Necessary Evil is free on Amazon Kindle for a limited time only, so be sure to check that out!
Here's the teaser line: "Maddie Warwick is about to lose everything and the only man that can help her is the last man she can trust. But losing her heart was never part of the bargain..."
Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness will be showing in Exeter NH on September 22nd: stayed tuned for more details. I am so, so proud of this particular movie - the cast, crew, and energy are just so spot on. Be sure to check it out and check out the book page on this site and on IMDb while you're at it!
Last weekend, we began filming "The Dinner Party" and what a crazy rush it's been! After all the prep-work and a few last minute challenges (including having to find a new costumer five days before the first shoot!), we've got some footage in the can and a few awesome pictures like the ones below. Check them out and stay tuned - the best is yet to come!
You'll never know what you don't know about a period until you're writing a book or making a movie about that era.
Seriously. It's odd what you find yourself typing into the Google search bar. For instance, when I was writing Necessary Evil, I needed to know everything worth knowing about engagement rings during the Civil War. Were engagement rings used? If they were, did they have stones? Were they gold? Could we tell what they were just by looking at them?
Similarly, with The Dinner Party, I've found myself researching things that I never would have dreamed of looking into. Here are a few instances:
- If you were a jerk, would you call an Irishman a 'potato-eater' (Answer: yes.)
- Do the Felsons own a mill or a factory? (Answer: both. It is a factory, but its powered by water, which means it would have commonly been referred to as a mill)
- Would a husband lead a wife into the dining room for an elegant dinner party? (Answer: no, indeed! The very gauche idea!)
- How close would an owner's/overseer's house be to the mill/factory he ran? (Answer: it varied, probably dictated by wealth, wife, and how smelly the factory/mill was.)
- What would young radicals be ranting to their elders about? (Answer: pretty much the same thing they are ranting about now, only with fewer selfies.)
Fortunately, I really love this kind of thing. Research like this makes the past come alive in ways a text-book can't quite touch. Movie-making, too, allows us to remember that our ancestors were, at the end of the day, people just like you and me, trying to make a go of things and learning, working, laughing, fighting, and loving along the way.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find out whether lemons would have been available in New Hampshire in May of 1906...
I don't know about you, but when I think about film making and directing, the first thing that comes to mind is an image like this:
You know, being all cool. wearing black shirts and jeans, making big decisions, and, best of all,dramatically pointing beyond a glamorous person, like so:
And, in truth, there is a lot of that fun stuff going on during the actual film shots. But what I always, always, always, ALWAYS forget it is how much work it takes to actually get to the set. You have to find (or write) the script, convince other people that it's awesome, recruit your cast, cast your crew, scout your locations, find/buy/build your props, costume your characters, storyboard, schedule, rehearse, re-story board when your location changes or your rehearsal changes the pacing of the scenes, arrange for make-up artists, hair-stylists, stuntmen, camera people, sound equipment, music accompaniment, artists for the credits, etc, etc.
When you're doing an historical piece, like The Dinner Party, every task takes on second and third dimensions: do the locations look like the period or can they be made to? Will that couch work for 1906 or do I need to figure out how to get it out of the living room we'll be filming in? Is the prop period appropriate? Will the costume rental place allow me to plaster one of my actresses with eggs? Can you call an Irishman a potato-eater or is that not a thing? What sort of dress would a wife wear when instructing her maid in the middle of the day? What sort of jewelry would she wear? Would a New England family start a dinner gathering with an aperitif? Should the make-up artist use eye-liner on the ladies? What sort of hairstyle would the maid wear? And where on earth can I lay my hands on a western saddle?
In short, in order to get to this:
...you have to get through this, first:
Which isn't to say that prep-work isn't fun, because it can be a blast! (Especially rehearsals - you never know what's going to come up in those.) And it's not like I'm doing this alone, thank goodness (and thank Terry Traynor, also producing and running crew), because there are many many hands at work in all of this. Prep-work is where the magic really begins. As fun and cool as it is to be on set, making dramatic motions with your hands, it's what you did leading up to the shoot that really matters in whether your films is a fun, artistically fulfilling project or not.
Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a Film-Project To-Do list as long as my house waiting for my attention...
One of the best parts about film making is, as I may have mentioned before, all the cool people that you get to work with. Another fun part is all the place you get to go in search of locations, props, costumes, vehicles, etc. When you're working on a no-budget film, you can't afford to have things made for you, so you have to improvise, be creative, beg, and borrow.
Yesterday, I got to go to Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, ME, to look at costumes for our upcoming movie The Dinner Party. Located on a beautiful farm, with rolling fields framed by pine trees, it looks like a set out of Anne of Green Gables - except for the bison, milling about in the far field. Yes, Hackmatack is also a bison farm - how awesome is that?
The stage is located in an enormous barn and there's a refreshment stand that boasts of selling coffee along with the usual theater goodies. The costumes were stored in another wooden equipment shed. Autumn Allen, our leading lady for The Dinner Party, helped me sort through decades worth of dresses, suits, hoop-skirts, and outfits from every era, which Hackmatack generously allowed other theaters and filmmakers to use. The Edwardian period is pretty tricky to outfit (it's a very distinctive period), so every article of clothing helps. What didn't help was seeing the gorgeous Medieval outfits that they had on the rack: they just revived my long-dormant desire to write a an Ivanhoe movie... something I'm pretty sure the owner of Narrow Street Films would have fit over at the mere suggestion. (An Edwardian period piece on a no-budget film is one thing... but a movie involving castle sieges and jousting tournaments and knights in full armor? Yeah...)
Back to the project at hand: thanks to Hackmatack's generosity, we have a good start towards costuming our cast and I've discovered a bison farm and a new place to go see some shows. While some people may see no-budget films as daunting and more work than they're worth, the challenge is its own reward - and the by-products of discovery, creativity, and new acquaintances are the diamonds in the rough.
Check out the Hackmatack Playhouse website for this Summer's line-up!
The script is written.
The cast is assembled.
The schedule is set.
The crew is standing by.
Tomorrow, we begin rehearsals for Narrow Street Films new movie, The Dinner Party: a musical comedy without the music set in the first decade of the 1900s. It's sure to be a blast.
I'm taking the director's chair on this one, which is always a fun challenge. Right now, the producer and I are knee-deep in location scouting, costume conjuring, and the endless search for coffee and crew (any hairstylists wanna come and join us? Pretty please?).
This isn't the first time we've done a historical movie (see The Man Who Wasn't Tex Magru) nor is it the first time I've directed (see Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness, coming soon to Amazon Video), but every movie, every script, is unique and present both problems to solve and opportunities to explore. You get to really flex your creative muscles working on projects like these: from losing locations (a problem we're currently trying to solve) to last minute casting changes (Michael Lawrence had a number of these!) to technical issues like lighting and sound, film making is both overwhelming and a rush, like a triathlon, where you're doing all three parts - swimming, cycling, running - at the same time... while juggling kitchen knives.
But the absolute best part about film making is the people that you get to meet and work with along the way. I've met some of the best people working in Indie films: tough, smart, hard-working, team-players who can still laugh after long days on a hot set, trying to remember lines. Want to know a person, really know a person? Make a zero-budget movie with them. It's an eye-opening experience for sure.
We haven't been on set since the wrapping of Chance back in 2017. Now we return, with a new script, a new plan, and a great cast. As the director, I don't know how everything is going to get done - I just have to make sure it does. But I can guarantee one thing: the film is going to be a blast, both to make and to watch.
Stick around, guys. You won't want to miss this!
New Acting Reel!
I am super lucky and awfully blessed to be surrounded by awesome and talented people. One such group is Narrow Street Films, the company started by my brother. Thanks to all our projects - and my brother's knack for throwing together a reel - I now have an awesome new acting reel! Check it out and let me know what you think!
Dear Barbara Broccoli,
There have been some disturbing talk going on around the internet. Specifically, people have been saying that it's time for a female James Bond. 'Its time to show men that women can do what they do!' I think is the rallying cry. Women are cool. Women can fight. Women can shoot. Women are Dr. Who. It's time James became Jane!
Look, I know we're all supposed to jump on this bandwagon and wear the pussy hats and hold the Feminist Banner high in honor of our (reportedly) oppressed foremothers, but I can't. I just can't. In the name of all the bad feminists out like me, I beg of you: please, please, please, don't take my fantasy away.
I know, I know. You're going to say I have the narrative wrong. 'It's a guy's fantasy, not a woman's,' you'll chide me. 'James Bond is for boys.'
'If that's so,' I'd reply, 'then why did you hire Daniel Craig and put him in a tux? Because guys are the ones fantasizing about that?'
James Bond isn't supposed to be politically correct. He isn't supposed to get with the times. He isn't a form of social commentary. He doesn't have a backstory (or a consistent one, anyway), he doesn't age (unless he's Roger Moore, but if you're Roger Moore, age doesn't matter), he doesn't slow down, and he doesn't get tired. He's a fantasy figure in a fantasy world. He is what a lot of guys would like to be, true: handsome, debonair, irresistible to women, and always ready with a gun, a smart remark, and a cool car.
He's a guy's fantasy, yes, I get that. But he's ours too.
You see, for most women, life is... well, kinda dull. We go to work. We buy groceries. We work out and pick up the kids. We pay bills and talk to friends and occasionally go out on the town. And while life is generally good, it's also mundane. Regular. Boring. And sometimes, we just want a hunk in a tux with a gun and an Aston Martin to swoop in and take us away on an adventure.
I know, I know. You're going to say something like, 'That's horribly backwards, Killarney. Women are strong and self-assured. They don't need a man to save them.'
Of course we don't. We are strong. We are smart. We can save the day and frequently do. But, frankly, it gets tiring. Sometimes it's nice to have someone else do it. Especially if that someone looks like Pierce Brosnan or has an accent like Sean Connery or smiles like Timothy Dalton or can beat the tar out of seven or eight bad guys with his bare hands like Daniel Craig...
Sorry, got distracted there for a minute. Where was I?
Oh, right, so the point is that, yes, women can save the day. And, yes, its cool to have action women in movies. Charlize Theron, Michelle Yeoh, Michelle Rodriguez, Zeo Saldana are all talented, fierce, fun women to watch. Rogue One was awesome. Atomic Blond looks like a blast. Wonder Woman was, in my opinion, the best superhero movie since the second Captain America movie. And lest you forget, these films built on others that came before it: A New Hope, Alien, and Silence of the Lambs all feature strong women who, in one way or another, save the day.
We can do it. I get it. But sometimes we women just want someone else to do the dirty work. And sometimes we want that person to be Roger Moore on a remote island, saving a girl (who is really a stand-in for us) from a man with a golden gun.
Is that really too much to ask?
Meet the Characters: Dr. Klugman
This week leading up to the June 23rd premiere of Michael Lawrence: The Season of Darkness, we're highlighting characters from the movie. Try to guess who-dunnit!
Name: Dr. Klugman
Played By: Robb Buckland
(Excerpt from the book)
The coroner was sitting on one of the five chairs that lined the wall, a clipboard in hand.
“Lawrence!” he called, when Lawrence lifted his head from his examination. “You look like something the cat dragged in.”
Dr. Klugman had worked in the state coroner’s office almost as long as Lawrence had been a cop and his signature caustic wit was legendary among his peers. He was a big man, with a shelf full of awards achieved through various martial arts competitions. He was thorough, competent, and unflappable, though his humor was not always in the best of taste. Lawrence often thought that his tactless front was Klugman’s way of keeping sane in what had to be an emotionally trying job.
Lawrence nodded wearily and rose to his feet. “I feel like it, too.” He gestured. “What have we got?”
“A dead woman.”
“I can see that.”
Klugman grinned, then turned to the victim, placing his hands on his widespread knees. “It’s impossible to determine what she died of here, but whatever it was, it wasn’t a pleasant way to go. You can see here, where her back is arched and the distension of the jaw line. Horrendous agony.” He grinned when Lawrence shuddered. “We are feeling skittish today..”
Robb Buckland is an actor, stuntman, martial artist, and Army Veteran. He's a veteran of over 40 years in martial arts, holds master level in multiple styles, has been awarded the title Kyoshi (teacher of teachers), and his expertise has lead to numerous film, TV, and magazine appearances. He founded Fearless Family Martial Arts and directs a stunt team for area film makers. He has also appeared in Narrow Street Films' Not That Guy and The Man Who Wasn't Tex Magru.
Get Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness