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Inside the Audition Process

Thanks Nathalie for taking this picture! Looks like we're having way too much fun! It's really quite unnatural.

 Audition: “A trial performance to appraise an entertainer’s merits.” ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary

In short, it’s the scariest job interview you’ve ever been on!  Fortunately, I (Steph here!) have never been on the other side of the audition table, but then again, I’m not an actor!  But I have many friends who are actors, and I have no idea how they do it.  If you can imagine, completely immersing yourself into character, a role, another person if you will.  Then having to channel that at will, and perform for a bunch of strangers.  And take direction.  Kudos, actors.  Kudos.

I certainly couldn’t do it.

If anything our audition process has taught me up to this point, is that acting is one hell of a hard job.  It’s a craft like anything else.  I don’t see it as any different than writing or painting.  You need to practice your craft to get better.  But unlike being a writer or painter, an actor can’t always choose their palette or what story they want to tell.  Many times, they’re subject to the whims of casting.  Which, to me, seems really unfair.

See, there may be merit to an actor’s talent, but how to determine whether they’re right for this role.  And just this one role.  It’s… difficult.  It’s a process.  One that we’re currently undergoing, and so there’s a need for confidentiality here.  This is why I’ll keep this post as general as possible.

What I can tell you is that we’ve held our preliminary, or first phase, of auditions in Toronto.  At the moment, we only managed to audition actors for the principal roles of Sally Khan and her aunt, Farah.  We’re taking a break for the holidays, but rest assured that we will continue the process in the New Year.

And in January and February, we will also be casting for the rest of our roles, such as for the enigmatic Agent Finch.  As you can see, this is very much a multi-step process.  If we cast too early, many things can happen between now and April, which is when we intend to shoot our film.  If we wait too late, we may not find the talent we need in time.

It’s a tricky balancing act, but with the help of my trusty Co-Director/Associate Producer, Jessica Wu, we’ll figure it out!  In the meantime, big thanks to our Casting Angels, Jennifer Liao and Sandy Kellerman, for helping us out.  And to our Casting Crew:  Nathalie Younglai, Consuelo Solar, Rain Chan, Samantha Shute, and Andrew Liao.  We love you!

In the meantime, stay tuned for more Casting and Audition updates!


Happy Holidays!

Team LMJ

Crew Fun Facts – Our Composer, Maria Molinari (Recap)

En garde! Those treble clefs had better watch out!!!

Last Saturday, we tried, without success, to humiliate our brilliant composer, Maria Molinari.  She’s just too classy!  Not only is she great at what she does, but she’s one of the most caring, conscientious, and giving people you’ll ever meet.   She truly is the “one and only” Maria!

“If you missed it live on Twitter! Today we tried to ridicule our beloved & brilliant composer, Maria Molinari. But she’s just too cool. Her fun facts turned out to be fascinating facts! How could you deny us like that, Maria! How?! We met Maria many moons ago at a WIFT event, and since then, we knew we had to work with her! Now the time has come… muhahaha! Not only is Maria a very accomplished composer, she’s worked on everything from film, TV to commercials– including the Bud Light “Dear Football” campaign you may have seen recently! Congrats Maria! Without further adieu, we give you Maria “Music” Molinari!!!

1.  Maria took piano lessons briefly as an 8 year old. After 2 months and still not knowing where middle C was… she switched to knitting lessons.  Ha!

2.  When computers were first introduced Maria was sure they would never catch on – Maria does not consider herself a visionary.  (You’re our visionary, Maria!!! ♥)

3.  As a teen, Maria entertained hopes of making the Olympic fencing team. The thought of blowing out her knees before the age of 25 ultimately led her to choose academics over sports.  (See, practical & brilliant!)

4.  The biggest thrill for Maria while at USC was studying with Elmer Bernstein (To Kill a Mockingbird), Leonard Rosenman (Rebel Without a Cause) and Christopher Young (Spiderman).  (How cool it that?!)

5.  Maria held out against getting a cell phone until it seemed like every high schooler in the city had one. She now refuses to get a Twitter account.  (We’ll see about that Maria! Muhahahaha!)

If you’re interested in hearing Maria’s amazing work, check out her site! Thanks, Maria, for being part of our team!” ♥ ♥ ♥

How Do You Fund a Short Film? (Taking a Risk)

Photo: Gabriel Hummel

There’s is nothing more risky than making a film.  If you’re doing it for the money, ha!  Film is probably one of the worst investments you can make… from a financial point of view.  But if you’re investing in talent, a dream, then we find ourselves on the same page.

Today, we’re reflecting on what we’ve learned so far– thrown into the deep end– picking things up as quickly as we can.

We try to answer the question:  How do you fund a short film?

From the Canadian perspective anyway.

Having interned and worked way too much for feature production companies in Toronto, I have a pretty good idea how feature film financing works in this country, but short film funding… is something new to me.  At least, funding a short film outside of film school.

If you’re familiar with the film or television funding system in Canada, you know that we depend completely on government funds to make up the majority of financing for our projects.  Producers apply– also known as application hell– and a few select projects are chosen every term to receive Development, Production, Marketing, or Completion funding– depending on what you’ve applied for.  It’s very much a “wait-and-let’s-see” system.  And how these government funders decided on which projects to back… probably could be its own thread.  But let’s not get into that.

Short films aren’t really any different.  Depending on what province or region you are in Canada, there are different initiatives, funds, and grants offered by arts councils and organizations.  You apply for them in the way you would for feature film or television funding– though, on a much smaller scale and budget.

But like these larger productions, if you’re lucky enough to get even a small grant, you’re usually still stuck with a hole in your budget.  In features, you’d have to find “gap financing.”  Maybe a bank loan.  Other investors.  This is why co-productions are so popular, but bring with them their own issues of creative control, depending if you’re a majority or minority stakeholder, for lack of a better term.

For a short film, chances are… your “gap financing” is exactly what you can pull out of your own pocket.  Your savings.  Or from the new-ish way of funding… CROWDFUNDING.  Which is when a group (crowd) of people, or unique investors, come together to offer a little bit of funding each, so that in the end, the whole is enough to accomplish your fundraising goal.  Some filmmakers have had great success with it.  But you work hard for every penny, and you need to have a tough skin.

So, where does our film, LITTLE MISS JIHAD, stand in all of this?

We were lucky enough to win the pitch competition in the Emerging Category of the 2011 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.  What comes with it… is fantastic support.  A little bit financial.  A little bit services-in-kind.  But it’s not as much as people think.  If you look closely at what’s being offered, you can come up with a real number value to the prize.  Now compare that to the fact that this will be a 12 minute film.

What do you think the budget is per minute of screen time?

Let me tell you, it ain’t cheap.

But I knew that, going into this process.  I knew that I would likely be sinking my savings into this project.  And because this is a short film, I am never going to see a dime of it back again.

So why am I doing this?

Why does any filmmaker make a film?  We’re frakkin’ nuts.

But no, the truth is… it’s an investment in emerging talent.  Not even for myself, because I’m pretty sure making a short film, means shit for my writing career.  But that’s okay.  If this is all that I walk away with, at the end of it all, a produced piece of work… then I’d consider that a pretty damn fine swan song out of this industry.

For a short film, you really don’t make anything from distribution– we’re talking dimes here.  You certainly won’t make money on the festival circuit.  Sure, if it’s any good, and we hope it will be, you might qualify for a prize or two, but anything monetary, goes back to recouping your debt.  I have no illusions.  A film like this will never break even.  EVER.  Its 12 minutes long.  Do the math.  I certainly have!

So we’ve applied to grants, but we have no idea if we’ll get anything– see, the “wait-and-let’s-see” system that we adore here– and if we do, we wouldn’t likely get the maximum we’ve asked for.  I can hope.  But we don’t know.  And we won’t know until right before we shoot.  So we’re going forward anyway.  We’re taking a shot in the dark.

The only other option is “soft money” or private investors.  But that will always come with strings attached.

Thankfully, we have our lovely supporters who have helped us raised an amazing 35% of our $6000 goal towards paying our Crew & Cast.   You’ll notice that for our Crowdfunding Campaign, not a dime is going towards our Production or Post-Production costs.  It’s not even going to the casting/audition costs.  These funds are going directly to our people.

Why?  Why do something like that?!

Sure, it’s a lot more work for me.  It’s a lot– to ask your friends, family, and strangers for money.  But for those who know me personally, know that I spent the better part of almost two years working and interning for free.  If I could write a book, I would so name it, “How to Lose Your Soul in 9 Internships.”  Hey, never say never.

It’s because I believe wholeheartedly that by not paying people, you undermine the whole system.  The next generation of talent.  And I’m probably pissing off everybody I’ve ever interned with by saying that.  But it’s the truth.  If you don’t pay people, even a small something, we will all bugger off and leave this Godforsaken industry.

Hell, I still might.

So yeah, I want to pay people.  Sue me.

But I asked for help, because I, personally, am on the hook for the Production and Post-Production costs of my film.  Especially if the grants don’t come through.  These are my savings.  Gone.  And why should my Cast & Crew go down with the ship?  If I do leave this industry, I want to go out knowing that I helped people.  Not hurt them.

I want to help people fulfill their potential and dreams.  Even it’s only for 12 minutes.

Complete arrogance and hubris.  I know.  How dare I.

In short, how do you fund a short film?

You beg, borrow, and steal.  And then beg some more.

Hey, it’s film.  It’s risky.

And maybe that’s why it’s exciting.

Thanks for taking the risk with us!

Crew Fun Facts – Our Resident Story Editor, Consuelo Solar (Recap)

Awwww... this is how we feel about Consuelo.

If you missed it last week, we recap our public flogging of our beloved Story Editor, Consuelo Solar.  This is what you get for being so kind & generous, Consuelo!!!  Muhahahaha!

So we have 4 fun facts about Consuelo “Story” Solar, who we met many moons ago, on a dark… and calm night, at one of WIFT’s many networking panels.   Little did we know then, but she would rise to greatness.  She would for on to work with WIFT as the Research Coordinator for their recent iWDMS Conference in Stratford, Ontario (yes, home of Bieber).  She’s also part of the team putting together a research study on employment trends for women in the film, television, and new media industries.  In short, Consuelo is awesome.

And so, without further adieu, we give you… humiliation!

“Our lunch hour public shaming of our wonderful Story Editor, Consuelo Solar, has come to an end. In case you missed it, we had 4 fun facts that will both tickle you… and wish you had the foresight to get more dirt on your peers. Yay! A small pre-amble, and a case of… did you know? Consuelo hails from Chile. She’s a journalist & was a field producer for CNN. She came to Canada to study Screenwriting & Story Editing at York University in Toronto– where she completed her M.F.A. She often does fun things like interview actors at TIFF… and work for WIFT. Hey, that rhymes! She is brilliant. She knows story. She is generous beyond measure. Without further adieu, fun facts!!! Fun facts!!!”

1.  When Consuelo was in preschool, and didn’t know how to read yet, she would make up stories and pretend to read them just to impress her classmates.  (Editor’s Note: Always lie to children. It’s the writers’ way.)

2.  She wrote letters to Santa even after I found out he wasn’t real… just so she could change my mind at the last minute, and “Santa” would have to do some extra shopping to get her what she “really” wanted.  (See, brilliant, right?)

3.  Her first encounter with the North American culture was in Millington, Michigan, where she lived for year.  (Don’t bother looking it up on a map, but it’s just a half an hour drive from the excitement of Flint!) – We did look it up & we cry for you, Consuelo.

4.  The only way she can fully wake up in the morning is to watch funny kitty videos on YouTube.  Yes, she’s one of those ladies.

This is for you, Consuelo!!!

The Case for Diverse Casting (Oooh, the “D” Word!)

Hey Tina from GLEE! You may only get one line per episode... and that new exchange student from Ireland totally says more in one monologue than you have all season... but we still love you!!!

Okay, I’m pretty sure I blogged about this last year, but I’ll do it again for the sake of our shiny new Production Blog here.  Yay!  First off, I think the definition of “diverse” is pretty broad.  Like, who isn’t diverse & unique?  As we were fond of saying at my old workplace, every film is a snowflake.

And yes, you are all snowflakes.

Having said that, I do believe that innovation comes out of rebelling against the status quo.  Whatever that status quo happens to be.  Change is good.  Change means growth.

I grew up, and still live in Scarborough, Ontario– which is one of the most diverse and multicultural communities in Toronto– and I dare say, Canada.  This is my reality.  This is my “normal.”

I also went to York University in Toronto, which is one of the most diverse campuses you’ll come across in this country.

So, you can forgive me for believing this to be the status quo.

In fact, it wasn’t until I got out into the “real” world… did I ever feel like I had gotten it wrong.  If you look around at the majority, the status quo of folks who work in the film and television industry, there is a disconnect, at least, between my reality… and the “real” reality.  Through no fault of the majority– mind you.

To be clear, I have never felt folks going out of their way to defend the current status quo, or to keep things the same.  For the most part, I do get the sense that there’s encouragement there.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t encountered sexism and racism in subtle or not so subtle ways.  But you move on, feeling sorry for those people.

No, what I’m saying is that the status quo is comfortable.  It’s easier.

Why fix what ain’t broke?

This is where we differ.

Because things are broken… when I turn on the TV… and I don’t see my my reality.  And I’m not talking about token characters.  Background characters.  I’m talking leads.  Real bonafide leads.  The starring role.

Because things are broken… when I have to resign myself to the fact that I will never be the hero of my story.  My own story.

What do you say to that?

What do you tell your family members in other countries?  This is Canada.  We are all background players in the story of Canada.

That’s where I call bullshit.

Like I said, it’s not personal, right?  It’s business.  And saying the “majority” won’t watch… the so-called “minority”… quite frankly is doing a disservice to the majority.

We watch the stories of the majority.  Why wouldn’t the majority watch our stories?

There are some universal truths– love, life, and loss.

But it’s the nuances and the small differences… that are just as beautiful.  And often overlooked.

I’m casting diverse– meaning… rebelling from the status quo– because first off,  it’s right for the story that we want to tell.  And anything else would be false.

I don’t like saying it, but casting any other way… would be easier.  But I feel that only gives credence to those who would defend the status quo.

But no, I say with pride that I’m putting my money where my principles are.  And man, do I know that principles are overrated in this industry.

And it’s going to cost me.  A lot more.  Out of my own pocket more.  But I’m saying… it’s worth it.  Because if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?


Because it’s just easier not to do it.

Which is wrong.  So totally wrong.

So one week from now, we’ll be auditioning young emerging & diverse actresses for our child lead of Afghani-American, Sally Khan.  We’re hoping we’ll find her.  But we’ll keep looking if we don’t, because I’m committed to this.

Like I said, principles don’t last long in this industry.  I guess I’m glad, for once, that I’m not really in it.

But a huge thank you to those who have come forward to support what we’re doing.  We are trying to encourage change.  Even if it is one young actress at a time.

Like I said, it could be easier.

But since when is the right path… the easiest?

Crew Fun Facts: Friend of the Production – Nathalie Younglai (Recap)

Sorry, Nathalie! We couldn't resist! Actually, we could've, but decided not to.

If you missed it last Saturday, we publicly shamed Mega Friend of the Production, Ms. Nathalie Younglai.  Her crime?  Wanting to help us.  Unforgiveable, right?  We first met (and by “we” – I mean “me” – Steph, here!) at last year’s Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, through our common friend, and writer/producer extraordinaire, Deb Chantson.  But it wouldn’t be until Nathalie and I were thrown together in the WGC-CTV Diverse Screenwriters Program, that we would really get to know each other in that very intense bootcamp week.  Which is now a blur.  Yay!

But I digress.  Nathalie is one of those people who will give, give, give, and not expect a thing back.  Except for love.  But she has our love.  We have a deep respect for the fact that she worked her way up in this industry– all the way to the ranks of being a respected reality/lifestyle producer and director.  She’s worked on a billion shows, but you may catch her work on SLICE and The Food Network amongst others.  She is also a very talented writer in her own right, and her pilot GREY OPS (developed through the CTV Diverse Screenwriters Program), will be read at the upcoming LIFT reading in Toronto on December 14th, 2011.  So save the date!

Without further adieu, we give you 5 fun facts about Nathalie!!!

“Saturday lunchtime funtime/fun facts about our crew has come to an end. Today, we publicly humiliated Ms. Nathalie Younglai, Super Friend of the Production, and a kick ass producer/director in her own lovely, self-effacing right. You gotta pimp that cred out, Nathalie, yo! And I don’t know why I’m talking like that. In short, we love Nathalie. And she loves our Production. Which means you should love us to… and that’s not a fallacy at all. So without further adieu, 5 incriminating facts about much-awaited-iPhone-Nathalie!”

1. Nathalie’s fav food combo growing up was french fries dipped in soft ice cream. (Yum, yum!)

2. She can read a murder mystery book in two hours. (We have not yet tested her on this, but I suspect we will. Late night on set. Much literary merry-making shall be had!)

3. Once, she made her daughter cry so they could be fast-tracked through airport security. (Brilliant.)

4. She bought 6 pairs of shoes for her wedding and wore 3. (See brilliant above.)

5. Her sister and she used to re-enact scenes from Bugs Bunny with Witch Hazel, including the flying hairpin twirl. (Too awesome).

If you’d like to follow flying hairpin twirling Nathalie, you may do so on twitter @NYounglai – Huzzah! ♥ ♥ ♥

Production Meeting Nov. 29 – Epic

Today we had our first production meeting today in downtown Toronto to discuss casting and timelines.

We parked ourselves in a coffee shop for an epic 6 hours! Thank you to the staff at the friendly locally owned S.C. for not kicking us out and being very nice to us!

I would like to offer you some pictures for your viewing pleasure…


So we begin our meeting. Like many meetings, we started with tangents.

But we came here to discuss timelines and casting! So let the judgement begin!!

We talked and argued and laughed. And talked some more.

3 drinks and a date square later....

We came up with to-do lists and timelines, and diagrams.

A sample of my (Jess speaking) diagram below

Beautiful isn't it?

… I have no delusions about my drawing abilities…

So little did we know it is approaching 5pm! By this time my brain was frying and my bum was numb…. we decided to bid adieu to the friendly coffee shop. But not before taking another picture!


That was it! Hope these pictures offered some entertainment!

Sidebar: I’m not as articulate as Steph, so thank you for putting up with my horrible writing in this pre-production blog!