Production Notes

Casting is always one of the defining moments in the lifestory of a motion picture, but in this case, I think the stakes were particularly high. I had known Jacqueline Bisset socially for many years, but she was not in mind as I wrote the screenplay. (No one was.) I was having dinner with her about a year before the shoot, and as Jacqueline spoke of some disappointments in her own life, it became clear to me that the key to Rose was an actress who could play the emotional tones of her pain as well as the fun brassiness of strength. Jacqueline and I discussed the script for many months before we shot, getting underneath the words and stories and building the foundation for Rose to come alive. Jacqueline’s admonition to me — “keep it simple — a straight line through” — played in my mind throughout the shoot and editorial process. She pushed the details of Rose — wardrobe, hair, jewelry — and it was thrilling to collaborate with her — a master of acting for camera — to see how she invented her character in all respects. It’s interesting to note — viewers often assume that Jacqueline is “like she is in the movie.” But this really isn’t the case — as an actress and a woman, I think she is quite different from Rose, and it’s a testament to her skill that the transformation feels so seamless.

Kelly Blatz’s first audition for Loren was somewhat revelatory. I can’t think of another time when an actor has embodied a part so completely from the start. He had a way of making the cultural references that are inherent to Loren’s personality feel completely natural. He is an incredible listener and his powerful gaze draws you in — which was essential to Rose being able to be feel so open with him. As a filmmaker himself, Kelly was able to conjure the “filmmaker-in-training” side of Loren — and all the accompanying pathos of the ups-and- downs of this work. Our casting director, Tineka Becker, drilled down on what was important to find in our Loren, and I’m not sure it would’ve happened without her.

A few words must also be said of Paul Sand, playing Phil, who brings a centeredness to the restaurant and was able to establish a rapport with Jacqueline so the moments of this restaurant as “her favorite place” were totally authentic. As a veteran actor himself, Paul brought a gravitas to the entire production, and I always felt his watchful and knowing eye on the proceedings.

A director could not have a better ally than producer Valeria Lopez. Every low budget independent film has its share of challenges, and she faced ours with courage, strength, intelligence, and best of all, humor. Our production shut down early on for various reasons, and resumed a few months later, and Valeria stood by me during this painful process — always fighting to keep the movie alive.

This is the second time I’ve collaborated with Christopher Gosch, the director of photography. Chris has a calm that creates a freedom and ease on set that is so valuable. The film is lit and framed beautifully. We broke the script down together and carefully plotted how smaller sections — roughly 10-pages at a time — would be approached — and how we could best serve the emotional tone of each section with camera work. The mirrors were a key element as well, and our planning always was about how to keep the frame activated.

Likewise, this is the second film I’ve worked on with Leah Mann, and her contributions are present throughout. The magical ambience of the restaurant and the many props that helped form Rose’s life story are her handiwork. Costume Designer Jessica Fuller was somewhat of a spirit animal for our production — always so buoyant and positive. When we first met, she told me that Alla Nazimova would be her inspiration for Rose, and I knew she was on the right track. She formed a special relationship with Jacqueline, as Rose’s wardrobe throughout was continually evaluated and perfected.

Editor Nat Carter has worked on all my films, but in particular was channeling our experiences collaborating on The Blue Tooth Virgin. That project was also heavily dialogue driven and depended on finding the right rhythms and being “in the right place” for the long dialogue scenes. The legendary editor Dody Dorn came in to help us finish the film over the course of many months, massaging each and every cutpoint. I was honored to be able to work with them — both are mentors of mine and the collaboration was a learning experience for me.

The score was composed by musician Mike Sawitzke who is known as a member of the essential LA band The Eels, and tours regularly with Dispatch. Early on, I gave him a record by Ry Cooder that I felt would be a good reference. A rare instrument — the Mohan Veena — is utilized on that recording, and so he made it the centerpiece for the score. (After a few weeks of trying to locate one.) As a “strings wizard,” Mike was able to quickly learn to play what is a cross between a slide guitar and a sitar. The resulting music — part Eastern opium den, part 1960s psychedelia groove — but often with moments of great heart and warmth — is a score that I think is completely original and totally appropriate.

Linda L. Miller — a producer whose generosity and savvy knows no bounds — was my teammate and cosigliere from early drafts of the script. Fred Helm (sound designer) and Chris Aud (rerecording mixer) overcame some truly challenged production sound, and I’m grateful for their hard work and passion. Our attorney, Shelley Surpin, was always the voice of constancy and reason.

I’d be remiss without mentioning the contributions of my dear friend Per Saari and lovely boyfriend Rory Macleod, both of whom went beyond the call of duty throughout all the challenges of this movie (there were many) and I am truly grateful to both of them.