There are a lot of movies made every year. The best ones with large studio backing are shown in the theaters. The Indy ones make the film festival circuits if they meet the criteria. The audiences are significantly smaller but the appreciation for their contributions are no less valued. Without their efforts we would not have the great filmmakers of today. I like to think of film festivals as filmmaker gardens. Every year you go back, they’ve grown.
Those that enter the festivals may have different motives than the next. Some are trying to send a message, create a platform, put their brand out there, showcase their storytelling or they may be dipping their toe in the water. Whatever the reason, they have all put the work in and it has been a journey. They did it to entertain us and share a little bit of themselves. I myself am always in awe of what can be created with the imagination and a small budget. Some films will leave you scratching your head while others make you jump to your feet for applause and admiration. I look forward to them all but do hope for ones I might make a personal connection with.
One such Indy gem I had the pleasure of watching lately was, The Stakeout. It was written and produced by Briana Rayner. She also pulls off a stellar performance as one of the leads in the film. I was fortunate enough to catch up with her for a coffee and discuss her baby.
“What was the inspiration behind this film?”
“As corny as it sounds, the idea actually came to me in a dream. I was on a plane while pregnant with my daughter. I had dreamt that I was doing an improv format for a stakeout with my friend Michael. After I awoke I wrote it down. A couple months after the birth of my daughter, I wanted to create something I could perform in that didn’t require a lot of energy and I could be a little plump. Mostly, I didn’t want my parenthood to create a barrier for me as a performer.”
Having had the pleasure of watching Briana’s film The Stakeout, the majority of it takes place in a car sitting beside her police officer partner. The acting is impeccable and the chemistry is lab coat worthy. A simple story with a great ending and an amazing song to accompany the film that fits like a wedding ring. I actually felt better about life after watching it. In a world that seems to be inundated with constant conflict between countries and civil unrest, its nice to be reminded that life doesn’t have to be over complicated and can be tranquil if we just allow happiness to enter into our souls and throw caution into the wind where it belongs.
“How many locations did you use and where did you find your actors and crew?”
“We used two locations, a theater office and the Steveston Harbor. I posted an add looking for male actors in the Vancouver’s Actors Guide. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts kept the role for the male police officer unobtainable. Fortunately, I had a good friend Lee White come on board. He teaches improve in Berlin but we filmed it once he had arrived back for a visit. I also had another good friend play the role of the police Captain. I did however find the two child actors on the Van Actors Guide. After sifting through many headshots, I found two children that resembled me more than my daughter does.”
The two kids in the film don’t have any dialogue but they do help carry the essence of the story. Briana went on to tell me about her director and all the terrific gifts she was able to bring to the production.
“I had met my director, Jax Smith a couple of years ago at a Women In Film event. We hit it off and developed a close friendship along the way. I was invited to write with Jax and her writing partner shortly after giving birth. It was a great way to stay active within the community. We built our relationship personally as friends and professionally for the love of story. Jax provided storyboarding and an amazing song that she created a couple of years ago. The song fits perfectly.”
Briana’s husband also works in the film industry and was happy to do the editing and DOP responsibilities. They shot it in July of 2016 and finished the edit in Feb. with the sound mix completed in 2017. She used a film crew of 10 or 12 as well as 5 actors in total. She had a cast and crew screening that was well received. She considers the piece a slow build comedy.
Before writing The Stakeout she’d written five webisodes about 2 movers. It was her husband’s Will Minsky’s creation. Currently, she has a few other projects in the works that she’s really excited about. Briana enjoys writing dark comedy and attributes it to being an improv artist.
She created this piece primarily as a way to get her name out there as a performer and writer. It was also a personal triumph for her to make a film shortly after giving birth. As an expected parent talking to other parents, she was told how many things she’d have to give up, they sometimes leave out talking about the joys and limitations. She found that frustrating because the way she has DONE things has changed but NOT doing things hasn’t changed.
She needed to prove to herself as a parent, that it wasn’t a loss in one area and a gain in the other, but more a balance in both.
The film will be entered into the festivals. She’s crossing her fingers it will be accepted into Whistler and VIFF so it can be seen locally. If an opportunity for distribution arises, she’d very much welcome it.
I see potential in this film for a warm embrace and for others to walk away feeling good about the magic moments in life again. It is my hope that viewers will draw inspiration from the Indy filmmaker and their remarkable story weaves, as well, about the joy of simple conversation.