Hoodoo Barbie

Casting the protagonist of High Heels and Hoodoo turned out to be tougher than we thought.  On the surface, Tiffany seems to be a typical blonde bimbo, so we wanted an actress with a certain look.  But there’s a lot more to Tiffany than meets the eye – she shares her nanna’s core of steel, so we needed an actress who could convey Tiffany’s cunning determination running beneath the surface.  We weren’t having much luck and were starting to worry as our shoot date loomed closer and closer.

Then Brian remembered one of the shorts we’d seen during movie night at ConcentrixThe Adult Who Cried Wolf.  One of the characters was played by Johanna Jowett, who we’d also seen previously in the first SC Production Grant winning film The Four Children of Tander Welch (which was produced by Matt Sefick, our 2nd AD for Saying Goodbye).  Brian had actually worked with Johanna years before in a series of commercials he made for the SC lottery (you can see the lizard man mania here), and he thought she’d be perfect for the part. 

So we got in touch with our casting director Richard Futch, and he contacted Johanna’s agency about the role.  Johanna sent an audition with two takes on the character of Tiffany – one very ditzy and one with that underlying grit we were looking for.  So just in a nick of time, we’ve found our Tiffany.

Johanna Jowett by Joanna Rish

In addition to crazy commercials and small budget indies, Johanna has appeared on the big screen in Life as We Know It, and on the TV shows One Tree Hill and The Riches, as well as starring in the series 7th Street Theater.  Johanna is like a chameleon, different in every role we’ve seen her in, so we can’t wait to see what she brings to this character and are happy that our trio of strong southern women is now complete.
 

Feeling Secure

When we starting telling people we were filming in St. Lawrence Cemetery, a few of them gave us funny looks before hesitantly delivering variations of “You know that’s not a safe part of town, right?”  We could tell they didn’t want to be the ones to burst our location-happy bubbles, but they also didn’t want us to get mugged or murdered in the middle of the night.  We kind of shrugged it off the first few times, since we knew there would be so many of us out there; but the repetition made us nervous, and we decided we couldn’t count on safety in numbers.

Charleston Police DepartmentWe contacted the City of Charleston Police Department and arranged to hire two off-duty cops to take turns with security.  The department recommended Roger and Steve, two friendly officers willing to spend the night in a cold graveyard to keep us safe.  The peace of mind they’ll provide is definitely worth the unexpected addition to our budget.  And besides, if our faux hoodoo ceremony actually coaxes something out of one of the graves, we’ll be more than happy to have someone there with a gun.

Steel Magnolia

Sandra LaffertyAnother of the three strong southern women in High Heels and Hoodoo is Nanna (we never learn her actual name).  The elegant Nanna is made from that infamous magnolia steel, so we needed an actress who could easily convey her sophistication and determination.  We recently watched The New Daughter (which featured Marmalade, our feline star in Saying Goodbye), and we were impressed by Sandra Lafferty and thought she’d make a great Nanna.   

Our casting director Richard Futch had worked with Sandra in the past and agreed she was perfect for the part.  It turns out she lives in Alabama, so we had to squeeze our tight budget to get her to Charleston, but we think she’s totally worth it. 

Sandra’s IMDb page lists an impressive number of credits in well-known movies and television shows.  Some of her recent high-profile projects include Walk the Line, the remake of Footloose, and the upcoming sure-to-be-a-blockbuster The Hunger Games.  We’re so excited to have an actress with Sandra’s experience as part of our project. 

 

All the Comforts of Home

Photo by Low Country RVOnce we secured St. Lawrence as our perfect location, we realized we had a problem of a biological nature.  While the cemetery is beautiful, it was built with a focus on the dead, so no restrooms or Port-o-Lets to be found.  And since we are filming in the middle of the night, it’s not like there are places nearby we can ferry people for bio breaks.  Granted the guys might be able get by, but taking a leak on someone’s grave is probably an excellent way to ensure a life-long haunting.  And since there are a number of women in the cast and crew anyway, we had to figure out an alternative.

We googled RV rentals in the area and found a great camper from Low Country RV.  Randy and Shy have started a business renting out their RV, with plans to buy more RVs for future expansion.  Their RV is exactly what we need – not only does it have that all important restroom, but the main room is the perfect space for makeup artist Ashley Brook Perryman and her assistant Lindsey to work their magic.  It also has another room where the actresses can get dressed, as well as a number ofJohanna, Ashley, and Joy inside RV beds for napping between scenes.  It also has a stove, range, and microwave to warm food for meals and snacks. 

Since nobody in our family has a car capable of pulling that giant beast (not to mention the skill needed to maneuver it), Randy and Shy have agreed to drop the RV off in the cemetery each evening and to pick it up bright and early each morning. Shy even said she would clean it in between so everything would be fresh for us.  Special thanks to them for their help on our project!  If you’re filming a movie in the area and need a comfortable space for your cast and crew, give them a call!

A Grave Problem

Even though there are a ton of beautiful, yet spooky cemeteries in Charleston, we were having a tougher time than we expected finding a place to film our new short High Heels and Hoodoo.  Many of the cemeteries do not allow filming at night, and when we did find places willing to let us film during the witching hours, we ran into an unexpected issue: all of those places also allowed ghost tours.  Since we plan to film the week before Halloween, the ghost tours are in their prime season, and they have first dibs.  Therefore we wouldn’t be able to start filming until after midnight, by which time we would have burned up half our hours of darkness.Stuffy the Stand-in in front of St. Lawrence

Things were starting to look dire . . . like discussing making fake tombstones out of Styrofoam dire.  But then our dad suggested the cemetery search on the Find a Grave website he uses for his family tree research, and that’s when we discovered St. Lawrence Cemetery.  It’s right next to Magnolia Cemetery and across the street from Bethany Cemetery, which are two of the more well known historic Charleston cemeteries.  For some reason, St. Lawrence gets less attention, but it is just as magnificent, and more importantly, they were happy to open their gates for us. 

We ventured out to St. Lawrence today to decide on the perfect area to shoot.  All the grave markers were so captivating, it was tough to decide.  We knew we wanted a big oak dripping with Spanish moss in the shot, so that helped narrow things down.  Then we found the perfect spot.  It has a modern standing tombstone (since the Nanna character only died in the past few years), but it's surrounded by older, more photogenic tombstones.  It also has an empty plot next to it, giving us plenty of room to set up equipment without tromping disrespectfully over the final resting places of the dearly departed.

Cooper River Bridge viewed from St, Lawrence

 

The only drawback so far is that it is right next to the water.  While this offers some spectacular views, especially of the Cooper River Bridge, it’s the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  They swarmed us while we were out there, and those suckers were HUGE!  Brian even dubbed them birdsquitoes.  Hopefully the weather will cool down enough to take them out without freezing us to death too.

 

Other than the pesky bloodsuckers, we couldn’t be more pleased with our location.  A million thank yous to St. Lawrence for generously allowing us to film on their picturesque grounds. 
 

Overflowing with Joy

There are only three characters in High Heels and Hoodoo, and the one we were most worried about casting turned out to be the quickest and easiest.  Madam Josephine is a Gullah root doctor (aka a hoodoo practitioner), and we figured it would be tough to find an actress who could pull off a convincing Gullah accent without it sounding fake or campy.  But when we met with our casting director Richard Futch, the first name out of his mouth was Joy Vandervort-Cobb.  Richard had cast Joy in several episodes of Army Wives, as well as in a movie where she played a Gullah woman.  Richard showed us her head shot, and she had such a great look that we crossed all of our fingers and toes hoping she’d nail the part. 

When we received her audition, we did a little fist pump.  Not only does the accent sound great, but she has this amazing, smoky voice that’s perfect for working hoodoo magic in a graveyard at midnight.  She also easily conveyed Madam Josephine’s no-nonsense attitude.  We’ve found our root doctor!

Joy Vandervort-Cobb by DiDi Hendley

Joy is an Associate Professor of African American Theatre and Performance at the College of Charleston, and just a few minutes of googling reveals her students absolutely adore her.  In addition to her film and television credits, she has also written and performed her own highly-regarded one-woman show.  We are thrilled to have Joy portraying one of our three strong southern women, and we’re relieved the casting for this part turned out to be so painless.

 

We're Making Another Movie!

We are beyond thrilled to tell everyone we won another grant from the South Carolina Film Commission, so we will be making another short film.  This grant is one of the smaller indie grants through Trident Technical College rather than the larger production grant from USC, so it’s going to be a tighter squeeze to get things done, but we’re excited to see what we can do. 

The screenplay is based on a short story Jocelyn wrote called “A Spirited Discussion,” which won sixth place in an international writing competition.  She adapted the story into a script we are tentatively calling High Heels and Hoodoo, and it features a frivolous party girl who goes to extremes for one last conversation with her dead grandmother.  It has a very SC Lowcountry feel, since it’s set in a Charleston graveyard and one of the characters is a Gullah root doctor. 

We actually found out we won the grant back in July, but we were waiting to announce it until we finalized a title and decided if we were branching off into a new website or keeping all our film stuff in one place.  We still haven’t decided either of these things, but we were anxious to share the good news, so here we are!

We’ve been scouting locations trying to find a graveyard with just the right creepy look.  Fortunately, there are a lot of those in Charleston.  Unfortunately, most of them do not allow filming at night.  So we’re still searching for the perfect spot.  We’ve also spoken with our amazing casting director Richard Futch about several actors we’re interested in for the three parts. 

The SC Film Commission is providing the wise and wonderful Roberta Munroe as a consulting producer to all six grant winners.  We are so excited to work with her again.  She’s guided us in creating a “look book” to really nail down how we want things to look visually, as well as chatted with us via Skype about budget and production issues. 

We have the talented John Reynolds on board as our director of photography.  He’s been the DP for several of the SC grant films, so he knows what kind of low-budget insanity we have in store for him.  We’ve also been lucky enough to get Ashley Brook Perryman to agree to do hair and makeup for us.  Ashley is a big name in the Charleston fashion scene, so we're thrilled to have her on board.  In a change up from last time, Brian is being brave and taking the director reins into his own hands.  Earlier this year he directed a series of commercials for his paying job, and they just won a STARS Award for "Best TV Campaign" from the North Carolina Home Builders Association, so hopefully he knows what he’s doing. 

So we’ve been absent from the Saying Goodbye site because we’ve been busy getting ready to make the new movie.  But even with all that preparation, the planned shooting dates of October 21st-23rd seem to be heading our way at an alarming speed.  Stay tuned for more details!