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PRODUCTION NOTES

Making a movie is taking a journey into unknown territory.

You have plans, but on the way there strange valleys, strange encounters, peaks and valleys, challenging weather and other unexpected obstacles.

And sometimes over the years of the development of SHOT there were times when producer/director Jeremy Kagan felt the obstacles were insurmountable like in this drawing he did:

The project had started back in 2010 when he decided to create a movie around the subject of gun violence which had been on his mind for decades.

Kagan who is also a tenured professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC had recently started The Change Making Media Lab – www.cmml-usc.org – which is devoted to using cinematic media to change perceptions and behavior.

He was working with other USC colleagues on violence intervention programs and repeatedly heard personal stories of gun violence. And it was the specific stories about innocent bystanders getting shot and their sharing their experiences and often voicing the question “Why me?” that got Kagan committed to making the movie. He developed an idea that would have the audience in real time experience what it means to get shot. He wrote up an outline for a story and then worked with Will Lamborn, a former student whose work he admired, to develop the initial draft of the screenplay for SHOT. Will researched thoroughly all the events that happen when someone is shot on a street. He became intimate with the inner workings of the EMT and ER teams.

At first a theme of “live by the gun, die by the gun” got worked through. But over the years and frustrations of almost getting the movie made, then not, a newer theme of redemption emerged. Kagan turned to his partner Anneke Campbell to write subsequent drafts of the story. The first draft of the screenplay had started as a blind date going very bad, but delving deeper into characters, Campbell and Kagan went for a couple whose relationship is on the verge of collapse with the man overworked hiding his financial troubles and the woman feeling more and more distance. The story of the shooter changed too, from that of a gang centered kid, to an innocent teen being bullied and given a gun for “protection.”

It is said that you make a movie 4 times: first developing the script. Second casting the actors and crew. Third the actual production shoot of the movie. Fourth the editing, and other post production processes including music and effects.

As the screenplays developed, there was an overlap of the casting process. Kagan thought the issue might appeal to some stars who evinced their concerns about gun violence, but getting past their gate keepers and the fear of doing a “controversial” movie put road blocks up. This same resistance occurred when approaching conventional production companies. Lots of “no’s” along the way. Here is another drawing Kagan made as he faced the obstacles.

But he believed in this project and its purpose. He contacted the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence to see how the movie could reflect their approaches to the problem and potentially help the movement. He met with gun violence victims and recorded their stories. He spent time with EMTs and road in their ambulances. He met with police who answer the calls of gun violence. He visited ERs late a night to witness GSWs – gun shot wounds. He talked with doctors and nurses. And the story continued to define itself. In way as you make a movie it begins to tell you what it wants to be.

Kagan simultaneously began working with production designer Chuck Parker scouting locations throughout Los Angeles. He wanted this to be an LA story particularly because LA has so many different cultures in close contact. He also started work with famed storyboard artist and designer Ed Verreaux who put together a short sequence to help present the film. Its own sizzle reel.

And then Kagan in a discussion with another director realized that he knew an actor who had himself spoken out on the issue and in fact had been arrested for protesting. Noah Wyle. Kagan had a relationship with Noah from their past. They had both lived on the same street, and when Kagan was doing a series called Freedom Files about civil liberties. Noah had participated in one about inspiring youth to action to protect their freedoms. He called Noah and Noah agreed to read the script himself. Not have his agents do that first. When Kagan nervously called Noah to hear his reaction, Noah said he had read the script and been captivated, but on the last pages he was so shocked by what he read, that he threw the script across his room. Kagan sighed. Another pass. But then Noah said he picked the script up again, and finished it, and realized what finally happened, and this turned him around, and he then said he wanted to do the movie.

Kagan put together a small team headed by his associate Dave O’Brien from the Change Making Media Lab, and indie producer Josh Siegel, and they began a detailed budgeting of the movie. They were ready to start when Noah had to delay production because of a commitment to another project so the team and offices were shut down. A costly moment for this independent movie.

During this next waiting time more work on the screenplay commenced and in a way what was an obstacle became a gift as it allowed Kagan and Campbell to further develop the script and characters. There was a moment when the two of them were struggling with one of the last moments in the story when both of them awoke from the same dream and knew what to do and what needed to be said.

One of the challenges of the screenplay was to figure out how to have the two stories – that of Mark who gets shot – and of Miguel who does the shooting – play at the same time. Could characters from one story be talking while the other story was going on? And if so, how would that work? It became a complex writing of timings. And a problem actually emerged that was technical because there was not screenplay writing program that could allow a page to show to stories at the same time. Kagan had to figure out a new way of tricking the software and it was exceedingly frustrating. As you can see here from a page– sometimes the type face would be a soft gray when someone was speaking to indicate that what they said was not as important as what you would hear on the other side of the screen.

Months later as a new team started, Kagan had a different vision about where to locate the film. He wanted to stay in Los Angeles but he wanted to see the city in a fresh way. As the movie was to be a roller coaster ride, he wanted it to be in a hilly area, so Chuck Parker, who had stayed on through the hiatus, scouted new areas of the city, coming up with a section called Echo Park which offered a variety of looks and feels mixing economic, and cultural differences next to each other which was another theme in the story.

The rest of the crew got assembled with both experienced and newer filmmakers. The tight budget required people more committed to telling this story than just doing another job. And where the money was going to come from to make the movie was still an issue.

As Kagan tried to find the money needed, he had a conversation with a well- respected leader of Landmark Education who challenged him: “Are you just going to talk about this or are you going to do it.” No limits. No excuses. He was reminded of his mentor John Cassavetes who would set a date to make a movie and start whether he had all the money or not. Courage. Kagan decided to do what most filmmakers avoid at all costs, put up money himself. It wasn’t going to be enough so he approached his brother a successful ophthalmologist in New York for an investment. They had a joke with each other over the years: You fix their eyes, I will give them something to look at. Kagan was also clear, knowing that when you make a movie particularly when you make an independent film, and a controversial one, there is no guarantee of making your money back. But the brothers agreed to take the risk. If you reading this now have paid for seeing the movie, then their investment may be recouped. But as important to both brothers is: if this has helped you think and maybe act in any way toward curbing gun violence in this country, then their intention has been realized. The final piece of the financing came through Robert Halmi, Jr. of Great Point Media and, as with many aspects of this collaborative movie making process, it was who you know, and in this case Halmi was given the script by producer and former Showtime chief executive Jerry Offsay for whom Kagan had made a number of cable movies. Halmi liked the script and Noah’s participation and he agreed to do the last part of the financing.

Helping cast the rest of the 45 parts this second time out into production was Kerry Barden who had helped cast some memorable other independent movies. In talking about the casting process Kagan who teaches directing at USC and is Chairperson of Special Projects for the Directors Guild of America recounts that he has met and interviewed hundreds of the most respected directors in cinema. Three books have come from these interviews and his teaching: DIRECTORS CLOSE UP, vol. 1 and vol. 2 and a new eTextbook KEYS TO DIRECTING www.keystodirecting,com.

These interviews are always about craft (hundreds of these in depth video interviews are on the DGA website – www.dga.org - under Visual Histories and Meet the Nominees like the photo above). Kagan says he has learned many differing techniques for pre-production, production and post production from these masters and colleagues. And in pre-production during casting he applies what he calls a conversational method with potential actors, engaging them in what can often be emotional subjects. And as this movie was about getting hurt, dealing with emergencies, being in physical danger, Kagan would ask potential actors to tell their stories related to these kind of experiences and, as he says, you can feel how they exhibit what he calls their “emotional” muscles. In these encounters he can sense their capacities to bring truth to performance. The classic way of casting is having the actors read the part, but as Kagan observes the actors brought by the casting people have already proven their skills. It is now more about the relationship between the director and the actor, how they can work with each other, and that can be explored in many ways besides specific re-direction of what the actor brings in for a reading of the lines.

In seeking a visual colleague Kagan asked experienced cinematographer Jacek Laskus to work on the film. They had shot television shows together and another independent experimental film. Their initial discussions were about a specific style for the film. Kagan wanted, once the bullet is fired, to shift points of view. Rather than objectively looking at the incidents, he wanted the viewer, from that moment on, to see everything through the eyes of the character who gets shot. This means having the camera be in positions where it is looking at what the character sees. How to do this? In their early explorations they discovered a camera that an actor could actually wear on their head.

But there was a problem with these kinds of cameras. They were easy to wear if you only
used a wide lens which limited the kind of imagery both Kagan and Laskus wanted. And when you put on another lens that allowed for focal changes the device became quite heavy. They needed to find another option and with the help of Michael Mansouri and his crew at Radiant Images they decided on using a version of the light weight Arri Alexa Mini digital camera.

Kagan then had some students from the acting school at USC come to test out a scene using this camera to see if he and Laskus could achieve the effect of taking the POV of the character played by Noah Wyle. They tried a variety of cameras and decided to have two on the set. One that could be worn by the actor and the other held close to the head of the actor.

Kagan also began working with a brilliant storyboard artist from Asia and a former student Dwight Hwang having him sketch out some of the more challenging scenes.

He also had one of his students work with him on doing a kind of primitive pre- visualization of the movie where they went to various locations and Kagan using his iPhone filmed various scenes.

One often very expensive location for movies is an emergency rooms in hospitals. The real ones operate 24/7 so you can’t shoot in them. There are rentable re- creations of these kinds of sets on certain studio locations but these are very expensive and you have to bring in all the equipment, which is also costly. What to do? The team visited a new hospital studio set and Kagan was ready to adopt to it because the price was reasonable, but it turned out they had no city insurance, and in many ways the team was lucky, because they could never have accomplished what they wanted in that space had they settled for it. Again sometimes when the obstacles appear they are offering alternative solutions. On weekends through Kagan’s colleagues at USC, he would get permission to observe the workings of the ER at the new hospital. He asked some of the leading surgeons and administrators if they had ideas where he could shoot the important sequences in an ER space and they, to his surprise, said that the former ER that was now closed and being used as a training facilities might be able to be used as the set.

This ER was still fully equipped as it now was used as a learning space for student doctors and nurses. After much negotiations through the university bureaucracies, Kagan in the end being a member of that community as a professor at USC, was able to get permission, and a major challenge to the locations on the movie was solved. They would be able to work there for 9 days straight.

As they got closer to filming and the specific time window of work for Noah was approaching, there were two key roles that had not yet been cast. One was the part of Phoebe who is Mark’s (Noah’s) estranged wife in the story. Partly in the intention to have the movie show the diversity of America, Kagan and Campbell had created the role for an African American actress. They met some gifted actresses and one stood out and a deal was structured, but a week before filming she announced that she had been cast in another television mini-series where she was going to be paid better and would no longer be available. Now this was quite a jolt to the filmmakers. This kind of situation isn’t normal. You make a deal, you keep to the deal, but the gatekeepers for this actress knew that she would make much more money on this other show, so with apologies, they withdrew from the deal. Again, one door closes and it feels like an obstacle of desperation, but another actress turned out to be available when earlier she wasn’t and in stepped the delightful emotive Sharon Leal, and when Noah met her. he too felt excited by her playing the part.

Finding Miguel who is the teen who accidentally shoots Mark was another challenge. Years earlier in a draft that had this character wanting to be accepted in a gang, Kagan had met former young gang members who were interested in acting. Over

his career Kagan had cast unknowns in various roles, sometimes leading ones like Meredith Salenger as the 14 year old star of The Journey of Natty Gann, so he was comfortable with directing inexperienced performers. There was one former gang member that had possibilities but as time went on and production stalled, Kagan and Campbell reconceived the part. They didn’t want the cliché of the Latino gang member and gun violence, but they did want to show that in economically stressed neighborhoods gun sellers exploit the frustrations and make access to guns easier, even if illegal. So they created a character who is being bullied and accused of being queer and his older cousin gives him a stolen pistol for “protection.” Kagan met many prospective young actors for the part and Kerry brought in an actor Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., recently arrived from New York. He had presence and authenticity. And coincidently, and there are no coincidences, his first movie was directed by a former student of Kagan’s from USC.

Kagan also called on some favors from other actors he knew who shared his views about movies making a difference. He had worked with the brilliant Xander Berkeley on his Golden Globe nominated ROSWELL: THE UFO COVERUP and kept in touch over the years admiring his continually outstanding performances. He asked Xander to play the ER chief resident and his schedule fit so he joined the team and even convinced his wife Sarah Clarke who was one of the stars of the hit TV show Bosch to work one day.

The well known Malcolm Jamal Warner became one of the three EMTs and the NY Latino actor Dominic Colon arranged to be in LA for that part of the shoot. With Tommy Dey Carey they spent time with the actual men who do this work and learned their skills one of which was to stay calm in the midst of the unknown and sometimes scary. Note that in this photo there are two cameras. Kagan believes in using multiple cameras for almost every scene he shoots. It gives more choices in the editing room and allows the actors to not have to repeatedly redo scenes so there can be at times a natural flow to the performance. In the case of this shot, one camera is taking Phoebe’s POV and the other Mark’s.

This same intense training applied to those in the actors in the ER. Obviously from Noah’s many years in on the TV show ER, he had advice to share with these other performers, but Elaine Kagan who is an actress and writer and former wife or the director works in the triage of one of the busiest ER rooms in Los Angeles, she was able to have her associates come to the set as advisors. The other actors who joined the ER team were the popular Elaine Hendrix from the TV series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, Joy Osmanski and Eve Kagan.

Yes, this was a Kagan production. His brother was co-financier, his x-wife Elaine helped out here and played a part in the last section of the movie, and his daughter Eve who had become well known as a theater actress in Boston, joined the nursing team. Kagan had to do some convincing to get here out to LA as she was a new mom and living in Virginia and getting a masters in clinical psychology. Her plate was overflowing but he knew how good she was and how she loved acting so he demanded “filial submission” and she came out to work with him.

In finishing out all the crew roles, a essential part is the editor and in this case Kagan turned to another colleague of his at USC, Norm Hollyn who ran the editing department of the school. Kagan was excited to have Norm as he knew he would be challenged by this respected creative who had written a definitive books about editing - The Film Editing Room Handbook and The Lean Forward Moment.

The first day of production was Nov 2nd 2015, and the very first sequence was the ride in the ambulance.

On the limited budget they couldn’t build one, which would have allowed more easy access of camera and lights. They had to use a real one and create a space around it so that it gave a sense of movement. But the bigger challenge was timing. On the one hand, Kagan’s overall concept was that the film would play in real time. This meant no jump cutting ahead to some other scene. Usually you see someone put inside an ambulance, a few shots in the ambulance, a few shots out on the street seeing the ambulance speed by, and then its arrival at a hospital. But in the movie, the idea was to experience all the time once inside. The entire seven minute ride to a hospital. All that goes on during the ride. Not just the emergency parts, those were there to be filmed, but also just the waiting and the worrying. There is as much anxiety in the not knowing and having to just be. But that wasn’t the only challenge. Kagan wanted the viewer now to take the point of view of the character who gets shot and also his concerned wife. And no other points of view. No shots from the POVs of the EMTs in the vehicle. No shot from the street of the ambulance speeding by. Only shots of the faces of Mark and Phoebe and what they see. Only their points of view. Kagan wanted us to be intimate with their experiences. Not objective. So this meant that the cameraperson at times had to lie down on the gurney in the ambulance with Noah tight next to her so that what we see is what Mark would see. And the framing reflected this as well. His head is tied down for security on the ride to protect his back and so he can’t really turn his head so if he is looking at an EMT or at Phoebe they are in the sides of his vision. And there was a third challenge here. And that was timing.

Kagan had designed the script so the two stories are happening at the same time. The story of Mark and Phoebe and the story of Miguel, the boy who has done the shooting. He intended these two stories to play simultaneously. And there were moments when the group in the ambulance had to be quiet because what was going to be shot weeks later in Miguel’s story was going to have dialogue that needed to be heard on his side of the screen.

Kagan had meticulously laid out the script reduced to very small pages to be a guide to when one side of the screen would take audio dominance over another side. And now here on the first days of shooting when everyone is just getting used to each other and figuring how the various members of the crew can workwith each other as well as the actors, Kagan was
literally timing moments and telling his actors to stop talking while they were shooting and be silent, but still be in the scene because he was not going to be cutting away from this scene.

You hope when you begin shooting a picture that you have found already all your cast and all your locations. This is more the ideal as inevitably things change. A location falls through. Dates change because of various contingencies and an actor who was available for this date isn’t for that one. This became true on SHOT for a number of locations so that on the weekends Kagan and his design team were out scouting locations for the coming weeks. One of them was where Miguel and his family would live. They needed and interior and exterior of a real location. Kagan kept on his own driving back to an area sometimes after a days shooting till he spotted something that felt unique and still down and out for their home. It was fascinating that the interior worked almost perfectly as the family that lived there was living the same economic stresses that the family in the story had.

In the last third of the story, when Mark, now in a wheel chair is dealing with the loss of his legs, there was a scene in a rehab situation. Kagan had gone to real ones and one particular one where he has spent time with men who were Latinos shot and now paralyzed. He met the people who trained them. He wanted to shoot with them and in that location but it couldn’t be arranged. Now in the midst of the shoot they were still looking for an appropriate location and one of the places they went to was an old Catholic church in the east LA area. When the design team led by Chuck Parker and the cameraman Jacek Laskus joined Kagan on the weekend, they were shown around by Father Jessie of the church. Kagan asked him about whether he deals with kids who have been involved in gun shootings and he told him some stories of his own. Kagan saw the compassion in this priest and felt this was the way that part should be played as there was a scene where Miguel goes to his priest for advice And then father Jesse showed the team an area that could be converted into a rehab facility but Kagan also opened a door that took them into an old large swimming pool lit by almost a deco ceiling. It was unique and Kagan suddenly had an idea. What if it were a pool that Mark is being given rehab training? That happens. He got very excited about this possibility. Jacek loved the light. Kagan decided to re-write for this pool and as it had one of those chairs that you use to have someone who is incapacitated in getting into a pool, this would work well. Mark would go from wheelchair to that mechanical seat and it would go over the water and he would be lowered into it. But on the day of the shoot, the chair didn’t work. The electrics failed. They called in someone to fix it but Kagan knew they didn’t have time. What to do? Kagan turned to the physical therapist Oscar Gallardo who he had med at that center and asked to be a technical advisor if he would in fact be in the movie and play what he does for real and do something that would be appropriate for someone in Mark’s case. Oscar agreed and a new scene emerged on the spot. One door closes, another opens. One path blocked, another taken.

And then the actor that Kagan had planned to use to play Father T in the movie couldn’t do it at the time, and Kagan suddenly decided to drive back over to that church and talk to Father Jesse and ask him if he would play the part. It turned out that Father Jesse ran a local theatrical troupe through the church and he had fantasized some day actually being in a movie. He is now.

Kagan’s way of decompressing is riding his bike. There was really no time during the shoot except on some Sunday mornings. And one morning while he hurried by the beach he suddenly saw something he’d never seen before. It was a man being pulled in his wheel chair by one of those low bikes you can rent at the beach. He rode up to the couple and asked them how this worked and it gave him and idea. You will see it if you watch the movie.
As the window of opportunity with Noah was coming to a close, there was a scene when he talks on the phone to Phoebe in the last section of the movie. The team had found a house for Mark to have moved to after being in rehab. An emergency moment happened when the wooden ramp for his wheel chair that was built for him to get in and out of the house wasn’t connecting and the production designer Chuck Parker, while they were shooting another scene, took his own tools from his car and rebuilt it himself. But they also needed another house to shoot Pheobe’s side of the conversation and they didn’t have one. Chuck had noticed two houses down that there was a couple who seemed interested in what they all were shooting, particularly for the night scenes, so he decided on a lark to just ask if they could use their bedroom. A small fee was offered and the couple agreed and the doors were opened to the crew and they shot the scene.

Casting Miguel’s family went on during the shoot where Kagan put together various actresses and young kids to see what combination felt most honest. And then there was the scene where Miguel running away hides underneath a house. Finding the entrances to various houses was easy but being able to get the actor and the camera team inside them was a challenge. They just couldn’t find one and couldn’t afford to build. Kagan who is a musician playing reed instruments like the clarinet has a group once a week come to his home to jam. His keyboard player, Nate Stein, a talented musician and performer himself mentioned that he had a basement where he made wine that might work as it opened up to the dirt that was under the house and could provide a place to put the cameras to photograph Miguel under the house. Another door opening.

The last day of the shoot was at USC on a green screen that the school uses. It was in a way a wrap around for Kagan who teaches there. And it was in the evening that he was able to say those words: “It’s a wrap!”

And then began the next phase of filmmaking: postproduction. Norm Holly reconstructed part of his home provide a makeshift editing room and Kagan and he worked over the next many months taking on the challenge of that first hour of telling two stories at the same time. They experimented with various ways to make this emotionally affective. They also played with how to actually present the multiple screens. They didn’t want to have them appear fifty/fifty and they didn’t want one of those lines to separate the stories.

These are stories that intersect with each other so they developed a way to make the edges “bleed” into each other. And sometimes they would learn that one story should dominate at a moment different from what had been in the script and so they changed the imagery accordingly.

Then there was the question of music. How to have music that would allow for both sides of the story to play. Kagan asked his friend and famed composer Bruce Broughton if he would come on board. They had worked together on two other movies with totally different types of scores. Broughton came up with an idea of using classical instruments to make contemporary sounds.

And Kagan also asked long time friend and the originator of music supervising Joel Sill to help out with music that would be source:what played on car radios and stores and restaurants. Joel’s work is known internationally having done the first movies to be almost all source like East Rider and then many big films like Forrest Gump.

And over the months of post production Kagan also was confronted with a sequence that is part of Mark’s imagination and here he turned to a number of new digital designers and animators who had trained at USC to help.

One of the advantages of the present time of digital is how you can control every aspect of the movie when doing what is called “color timing.” In the days when movies were only shot on film, color timing meant you sat with a specialist and that person would take down notes about the overall color of a scene or shot and the next day you would see the pass at these changes. Today, that happens almost instantaneously and for those of you familiar with Photoshop, all the “bells and whistles” of creating windows within a frame and adding or subtracting parts of the image and shifting colors in one part of a shot and not in another. This allows for enormous creative input even at what is the final stage of the movie making process..

In the same last weeks all the sound effects and music are put together on a mixing stage and the irony of this movie was the mixing stage they used was the same mixing stage that the hero in the movie Mark uses. The movie starts with the scene and the movie making ended with the same location.

And as they all got close to completion, then came a whole new set of challenges and obstacles. How to get people to see the movie. Over the years of this movie’s development Kagan had consulted John Raatz, a visionary public relations guru, who has advised on all the aspects of getting the movie to audiences. And if as Kagan has said he wants this movie “to save a life,” its going to need people to see it. And this is where you come in. The reader of this article. The viewer of this site. If you have seen the movie and liked it – tell others to see it - so together we can make a difference and bring down some of those barriers to health and peace.

PRODUCTION NOTES

Making a movie is taking a journey into unknown territory.

You have plans, but on the way there strange valleys, strange encounters, peaks and valleys, challenging weather and other unexpected obstacles.

And sometimes over the years of the development of SHOT there were times when producer/director Jeremy Kagan felt the obstacles were insurmountable like in this drawing he did:

The project had started back in 2010 when he decided to create a movie around the subject of gun violence which had been on his mind for decades.

Kagan who is also a tenured professor at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC had recently started The Change Making Media Lab – www.cmml-usc.org – which is devoted to using cinematic media to change perceptions and behavior.

He was working with other USC colleagues on violence intervention programs and repeatedly heard personal stories of gun violence. And it was the specific stories about innocent bystanders getting shot and their sharing their experiences and often voicing the question “Why me?” that got Kagan committed to making the movie. He developed an idea that would have the audience in real time experience what it means to get shot. He wrote up an outline for a story and then worked with Will Lamborn, a former student whose work he admired, to develop the initial draft of the screenplay for SHOT. Will researched thoroughly all the events that happen when someone is shot on a street. He became intimate with the inner workings of the EMT and ER teams.

At first a theme of “live by the gun, die by the gun” got worked through. But over the years and frustrations of almost getting the movie made, then not, a newer theme of redemption emerged. Kagan turned to his partner Anneke Campbell to write subsequent drafts of the story. The first draft of the screenplay had started as a blind date going very bad, but delving deeper into characters, Campbell and Kagan went for a couple whose relationship is on the verge of collapse with the man overworked hiding his financial troubles and the woman feeling more and more distance. The story of the shooter changed too, from that of a gang centered kid, to an innocent teen being bullied and given a gun for “protection.”

It is said that you make a movie 4 times: first developing the script. Second casting the actors and crew. Third the actual production shoot of the movie. Fourth the editing, and other post production processes including music and effects.

As the screenplays developed, there was an overlap of the casting process. Kagan thought the issue might appeal to some stars who evinced their concerns about gun violence, but getting past their gate keepers and the fear of doing a “controversial” movie put road blocks up. This same resistance occurred when approaching conventional production companies. Lots of “no’s” along the way. Here is another drawing Kagan made as he faced the obstacles.

But he believed in this project and its purpose. He contacted the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence to see how the movie could reflect their approaches to the problem and potentially help the movement. He met with gun violence victims and recorded their stories. He spent time with EMTs and road in their ambulances. He met with police who answer the calls of gun violence. He visited ERs late a night to witness GSWs – gun shot wounds. He talked with doctors and nurses. And the story continued to define itself. In way as you make a movie it begins to tell you what it wants to be.

Kagan simultaneously began working with production designer Chuck Parker scouting locations throughout Los Angeles. He wanted this to be an LA story particularly because LA has so many different cultures in close contact. He also started work with famed storyboard artist and designer Ed Verreaux who put together a short sequence to help present the film. Its own sizzle reel.

And then Kagan in a discussion with another director realized that he knew an actor who had himself spoken out on the issue and in fact had been arrested for protesting. Noah Wyle. Kagan had a relationship with Noah from their past. They had both lived on the same street, and when Kagan was doing a series called Freedom Files about civil liberties. Noah had participated in one about inspiring youth to action to protect their freedoms. He called Noah and Noah agreed to read the script himself. Not have his agents do that first. When Kagan nervously called Noah to hear his reaction, Noah said he had read the script and been captivated, but on the last pages he was so shocked by what he read, that he threw the script across his room. Kagan sighed. Another pass. But then Noah said he picked the script up again, and finished it, and realized what finally happened, and this turned him around, and he then said he wanted to do the movie.

Kagan put together a small team headed by his associate Dave O’Brien from the Change Making Media Lab, and indie producer Josh Siegel, and they began a detailed budgeting of the movie. They were ready to start when Noah had to delay production because of a commitment to another project so the team and offices were shut down. A costly moment for this independent movie.

During this next waiting time more work on the screenplay commenced and in a way what was an obstacle became a gift as it allowed Kagan and Campbell to further develop the script and characters. There was a moment when the two of them were struggling with one of the last moments in the story when both of them awoke from the same dream and knew what to do and what needed to be said.

One of the challenges of the screenplay was to figure out how to have the two stories – that of Mark who gets shot – and of Miguel who does the shooting – play at the same time. Could characters from one story be talking while the other story was going on? And if so, how would that work? It became a complex writing of timings. And a problem actually emerged that was technical because there was not screenplay writing program that could allow a page to show to stories at the same time. Kagan had to figure out a new way of tricking the software and it was exceedingly frustrating. As you can see here from a page– sometimes the type face would be a soft gray when someone was speaking to indicate that what they said was not as important as what you would hear on the other side of the screen.

Months later as a new team started, Kagan had a different vision about where to locate the film. He wanted to stay in Los Angeles but he wanted to see the city in a fresh way. As the movie was to be a roller coaster ride, he wanted it to be in a hilly area, so Chuck Parker, who had stayed on through the hiatus, scouted new areas of the city, coming up with a section called Echo Park which offered a variety of looks and feels mixing economic, and cultural differences next to each other which was another theme in the story.

The rest of the crew got assembled with both experienced and newer filmmakers. The tight budget required people more committed to telling this story than just doing another job. And where the money was going to come from to make the movie was still an issue.

As Kagan tried to find the money needed, he had a conversation with a well- respected leader of Landmark Education who challenged him: “Are you just going to talk about this or are you going to do it.” No limits. No excuses. He was reminded of his mentor John Cassavetes who would set a date to make a movie and start whether he had all the money or not. Courage. Kagan decided to do what most filmmakers avoid at all costs, put up money himself. It wasn’t going to be enough so he approached his brother a successful ophthalmologist in New York for an investment. They had a joke with each other over the years: You fix their eyes, I will give them something to look at. Kagan was also clear, knowing that when you make a movie particularly when you make an independent film, and a controversial one, there is no guarantee of making your money back. But the brothers agreed to take the risk. If you reading this now have paid for seeing the movie, then their investment may be recouped. But as important to both brothers is: if this has helped you think and maybe act in any way toward curbing gun violence in this country, then their intention has been realized. The final piece of the financing came through Robert Halmi, Jr. of Great Point Media and, as with many aspects of this collaborative movie making process, it was who you know, and in this case Halmi was given the script by producer and former Showtime chief executive Jerry Offsay for whom Kagan had made a number of cable movies. Halmi liked the script and Noah’s participation and he agreed to do the last part of the financing.

Helping cast the rest of the 45 parts this second time out into production was Kerry Barden who had helped cast some memorable other independent movies. In talking about the casting process Kagan who teaches directing at USC and is Chairperson of Special Projects for the Directors Guild of America recounts that he has met and interviewed hundreds of the most respected directors in cinema. Three books have come from these interviews and his teaching: DIRECTORS CLOSE UP, vol. 1 and vol. 2 and a new eTextbook KEYS TO DIRECTING www.keystodirecting,com.

These interviews are always about craft (hundreds of these in depth video interviews are on the DGA website – www.dga.org - under Visual Histories and Meet the Nominees like the photo above). Kagan says he has learned many differing techniques for pre-production, production and post production from these masters and colleagues. And in pre-production during casting he applies what he calls a conversational method with potential actors, engaging them in what can often be emotional subjects. And as this movie was about getting hurt, dealing with emergencies, being in physical danger, Kagan would ask potential actors to tell their stories related to these kind of experiences and, as he says, you can feel how they exhibit what he calls their “emotional” muscles. In these encounters he can sense their capacities to bring truth to performance. The classic way of casting is having the actors read the part, but as Kagan observes the actors brought by the casting people have already proven their skills. It is now more about the relationship between the director and the actor, how they can work with each other, and that can be explored in many ways besides specific re-direction of what the actor brings in for a reading of the lines.

In seeking a visual colleague Kagan asked experienced cinematographer Jacek Laskus to work on the film. They had shot television shows together and another independent experimental film. Their initial discussions were about a specific style for the film. Kagan wanted, once the bullet is fired, to shift points of view. Rather than objectively looking at the incidents, he wanted the viewer, from that moment on, to see everything through the eyes of the character who gets shot. This means having the camera be in positions where it is looking at what the character sees. How to do this? In their early explorations they discovered a camera that an actor could actually wear on their head.

But there was a problem with these kinds of cameras. They were easy to wear if you only
used a wide lens which limited the kind of imagery both Kagan and Laskus wanted. And when you put on another lens that allowed for focal changes the device became quite heavy. They needed to find another option and with the help of Michael Mansouri and his crew at Radiant Images they decided on using a version of the light weight Arri Alexa Mini digital camera.

Kagan then had some students from the acting school at USC come to test out a scene using this camera to see if he and Laskus could achieve the effect of taking the POV of the character played by Noah Wyle. They tried a variety of cameras and decided to have two on the set. One that could be worn by the actor and the other held close to the head of the actor.

Kagan also began working with a brilliant storyboard artist from Asia and a former student Dwight Hwang having him sketch out some of the more challenging scenes.

He also had one of his students work with him on doing a kind of primitive pre- visualization of the movie where they went to various locations and Kagan using his iPhone filmed various scenes.

One often very expensive location for movies is an emergency rooms in hospitals. The real ones operate 24/7 so you can’t shoot in them. There are rentable re- creations of these kinds of sets on certain studio locations but these are very expensive and you have to bring in all the equipment, which is also costly. What to do? The team visited a new hospital studio set and Kagan was ready to adopt to it because the price was reasonable, but it turned out they had no city insurance, and in many ways the team was lucky, because they could never have accomplished what they wanted in that space had they settled for it. Again sometimes when the obstacles appear they are offering alternative solutions. On weekends through Kagan’s colleagues at USC, he would get permission to observe the workings of the ER at the new hospital. He asked some of the leading surgeons and administrators if they had ideas where he could shoot the important sequences in an ER space and they, to his surprise, said that the former ER that was now closed and being used as a training facilities might be able to be used as the set.

This ER was still fully equipped as it now was used as a learning space for student doctors and nurses. After much negotiations through the university bureaucracies, Kagan in the end being a member of that community as a professor at USC, was able to get permission, and a major challenge to the locations on the movie was solved. They would be able to work there for 9 days straight.

As they got closer to filming and the specific time window of work for Noah was approaching, there were two key roles that had not yet been cast. One was the part of Phoebe who is Mark’s (Noah’s) estranged wife in the story. Partly in the intention to have the movie show the diversity of America, Kagan and Campbell had created the role for an African American actress. They met some gifted actresses and one stood out and a deal was structured, but a week before filming she announced that she had been cast in another television mini-series where she was going to be paid better and would no longer be available. Now this was quite a jolt to the filmmakers. This kind of situation isn’t normal. You make a deal, you keep to the deal, but the gatekeepers for this actress knew that she would make much more money on this other show, so with apologies, they withdrew from the deal. Again, one door closes and it feels like an obstacle of desperation, but another actress turned out to be available when earlier she wasn’t and in stepped the delightful emotive Sharon Leal, and when Noah met her. he too felt excited by her playing the part.

Finding Miguel who is the teen who accidentally shoots Mark was another challenge. Years earlier in a draft that had this character wanting to be accepted in a gang, Kagan had met former young gang members who were interested in acting. Over

his career Kagan had cast unknowns in various roles, sometimes leading ones like Meredith Salenger as the 14 year old star of The Journey of Natty Gann, so he was comfortable with directing inexperienced performers. There was one former gang member that had possibilities but as time went on and production stalled, Kagan and Campbell reconceived the part. They didn’t want the cliché of the Latino gang member and gun violence, but they did want to show that in economically stressed neighborhoods gun sellers exploit the frustrations and make access to guns easier, even if illegal. So they created a character who is being bullied and accused of being queer and his older cousin gives him a stolen pistol for “protection.” Kagan met many prospective young actors for the part and Kerry brought in an actor Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., recently arrived from New York. He had presence and authenticity. And coincidently, and there are no coincidences, his first movie was directed by a former student of Kagan’s from USC.

Kagan also called on some favors from other actors he knew who shared his views about movies making a difference. He had worked with the brilliant Xander Berkeley on his Golden Globe nominated ROSWELL: THE UFO COVERUP and kept in touch over the years admiring his continually outstanding performances. He asked Xander to play the ER chief resident and his schedule fit so he joined the team and even convinced his wife Sarah Clarke who was one of the stars of the hit TV show Bosch to work one day.

The well known Malcolm Jamal Warner became one of the three EMTs and the NY Latino actor Dominic Colon arranged to be in LA for that part of the shoot. With Tommy Dey Carey they spent time with the actual men who do this work and learned their skills one of which was to stay calm in the midst of the unknown and sometimes scary. Note that in this photo there are two cameras. Kagan believes in using multiple cameras for almost every scene he shoots. It gives more choices in the editing room and allows the actors to not have to repeatedly redo scenes so there can be at times a natural flow to the performance. In the case of this shot, one camera is taking Phoebe’s POV and the other Mark’s.

This same intense training applied to those in the actors in the ER. Obviously from Noah’s many years in on the TV show ER, he had advice to share with these other performers, but Elaine Kagan who is an actress and writer and former wife or the director works in the triage of one of the busiest ER rooms in Los Angeles, she was able to have her associates come to the set as advisors. The other actors who joined the ER team were the popular Elaine Hendrix from the TV series Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, Joy Osmanski and Eve Kagan.

Yes, this was a Kagan production. His brother was co-financier, his x-wife Elaine helped out here and played a part in the last section of the movie, and his daughter Eve who had become well known as a theater actress in Boston, joined the nursing team. Kagan had to do some convincing to get here out to LA as she was a new mom and living in Virginia and getting a masters in clinical psychology. Her plate was overflowing but he knew how good she was and how she loved acting so he demanded “filial submission” and she came out to work with him.

In finishing out all the crew roles, a essential part is the editor and in this case Kagan turned to another colleague of his at USC, Norm Hollyn who ran the editing department of the school. Kagan was excited to have Norm as he knew he would be challenged by this respected creative who had written a definitive books about editing - The Film Editing Room Handbook and The Lean Forward Moment.

The first day of production was Nov 2nd 2015, and the very first sequence was the ride in the ambulance.

On the limited budget they couldn’t build one, which would have allowed more easy access of camera and lights. They had to use a real one and create a space around it so that it gave a sense of movement. But the bigger challenge was timing. On the one hand, Kagan’s overall concept was that the film would play in real time. This meant no jump cutting ahead to some other scene. Usually you see someone put inside an ambulance, a few shots in the ambulance, a few shots out on the street seeing the ambulance speed by, and then its arrival at a hospital. But in the movie, the idea was to experience all the time once inside. The entire seven minute ride to a hospital. All that goes on during the ride. Not just the emergency parts, those were there to be filmed, but also just the waiting and the worrying. There is as much anxiety in the not knowing and having to just be. But that wasn’t the only challenge. Kagan wanted the viewer now to take the point of view of the character who gets shot and also his concerned wife. And no other points of view. No shots from the POVs of the EMTs in the vehicle. No shot from the street of the ambulance speeding by. Only shots of the faces of Mark and Phoebe and what they see. Only their points of view. Kagan wanted us to be intimate with their experiences. Not objective. So this meant that the cameraperson at times had to lie down on the gurney in the ambulance with Noah tight next to her so that what we see is what Mark would see. And the framing reflected this as well. His head is tied down for security on the ride to protect his back and so he can’t really turn his head so if he is looking at an EMT or at Phoebe they are in the sides of his vision. And there was a third challenge here. And that was timing.

Kagan had designed the script so the two stories are happening at the same time. The story of Mark and Phoebe and the story of Miguel, the boy who has done the shooting. He intended these two stories to play simultaneously. And there were moments when the group in the ambulance had to be quiet because what was going to be shot weeks later in Miguel’s story was going to have dialogue that needed to be heard on his side of the screen.

Kagan had meticulously laid out the script reduced to very small pages to be a guide to when one side of the screen would take audio dominance over another side. And now here on the first days of shooting when everyone is just getting used to each other and figuring how the various members of the crew can workwith each other as well as the actors, Kagan was
literally timing moments and telling his actors to stop talking while they were shooting and be silent, but still be in the scene because he was not going to be cutting away from this scene.

You hope when you begin shooting a picture that you have found already all your cast and all your locations. This is more the ideal as inevitably things change. A location falls through. Dates change because of various contingencies and an actor who was available for this date isn’t for that one. This became true on SHOT for a number of locations so that on the weekends Kagan and his design team were out scouting locations for the coming weeks. One of them was where Miguel and his family would live. They needed and interior and exterior of a real location. Kagan kept on his own driving back to an area sometimes after a days shooting till he spotted something that felt unique and still down and out for their home. It was fascinating that the interior worked almost perfectly as the family that lived there was living the same economic stresses that the family in the story had.

In the last third of the story, when Mark, now in a wheel chair is dealing with the loss of his legs, there was a scene in a rehab situation. Kagan had gone to real ones and one particular one where he has spent time with men who were Latinos shot and now paralyzed. He met the people who trained them. He wanted to shoot with them and in that location but it couldn’t be arranged. Now in the midst of the shoot they were still looking for an appropriate location and one of the places they went to was an old Catholic church in the east LA area. When the design team led by Chuck Parker and the cameraman Jacek Laskus joined Kagan on the weekend, they were shown around by Father Jessie of the church. Kagan asked him about whether he deals with kids who have been involved in gun shootings and he told him some stories of his own. Kagan saw the compassion in this priest and felt this was the way that part should be played as there was a scene where Miguel goes to his priest for advice And then father Jesse showed the team an area that could be converted into a rehab facility but Kagan also opened a door that took them into an old large swimming pool lit by almost a deco ceiling. It was unique and Kagan suddenly had an idea. What if it were a pool that Mark is being given rehab training? That happens. He got very excited about this possibility. Jacek loved the light. Kagan decided to re-write for this pool and as it had one of those chairs that you use to have someone who is incapacitated in getting into a pool, this would work well. Mark would go from wheelchair to that mechanical seat and it would go over the water and he would be lowered into it. But on the day of the shoot, the chair didn’t work. The electrics failed. They called in someone to fix it but Kagan knew they didn’t have time. What to do? Kagan turned to the physical therapist Oscar Gallardo who he had med at that center and asked to be a technical advisor if he would in fact be in the movie and play what he does for real and do something that would be appropriate for someone in Mark’s case. Oscar agreed and a new scene emerged on the spot. One door closes, another opens. One path blocked, another taken.

And then the actor that Kagan had planned to use to play Father T in the movie couldn’t do it at the time, and Kagan suddenly decided to drive back over to that church and talk to Father Jesse and ask him if he would play the part. It turned out that Father Jesse ran a local theatrical troupe through the church and he had fantasized some day actually being in a movie. He is now.

Kagan’s way of decompressing is riding his bike. There was really no time during the shoot except on some Sunday mornings. And one morning while he hurried by the beach he suddenly saw something he’d never seen before. It was a man being pulled in his wheel chair by one of those low bikes you can rent at the beach. He rode up to the couple and asked them how this worked and it gave him and idea. You will see it if you watch the movie.
As the window of opportunity with Noah was coming to a close, there was a scene when he talks on the phone to Phoebe in the last section of the movie. The team had found a house for Mark to have moved to after being in rehab. An emergency moment happened when the wooden ramp for his wheel chair that was built for him to get in and out of the house wasn’t connecting and the production designer Chuck Parker, while they were shooting another scene, took his own tools from his car and rebuilt it himself. But they also needed another house to shoot Pheobe’s side of the conversation and they didn’t have one. Chuck had noticed two houses down that there was a couple who seemed interested in what they all were shooting, particularly for the night scenes, so he decided on a lark to just ask if they could use their bedroom. A small fee was offered and the couple agreed and the doors were opened to the crew and they shot the scene.

Casting Miguel’s family went on during the shoot where Kagan put together various actresses and young kids to see what combination felt most honest. And then there was the scene where Miguel running away hides underneath a house. Finding the entrances to various houses was easy but being able to get the actor and the camera team inside them was a challenge. They just couldn’t find one and couldn’t afford to build. Kagan who is a musician playing reed instruments like the clarinet has a group once a week come to his home to jam. His keyboard player, Nate Stein, a talented musician and performer himself mentioned that he had a basement where he made wine that might work as it opened up to the dirt that was under the house and could provide a place to put the cameras to photograph Miguel under the house. Another door opening.

The last day of the shoot was at USC on a green screen that the school uses. It was in a way a wrap around for Kagan who teaches there. And it was in the evening that he was able to say those words: “It’s a wrap!”

And then began the next phase of filmmaking: postproduction. Norm Holly reconstructed part of his home provide a makeshift editing room and Kagan and he worked over the next many months taking on the challenge of that first hour of telling two stories at the same time. They experimented with various ways to make this emotionally affective. They also played with how to actually present the multiple screens. They didn’t want to have them appear fifty/fifty and they didn’t want one of those lines to separate the stories.

These are stories that intersect with each other so they developed a way to make the edges “bleed” into each other. And sometimes they would learn that one story should dominate at a moment different from what had been in the script and so they changed the imagery accordingly.

Then there was the question of music. How to have music that would allow for both sides of the story to play. Kagan asked his friend and famed composer Bruce Broughton if he would come on board. They had worked together on two other movies with totally different types of scores. Broughton came up with an idea of using classical instruments to make contemporary sounds.

And Kagan also asked long time friend and the originator of music supervising Joel Sill to help out with music that would be source:what played on car radios and stores and restaurants. Joel’s work is known internationally having done the first movies to be almost all source like East Rider and then many big films like Forrest Gump.

And over the months of post production Kagan also was confronted with a sequence that is part of Mark’s imagination and here he turned to a number of new digital designers and animators who had trained at USC to help.

One of the advantages of the present time of digital is how you can control every aspect of the movie when doing what is called “color timing.” In the days when movies were only shot on film, color timing meant you sat with a specialist and that person would take down notes about the overall color of a scene or shot and the next day you would see the pass at these changes. Today, that happens almost instantaneously and for those of you familiar with Photoshop, all the “bells and whistles” of creating windows within a frame and adding or subtracting parts of the image and shifting colors in one part of a shot and not in another. This allows for enormous creative input even at what is the final stage of the movie making process..

In the same last weeks all the sound effects and music are put together on a mixing stage and the irony of this movie was the mixing stage they used was the same mixing stage that the hero in the movie Mark uses. The movie starts with the scene and the movie making ended with the same location.

And as they all got close to completion, then came a whole new set of challenges and obstacles. How to get people to see the movie. Over the years of this movie’s development Kagan had consulted John Raatz, a visionary public relations guru, who has advised on all the aspects of getting the movie to audiences. And if as Kagan has said he wants this movie “to save a life,” its going to need people to see it. And this is where you come in. The reader of this article. The viewer of this site. If you have seen the movie and liked it – tell others to see it - so together we can make a difference and bring down some of those barriers to health and peace.