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Survivor’s Club – Don’t Let the Actors Blow Away April 1, 2013

Posted by sinefine in Survivors Club.
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There are a lot of days when we film in bad weather – days so hot your eyeballs feel like they’re frying, days so cold your hands might fall off, and rain pouring so hard you could almost drown on set. Each month we’ll remember one of those horrible weather days and celebrate the survivors who braved the elements in order to film.  Why would we want to remember those days?  Because going through hell on set has a way of bringing everyone closer together when they can say they survived mother nature AND filming on a Yibble set.
The Windiest Film Shoot
There are a lot of days that are a little windy, most often in the spring.  At the MacLeod farm it’s almost always windy, but not so bad that anyone is likely to blow away.  But there’s always that one shoot that breaks all the records for various types of weather.

 One night when we were filming scenes for Episodes 1 and 3 of Dream Chasers at the parking garage on the SIU campus in Carbondale, IL it became super windy.  I don’t think it had been that windy all day or I might have cancelled the shoot (though knowing me probably night – if I don’t cancel for torrential rain or freezing blizzards why shut down a shoot over a little wind?).  The wind had really picked up before we started filming our first scene from Episode 1, and huge gusts were hurling leaves across the streets and giving the actors a bit of a hard time walking and talking without being blown away themselves. 

 Aside from staying on the ground there were a few other things the wind kept messing with – the script, the sound, and the actors’ hair  (especially Morgan’s).  The only way to keep the script from flying everywhere was to keep it firmly closed and either in someone’s hands or under a coat or bookbag.  Since no one (not even me) had the script memorized we had to keep peeking at the script without it blowing away which was quite a challenge. 

 The audio was a big problem too – or would have been if we didn’t have a boom mic with a windsock. THANK GOD FOR BOOM MICS!  Luckily that was during the years I actually had access to a boom mic (thank you SPC-TV) before Brittany and Kate could lend me theirs.  I need to get one of my own ASAP.  Anyway, the boom allowed us to hear the actors’ lines but it had to be close to them.  At one point the wind was so fierce Morgan actually had to hold it low, pointing up at herself, and it kept getting in the shot (boom mics are not called handhelds for a reasons).

 The other problem was a bit of a hairy one.  Wind + long hair = not good, and also not tasty.  For some reason Morgan had the worst time with the wind whipping her hair in her face, possibly because hers was longer than anyone else’s.  I’m not sure how much of her hair she accidentally ate that night, but it could not have been a pleasant experience.

 It took a lot longer to film the scenes because of having to pause to check the script or brush back hair, but it had a nice…um…windblown look to a few intense/dramatic scenes so…bonus?  By the time we were filming the scenes from Episode 3 on the top of the parking garage the wind had died down a little so I was less worried the actors would blow away, which was very good considering we were a lot higher up at that point.
Let’s face it – I can talk about it all I want but wind is one of those things that’s hard to tell how really bad it is unless you can see it for yourself.  So watch the video below to see what the actors really had to put up with. 


Thank you to all the people who helped guard the script and managed to stay grounded during a very tempestuous shoot:
Michael Bunnell
Dan Monaco
Holly Simons
Morgan Thomas
Brittany Ann Whalen
­No go inside so you don’t blow away.  Sorry about the wind burn.
Oh, and Morgan – you might want to brush your hair…if you can.

Production Diary – The Perfect Combination March 20, 2013

Posted by sinefine in Production Diary.
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Once a month I’m going to talk about a specific production, what it was like to film it, and what was involved in making it happen.  This month I’m going to talk about The Perfect Combination.

The Perfect Combination actually started out as a novel that I was writing and decided to turn it into a movie, which is funny because it’s usually the other way around.  There were some major adjustments (I didn’t have a cruise ship to film on), and using a comical frame plot to skip over large chunks of the story via narration.  There are whole scenes that were transposed from the novel into the script, but overall most of the scenes were similar but cut down for time and realistic locations. 

I distinctly remember when I made the decision to do a movie version of a book I hadn’t finished writing yet.  We were filming the Renaissance flashback scenes for The Dragon & The Unicorn in January of 1998.  Annamarie MacLeod and I were talking during a break from shooting. She mentioned that Jacob, her brother, was wanting to be in another movie and I was already looking for a project that could star Jill Hutchison (because Jill is wonderful).  So I decided to do The Perfect Combination as a slapstick comedy with a dash of romance.  I say a “dash” because it’s the only production I’ve written where two people fall in love and get married, yet don’t actually have an on screen love scene or even something vaguely romantic that doesn’t involve pizza or guns. 

I quickly wrote a script (which wasn’t hard since half the dialogue and most of the plot were already done), and cast it using the usual pool of people.  Jacob and Jill were set the play the leads, Michael Winters and Catherine Summers, and I cast Chris Hutchens as Raymond – Catherine’s brother who is a top member of “The Agency” (a sort of CIA type thing) and the frame plot story teller.  Danny Skirvin and Nina Samii were cast as the villain and his sidekick – David McGaskill (aka the Reaper) and Houstan.  I had Jen Weber play the double agent Lyric, and had Annamarie and Paul Nelson play Mimi and Carl – Michael and Catherine’s “little” children in the frame plot scenes which was really funny. Rounding out the cast was Rachel Anderson as the confused cab driver/pizza girl who has really bad luck and a terrible accent, and Chris Lamb, Mike Baym, Ryan Segovich, Edward Stasheff and anyone else I could find to play random guards, police officers, and various extras. 

Oh yes, and me.  This is the only production where I willingly cast myself in an acting role, playing a semi-retired secret agent named Music who turns out to be Michael’s long lost mother.  Every other part I’ve played – be it extra or whatever – I only played because I couldn’t find anyone for the part or someone dropped out at the last minute and there was no one else I could shove in front of the camera except me.  I actually wantedto be Music.  I loved the character in the book and decided to cast myself, even though it might have been better for someone else to do it since it required some logistics in filming without me behind the camera.  

We had our first filming day was sometime in February.  We filmed all the frame plot scenes with Chris, Annamarie, and Paul as well as a couple of scenes with Jill and Jacob.  Both Annamarie and Paul had a blast pretending to be little kids, and there was a lot of joking and goofing around on the set.  Annamarie even tied Chris’s shoelaces together at one point, and everyone learned just how hard it is to say  iron-plated, fuel-injected, heat-seeking ironing board.
We also filmed the “cab” scene where Michael kidnaps Catherine, races through town, and then gets into a car crash – all filmed in a stationary van parked in front of a high school (tee hee). Ah, slapstick, no-budget comedy at it’s best.

Over the next few months filming days were sporadic and the shoots sort of blur together a bit.  They only way I can tell what was shot when in relation to the other scenes is by the order are on the tapes.  I filmed some scenes with just Jacob – opening credit stuff and his lines for a phone call that included about ten takes of throwing a phone on a couch to get it to land just right.  Then we had a Saturday afternoon shoot with Chris, Jacob, and Jill that included the jail scenes, voiceovers, and a lot of fun bloopers.
We spent quite a while filming the scene with “The Board” – Lyric (Raymond), Music, and Libretto – where they meet Michael and he joins “The Agency”.   The difficult part was that I was in the whole scene and Annamarie wasn’t free that day to work the camera.  So I had the “brilliant” idea to hook the camera up to a TV and have a monitor in the room so I could see the shot.  It’s what the professionals do after all, so why not? But it was a big TV, since that was the only one upstairs and was on a wheeled cart which made it easier to bring into the room, and that distracted the actors.  Whoever wasn’t on screen at the time operated the camera under my direction, but since they could see what was recording they had a fun time goofing off.  We were also in a room that had some old kids toys stored there and the actors found those and…things went downhill fast. 

Sometime in the late spring we had another all day shoot on some Saturday at the Homestead.  We filmed most of the scenes at the Reaper’s mansion, including a couple of fight scenes, and ended the day with filming a scene between Catherine and Music. Since I was in at least one scene that day, Annamarie agreed to be the camera operator.  There was a lot of silliness, including strange vibrating toy guns, Smints, and having two guards killed in one scene then suddenly alive again two scenes later.   It was a really long day but, as always, it was a lot of fun. 
Throughout May and June shoots were short and very sporadic, mostly filming some cut away scenes and a few big ones here and there like the scene towards the beginning where Michael and Catherine literally run into each other, almost get caught, then escape, and the scene where Michael poses as Catherine’s lawyer.  Jacob and Jill endured short notice shoots, some late hours, and uncooperative props, but they were terrific to work with and ended up having great on screen chemistry – they were hilarious and were really able to play off each other.  They had filmed a lot of scenes together in Destiny and Destiny III, so I knew they were a good combination (possible even a perfectcombination).  

A lot of actors were brought in for only an hour or so simply because I needed someone else in the scene.  Edward is my brother and when I needed a police officer for one of the jail scenes I just grabbed – I mean asked – him to do the part.  I also had Ryan Segovich volunteer to play some extras like an undercover cop and one of the Reaper’s goons.

“I remember filming outside of your house,” Ryan said when asked what he remembered most about filming Perfect Combination.  “I had to handcuff Jill and dropped the keys or the cuffs just out of reach.  We kept filming as I struggled vainly to reach them.  Hilarity ensued.”

But the best filming day was saved for last.  There were several scenes that were supposed to take place at a different mansion that The Reaper owned.  The heroes had discovered a spy in their midst who had stolen a necklace of fake diamonds that secretly concealed micro-film (I know, silly right?).  The scenes were totally campy.  They were filmed in parts on three different days – one for Danny’s lines and bits, and one for Nina and Rachel’s lines and bits because none of those actors could be there for the main shoot. 

“I remember I died and had to do the scene about 10,000 times, cuz I wanted to keep my eyes open and I kept blinking,” Danny recalled, “I think I blinked in the final version.”

The main shoot was at Kate Weber’s house (thanks Kate!) and was a blast and a half.  The day included fake disguise glasses, the top half of a fake tree, facial mud, a refrigerator, a lampshade, guns, wigs, and some badly made props. Several people got to have over-dramatic death scenes, and the day produced one of my favorite lines of all time: “The couch won’t let me go and the Christmas tree stole my necklace!”

 “Diamond necklace in the ice-maker in the fridge door,” Kate said when I asked her what she remembered about filming.  “Being chased around my own house while wearing a Metallica t-shirt.  That’s about it.  Was I even in it otherwise?” (nope Kate, that was pretty much it)

The day ended with a one or two hour shoot of chasing each other around the house with everyone trying to steal the necklace, and brainstorming new bits, each one wackier than the last.  We needed a few extras to be part of the chase scene so Kate and Rebecca agreed to join in. It’s one of the most memorable shooting days for me, and one of the best.  It was so much fun, and it was very freeing to film us goof around on the set for a few hours without worrying about lines or drama, just being as silly as we could.
I can think of one person who may not have had that much fun filming.  Poor Chris Hutchens is allergic to cats and almost all of the shooting occurred in houses where there were three or more cats.  The first day of filming I had him wearing a sweater in the first scene that I didn’t realize was covered in cat hair.  By the time I realized how bad it was we were halfway through the scene, and I found a place in the script to have him take it off and we got it far away from him.  However, the damage was done and he spent the day sneezing.  He also ended up getting stuck in the part of hiding in a sofa covered in cushions that I should have realized were also covered in cat hair.  He was such a trooper and put up with the sniffling and sneezing. I hope you still had some fun Chris!  (see Eidolon people – see what I made actors put up with in the olden days? You got off easy with hotel rooms, beaches, apartments with fish and only two cats in the main house we shot in!)
The filming for Perfect Combo was sporadic because I was also filming two other movies at the time.  I was wrapping up shooting for The Dragon & The Unicorn when we started shooting, and was also filming The King of Elflin’s Daughter at the same time.  The King of Elflin’s Daughter was finished first, but only because I focused on it more during June.   The Perfect Combination finished filming in July and premiered to the “public” (ie the actors and their families and friends) at the end of July in 1998.

For over ten years the only people who had seen the movie were those who watched it at the premiere.  It was partially edited on ¾ inch tape, but was dubbed to VHS and used the VCR-to-VCR style of editing to finish it up.  There was only one master tape at that time and shortly after the viewing it broke while I was making a copy of it.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I re-edited in and put it on DVD.  So anyone out there who was in the movie but has never actually seen it, let me know.
Big thanks to everyone who worked on this production (especially Chris Hutchens whom I tortured mercilessly with cat hair).  It’s one of my favorite movies and I had a lot of fun making it.  I hope you all did too.
(hmm…this ended up being a lot longer than I expect.  Well, I do love to talk…)

Interview with Kate Weber March 11, 2013

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Each month we’ll interview a member of the Sine Fine Film company, asking the same or similar questions, and learn more about the actors and crew.

This month I’m interviewing Kate Weber who’s been with the company since the beginning in the summer of 1996.

Q: How did you get involved in SFF? (And what possessed you to keep coming back for more torture?)
A: Long answer: I’ve been friends with Yibble since we were in third grade, and through the years we’ve done a lot of things that, in retrospect, might have been a little out of the ordinary.  Things like starting a literary magazine, putting on a puppet show, dressing our toys as Greek gods, that sort of thing.  We were all drama geeks in high school, so acting in a movie wasn’t much of a stretch. And while the hours could get long and the weather was never friendly, it was always a lot of fun, and something I’m proud to have been a part of. Something I wish I’d gotten a chance to do more of when we were living in the same city.
Short answer: Yibble’s mah FWEND.

Q: What was your favorite part to play?

A: It was pretty great to play Ryaka in Pandora’s Box. Prior to that all my roles had been more or less distilled insanity.  It was nice to do some actual acting. (Yes, I count “psychotic bitch” as acting. Shut up.)

Q: What was your favorite filming day?

 A: A lot of it’s kind of blurred together but I really liked some of the scenes in Destiny III out at the MacLeod farm, where Rachel Anderson and I just sort of sat around in the background and did whatever the hell we felt like. I was usually taking Rachel’s lead – she the one who came up with the Beans’n’Weenies song, for example.
Actually, it’s a toss-up, because Cursed Destiny of Pandora’s Gift Box was SO much fun as well.

Q: What was your least favorite filming day?
A: Gift Bearer: Time After Time, in Edwardian dress in triple-digit weather.  That kind of sucked.  I mean, it was still fun, but good lord I thought I was going to faint. 

Q: What’s your dream role?
A: I’d love to be the conflicted villain who eventually makes good, or the reluctant hero with angst problems.  Having a love interest would be pretty fun too.  Never had one of those. (In a movie, that is.  I like to think my husband counts as my love interest in real life.)

Q: What’s your favorite production to watch?
A: Cursed Destiny, hands down, if only for Mike Steen.
Q: What’s your favorite costume, accessory, or prop?
A: I still have the penguin from Cursed Destiny.  I’m not sure I had much else in the way of props. 

Q: Who’s your favorite actor co-star/actor you’ve worked with?  Who would you like to work with in the future?

A: Rachel Anderson and Jen Weber are always a joy.  I’d love to work more with them, and with Yibble (in an acting role, not just as director). I also thing it’s be fun to act opposite my sister.

Q: Sum up each production you’ve been in using only one word or short sentence. 

DESTINY – spontaneous

DESTINY II – flashback

DESTINY III – pirates!



DESTINY: THE MINI-SERIES (1999) – editing

PANDORA’S BOX – killing


QUATRAIN – unfinished?

TWISTED TALES: CINDERELLA (as writer) – whim




Q: Top 5 favorites: (not SFF related)
Favorite Color
 Uhhhhhh…honestly, I like blue and purple and green and many of the darker reds.  That’s over half the spectrum.  I’m not very good at this.
Favorite Movie or TV Show
 If we’re talking movie I could watch the most times, then probably the original Clash of the Titans
Favorite Song or Band/Artist
 Binary Souls/Other Dimensions…but I might be biased.
Favorite Food or Drink

Favorite Holiday
 Probably Christmas.  Honestly, any day I’m not at work is pretty excellent. 

Actor of the Month: John Minneci March 6, 2013

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Congratulations to this month’s Actor of the Month — John Minneci!

John joined the company in the winter of 1997 when he agreed to play Young Esteban in Destiny II. Since he is the actual younger brother of the actor who played Esteban it seemed a natural choice. I’m very grateful he was able to play the part and he did a wonderful. I wish I had been able to work with him more. Thanks for everything John!

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Survivor’s Club – Who Needs Sleep? March 6, 2013

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Surviving on a Yibble set is more than just dealing with bad weather – sometimes it’s about strength, stamina, and how much caffeine you can drink.  

Film Shoots That Go Past Midnight

The vast majority of filming takes place during the day, or on evenings and into the night.  Pretty much anything that takes place at night in a room with windows has to be filmed at night, so some night shoots can go pretty late.  Usually filming is over by 10 or 11pm. Some shoots can go as late as midnight but it’s extremely rare for shoots to go past that.  There are, of course, some exceptions.  Here are five film shoots that went very late into the night (or very early in the morning, I guess you could say).  I have no idea how late they actually went, so they’re listed in order of year of production.


Because all of Mind Games takes place in outer space, anywhere with windows had to be filmed at night, so there were a lot of night shoots for this movie.  But the first two shooting day went the latest into the night. 

The first day of shooting for Mind Games was in the summer of 1998 on the back porch of the Homestead.  Since there were windows and it was summer we didn’t start filming until around 8 or 9pm.  Although it was only one scene, it was a long scene with a lot of speeches.  Also it was the first time Edward Stasheff, the writer and primary director of Mind Games, had a chance to actually direct, so things took a little longer than usual.

As with most late night shoots, I have no idea what time we were actually done filming, but it was around or past 1am.  Luckily the actors had caffeine to keep them going.  Unluckily the caffeine was a mixture of cold coffee and coke, which had turned into sludge by the end (ewwwww – that gets a survival club sticker just for that!).  The actors, Annamarie and Rachel, were very goofy by the end as well – making colored pencils into antennae, using the (gimpy) filming lights to make shadow puppets, and reading through the scene as valley girls in space.

The next shooting day for Mind Games, which was over a month later, was a really long day (and night) of filming on location at Watterson Hall in Bloomington-Normal, IL.  It was a very long scene with multiple sections, lots of dialogue, heavy action sequences, and difficult acting scenes like having to go insane.  Edward was the director and I was the videographer.  I was used to working very quickly with basic shots and zipping through script pages.  Edward was more concerned with such silly things as quality and good acting and generally being a really good director – you know, the things I never bother with.  He didn’t have things blocked or set, he was just winging it (he learned to storyboard eventually and that made things much better).

The shooting started in the early afternoon (since we were filming in a basement) but went a lot later than anyone expected.  It was well after 1am – probably 2 or 2:30am by the time we finished. Well, actually we didn’t finish – Annamarie, Chris, and Rachel were pretty much fried by that point.  We were too tired to make it through the final section of the scene and ended up going back and filming it later.  I don’t know exactly when it was we called it a night, but I do know what time I got home – 4am.  However it takes about an hour to drive from Bloomington to Champaign and we got lost.

The Gift Bearer had some very long shoots, but most of them were filmed during the day on weekends, with some night shoots here and there. However, one story arc (i.e. two episodes) was set almost entirely at night in the SIUC Student Center where many of the rooms, and almost all of the locations, had windows. It was probably not a smart plan to write it that way (but it’s a good episode so it was worth it).  There were two big shoots that covered the majority of the scenes, and both went very late.
The first one involved all the actors running around the Student Center being chased with guns, having asthma attacks, and sliding into/onto tables with magical statues.  Luckily it was November when we were shooting that episode so it got dark early.  However, there was so much to shoot that we didn’t get done until…um…well, let’s just say it was really late.  I filmed in sections by actors who needed to go home first, so Russell, Morgan, and Brittany drew the short straw and had to stay until the end, which was sometime after 2am.  I hope that was a weekend night, cause going to class that morning would have sucked.

The other really late night shoot was the “torturing Xavier” scenes where Russell spent pretty much the whole night tied to a chair covered in fake blood and make-up bruises (that gets a sticker right there).  Did I say “torturing Xavier”? I clearly meant torturing Russell. Anyway, there were several scenes set in the “torturing” room (aka the Video Lounge), and I filmed the scenes with the most people, and the ones who had to leave by a certain time, first.  That left the two main actors in those scenes – Russell Martin and Katie Johnston – as well as Brittany Ann Whalen who was directing those scenes, to finish up the filming (well, and me of course).  It was a long, late night filled with dialogue intense scenes and not a lot of chances to move around which lead to stiff and sore muscles which lead to a lot of jokes.  As always, I’m not sure how late we went but I think it was almost 3am before we wrapped shooting. 

The last one I’m going to talk about is shooting a very long scene (and dance number) for Episode 8 of Dream Chasers.  That production had a lot of late nights since we ended up filming eight episodes in about six weeks, but most shoots wrapped up by 11pm or so.  Morgan, Brittany, and Holly were real troopers through the whole thing, especially on this shoot which went way late – again I don’t know the time we finished but I think it was around 2am. The scene called for dancing, singing, playing Truth or Dare Jenga, lots of serious talking, and ended with a pillow fight. So even though it was a long shoot and a very late night, it was a lot of fun!

 There were many late nights while filming Eidolon, but I can’t remember one that went past midnight except possibly the night when we shot the glowing people dancing in blacklight in a room full of smoke for a montage.  I know that scene went late but I’m not sure how late.  Anyone else remember how late we were filming that?  There was also a late shoot for The Gift Bearer: Time After Time, but I’m pretty sure we were done by or close to midnight.  We didn’t get back to the farm, settled in, or fall asleep until much later, but I think the filming had ended by midnight. 

There are a lot of late nights involved on big, long shooting weekends when actors come in from out of town, or when a group of us travels overnight to a distant location.  However, the late hours in those cases are not from filming, they’re from hanging out and partying which may or may not involve alcohol, watching rushes, and finding strange new cures for allergies.

One of the featurettes on the 10th Anniversary DVD talks about the latest nights of filming. However in the video I somehow confused the two different late nights of shooting in Gift Bearer and thought they were one night, oops. 

Thank you to all the people who have stayed awake during the late nights/the wee hours of the morning in order to filming those last few scenes:
Rachel Anderson
Russell Homan
Katie Johnston
Chris Lamb
Annamarie MacLeod
Morgan Thomas
Holly Simons
Edward Stasheff
Brittany Ann Whalen
Here’s some warm milk, a soft pillow, and a fuzzy blanket – now go get some sleep.  Especially you Brittany!  

Techie of the Month: Andrew Thomas March 5, 2013

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Congratulations to this month’s Techie of the Month — Andrew Thomas!

Whenever Andrew is on the set, he is always willing to help out behind the scenes. During the June shoot of 2012 he was great, being the Assistant Director for two productions and filling in as General Crew whenever needed. I’m looking forward to working with him on other productions, both in front of an behind the camera. Thanks for everything Drew!

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Location of the Month: Kaufman Park March 4, 2013

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Kaufman Park is a great little place to film with it’s lovely lake, docks, and wooded areas. We first filmed there for Eidolon, shooting several scenes from various episodes on the main dock and near the woods in September of 2004. We later filmed more scenes there on the other side of the lake in February of 2005, also for Eidolon. I am sure we will be filming there again at some point. If you are in the Champaign area and are looking for a great place to go boating or fishing, or even just to take a walk or have a picnic then check out Kaufman Lake.

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Location of the Month: Netrour-Berksin-Scheeline Residence March 1, 2013

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When we needed a place to serve as the druidic home for Diyara in Pandora’s Box, Diana Neatrour volunteered her place. Several scenes from Episodes 6, 7, 16, 18, and 21-23 were filmed in the house, utilizing almost every room on the first floor and basement. When the location I had arranged for the tavern in Episode 22 fell through, she said “you could use my basement” and we did! The office in the house was used as Leffridge’s office and for some reason always induced fits of giggles while filming in it. It was a great location!

Thank you so very much to Diana and her family for letting us use their residence for filming!

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Actor of the Month: Tara Lyons February 28, 2013

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Congratulations to this month’s Actor of the Month — Tara Lyons!

Tara Lyons joined the company in the fall of 1999 when she played an Army Faction soldier in Episode 19 of Pandora’s Box. She only filmed for a couple of days, but she was great – very expressive. I hope she had fun and although I doubt I’ll check the chance to film with her again (unless I shoot in Hawaii), I would love to work with her more. Thanks Tara!

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Techie of the Month: William Chrapcynski February 27, 2013

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Congratulations to this month’s Techie of the Month — William Chrapcynski!

What can I say about Bill, besides the fact that he’s totally awesome and extra supportive of his wife and the whole SFF production company? Well, let’s see…he’s an extremely talented composer and musician who lets us use his music for free as long as he’s credited, and he’s a brilliant engineer who can rig up a boom pole with a PVC pipe and other equipment like MacGyver. He can do special effects and animation, and lets us borrow his equipment like his boom mic when Kate’s on a shoot with us. The music thing alone makes him awesome – everything else is just icing on the cake.

Check out his music, comics, and more!

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