“My barriers are not my limits; they are my stepping stone to greatness.” It all started with this quote and became the theme of Lucy and the making of.
Before this, I was in a slump. I couldn’t decide on what to make next and was going crazy over it. But really all it took was the patience to wait for the inspiration.
My name is Libby Blood and my little brother is autistic. Growing up with Luke really made an impression on me and later inspired the award winning short film that’s dedicated to him.
I collaborated with family on the story, and later a writer to help write the first draft of the story and it turned out pretty good but it wasn’t quite a story yet, still just an idea. So we ended up writing four more re-writes until we were happy with the story. By then Lucy, the character, felt more like a real person then a fictional one. But what really brought Lucy to life was 11-year-old Kera McKeon. She carried this film like no other and brought an incredible life and energy to the set. It takes a brilliant sixth grader to become a completely different person with an autistic psyche on queue, and make a film interesting while being very professional and outgoing at the same time.
“The lead was wonderfully compelling and sympathetic without saying a word.”
–Dan Chuba, founder and managing partner of Hammerhead Productions.
Kera tells us a little bit about what her experience was like on the set of Lucy.
“I had so much fun working on Lucy. There was never really a point during the filming that I was unsure of what to do. Libby never just told me the ba
sics of the scene we were shooting, she always told me exactly what she wanted it to look like.
If I had to pick one part of the film that I liked the best I would pick the sand scene, because it was so strange to hear the sand falling into everything but not being able to move my head to see the sand hitting those things. Then when it was over, watching what it was that was making those noises was so amazing.
Although it’s hard to pick the scene I like best, it is very easy to pick the scene that was my least favorite shooting. That scene was the ocean scene, the water was only about fifty-five degrees and I was not in the warmest of clothing.
The best thing that I got from playing Lucy was that I learned that for some people little things that most of us take for granted, like being able to open a door and writing our names, are for some people seen as some of their greatest accomplishments.”
- Kera McKeon
I knew Kera back when she was 8 years old when I casted her in a short film I made my freshman year of high school. She has been a family friend for years.
We then needed a mother that was able to bring the outside perspective of Lucy to the film. This was a tricky roll to cast since we needed someone who was fluent in French and fit the part. The key to successfully casting Caroline was communication. We talked to everyone we knew, about this part! Lucky we found a connection through my cousin Brittany who was also doing the make-up for Lucy as well.
Caroline is truly a very talented actress. She was able to bring to light the dilemma that everyone that cares for someone with autism faces. These challenges portrayed in the film are all too real and Caroline brings out the pain that these individuals face everyday.
“While spending time in Tokyo I was contacted by Brittany Gherring (one of my hair stylists whom I had met in 2006 on a photo shoot) who asked me if I was interested and available to shoot a project that her cousin, Libby Blood, was directing the following week in Southern California. Because the story is happening in France during WWII, Libby needed a native French speaker that could also take the proper direction in English.
When reading the script, I was amazed to be taken to a different, more beautiful and magical world of an autistic child. I instantly was immersed in the vision of this moving project.
I feel honored to have been cast on “Lucy” to play the mother of the very talented Kera (a.k.a. Lucy). I couldn’t have wished for a better actress to be paired with as well as for a better experience than being directed by Libby Blood. The entire family is incredibly capable and artistic.”
- Caroline Amiguet
Now that we had our story in place and the perfect cast, we started working on our set. This huge undertaking required some funding for construction. Kickstarter.com and indigogo.com are great resources for fundraising!
My dad built our very first movie theater by hand (Captain Blood’s Village Theater) so I knew he was the man for the job.
“We built the set in ten days at a friends warehouse in our home town. We got a flooring company to donate a $1,000 hard wood floor (see the credits). The rest of the building supplies were picked up at The Home Depot. We even asked for and received a discount because it was a student film.
Working on the set of Lucy was a great opportunity. Even under the pressure of looming deadlines the Director Libby Blood was understanding, helpful and optimistic. We only had 10 days to build and dress the set in time for shooting.
We built the room with steel studs and 3/8 inch thick drywall. The ceiling had removable sections so that we could light from above. Approaching completion with deadlines upon us, Libby and the Art Director Catherine decided to make Lucy's room a split level for a more three dimensional look. As much as we all wanted to stay on schedule it was clear that this extra effort was going to be worth it. They were right. That change brought the set to life. Genius.
My favorite part of Lucy was keeping the dark hardwood floors clean. I drove everybody crazy, but that dark floor looked great on camera. When it came time to destroy Lucy's room it was bitter sweet. On one hand we had built the set for that reason, but actually destroying her with the flood was a whole other thing. I snuck a private moment alone in that special room, then we did her in. I will never forget the peaceful feeling of that sweet little set. I have been to France twice. This was better.”
Now that we had our blank slate, it was time to put Lucy’s personality into the room. After hours of research on the different types of autism I established that Lucy was a visual thinker. This means that she sees everything in pictures. Therefore she is a very imaginative little girl.
We were fortunate enough to have the luxury of being able to pick and chose every little detail in her room to help us understand who she is and what she loves.
My mom has an extensive background in interior design. She helped me accomplish the tone I desired for Lucy’s environment.
“Given the dimensions of Lucy's room I realized it was a relatively small space to work with so I began to think of ways we could create more interest and depth to Lucy's environment. I started by adding a window with a tree and lamppost outside. Then I placed a fan out there as well to produce an element of movement and shadow. Secondly, I requested a step be added to Lucy's bedroom to create the detail necessary to add more dimension to our confined space.
At first the chair in Lucy's room was to play a symbolic roll in the story but eventually the door began to play a more significant part; since it represents Lucy's barrier to the outside world. So, we put our efforts into aging our door just right. We used layers of paint and a crackle finish. Then we took special care and consideration in picking out the perfect antique doorknob.
Once we had our four walls, we needed to age our surroundings to look like 1939 France. I used plaster for our ceilings for a more authentic look of the 1930's and smudged everything with a dark wood stain. Our French provincial color scheme was established and we began searching for the perfect wallpaper and other accessories. My assistant set decorator, Lauren DeSantis helped find our wallpaper which set the tone for Lucy's room. It was a vintage pattern with a French motif. We found it in a hardware store sample book. It was more money than we wanted to spend so we searched online and found the same pattern for 60% off. Keeping in mind our very low budget, we searched for inexpensive antiques in thrift stores, antique shops, and borrowed what we could from family and friends. We added a hundred year old trunk and a jar of antique blocks. Voila! Lucy's room.”
- Cathy Blood
“The sets and production design were impressive!”
–Tom Schulman, screenwriter for Dead Poets Society.
While we were building the set and shopping for antiques, I was also preparing the shot lists for every scene since I was cinematographer as well.
I’m not very much of an artist so I don't draw any storyboards. Instead I write out descriptive shot lists that explain what the shot is (close up, medium, wide), if there's movement involved (dolly forward, pan left, etc.), and if it happens to be a high or low angle. I then explain what the shot is. For example, when I thought of this shot (right) I had this written down in my shot list:
WIDE: DOLLY FORWARD: of Lucy as she walks deeper into the forest with letters on the trees in front of her.
There are multiple ways of writing a shot list; this is just the best way that works for me. It also works out because I am always my own Director of Photography. This usually is the case for student films but I have worked on other films as the cinematographer and on these films I work with the director and come up with a shot list that fits their vision of the film.
On Lucy I used the Canon 5D Mark ll with Canon’s Prime L Series Lens including 50mm f/1.2, 100mm Macro f/2.8, and 16-35mm f/2.8.
While cinematography is very technical and has a lot of creative freedom, there is almost a sort of technique that can go along with it when it comes to creating shot lists and camera equipment.
This is not the case when it comes to directing. Directing is such an abstract art and is different for every person. Directing Lucy was tricky because I walked a fine line. I wanted the film to have a whimsical feel to it while dealing with the dark subject of autism and having to tip-toe around it almost becoming scary with all these "worlds" Lucy was creating.
It's all about knowing what you want. If you know what you want to accomplish for the overall film you can achieve this, scene by scene by creating the emotion you wish to get across to the audience. It just takes practice like everything else. You learn SO much from every film you make. The fastest way to learn is by doing it and learning from your mistakes.
“What’s so impressive is how the director maintains this really eccentric tone that’s dark and whimsical at the same time. The production values, the edits, the music – this is amazing stuff.” – Tim Ryan, senior critic at Rotten Tomatoes.
Making films is a collaboration of efforts. Contrary to most student film productions, it should never just be a one-man operation. The most important thing to remember is to use your resources and to plan, plan, plan! If you think about what you want in the beginning and plan it out, your whole production will go a lot faster and smoother. This doesn’t mean that there will be no bumps along the way, but there will sure be less and they will be much easier to handle.
I couldn’t have made Lucy without the help of my family plus my amazing cast. I could never have done it without the help of my media production teacher, Mark Switzer, and FilmEd Academy of the Arts for teaching me all that I know. Lucy was incredibly hard to make but was so much fun! I learned so much from all of it and it was an experience I will never forget. I will definately take what I have learned and apply it to future projects.
Ed. Note: Since this article was created, LUCY won Best Narrative; Achievement in Directing; Achievement in Cinematography; Achievement in Production Design, and Achievement in Special Effects at the 2012 SoCal Student Film Festival. Libby Blood tells us she is currently working on developing several ideas for feature films and continues to pursue her freelance work and work as a professional editor. Be sure to keep an eye out in the future for films from Bloodline Productions coming to theaters near you.
Copyright 2012 Libby Blood Films. All Rights Reserved
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