How did you hear about the 50 Kisses Competition?
Kerry: I met Chris Jones back in 2004 at a barbeque at Ealing Studios. He was talking about his book ‘The Guerilla Film Maker’s Handbook’ and how to be an independent film-maker, this information has stayed with me and helped in every production I have worked on since.
Years later when Chris was making ‘Gone Fishing’ I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I came on board as an Associate Producer and ended up being the LA correspondent for all of the Film Festivals in California and even got to take the film reel to the Academy. Since then Chris and I have remained friends and followed each other’s progress in this crazy world called show business. Then ’50 kisses’ came about at the best time and we felt we wanted to be a part of this great idea. We couldn’t wait to start delving through the scripts.
The three scripts you produced were a bit of a departure for you guys. Why did you select them?
Evan: We had just completed production on two feature length horror films, a zombie comedy “Blood Rush,” and a Creepshow-esque anthology, “Horror House.” We wanted to stretch out and prove to ourselves that we could move beyond the horror genre. So we chose a drama, a thriller and a comedy.
Why did you select “Smasheroo”?
Kerry: Evan, writer James Howard, and actor Kaden Graves who plays the husband, all have close family members who suffered aphasia and speech dysfunction. The premise resonated with us and we wanted to show not only the frustration that people with aphasia feel, but how it impacts their loved ones. It is a very concise and poignant script.
You embellished somewhat on the script James had written. Had you discussed this with him in advance?
Evan: Yes, from day one we were collaborating with James about changes we thought would make the piece better. We both came up with the idea for a flashback midway through the short. I rummaged around storage and found my old super 8 mm camera I used in high school to make movies in the 80s. Fortunately it was still in perfect shape. Super 8 gives the flashback a quality you can’t get with digital. It’s organic and inherently sentimental, and perfect for this piece. When composer Michael Daniel added the score I wept.
Kerry, you had double duty on “Smasheroo,” as actor and producer. Was that a challenge, and how did you prepare for the role of the wife?
Kerry: Knowing my husband had all of the technical aspects under control, once I stepped on set I no longer had my producer hat on. I could immerse myself in the character which we renamed Paige. After extensive research watching videos of people with aphasia, I exhaustively put myself in the mind of the sufferer. It was physically and mentally challenging. I felt a sense of frustration at not being able to express things that seemed clear in my head, but incoherent to others. It was a great role for an actor as it limits your outward characterization and produces a huge inner emotion.
You took a risk with “Romantic Holiday” technically, telling the entire story from the POV of the characters. How did you achieve this?
Evan: I read the story by Kulvinder Gill, and thought it was great. But I imagined all the other teams were going to do a straight-forward production in the style of “Misery.” I wanted to try a different direction, which was to put the viewer in the POV of first the man, and then after the kiss, the woman. It was a tremendous challenge, something I’d never tried before, and I could find no other films to watch as reference. I rented a wide-angle lens, and that allowed me to capture the images I needed, and then with clever editing and foley work, I managed to make the piece look convincingly like two long takes. But in fact, the storyboard consisted of at least 30 different shots.
How did you cast “Romantic Holiday”?
Kerry: The film stars two dear friends of ours: Helen Soraya, who has worked in almost all of our productions and is incredibly versatile, and her boyfriend Patrick Cavanaugh, who you may remember as Smitty on “Mad Men.” They already have a trust for one another which is what we needed when working on a physically demanding and potentially dangerous short.
The last short you filmed was Stephen Cooper’s “The Moment.” Why did you select that script?
Evan: I knew the minute I read the script it would be extremely popular. It has all the ingredients a low budget company like ours looks for: two actors, one location, engaging dialogue and a twist. It was a no-brainer, but we later discovered many other filmmakers felt the same way, so we would have tons of competition. Which is cool, since it drives us to step our game up.
Who did you cast for the two leads?
Kerry: We again used two friends. For the target, we cast Craig Robert Young, who is having a fantastic run playing mean guys in shows like CSI and Hawaii 5-0. He let us use his home in the Hollywood Hills, incidentally the same house where SAG was created. For the hitman, we cast Don Donnelley, who played Danny in “Blood Rush.” We sent him a text one morning out of the blue asking him, “How is your Irish accent, and would you be comfortable kissing a man?” He jumped right in without hesitation and delivered exactly what we needed, and brilliantly, take after take.
Did you guys have a crew for your three films?
Kerry: For 95% of the work we’ve done including these shorts and the features, it’s just me and Evan. He handles all the technical issues like lighting, sound, camera and post-production. I manage the creative and production end of things and do all the corresponding. On “The Moment” we did have a couple other hands helping out, which always makes life easier. But otherwise, as I’m sure you can imagine, without help we were absolutely knackered.
How did you and Michael Daniel the composer work together?
Evan: By this point, he and I have developed an efficient system. We worked on our two features and TV pilot together, so these shorts were a natural extension of our collaboration. I send him the final edit with my ideas of what the piece should sound like, and he emails back cues until we come to an agreement. I have a musical background, so I can tell him if a different tempo, key or instrument might be better suited. It took roughly a week for him to compose each score for these shorts. I’m always amazed by his speed, creativity and flexibility.
Tell us about your production company, Sweet Home Films.
Kerry Sweet Home Films LLC was created in 2009 as a production house to create films that would allow me to produce, act and write. I also freelanced through the company to help produce other people’s independent films, including shorts, features and music videos. Later I bought the company outright from my partner, and my husband Evan joined the team as both co-owner and the in-house director.
What’s next for Sweet Home Films?
Kerry: A long break! This year we put out two features, a TV pilot, and these three shorts. And we got married twice in the midst of all this chaos. So a couple months off will be welcomed. But next year we have two potential projects: a new horror film called “Trust,” and a sequel to “Horror House.” And of course the next 50 Kisses Competition!