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Behind the scenes. On location. Scarborough, Ontario.

Principal Photography began on Friday, April 6th, 2012.  We wrapped production four days later on Monday, April 9th.  The crew was amazing.  Our A.D. Matt Hotson was a real pro, keeping us on schedule, and running the floor with efficiency and authority.  Our cinematographer, Adam Crosby, brought with him an incredible eye for detail, story, and character.  His camera crew was awesome in terms of their professionalism and speed.  And we got the best of the sound world with mixer Jeff Magat’s great crew– thanks Art and Lindsay!  We couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Our co-director, Jessica Wu, pulled multiple duty by handling our art dec and wardrobe details.  Thanks to Jess, the props, costumes, and sets looked incredible, and most importantly, they all worked to serve the story.  And special thanks to our key make-up and hair artist, Mehnaz Khan, for braving our large cast (over a dozen actors), and making each one of them shine– no small feat!

Speaking of which, our actors gave us fantastic performances.  After a long casting process, and rehearsals, our actors were really on their game.  When the camera rolled, they knew their lines, and they had their characters down.  Huge thanks to Melanie Leon, Rahim Hajee, Davis Ryan, Carol Chen, Karen Kwong-Chip, and the rest of our lovely cast for giving their best to the project.  And thanks to Jasmine Chan, our young lead, who met our challenging material head on.  It was her first set experience, and we appreciated the learning curve that represented to her.

We’re very proud of all our actors.

As well, we were very grateful to have the help of our family and friends who volunteered to lend a hand.  Making a film is not easy, and having that support meant the world to us.  Thank you!

(In particular, thanks to Consuelo Solar, Katy Swailes, Vincent Lui, Mirella Christou, Andrew Nguyen & Ashish Seth!  To my Family: Chris, Mike, Mom, Dad, Sau-Fann Lee, Sau Kan Lee, and Sau Man Lee!)

SPECIAL THANKS to our sponsors:  The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Charles Street Video, Whites Interactive, Behind The Scenes Services, and the myriad of other individuals who came forward with their support, contributions, and advice. 

What’s next?  Post-production.  Over the next few weeks, we will be editing the footage into a rough cut, getting feedback, and proceeding to a fine cut.  At that point, we will start the post-sound process (editing, mixing, design, composing), and other considerations in terms of conforming, coloring, and mastering.  Yes, lots to think about when it comes to the workflow of a film project!

But stay tuned!  It ain’t over ’till it’s over. 🙂

Writing for Production

Everybody loves writing, right? Right?! Photo Source:

With the Toronto Screenwriting Conference this weekend, which I’ll be attending this year (Steph here!), it seemed only appropriate to talk about writing for production.  And since the script for “Little Miss Jihad” came out of a class named exactly that back at York University, an even more fitting reason!

The script.  Without it, there is no film.  There is no TV show.  No web series.  It’s been described as a blueprint, but that’s a rather overly-practical and incomplete definition.  A script embodies more than just directions and dialogue.  It seeks to do justice to that initial spark of imagination.

Inspiration, if you will.

Not everybody can write.  This is more a statement, than a judgement.  Writing is like any other craft.  You have to work at it.  And you have to have taste if you want to succeed commerically.  Sure, everybody thinks they have taste… but how do you know?  You don’t.  All you have is general consensus.

THE FIRST STEP to writing for production is making sure all your collaborators are seeing the same film.  If things are confusing, or the logic doesn’t track, these are usually the first things to pay attention to.  Everything else… is personal taste.  But if more than two or three people point out the same thing, there is usually something behind that note.

Having said that, the feedback process is an incredibly difficult one.  There have been many times throughout the past few months were I couldn’t see the forest from the trees.  Is this working?  Or isn’t it?  How do I know that’s not your personal opinion?  But a legitimate story or structural concern?

The truth is… you don’t really know.  All you can do… is do your best.  Stay true to the heart of your story.  Take what you need.  Toss the rest.  I’ve followed this mantra for a long time now.  Knowing which notes to take… depends on experience, and a lot of gut instinct.  And of course, if you’re fortunate to be working with a story editor who you respect and trust, their guidance can often steer you away from hitting those trees.

But there is no science to writing.  As much as you can bottle structure, story, theme, dialogue, and character, everybody has their own voice– their own poetry of imagination.  Seek out like-minded individuals.  Seek out individuals who are polar opposites of you.  Only then, can you get a diverse and happy range of opinions and tastes.  Personally, this is the only way that I like to operate.  Collaboration.  Listening.

Listening to others doesn’t make you weak.  It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.  It doesn’t mean you don’t know what you want.  It means that you’re wise enough to consider the other possibilities.  And only then, can your work have a chance to reach its greatest audience.

THE SECOND STEP to writing for production is considering… well, production!  How many locations and sets appear in the script?  Number of characters?  Are your scenes set at night, or during the day?  What about special effects and stunts?

When you’re producing a film, you quickly realize that every choice you made in your script?  It has a dollar amount.  That prop?  Is going to cost you $100/day.  Child actors?  Immediately, you can’t have long shoot days– for the kids– but that doesn’t necessarily apply to the crew. 😉

Once you’ve culled down your script as much as you can, while still preserving the essence and intention of your scenes, you’re left with your production draft.  This is what your Production Manager and Assistant Director takes away to figure out your set days, schedule, call times, etc…

As you can see, it all builds outward from the script.  If the foundation isn’t solid, the building will fall.

We hope it doesn’t fall!

THE THIRD THING about writing for production… is letting go.  After you’ve spent months or years working on an idea, you now have to realize that you’ve done your best, and what happens on set is within, and without, your control.  Filmmaking is a series of compromises, but the best thing you can do, is arm yourself with the best possible script, cast, and crew.

In little over a week, “Little Miss Jihad” goes into production. Soon… all those words?  Those images?  Flickers of emotion and intention?  They will be reality.

And there is nothing more exciting than that.

~ Stephanie

Mega Summary (Or Ride that Rollercoaster!)

Filmmaking is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get. Except for emotional vomit. Yay!

It’s been almost a month since our last post, and that’s not because of a lack of progress.  Quite the contrary, lots has happened!  Co-director, Jessica, and I (Steph here!) have met up more than a few times for production meetings.  We got our general production insurance.  We conducted our first callback session at the end of January, as well as new auditions.  And we’re currently searching for actors for the last of our principal roles, as well as a few minor speaking ones.  While we have not yet offered parts to actors, that’s on our agenda in the coming weeks.

We’re also starting to do preliminary research into crew and indie shoot rates.  We’re gathering recommendations, as well as suggestions from friends and peers.  One big thing that we’ll have to do soon… is lock our dates.  Without locked dates, it’s virtually impossible for crew up, because so much depends on availability.  In terms of budget, we also need to factor in what we need versus what we can afford.

Looking ahead, other things that we need to get started on is our belated location scout.  From that, we can then work on storyboards, and see what we need in terms of set decoration/props, art direction, wardrobe, and to a lesser extent, make-up.

In March, we need to be working towards booking our equipment, seeing if anyone will help us out with a deal, and seeing again what we need versus what we can afford.  Suffice to say, we only dream of dollies… hahaha… sigh.  Yes, the joys of low-budget filmmaking!

In the meantime, we’re still running our crowdfunding campaign, so that we’ll be able to pay our hardworking actors and crew members.  Because we believe that people should be paid for the value of their work– just like a doctor or lawyer would.  Artists deserve no less; but it is harder to achieve.

If you can, help us spread the word!  Whether its moral or monetary support, we appreciate your help.

~ Team LMJ