When you are trying to cast a movie with a tiny budget you send the script to people's agents and hope they like it enough to work on it for very little money. Like the way the Screen Actors Guild describes our movie is "Ultra Low Budget." Seriously. So the actors need to like the script.
But the flip side is that when you're trying to get actors with a track record for a movie like this, you can't ask them to audition. You're just hoping they'll read your script. So you watch their other movies and hope for the best. With Briana I saw tape of her give really interesting performances in different kinds of movies. But none of the characters were much like the mom in my script. We offered her the part, and I was psyched and surprised she accepted. It was a while before I realized how lucky we were.
In the theatre you have 4-6 weeks of rehearsal with actors before you put a play in front of an audience. For a film like this, at least they way I did it, you get next to nothing. We had a couple online conversations about the script but otherwise you just need to trust your actors.
Briana flew in from LA with her big adorable dog the night before we started shooting. We had dinner with my producer and the lead actor not far from her hotel in Rumson NJ, and I could tell she was the kind of person who would be able to handle the chaos of our little independent feature. I learned with wonder that her father was BJ from the trucker show BJ and the Bear. When I told her that Bruce Springsteen lives nearby she said she didn't know Bruce Springsteen was from New Jersey Her co-star Ryan Kennedy didn't either. I love LA.
On the set she was chatty and friendly with the other cast and the crew and made everyone comfortable. And when the camera would roll and she would sort of ease into this character of Megan and bring her dialogue to life. Her acting felt effortless. She had just made this character of Megan a version of herself. And when Megan was put in these stressful and at times heartbreaking situations, she seemed to react instinctually. She wasn't trying.
But just because someone makes something look easy, it doesn't mean it is easy. Film acting is about repeating and I realized as we shot that Briana was a pro and could deliver in just about any circumstances. But really it was not until editing the movie that I realized how good this performance is. We always remember a great dialogue from our favorite actors but a lot of screen time it's about reactions and small expressions. A big part of her character's plot line involves an online email/chat correspondence. If/when you watch this movie, notice how Briana pulls you in even when she's chatting on her computer. Brianna is completely open and alive all the time.
This movie will only work if people really feel for the character of Megan. We see that she feels alone as she goes through this stressful and mystifying process of trying to get help for her son. We see how deeply it impacts her and her marriage. As far as I know Briana has not had an experience like this but her empathy and honesty comes through in every scene. I could not be more grateful for it.
Briana on the instagram. (check out her beautiful love letter to her parents).
Love and Communication is a new independent film to be released in 2021. Or maybe 2022. We'll see how things go. You can help by following and sharing on the socials:
Oh and a shout out to the guys at our (world class) neighborhood restaurant, Local Greek. Couple guys there are actors and when they learned Briana was involved in this movie on the block they came over with a massive feast for the entire crew.