A Hollywood Story You Can't Make Up
Lead Producer Sam Borowski and Lead Actor Daniel Roebuck pose on the bench
on set during In This Moment's recent shoot in Bethlahem, Pa.
"I’ve said this so many times, but there’s a magic when you have a really good actor in a really good makeup.”
– 7-time Oscar-Winning Make-Up Artist Rick Baker.
When I was asked by Amanda Toney to pen a post about my recent experiences producing In This Moment, a short film designed for film festivals, distribution, and Oscar-Consideration in 2020, I thought, great! This experience includes other Stage 32ers involved in this production, including the fabulous makeup artist.
This is the third post I’ve written for this wonderful website. But this one is very different from my first two. And that’s not a bad thing.
What’s truly amazing is all that we had to overcome to make this shoot a reality, not the least of which was finding the right makeup person to help our lead actor Daniel Roebuck, perhaps best known for playing Cliff Lewis, an assistant defense attorney on Matlock. But, then again, many know him from his recurring role of Dr. Leslie Arzt on Lost. Or yet was it playing Detective Biggs in The Fugitive and its spinoff feature, US Marshalls?
He also played the lead of Jay Leno in the HBO feature, The Late Shift?, one of my favorite roles he’s ever played. And, most recently, he made his feature-directorial debut with Getting Grace, in which he also starred. Getting Grace played theatrically in a strong limited release for more than 10 weeks. Roebuck also was awarded a deal for DVD/BLU-RAY from SONY Home Entertainment.
Still, it could be from any of his well-over 100 television appearances or 85 feature films.
You see, Danny is one of the best-known character actors in the business. So much so, that he was featured in the documentary, That Face is Familiar, not to mention profiled in the book Character Kings. part of the reason is his ability to be a chameleon, something every actor seeks to do.
Much like Oscar-Winning actor Gary Oldman, Danny can look different from role-to-role. I can distinctly remember him looking extremely different when he portrayed Gary Marshall in a television movie about the real-life story of Mork and Mindy.
In Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, he was almost completely unrecognizable.
Danny has been a good friend for close to 16 years. In those sixteen years we’ve worked together six times, the latest collaboration coming with In This Moment.
Actor Daniel Roebuck consults with Producer Sam Borowski on set.
But, for the latter, we had to accomplish the almost impossible; make Danny look 30 years older on a paltry short film budget. Even with his chameleon-like ability, that was a challenge.
To me that is the crux of this post; you will see if you put your heart and mind to something, anything can be achieved. I’ve read so many negative comments from some of the newbies on the site, often from those with very little experience. And I get it. People do get frustrated sometimes with the lack of movement in this industry.
One of my constant sources of advice for other filmmakers is to take the DIY route. If you do, anything is possible. But, often to do this, you need to link up with an experienced producer like myself. Someone with connections to name actors and various other sources, including being an alumnus from a wide variety of film festivals.
It is my hope that the rest of this post offers solid advice on how-to and ample inspiration to show that you can achieve great things in this industry and make a film you are truly proud of. You don’t have to settle for some film, with a look that reflects a minuscule micro budget.
In This Moment was no different. It all started with fellow Stage 32er Sara Harman telling me about her sister Myra Dell Harman and her short story, Day at Greyfield Arboretum. Myra was looking for a screenwriter to adapt it. She also needed a producer and director.
As someone who got started in this industry with my writing and still loves to craft a compelling story, I told her I would adapt it. And she could look no further, I would produce it, too. We would find a way to raise the money.
Lead Actress Sara Harman and Lead Actor Daniel Roebuck during a key scene from 'In This Moment.'
And we did. Together.
Sara absolutely did her part. She didn’t bitch or moan. She did what she had to do to raise money on her end and I did the same. I phrase it this way because I read so many posts weekly about how hard it is to raise money. Well, I am here to tell you it can be done.
Again, having an experienced producer comes in handy. Especially with attaching real talent and matching funds that you may produce. But that’s another post for another day.
Today I'm here to tell you about the hurdles, including makeup, that we had overcome, and how we overcame them.
Once we had the foundation for a script in place with me producing, Danny on board to play our lead Thomas opposite his younger character’s counterpart, Ally (played by Sara), we needed to find a director.
Now, it’s not that I wasn’t interested. I want to make that clear. But I’ve directed five times, including two features and a short that qualified for the Oscars previously, and I thought there was somebody better to give a chance to.
Also, because of the theme of overcoming heartbreak and female empowerment, I though, there really needed to be a female director in place. Perhaps one who wouldn’t have gotten an opportunity otherwise.
Enter Stage 32er and member of My Inner Circle, Taylor Salotti, a protégé of mine.
From the moment I met Taylor two years ago when she first hired me to help her write and rewrite her first feature, two things were apparent:
1. She wrote with a real passion and knowledge of movies, which I loved.
2. She wrote like a director in regards to shots she suggested and other elements.
Now, I won’t debate whether a writer should or shouldn’t put direction in their screenplay. But, I will say that from the moment we discussed and worked on her first script, to her taking my monthly acting classes, to her working alongside me these past few years and our obvious friendship, I knew Taylor was a director.
If only she could get the right opportunity from someone.
Well, it turned out that someone was me. And she gave me much to be proud of during her time on the set of In This Moment. Perhaps it was her openness and willingness to learn and accept my guidance. Or her hard work-ethic. Or the glimpses I saw of the director she is one step closer to being. And that’s a total compliment.
Actress Sarah Teed, Writer-Producer Sam Borowski and Director Taylor Salotti sporting their crew tee shirts on the set.
The triumvirate of myself, Sara, and Taylor had to cast two key parts. Chris, Sara’s good-for-nothing boyfriend and Deborah, a character from Thomas’ past. We killed two birds with one stone, so to speak.
In one of the classes, we auditioned yet another Stage 32er, Sarah Teed, without her quite knowing it was an audition. As far as we said, we were just testing one of the scenes in the class. She nailed it. Utterly nailed it.
And why wouldn’t she? Sarah is a terrific actress and someone else who deserves more opportunities. That’s not to say she doesn’t get many, because she does. She has an IMDb resume with double-digit films. She’s also produced a few of her own films and I asked her to come onboard as an Associate Producer.
That makes a quartet of Stage 32ers working together for a common goal: A great short that would play in many festivals, find distribution both online and on DVD/BLU-RAY, and ultimately qualify for the Oscars one day.
Sarah’s immediate contribution was to bring on board Mike Vezza (hopefully a soon-to-be Stage 32er after reading this) as one of our Executive Producers and for the critical part of Chris. The thing about Chris is that he’s an offensive character, but he’s also the comic relief. It’s ironic because he shouldn’t be funny. Again, he’s an offensive jerk, but his stupidity will have the audience laughing at him.
There's much I loved about Mike’s performance. However, his mentality on the set was just infectious. Always smiling. Doing pushups as I serenaded him to Eye of the Tiger, before his scene.
While my voice is not the caliber of Survivor, the combination of us doing that had the crew laughing and smiling and ready to get going.
After this shoot I am proud to call Mike a friend and fellow collaborator. Extremely proud.
But I still haven’t talked about our two biggest hurdles yet. Unfortunately, we cast a person as the younger version of Thomas for the flashbacks who took it upon himself to leave the state the morning of the shoot. He texted one of Associate Producers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Beth Clausnitzer, about two hours before we got to set.
This was ‘Crack of Dawn' nightmare stuff.
Writer-Producer Sam Borowski surveys the set early in the morning on day one of 'In This Moment' short film.
Beth rounded up some local actors, three who were extras the day of the shoot. One of them, Frederick Buckenmeyer IV, happened to look like Danny’s actual son, Buster Roebuck. And, in turn, like a young Danny. However, he had the least acting experience of any of them.
The others didn’t look anything like Danny and one was not the right age. We worked with Buck about 30 minutes before the shoot of a day he only had one or two lines and some MOS. He promised to come back to the hotel that night and work with us, before his big dialogue scene with Sarah Teed the next day.
This guy was more Rudy than Sean Astin. He ignited the cast and crew and we all rooted for him, not the least of which was because we needed him. I will never forget how “Buck” came through for us.
A true Hollywood Story.
Actor Frederick Buckenmeyer IV and Sam Borowski on set after his big dialogue scene.
Now I know what you’re asking: What about the makeup? Well, we had a long, arduous search for a makeup artist two months prior. Not only did we need someone to makeup Danny like an 80-something man, but I also had it in my head that Sarah Teed had to look like Jackie O.
You see, our flashbacks take place in the mid-sixties. Jackie O was a huge trend-setter and I thought what better way to reflect the period than with the look of Sarah’s character, Deborah? Still, this paled in comparison to what we had to do to make Danny look believable.
I even sought a makeup artist from Stage 32, however, she was unavailable. Two of them were, actually.
Danny knew some Hollywood heavy hitters, but could we afford them? And could we afford a flight from California and another hotel room?
One of the big ones was interested in helping his dear friend Danny and working with me. But, again, scheduling was not going well. However, he felt he could sculpt the prosthetic and we could have another makeup artist apply it in Bethlehem.
In the end, both the timing and the ability to get a similar makeup artist do this, ended that plan.
Then Danny remembered Katelynn Walsh. Despite having to teach at a prominent makeup school in New York City (an hour away) that morning, Katie graciously agreed to come do Danny’s makeup at 6 a.m. at the hotel. It was here that I learned about “Stretch and Stipple,” the same type of makeup that Marlon Brando underwent during the filming of The Godfather.
****Key Makeup Artist Katelynn Walsh Applies the "Stretch and Stipple" technique to Actor Daniel Roebuck.
Katie would apply the makeup in the air-conditioned hotel room and while she felt it would hold up for the full day, she would be back on set in Monocacy Park at 2 p.m. to apply touch-ups. With the assistance from local makeup man, Darren Pastor, Katie knocked it out of the park. Under tough circumstances and short notice – we only got Katie a week before the shoot – to say she and Darren did an exceptional job is a tremendous understatement. But, don’t go by my words, see the pictures for yourself.
Actor Daniel Roebuck before and after makeup.
If you think it didn’t mean much for morale or team spirit, all you had to do was see the expression on Taylor’s face when Danny walked on-set – the outdoor park – after being in his hotel room for several hours.
“Oh, there’s Danny,” Taylor exclaimed, mouth agape. “Oh, look at him. He looks like an old man. He really looks old.”
She pointed him out to me and as the entire crew watched in wonder, you could feel the adrenaline rising.
The next day, I got to watch my wonderful HMA artists Jessica Scott and Laura Dickerhoff-Davis use Sarah Teed as their canvas. Did she wind up looking like Jackie O? Again, you tell me.
Sarah Teed on monitor in Jackie O. hair and makeup.
That was a rhetorical, by the way, as I already know the answer.
So, my main point of this post is the fact that anything is possible, even on a smaller budget. Now, while it’s true I’ve made feature films on budgets large enough to impress most of the people on here, I won’t reveal how paltry this short film was.
You see, a magician can never reveal his tricks.
But, we pulled it off.
Perhaps Rick Baker’s right. There’s a magic when you have a really good actor in a really good makeup.
And, that’s not a bad thing.
This one is a BONUS. ;)
Sam Borowski is a New York-based director, writer, producer and the creator of the twice-monthly So, You Want To Be An Actor Workshop. As a director and producer, Sam has worked with many actors, including Oscar-Winners Ernest Borgnine and Benicio Del Toro, Oscar-Nominee Sally Kellerman, legendary performers Paul Sorvino and Mickey Rooney, 3-time Emmy-Winner Keith David and Natasha Lyonne.
As a filmmaker, Sam is as eclectic as his favorite movies, as showcased in his Desert Island Movies on his Stage 32 page. He wrote and produced a documentary about the Creature From the Black Lagoon with Del Toro, Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-Man, that has received wide distribution. He wrote, produced and directed a short, The Mandala Maker, that qualified for the Academy Awards several years back. His feature Night Club had an impressive cast featuring Borgnine, Lyonne, Sorvino, Kellerman, Zachary Abel and the aforementioned Roebuck of LOST. He's produced features all over the United States including Rex in Georgia and A Place for Heroes starring Sorvino, Kellerman and Norman Lloyd in Iowa. He's currently working on Stay Fresh, a large-budget feature that he will write, direct and produce.
His latest offering, as documented above, In This Moment, is a short film that he hopes to also qualify for the 2020 Academy Awards.
Sam's resume of film festival achievements reads like a veritable who's who of festivals on the circuit. He can be followed on Twitter at @Sam_Borowski or reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, of course, you can find him right here at Stage 32!
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About the Author
Sam Borowski was destined to be a filmmaker. In fact, he grew up just a stone's throw from the house that served as the Corleone Home in the Academy-Award winning film, "The Godfather." He also watched the Oscars intently as his cousin Danny Aiello was Nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1990. Ev...