October update

Hello there!  It’s been a minute since I hollered at ya, so I just wanted to give a quick update on how things are going in SUNDOWN land.  The film is deep in post-production now, with our erstwhile editor Amy Leland hacking away like some sort of freaky supernatural cutting fiend.  I haven’t seen a frame of it yet, but she reports back that she is very happy with the raw footage.  This is a great relief to me, as I was fifty percent sure that Leticia left the lens cap on for the entirety of filming.

Speaking of Leticia de Bortoli, if you haven’t seen her excellent horror short BEAUTY SHOT yet, it is available on Amazon Prime right here.  Please watch it, rate it, and write your review – that’s the only way big companies like Amazon pay attention to little ol’ filmmakers like us.  So help a sister out.

Our little family has been keeping busy since shooting wrapped.  Leticia and I made a music video for Nate Leavitt & the Elevation (a band for which I slappa da bass) which you can check out right here:

Also, our boy Grayson Powell is treading the boards as the one and only Sam “Mayday” Malone in the national touring company of Cheers Live on Stage.  I believe they are finishing up the Chicago run and are headed to St. Louis next.  I was lucky enough to see the show when they were in Boston and Grayson kills it.  Be sure to check it out for your 80’s nostalgia overload when it comes to your city.

That’s all for now.  Be sure to visit us every now and then to check in on our progress.  So… how are you doing?  Write your answer in the blue book provided.  You have 45 minutes.  Pencils up and… begin!


Globe article and behind the scenes photos

Quick update – one of our amazing actors Paul Kandarian is also a writer for the Boston Globe and he wrote an article about his experience making SUNDOWN. Check it out:

If that makes you itchy for more peeks behind the scenes, we have added more photos from the production in the new BEHIND THE SCENES section of the site.  Check it out.

More updates to come as summer turns to fall and everything turns pumpkin flavored.


Filming has completed!

We finished shooting Sundown: An independent film, so buckle up for a ride on the gratitude train. We couldn’t have made it through an ambitious 20-in-23-days shoot without an amazing, always game and positive crew. Thanks so much to Pearl Lung, Cecilia Prestamo, James Ryan Welch, Ben Northrop, Jill McCarty, Krystle Feher, Jack Garrett, Jen Kruh, Yahna Harris, and (of course) Porcelain Dalya for making my job so much easier than it had any right to be.

Thanks to all the folks who generously opened their homes and places of business for us to use as locations, Chrissy Fantone at Twenty20 Cambridge, Gwen and Kathy at Mount Pleasant Home, the great people at Niko’s Restaurant in Weymouth, Hanover High School, and Artlounge Arlington. The biggest thanks of all go to my mom Bonnie, my brother Colum, and my sis-in-law Katie for allowing our production to take over their lives for two weeks. Eternally grateful.

There were several times during shooting when the production team looked at each other and said “Wow – we did a good job casting, didn’t we?” Huge thanks to Lamont Price, Veronica Anastasio Wiseman, Nina Kremer, Anna Rizzo and Nick Chambers for bringing their immense talents to this project. I think the most amazing thing in the process was watching a group of actors become like a real family. Caitlin Graham is a breathtaking talent who stunned me with almost every take. Zele Avradopoulos and Paul Kandarian brought such life and reality to a couple of very difficult roles. And big thanks to our lead Grayson Powell. He became everything I imagined and more. I’m so proud of this cast for what they accomplished.

Ok, I know it sounds like I’m accepting an award or something, but a couple more: the film simply would not have happened without our producer Sally Northrop. She was a constant rock of competence and beacon of kindness and positivity through the entire process. She is a treasure. Filmmaking is really hard, but it’s a hell of a lot easier when you’ve got Sally by your side.

All right – one more and then I’m done spewing gratitude and I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled cynicism and dick jokes. It’s tough to encapsulate what Leticia De Bortoli Alves has meant to me artistically and personally during the process of shooting. She has been my partner and my friend. She has been the voice of calm and reason, talking me down from Anxiety Tower more times than I can count. In my life as a musician, I was lucky enough to find a “music wife” in Magen. Well, I now consider Leticia my film wife. Hopefully, she won’t divorce me any time soon.

The film is safely in the editor’s hands now.  I’ll continue to give you updates on the progress as things go forward.  Thanks so much for coming on this ride with us!

Be in the movie!

People have been asking about how to be in the movie, so here are the details about the days we need background talent.  Come hang out, eat snacks, drink beverages, and be in a movie.  Sounds fun, right?  Here are the different dates and locations:

Wednesday July 13th evening in Cambridge:  players and hangers-on in a high stakes poker game.  Classy, “night on the town” attire.

Thursday July 14th afternoon in Weymouth:  patrons at a neighborhood diner early in the morning, casual attire.

Monday July 25th in Cambridge (late morning/early noon) and Arlington (evening): patrons at 2 different moderately upscale “date night” bars – one afternoon, one evening.  Casual “going out” attire.

Either Tuesday July 12th or Saturday July 16th (TBD soon): college-aged females or males to be students attend a feminist theory college class.  Casual attire.

Tuesday July 26, Wednesday July 27, and Thursday July 28 in Jamaica Plain (Daytime – you are not needed for all three days):  Older people (60+) to play members of a support group for spouses of dementia sufferers.  Casual attire.

If you are interested in eating some free food and helping make some movie magic, please email Dalya at porcelaindalya@gmail.com with your availability.

Kickstarter goal reached!

We did it!  We have reached the $15,000 mark and hit our Kickstarter goal.  Thank you all so much for supporting this movie!

Now, 15K was just the minimum we need to make this movie a reality.  We still have til tomorrow at midnight before the Kickstarter closes, so please continue to pledge at our Kickstarter page.  Every bit helps us pay and feed our cast and crew during shooting as well as post-production costs such as editing, sound design, and eventually film festival entry fees so that as many people as possible can see the movie.

Thank you so much!  Everything we do is on your shoulders.

Why I’m making this movie

My dad was a bit of a frustrated fiction writer. Mostly short stories about the adventures of the residents of a fictional village in turn-of-the-century Ireland (he called it Kildooney).  When he was working on his stories, he’d sometimes allow me to read drafts.  I’d do my best to decipher his chicken scratch handwriting and give him suggestions for changes.  He genuinely seemed to love that one of his sons was a writer.  Whenever I’d visit home, the first question he’d usually ask was “Are you doing any writing?”  Of course, I always was.  He delighted in hearing about whatever scripts I was working on and always had the same suggestion: “What if an elderly Irish couple lived upstairs?”  In his mind, every movie could be improved by the presence of bickering Irish neighbors.

I’m not exactly sure when I started working on SUNDOWN. Like my dad’s dementia (which spanned well over a decade), the story of the Shea family gradually seeped into my brain so slowly I don’t know that I even noticed.  As my dad’s disease progressed, more layers of the fictional family’s dynamics started to reveal themselves.  It was a difficult and complicated time for my real life family, but my biggest personal frustration was standing by helplessly while a great mind slipped away.  My dad wasn’t an ordinary guy.  He was the most well-read person I’d ever met.  He spoke several languages.  My cousin Ronan referred to him as the “family philosopher and wit.”  He was a thinker.  To watch a thinker lose his greatest gift filled me with unspeakable rage and sadness and desperation and hopelessness.  So I dealt with it the way writers do:  I wrote.  Draft after draft after draft.  When he died in October, there was no doubt in my mind that the time to tell the story was now.

I think this movie is more than just a way for me to work through my grief. That’s certainly a part of it but if that were my only end, I would do it privately.  It’s a bit of a cliché, but I’m making this movie so that hopefully people that see it feel less alone in their rage and their heartache around loss.  We’re not great dealing with this stuff.  We answer grief with platitudes (“He’s in a better place now,” “Time heals all wounds,” etc.) because we don’t know what else to say.  One thing my dad always taught me was that I was allowed to feel whatever I felt.  I’m a shameless cryer and an uproarious laugher just like he was.  He never ran from feelings, no matter how uncomfortable.  I found that quality in him pretty heroic.

In this movie, all emotions are on the table. Anger, sadness, selfishness, denial, sick humor – everything’s fair game.  The only thing the movie doesn’t have is an Irish couple living upstairs.  Sorry, Pop – maybe next time.
Dad Sean Brendan

Crew Conversation: Editor Amy Leland

The final one of these little chats goes to the woman who will have the final say in how this whole little endeavor turns out – editor Amy Leland.

Amy is an editor, writer, and director based in New York who spends her downtime from editing for CBS Sports making her own films and generally being awesome.  I talked to Amy about the art of making people cry and chocolate:

Amy: Let’s rock and roll.

Brendan: Why don’t you tell the good people how we met?

Amy: You and I meet at the first film festival my first film ECHOES got into (the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival). I saw your film THE MAYOR OF ROCK & ROLL and had a blast. You brought an awesome audience into that room. But then you encouraged them to leave just before my film screened. I’ll forgive you for that someday.

Brendan: We needed to go party.  But the Mass Indie Film Fest are good folks. I eventually saw ECHOES at another festival. It was heartbreaking.

Amy: Making people cry – it’s what I do. I think there’s something wrong with me for enjoying it so much. But when I’m sitting in a dark room, and start to hear people sniffle, I think, “Yes!”

Brendan: You’re a sadistic fuck.

Amy: It’s part of why I love the script you’ve written so much. There is a lot of humor in it, sure. But it really has a lot of heart in it. I just love good stories. And I love helping to tell good stories. So when I read your script, I knew I wanted to help tell it. I’m a little disappointed that you want to direct it yourself instead of letting me do it, but I understand why you do. But editing is, for me, such an integral part of the storytelling that getting to collaborate with you in that way is also a great way to get to bring this story to life.

Brendan: Editing is the most important part. It’s like writing the story all over again, really.

Amy: It’s funny because as a director, I generally edit my own stuff. But that’s something I’ve been wanting to break away from. I really want that partnership with another storyteller to be the second set of eyes. And I’ve been that second set of eyes for other directors as an editor. The director/editor relationship is a great collaboration, and I love being part of it.

Brendan: It’ll definitely be different than the sports editing you do for your day job.

Amy: Oh, yes. Very different from sports editing. “You want a football highlight? Okay, here you go – Touchdown! Hero shot! Touchdown! Hero shot! Touchdown! Hero shot! And pad to break…”  I actually wrote the first draft of my first feature screenplay almost entirely while on sports editing shifts. Late night studio shifts during college basketball season. It was great. We’d cover a game, then I’d write some pages while waiting for our next assignment.

Brendan: Got to love the accommodating day job.

Amy: I imagine for you, getting to direct this story is important because it is so personal. How are you feeling about that aspect of it going into it? Any particular things you’re doing as part of your preparation so you can be the objective director while also bringing all of the personal elements to the story?

Brendan: I think the biggest thing I’m doing to prepare is trusting my team. I don’t think of this as “my” movie or vision. Letting go is usually the hardest part for me, but I’ve got a great bunch of actors and crew to bring more to it than what’s in my head.

Amy: For me, that’s a great strategy as a director even when the story isn’t so personal, so I applaud that. I always describe the job of director as, “Hire the best people for the jobs, and then let them do their jobs.” The feature script I wrote is also based on some very personal family stuff. But to make the story more dramatic, I had to fictionalize what happened enough that now it’s almost a story about other people. So it’s personal, but I also have some objectivity. Was there some of that for you?

Brendan: Yeah, the movie version is much more dramatic and interesting than anything that actually happened to me. My real life is a big ol’ ball of boring.

Amy: I think we always feel our own lives are boring because whatever the obstacles were, we’ve survived them well enough to sit down and write about them. So of course we want an audience to get a more interesting version than what we lived.

Brendan: What are your hopes for this movie?

Amy: That it gets nominated for an Oscar for the editing, of course! Honestly, I hope we all tell a great story that entertains and moves people and that we find a way for as much of an audience as possible to see it.

Brendan: I’ll buy you one of those little foil covered chocolate Oscars when you’re done.

Amy: I’m going to hold you to that. I need to have that written into my contract.

Help Amy get that chocolate Oscar by supporting the SUNDOWN Kickstarter page.

Crew Conversation: Director of Photography Leticia de Bortoli

It’s time to learn more about the person in charge of making SUNDOWN look good – our amazing director of photography Leticia de Bortoli:

Leticia has made beautiful films on multiple continents. We chatted about horror films, Batman, and glazed donuts:

Brendan: Do you want to tell the story of how we met?

Leticia: Sure. Keep the police and drugs in?

Brendan: We’re all about honesty here at SUNDOWN HQ.

Leticia: I met you at a film festival in Vermont. You were with (Porcelain) Dalya who also had a film there. Sometime in the mingle hour you told me “I hate horror films. It’s so stupid”. This was a horror film festival that I had a film in it. So I liked you.

Brendan: I’m such a charmer, aren’t I?

Leticia: Yeah. I’m a jerk, so I like jerks.

Brendan: Since we’ve been working together, I have learned three things about you: 1) You are funny in at least two languages. 2) You wear sweatpants on almost every occasion. 3) You are almost creepily easy to work with. What have you learned so far about me?

Leticia: You’re funny. You’re cool. You’re good working with people. You love Batman. I suspect your favorite Batman is Val Kilmer. And most importantly, you are able to write without sexist stuff. That’s wonderful.

Brendan: Val Kilmer is definitely NOT my favorite Batman. But I do rank him above Christian Bale. Who’s your favorite Batman?

Leticia: “I hate Batman. It’s so stupid”

Brendan: Blasphemy.

Leticia: For real, Christian Bale. I loved when they cut off the fake nipples from the suit.

Brendan: I go with Kevin Conroy who voiced him on the animated series because I am a neeeeeerd.

Leticia: Oh, such a hipster.

Brendan: Tell the people a little bit about your background in film and in life.

Leticia: I’m originally from Brasil. I graduated film school there. I studied a bit more in Argentina. I started with feature films and then made some shorts. Somewhere around that time, I came to the US. I do cinematography for projects that I think are cool and that are not my writing/directing style. I work on as many good films as I can, and I eat as many glazed donuts as I can.

Brendan: Um… I believe it is spelled “Brazil.” Get it right.

Leticia: I know – foreign languages are fictional for many Americans.

Brendan: What are you most looking forward to about shooting SUNDOWN?

Leticia: I’m excited to be working on a character/acting driven film that perfectly fits a beautiful natural look. I’m planning on working with natural lighting to help bring the best out of the story. I’m also excited to work with you. So far you do seem to be a director that actually allows other people to get things done.

Brendan: Anything else to add? Any more insults of America you want to hurl out there?

Leticia: I’ll save it for the set. I have MANY more. But for the record, I love America. You always insult the ones you love the most.

Brendan: I’ll keep that in mind.

Help us afford enough glazed donuts to prevent Leticia from storming off set by supporting the SUNDOWN Kickstarter page.