Skin Deep – Nineteen Years Later (Production)

Production began on December 21st, 2004. Anthony arrived in town and while he was skeptical about acting, but he did give it his all. He missed his roll call the first day, but he lived just down the street so at 11:15 AM, I was banging on his door to get him ready. He showered and and we immediately went to work shooting some scenes.

Skin Deep was the story of a man, who meets a woman online. This was a time before dating apps, but he had a bond with this woman and a romance blossomed. His best friend gives him a hard time since he assumed the “woman” was actually a man pretending to be a woman. So, essentially it was the story of potential catfishing, before catfishing was a term.

The twist to the story was that when our lead goes to meet his date, she is suddenly not interested in him. This bothers him of course, and he figures out it’s because of his skin color. The man goes into a depression, the story turns dark, and a gun comes into play.

Obviously, this was not a happy film, but I tried to channel and layer the frustrations all three of us were experiencing as young men and dating in the world. In hindsight, the dark ending was probably done for more of a shock factor than anything else, but I was searching for some commentary on how race still played a factor in things, and how specifically dating in our region of the South could be brutal.

The tone shift of the film would have never worked, going from making off the wall jokes about bestiality to then a dark, serious, end piece, but it was a first film. We just wanted to get it done.

That first day of shooting was fun, but I learned very quickly that my idea of shooting a film and using a hockey stick as a boom mic by myself was not going to work. After most of my shots ended upside ways, I decided to drop the idea of recording sound separately and just focus on getting the movie filmed.

The shots weren’t planned out, so we basically just took a scene, shot some coverage, and I decided I’d dice it altogether in post. That first night, we shot footage that mainly consisted of a telephone call and some internet instant messaging.

It began raining and Matt called to suggest we shoot the ending scene in the rain. So, we gathered up our gear and headed outside. I had left things a bit open on what would happen to his character, but I had decided after all of his actions, Anthony’s character would take his own life. So, we crammed in my tiny Miata while holding a hot work lamp in my lamp and shot a few takes while the soft glow of an inflatable snowman glowed in the background.

Then for fun, we kicked back and recorded a sort of “behind the scenes” conversation between Anthony and I for the DVD release.

The next morning was our true first shooting day, and Matt came over. I knew things were going to ramp up with his energy and excitement for the project, and it really did. We laughed, like I’ve never laughed before. We were three fools trying to put together a coherent story with a tiny camcorder basically in my bedroom. It was a wonderful time.

I was terrible at lighting, and I struggled to turn the autofocus off, and eventually we just tried to get what was on the page into the screen, with less concern about the technical details. We weren’t prepared and despite being a small script, this was still going to be a thirty-forty-minute movie, which was way bigger than it had any right to be. But we had three days to shoot, so I was confident we’d get it all done and between the jokes and outtakes, Matt, Anthony, and I did out best to get the script on video.

After the first couple of hours, we were hitting a bit of a stride, when it came time to shoot coverage for a big scene of Matt’s where he is sitting at a computer, talking to Anthony’s character, while surfing for porn and well… touching himself. We shot a couple of angles, and I decided to get a little close and shoot from the floor up towards Matt’s head while he talked. Sitting in this awkward position, with Matt in his boxer shorts, my head inches away from his waist, my dad burst into the room and told everyone to go home. Did I mention we were using his office?

Memphis was experiencing a rare ice storm. It was already treacherous for Matt to come over in the first place, and he spun out in my yard when he arrived, but we’d already agreed he’d just crash the night and we’d shoot as long as we could. My father, who was extremely against me making films, had just ruined our idea.

It’s funny, because looking back, one of my father’s biggest arguments against my movie making dream was he had a co-worker whose son went to film school and had struggled to find a job. So, I never did end up going to film school and I’ve spent my entire life struggling to find a good paying job. So, thanks Dad for shitting on my dreams. I’m glad you made that hard for me and I still got to spend my adult life struggling.

Now, that we’ve got little rant out of the way, let’s continue.

Sadly, that was the last scene of the film I was able to shoot. The ice froze over, and travel was made impossible for the next several days. With my lead actor leaving in just four days, we didn’t have time to shoot anything else, and so after only forty-five minutes of filmed footage (maybe 10 minutes of it usable), we called it a wrap.

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