We made 'Madness' with one goal in mind: to show the world what we are all capable of doing as filmmakers. We assembled a crew of extremely talented yet untapped people in the hopes that, for everyone involved, it would progress our professional careers.
In the summer of 2019, Jeremiah Preston, John Hernandez, and I came up with a premise that we hoped would keep audiences on the edge of their seats. During our preliminary meetings, we also agreed on our roles as collaborators which I think helped out much later in production so there were clear lines of responsibilities and expectations. Jeremiah would be our Executive Producer (mostly in charge of financing, although he wore many other hats including UPM, First AD, Casting, etc.) and John would be the Producer in charge of the day to day operations. As a Director, I would have overall creative control of the film although I kept healthy communication with Jeremiah and John to make sure I never stepped on their toes. I would rewrite Jeremiah's screenplay to suit it to my needs as a Director (which we talked about beforehand) so we would both receive a writing credit. It was helpful to have all of these talks early on so there was no confusion or metaphorical butting-of-heads.
After we crafted our story, Jeremiah went off and wrote the first draft of the script while I created a look book with many references to David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins, and others. I would later present this to our Production Designer, Andres Montiel, and Cinematographer Veronica Smith. I think this was helpful to all be on the same page, although it was never referenced again after we found our location. Speaking of which, knowing that our location would be a huge influence on the overall aesthetic of our film, it had to be perfect. We found a home on Giggster in Moorpark, CA that would we all loved, and so we took a trip around Halloween time to check it out. It was unanimous, this was our location!
Next was casting. Jeremiah booked a room at Space Station Casting Studios in Hollywood that proved to be a very valuable resource. We made postings on Facebook and Backstage and got hundreds of responses. Since we had female auditions, we enlisted the help of Associate Producer Gabriella Lima to both ease female minds while auditioning in front of all men, and also to read for the character of Lindsey so that the male actors would have a feminine presence to bounce dialogue off of. We ended up scheduling around 50 auditions on November 9, 2019 where we found our amazing talent: Adam Kitchen, who was the best actor we saw that day. Gilbert Roy, who auditioned for our lead role of "Daniel" but we liked Adam so much in that role that we reworked our other male role to suit Gilbert's needs. And last but certainly not least, Ian Neville who worked at Space Station Casting and asked if she could audition since she didn't have a time slot. And as soon as she did, we knew she was our Lindsey. The cast just fell together so fast and although we didn't have callbacks, we did meet with the cast and let them get to know each other and get a sense of chemistry before we shot. We got along so well with everyone, and they were all perfect in their roles; I couldn't have asked for a better cast.
Production was scheduled for two days in January 2020 at our location in Moorpark. Shooting went pretty smoothly, mostly thanks to veteran camera operator Neil Watson and Veronica Smith's camera team. I would rehearse and practice blocking with the actors as much as I could and we were very much on the same page about the characters, which definitely helped speed things along. Adam, Ian, and Gilbert would rehearse lines anytime they weren't actively on set. It was great to have actors with such a great work ethic; I would highly recommend each of them and hope to work with them again in the future.
One of our superstars on set was Production Assistant Josh Myers - oftentimes being a PA, especially on such a small set is a thankless job. But Josh was unjaded and super enthusiastic about the whole process, doing whatever we needed him to do, even stepping in as an Assistant Camera when needed. It is this kind of mindset that made our production different and fun to work on. Adam would tell me later that he's been on a lot of sets, but ours "felt more special" than anything else he had done. Truly, we had chosen our people wisely.
Luckily, we didn't need any reshoots and had production completely wrapped by the time the pandemic halted our lives in March 2020. It did slow down post-production on our film, but since we all worked from home on 'Madness' anyway, it didn't really make any difference. We found our editor Jonathan Villegas pretty early on, who was an amazing addition to our team. We all loved Jon so much we asked him to come on as Co-Producer, as his added contribution was invaluable. Jon would find our Sound Designer, Will Rosati who- along with Composer Kanoa Wolfe-Doblin, helped elevate our film to new potentials. Jeremiah, John, and I were in awe of what our little film had become with the addition of some heavy hitters.
By the end of summer 2020, our film was pretty much complete. I worked on VFX, covering up some small mistakes and Veronica put on her coloring hat and graded the film for us. When we saw the final cut of the film with sound and music, we just fell in love. We had watched our 8-minute short film dozens of times, but this time it felt different. It felt like everything had finally come together and had a dimensionality that we hadn't thought possible. Our goal was to make 'Madness' to the best of our ability, but there's always a little doubt in your mind whether or not you could actually accomplish that. Having completed it now, screened it for cast and crew as well submitted to multiple film festivals- there is no doubt in my mind that we did indeed accomplish our goal. I am very proud of our film and what our team accomplished. It was a collaborative effort from start to finish and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.
'Madness' is making the festival rounds and expected to release online in Spring of 2021. It won Best First Time Director (Short) for Nicolaus Taylor and Honorable Mention: Actor for Adam Kitchen at the Los Angeles Film Awards in November 2020.