This is the start of a production blog for my latest project, Irene Lee, Girl Detective and the Case of the Missing Mysteries.
Irene Lee, Girl Detective follows the story of Irene Lee, a 7-year-old girl detective on a boring Saturday afternoon, in which she resolves to solve the Case of the Missing Mysteries. I wrote this 7.5 page script about three weeks after finally finishing post-production on our last project, The Perils of Growing Up Flat-Chested – the project which first gave genesis to this production blog.
Why do I blog when I’m in production, you might wonder. Shouldn’t I be worried about other things, like prepping sets and actors and myself for the inevitable stress-related dry heaving? YES I SHOULD. But at the same time, production is a crazy weird roller coaster ride of adrenaline rushes and anxiety attacks, and if I don’t keep track, it’s kind of a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of thing. My first ever production blog for my senior thesis film, First Kiss was started out of necessity for the project. Since then, it’s just been kind of like internet therapy during a crazy stressful time that is terrifying and awesome and over so so so much quicker than I ever think it will be. So this is my way of holding on a little longer, or at least getting that one snapshot you take in the middle of the roller coaster where your face is like, ‘AUUUGGGHHHH’ and your hands are like ‘WHHHAAAAAAA’ and your brain is like, ‘I won’t remember doing this at all.’
The major difference between this chapter of the production blog and the last is that I will make no attempts to document post. Because unlike production which is a roller coaster ride of fast kinetic energy, post-production is like wandering in a desert just trying to reach the end of it and the shifting sands of time and editorial choices will NEVER LET YOU FINISH until some greater external force like an airlift or post-production manager forces the issue. And sometimes you can’t afford a post-production manager, so you just have yourself. An exhausted writer/director/producer who would much rather crawl into bed and hibernate with Netflix than attempt to tackle that whole mess of selecting takes, shaving off frames, and telling your sound designer you were just kidding about that last picture lock, THIS ONE’S IT, FERSHURE THIS TIME. #iapologizetoallthesounddesignersihaveeverworkedwith.
So yeah. Perils of Production. And a little bit of Pre. But no Post. (To all my friends who work exclusively in post, I write this with the utmost respect – I have no idea how you do it. You guys are crazy superheroes.)
Wardrobe fittings! This is her getting into character.
But back to Irene Lee, our 7-year-old girl detective. This project has been percolating in pre-production for just about a month and a half, and I am so beyond stoked about it. We have an amazing team assembled for this – the crew is an oddball little Frankenstein of my film friends from Pittsburgh, film school alums of LMU and USC, and stray NBC Pages I managed to rope into this nutty scheme. I love them all like crazy.
She is a little force of nature.
And of course there’s the cast. Every one of them is under the age of 13 (a bit of a departure from my usual… first film not about teenagers in a while!), and the youngest is our lead, Grace Lee, who at 7 years old, takes on the momentous task of carrying the entire film. She’s a super star, I tell ya. One of my favorite moments during pre-production was her callback – a power line outside the audition studio had collapsed and so everyone had evacuated the building. We decided since she was there anyway, we may as well run through the improv exercises we had planned. I handed her a pair of binoculars and told her to “spy on some things”. She ran behind a parked car and started spying. Then, out of a stealthy nowhere, she ran around the car and directly in front of another moving (albeit slowly) car. She was so short, her head didn’t even come above the top of the car hood, so we all rushed out to stop her. I damn near had a heart attack, along with her mom and my audition partner. Grace shrugged and ran in the opposite direction to spy on some other things since we had blown her cover. #method
She is telling me about all the things!
So yeah… this is the most excited I’ve been for something in a while. Probably since the last night before production. And then the one before that. I am, as usual, a ball of nerves and anticipation… in addition to all the other inevitable last minute conundrums to be dealt with, this is also the first project I’ve helmed since moving out to LA. And much as this city is a fantastic industry beast, it’s always hard to do something in a place where you don’t really know how to do it yet. So here I must give great credit to Ryan Ovadia, Kimberly Hwang, Jon Rosen, and Marlena Steiner, all of whom have been inundated with e-mails, texts, and phone calls from me at random hours asking random questions like, “I need a 60-year-old Asian grandmother!” and “Do I need to strip paint before I paint over wood?!” etc. They are wise and wonderful and patient, and this movie would not be able to happen without their counsel/possible guilt induced by Facebook’s new “seen” message stamp. Special thanks too to Jennifer Hwang, my incredible amazing production designer, who took vague statements like, “I just want it to look like that one episode of Community with the tents… but like, also with some Pushing Daisies in there… but like, with a Moonrise Kingdom vibe…” and transformed spaces. Seriously, I am so looking forward to posting before/after pics, because the work she has done is like magic.
One of the spaces we will be filming in, in its unfinished state.
And the list of people to thank goes on – my parents, for sending me e-mails with the subject line, “Have you thought about film school?” (a departure from the ones that used to suggest law school) and support with my last minute needs for Asian grandmothers, and all the people who helped with locations and everything else. Particular shoutout to the NBC Page Program network, which has been awesome about supplying me with the randomest of requests, like needing a red oriental carpet at the last minute.
A zen photo caught between wardrobe fittings to close out this blog post.
And that’s about all the time I have now… it’s just about 24 hours till Day 1 of production begins, and I still need to dress two sets, paint a treehouse, pick up fabric, pick up equipment, and sent a boat-truck of e-mails. I AM STRESSED ABOUT ALL THE THINGS. But also super excited. So onwards! To adventure, and movie magic!
Writer/Director – “Irene Lee, Girl Detective”