Continuing my series of conversations with the cast and the crew behind SUNDOWN, we meet the engine behind the whole operation, producer Sally Northrop:
Sally is a veteran of indie films, including Fat and The Mayor of Rock & Roll. We talked about what producing is all about and how she hates being interviewed:
Brendan: So these little conversations are meant to be informal and back and forth, so it’s not like an “interview.”
Sally: Good, because I suck at being interviewed!
Brendan: You don’t like the spotlight very much, do you?
Sally: It makes me very uncomfortable – I’d rather blend. I think the worst day was my wedding day actually because it’s pretty hard to try to blend when you are wearing a white dress and are the focal point of the day. Which is why we had a very small wedding.
Brendan: Well, I think you deserve a little time in the spotlight because this movie would not be possible without all you do.
Sally: That’s very sweet of you to say. I like to think of myself as the person who makes sure everything is organized and in place so that the people who do the hard work can focus on their creative process and not be distracted by anything else.
Brendan: You do a great job of it. What got you into producing movies?
Sally: I had produced television up until I started having my kids and then I took a step back to focus on being a mom. When the kids started getting older and I knew I wanted to phase back into working, I liked the idea of a film because it was a chunk of time working and then there was a break – so it didn’t feel like an overwhelming commitment to one thing. And then I met the wonderful Mark Phinney who made working on film so fun, and such a great environment and I was basically hooked.
Brendan: What TV did you work on?
Sally: I produced shows for PBS. Funnily enough, I sort of got put in the cooking show niche. I produced Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito, a cooking show for Todd English of Olives, and one of the very first cooking shows for the Food Network when it was just getting started. We shot 65 shows in 10 days…pretty high stress. I also did news producing in NH and Maine.
Brendan: It’s funny – I never got into the cooking show thing. At the end of the day, it bothers me that I can’t taste the food.
Sally: I honestly never watched any of the shows I produced once I had finished editing them. It’s not like I was passionate about cooking either. It was just where the work took me. I will say working on the Todd English show was pretty great. He made the crew amazing food so that was fun. And the people were great.
Brendan: What drew you to this project?
Sally: Well, I had a great time working with you on THE MAYOR OF ROCK & ROLL. To be honest, my top criteria for any job I take is the people that will be part of the project. But also, having lost my own dad a few years ago, and having experienced what that loss does to a family firsthand (although our situation did not involve dementia) I really related to the material. I recognized my own family in the Shea family and I really wanted to help bring this story to life because I think it is something that many people will relate to.
Brendan: I hope so.
Sally: When you were writing SUNDOWN I imagine that you had a vision of who the Shea family was. I’m wondering how close did we get to that image in our casting?
Brendan: Good question. I always think I have an idea of what each character is like, but then the actors bring something different to it that I end up liking more. The characters on the page can only have so many dimensions until a real person brings them to life. How do you think we did with casting?
Sally: I think we killed it! I was fortunate enough to work with Grayson on my last project, and when I first read SUNDOWN he kept popping into my head reading Dewey’s lines. Which is funny because the character he played in the last project is nothing like Dewey so I can’t really explain it. I think what I love most about the actors we cast as the Shea family is that I can really see them as a family. There are even physical traits that they have that I think really link them together in a believable way.
Brendan: Yeah, it was like we lucked into this family that sort of looks alike. And they’re all great!
Sally: Are you excited to direct? Is the excitement outweighing nervousness?
Brendan: I’m mostly nervous about the Kickstarter. I’m good at being nervous at one thing at a time.
Sally: That’s a good plan. As my dad always said: “inch by inch life’s a cinch.” I try to remember that so that I’m not overwhelmed.
Brendan: That’s good. Whenever I got too stressed about anything, my dad used to say “You know it’s all bullshit, right?” I actually mentioned that in his eulogy. The priests were less than thrilled.
Sally: I love that! My dad had three girls who he was trying to raise into proper ladies, so unfortunately we weren’t privy to a lot of swearing.
Brendan: My dad was Irish, so all bets were off.
Sally: That sounds so fun! Anyway, it is truly an honor to have been asked to be part of this project and to be trusted to help bring something that is so personal to you to life. I am looking forward to July and seeing our incredible cast and crew working together to make SUNDOWN a great film.
Brendan: See? You’re not bad at interviews at all!
Sally: That’s because I’m hiding behind my computer and not on camera.
Help Sally and the rest of the SUNDOWN team make it all happen by backing the Kickstarter.