Here's a young lady I hope and think we'll be seeing a lot more of. Bev Tan has her feet wet in both the commerce and art sides of filmmaking. By day, a mild mannered member of a social marketing team. By night a creative filmmaker willing to take on the social issues of the day.
Born in New York City eventually ending up in North Carolina and going to high school in Holly Springs. Bev made up her mind very early what she wanted to do in life. "I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was 7 years old." To fulfill that desire she eventually ended up at Western Carolina University. "I went to film school at Western Carolina University and worked as a photographer and freelance writer as well during that. I also minored in poetry. I have always been in love with filmmaking but I did change my concentration 5 times, beginning and ending with producing."
With Western Carolina under her belt she moved from Asheville to Raleigh to work for a distribution studio. "Now I freelance and run my social media firm and continually have projects in development.I always say I have two careers that sometimes cross paths"
One of those paths is her latest project With Love: A Short Film. It's a look at a healthy same-sex relationship starring Caleb J. Spivak and Anthony Williams. With Quierra Luck, Leeza Jones, Christina Nelson, and Shane Norton.
Tony M. Collins is the Directory of Photography and he also leads a dual filmmaking life, both corporate and creative. When asked about who he depends on most on set, he said: "I think I depend on the director the most, If they don't have a clear vision its hard for me to translate that into film."
Where did the idea for this come from and who wrote the screenplay?
Bev Tan I wrote the script after having the general concept sit in my brain since 2013. Cinematographer Tony Collins and editor David Bennett and I were having a drink together to celebrate the last film we worked on The Last Line after it's 4th festival acceptance. At some point someone (I think it was Tony) said something like "You know, we all got better over the past year, let's make another movie together" and so we did. I revisited some ideas and With Love was something that I had been wanting to do for a while and was adapted into something that meant more than it did. The original couple was a white hetero couple and it looked a lot more like The Notebook.
I'm really glad I made the changes since it's such a big topic. Back then, I wasn't as aware as I am now about social issues in the media and the need for diversity. I had decided before then that I wanted to write a story with gay characters.
How did you go about casting for the film?
Bev I first started casting on Breakdown Express/ Actor's Access. There were over 40 submissions per character but I only invited a handful for auditions. Caleb NAILED the part of Jamie and that was a really easy casting decision for me. Calvin was a little harder and I eventually went to my Facebook networks to cast for him, landing on Anthony who really brought Calvin to life. Susanna was another easy one, I had auditioned three girls and was leaning towards Quierra but had to hold off until I cast Calvin since they needed to be a sibling match. I picked up the bar friends from the Facebook networks too after advertising them as "featured extras" parts.
The whole process took about 5 weeks
How did Christina become involved?
Bev I met Christina [Nelson] on Facebook and she started off as a set decorator. I knew she was an actress so I asked her to play Nikky during our art meeting. She had a great look for the part and the main goal of the character was to contrast Leeza's character, Kay.
Christina Nelson I first heard about the film via Bevs indiegogo campaign , she had shared it in a local Facebook film page. After reviewing the video and looking into Bev more, I saw that she was definitely a very talented up and coming young filmmaker who I would be honored to work with. When I first reached out to her she was in D.C. promoting another one of her films. The moment she got back she was ready to begin telling her next story. We discussed what I had done with previous productions and what would really benefit this production the most and she landed on a set dresser. During our first meeting she offered me the role of Nicky, so I was very fortunate to be able to be cast and crew in this production.
After getting the opportunity to chat with her I was moved by her passion for what she does . It is going to be a truly beautiful and moving love story that keeps you engaged to the very end.
Is this a modern day setting? What locations are being used?
Bev The story takes place in 2013. Locations were all local NC places that were generously donated. We shot the first two days at actor Anthony Williams' apartment which became "Jamie's House" as well as Common Grounds Coffee in Apex, NC and the newly remodeled and rebranded Isaac Hunter's Tavern in downtown Raleigh, NC. Isaac Hunter's is actually right below my new office!
We also filmed a couple scene at Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs and are continuing to scout for a cemetery and "desert" area for a pickup day in April
When you shoot at a place like Common Grounds Coffee, how do you keep from interupting their business?
Bev I picked times that were expected to have slower business. To do that I spent many hours working on the pre-production side there and watching the crowd. It's in historic Apex so there's not a huge night scene in the first place. We didn't actually shut down the location for shooting. The owner, Mark, is a great guy and super film friendly. During the day shoot on Monday, we politely notified people that we were filming and put a sign on the door. We had a production assistant standing outside to open and close door traffic so no one opened it during our takes. In between, customers came in and ordered their coffee, which was time we needed to adjust anyways. It worked out really well. On Saturday night, it was almost closing time anyways and the only people who came through was a family. They actually ended up staying a while and hanging out at a table watching us.
As for Isaac Hunter's, we went in before their opening. Having just renovated, they were doing tweaks to a few things and the floors above us (my office is getting renovated and they were re-doing our plumbing).
Tony, as the director of photography, tell me what your duties entail.
Tony M. Collins As the DP is over the the camera and lighting departments and help set the image for the film. More than often I work in the corporate or commercial world as a grip or camera assistant.
My favorite thing on set is being the camera operator! The biggest challenges I face is time, I could spend all day lighting and filming a scene but it would take forever to finish a film. Or have 5 min and not get what I would be happy with scene wise.
How much of a role does serendipity play in your photography.
Tony Serendipity pays a huge roll. A lot of film making is based of past experience.
Bev I agree, serendipity plays a huge role. As both the writer and director it's such an interesting thing to see how the vision I had when I wrote the script evolves after I add casting, locations, crew, and so many other factors. Caleb and Anthony gave me their spin to Jamie and Calvin, and it's their Jamie and Calvin that really works and brings the characters to life. My style of directing is very open, it's raw and natural. I encourage my actors to play with the phrasing and surprise me as long as they keep the key elements of the scene. That way, it's real.
For those that have not yet made the leap into independent films yet but want to be an actor or work on a crew, what would you tell them to do?
Bev Advice for upcoming filmmakers: Always learn. Go to networking events, find people to learn from, help them and they'll help you. It's all a learning experience. Every set I go on no matter what job, I think of things I can learn and things I cons improve next time. My set wasn't perfect but it's improving. If you want to be a filmmaker, go be a filmmaker by jumping into the community and working for what you love. I think the opportunity is there. There are a lot of filmmakers like Tony and myself who run a passion project and will let you work as long as you work hard. Later when the paid gigs come, we remember who we liked working with.
Beth Knight May I just say that a few weeks ago, I had a script I'd written and a story to tell. I knew I wanted to tell it through film, but realized I needed some film experience first. I put a post up on Triangle Film Community's Facebook webpage, asking to participate in film projects, and Bev was one of the first people to reach out to me. She graciously invited me to work with her on her film and try out new film positions (1st AD). By the time her film rolled around, I had worked on 3 other films, but each one offers so much to learn, and a completely new perspective. I just have to say that I'm so thankful for Bev's offer. Working with her and the rest of the crew has been really fun and a terrific learning experience!
Thanks Beth. That's the kind of story I like to hear. Cooperation is the key to making great movies.
Bev, tell me about the fundraiser you are doing for With Love: A Short Film.
Bev I'm mostly paying for the film out of pocket but we have an indiegogo.
For more information on With Love: A Short Film click here.
Photo credit for on set pictures: David Spector