and Digital Download. For complete details visit www.foreversendmovie.com

Casting Forever’s End

Lili Reinhart in JC Schroder's Forever's End

(Lili Reinhart in Forever’s End)

Every time someone asks me “How did you find your cast?” or “Who was your Casting Director?” on a project I directed my response is always, “That’d be me.” There seems to be a few misconceptions for those who work outside the entertainment industry about how most films are cast and what, exactly, a Casting Director actually does. To be fair, this may vary a bit based on the project and the size of the role, but in general the one who makes all the final casting decisions on a film is the Director, not a Casting Director.

While Casting Directors have their merits (their -much abbreviated job description- is to help facilitate the casting process, not actually select a cast), I’ve found I rarely, if ever, use them. I generally prefer to handle the casting process myself and while I will often have an assistant or two help with the logistics, I usually review nearly all the submissions on my own regardless of if it’s for a commercial, music video or in the case of Forever’s End, an indie feature.

When looking to cast “unknowns” (IE: a public casting call) my process usually starts online, I use a variety of casting websites and services depending on the location of the shoot (LAcasting, for example, is a fantastic way to get a ton of submissions quickly, but not ideal if you’re not shooting in Los Angeles and hoping to find a ‘local’ elsewhere), as well as posting initial casting notices on public boards like Craigslist. In addition, since we were shooting Forever’s End in Ohio, (where Star Com, my production company was based) I also contacted the major local talent agencies directly, many of which I’ve have long-standing relationships, and had them also send over a number of potentials. It was from one of these agencies, Katalyst, that we ended up finding our leading man, Warren Bryson.

That process was still not a simple one and actually spanned a public casting call on both coasts. To start with though, we have to step back a year or two to auditions for a completely different, significantly larger feature film of mine previously titled “40 Miles”. Back in 2010 we were in the midst of pre-production on “40 Miles” and held a massive public regional casting call, specifically looking for one of the female leads who I wanted to be an unknown. Within two days of getting the word out, we had more than 3,000 submissions (just locally) and throughout that month-long casting process, I ended up whittling them down to two finalists: Charity Farrell and Lili Reinhart. After much discussion, the role finally went to Lili, but I knew I still wanted to work with Charity as well at some point, so when at the last minute the financing for “40 Miles” fell through (literally just weeks out from principal photography… which is another long, frustrating story for another time), I was left with some fantastic actors and no movie to put them in.

Warren Bryson in Forever's End

(Warren Bryson in Forever’s End)

In the wake of “40 Miles”, which was a huge hit to me, I decided to go ahead and shoot a small short-film to fill the time, a film titled “For Today”, which was a family-friendly story about two sisters in foster-care and starred, you guessed it: Charity Farrell and Lili Reinhart.

The two of them worked together so well that in the months that followed, with still no real movement on getting “40 Miles” started back up again, I ended up conceiving a new feature, Forever’s End. This time around, the film was developed specifically with Lili and Charity in mind, and designed to be made on a much more manageable budget I knew I could get. They would once again be playing sisters, though this time around very different characters and a wildly different dynamic. I get asked quite often how I chose which actress for which role, oddly enough, while I had written the film with them in mind, I had not specifically decided who would play which role until later. I knew either actress was capable of either role, but in the end it really just came down to age and availability -Lili was much younger and also very busy, we had to work-in our shooting schedule with her between two other features she was shooting and a family vacation all slated for that same summer, and since the Lily role required less overall shoot-time, the decision all but made itself. After shooting a short promo for the project, which subsequently succeeded in getting the project funded, two of my three leads were conveniently already in place.

Actors repeatedly working with the same directors is actually a very common occurrence in the movie biz (the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp relationship may be one of the most famous) just like any other relationship, once you’ve worked with someone you like, you understand, and get along with you have a tendency to want to work with those same people again.

With two of my three leads set, the last main role was that of Ryan, part mysteriously creepy dude, part hunky loveable boyfriend type (not the official description), I underestimated how difficult the role might be to fill. One key thing to keep in mind is that there are a total of FOUR roles in the entire film, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, yes there are only four actors in the whole movie, one of which is only seen briefly. What that means is that the entire weight of the film has to be carried on the shoulders of the three leads, one misstep, one unconvincing moment and we could risk loosing the audience and the film with it. That’s a tall order for any actor, even more-so for someone new.

We did an initial search for potentials in Los Angeles, just because I felt there would be a much broader talent pool to pick from and by the time we were casting we only had a few weeks before production started. It was also extremely important that whomever I cast was convincing playing opposite Charity, as her would-be romance, so even on a small budget I spent the time and money to fly Charity out to LA to read with a number of potential finalists for the role. After a week of auditions and chemistry reads, still none of them clicked for me (or her), and with less than a month left before the start of production, I was getting concerned.

(Charity Farrell in Forever’s End)

I flew out to Ohio (where there film was shot) the next week to begin full-on pre-production, finalizing locations, production design, the works – while simultaneously setting up another full casting session locally, it was at this set of auditions that I first met Warren, and within 10 minutes of his first audition (reading with Charity) I knew immediately that he was our Ryan. It’s a weird thing from a Director’s point of view, you see so many talented actors that you wish you could cast, but they just don’t fit the specific role(s) you’re casting for, then at some point one walks into the room and wows you, they just click- you don’t see them as an actor, they simply disappear into a role, they ARE that character. That’s what happened with Warren, as with Lili and Charity before him and thus with the final addition of the wonderful Dave Wetzel (with whom I’d also worked before) in a small role, the cast was set.

There’s a phrase I like to use when talking about the relationship between Directing and Casting, “80% of your job is done by casting the right actors”. If you cast the right actors, they disappear into their roles, they become those characters with little extra work or guidance from the director. With a few rehearsals and one-on-one discussions with each actor about their specific roles (and how to best fine-tune them to their specific strengths and preferences) by the time we got on set filming, I had to do little more than arrange blocking and just sit back and watch my actors act. This isn’t always the case, and there are still opportunities for changes, ideas and improvements on set from all involved (which I encourage), but when the stars align, as a Director it’s wonderful to have the time to focus on the details and leave the acting to the actors.

–I’ll be posting new behind-the-scenes blogs every week from now until the release, don’t forget to subscribe to the feed and follow Forever’s End on Facebook for all the latest updates!

Forever’s End is feature Apocalyptic Psychological Drama available worldwide November 25th, 2014 on Video On Demand, DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming and Digital Download. For complete details visit www.foreversendmovie.com

Forever’s End – New Trailer

Check out our newly updated trailer for Forever’s End!

Forever’s End – Release Dates!


FOREVER’S END will be released NOVEMBER 25th, 2014 (Thanksgiving Week) on Video On Demand (VOD), DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital Download. Look for it on iTunes, Amazon Instant, GooglePlay, Vudu, Xbox, Playstation, Vimeo On Demand, VHX, Gumroad and more!

Don’t want to wait until November to see the film? Forever’s End will also have an exclusive nationwide Cable VOD pre-release starting next week, on October 14th on Comcast, Cox and Verizon carriers.

Keep following the film on Facebook (and this blog) as we release tons of new Forever’s End media content and awesome behind-the-scenes exclusives over the next weeks leading up to the release!