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Making: Ain't Woke

It's that time of year again, April. Two things guarantee that I'll be losing sleep, the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and Taxes. We all know taxes sucks, so let's have some fun and talk about the making of "AIN'T WOKE", our 2018 #DisabilityFilmChallenge entry.

You don't know what the EDFC is? CLICK HERE

We had a great time making last year's film BEST FRIEND. It was the first film to be nominated in all four EDFC award categories, and took home the awards for Best Film and Audience Awareness. So this year, I made a deal with myself, I would go as big as I could, and next year devote my time to producing for my EDFC partner Diana Elizabeth Jordan, so she can get into the directors chair.

First, I happened to be at an event here in Los Angeles put on by Performing Arts Studio West where previous winners of the EDFC met and promoted the challenge. There I met a bunch of amazing people with disabilities one of whom was Riley Weinstein, who I wound up casting as the lead in Ain't Woke. In addition, while talking to some of the PASW staff, they mentioned some previous teachers who have worked there, one name jumped out at me: the amazing Debra Wilson, from MadTV, Family Guy and Bodied. We were introduced by casting director David Zimmerman and she signed on to the show.

Next, I began calling unique stage spaces around Los Angeles to see if they would donate their space for our shoot. Incredibly, Riverfront Stages agreed. They normally deal with huge TV productions, but the opportunity to give back to their entertainment family, and support the EDFC's mission was something they were enthusiastic about. This just reminded me of the adage, you never know unless you ask... and #dang was I glad I asked. Though they have amazing jails, courtrooms, offices, home interiors and more, on April 11th Easterseals sent out a list of locations and themes and one was a warehouse. So that's what we wound up using. So much gratitude for the support and kindness of the Riverfront team.

At last it was time to build a crew. In all my previous EDFC entries, my wife Allison, and Diana Elizabeth Jordan have been producing partners, but with Diana shadowing me as director this year, Marita Gomsrud joined us to round out our producing team. A recent music video shoot for Jonathan Davis, introduced me to Sara Garth, who became our cinematographer. Marita also brought on Andrea Porter to edit and Shannon Hutchins for makeup. Returning to work with us again was the mighty composer Nami Melumad, Sherah Jones for styling and Natalie Oden as producers assistant. We were rocking.

I had so much enthusiasm about working with all these talented women it crept into my writing once the challenge's genre was dropped on April 15. Buddy Comedy. In the span of four hours I wrote three short scripts taking place in a warehouse. One of which had a fun millennial snark element, as two CIA agents squabbled over tactics. Another had a villian who schemes himself as a feminist. The final script for Ain't Woke wound up coming together when I frankensteined the scripts together using their best parts. I locked the script, and all the producers started making calls to get everything else we would need.

The next day of production was a chaos (really fun chaos). Don't get me wrong, it's always that way. It's always a mix of ballet, brain-farts and cat herding. A bunch of rushing, trying to make shot-lists, character choices, lighting, framing, finding time to eat, adding lines, cutting lines, and all within six or seven hours. We shot like fanatics. Debra's energy was infectious, her comedy skill knows how to rope the bull and milk the punchlines (just pretend you can milk a bull for that metaphor, ok?). Riley was poetic to watch. It had been a hot minute since she'd been on screen (see Scream Queens - season 2) she worked her buns off to get her lines on point. As the day wore on, we got to her big monologue at the end of the script, and though it took a few tries, she delivered with such passion and authenticity, she had me welling up with tears. Props to Jake Stewart who probably delivers my favorite line of the film... a very subtly placed "thank you" - see if you can spot it. We wrapped as the sunset and then rushed the hard drives over to Andrea Porter's editing by to get cutting. I left around 11pm, while she was cloning drives and syncing sound. The next morning came quick. I arrived with fresh coffee and my laptop. We found a great working rhythm where I could choose selects and she could cut the film. Even with two of us working, it came down to the wire for our 6 PM delivery. We locked picture close to 4:30 pm. Thank god we had composer Nami Melumad to point us in the right direction with music and cues, because both Porter and I had fried editors brains. We slapped on the music tracks, did a quick mix, and get the film uploaded in the Nic Novicki of time! The best part of the film industry is the colaborative effort involved. This years team did just that. Every single person provided some much needed spice to make this fun little film, and the fact that it all comes back to support Easterseals and disability inclusion just makes is so much sweeter. On behalf of the whole team, we hope you like the film and can come see it on the big screen when it plays at a festival near you!

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