A Newsletter from Director Brock Heasley
Hey there! Here it is, the long-promised exclusive filmmaker newsletter just for you. You’re getting this because you invested $600 or more into The Shift over the course of its crowdfunding.
I hope you’ve had a chance to check out The Shift in the theater by now. It really is the best place to see it. If you haven’t, you can also check it out today by becoming a member of the Angel Guild at angel.com/guildshift. We’ll be making DVD/Blu-ray and more streaming announcements soon.
One of the things I did every night during production after a long day of shooting was to write a journal entry about what had happened. This was a bit exhausting as the shoot wored on, and I didn’t really know why I was doing this other than wanting to document the experience, largely for myself. As I thought about what to include in this newsletter, it occurred to me that those entries, a year later and after the movie has already come out, could make for an interesting insider’s look on the filmmaking process.
These entries have it all, including the mundane stuff like my car breaking down that’s only interesting because of the exciting things happening around it. Life still happens, even when you’re making a movie.
I’ve edited the entries a little to remove some sensitive information, and I’ve offered explanations here and there of filmmaking peculiarities so I don’t lose you. Otherwise, this is pretty much what I was thinking and feeling, as it was all happening.
More installments to come. Enjoy!
Writer/Director The Shift
1/22/23 - Sunday
I should have started this weeks ago, but better late than never. The story of how The Shift has gotten to this point—one week away from camera roll—is probably well-documented elsewhere. Or should be. I’ll start this journal with a brief recap of where we left things on Friday.
Friday, of course, was my birthday. The whole production office gathered together to sing me Happy Birthday and gift me my own personal chocolate cake. My wife’s doing. And the balloons delivered were all her, too. Feeling loved from far away.
In the morning I shotlisted (a scene-by-scene list of every camera angle and how the camera will move within the scene) with Edd Lukas, our British (and cooler than me) Cinematographer. Just before lunch I Zoomed with Emily Rose and Nolan North, who will be playing our newscasters, to talk about their roles. I’m a giant, giant fan due to their amazing voice and performance work on the Uncharted video game series, and I got the full comedy treatment. They have an easy rapport. I can’t wait to work with them.
In the afternoon, Beverly Holloway, our Casting Director, came to visit and we dealt with the very tricky matter of actor Jorge Garcia dropping out as Ramirez the day before. We’ve got a few actors in mind, but this close to production it’s going to be hard to find the right actor. And that’s a tricky part—not just any will do.
The big question of the day was whether Kristoffer Polaha would finalize his deal as Kevin. And this just a few days after he read the script. On Thursday, he sent me this text:
“I can’t wait to start working with you on your project. You have written a thought provoking and totally unexpected script about the nature of sin and relationships. I’ve seen or read nothing like this before. I can’t wait to help you bring it to life on screen.
“We are going to have an amazing time.
“I look forward to our conversation. Let me know when you’re free to chat.”
Kris did indeed close his deal on Friday--my birthday--and I could not be more thrilled. Been a fan of his since he played Carlton on Mad Men. Had a great chat with Kris, too, in which he expressed his excitement. He sees The Shift as the very different thing it actually is, and he sees the layers. I knew Kris was right for the part when I saw his work in Run the Race. I know it in my bones.
On Saturday, I met with Kevin Lawson, our Unmasked Lancer, and Jordan Ross, who will play Brendan. Both great guys. Kevin is a first-time actor, but I think he will do just fine. And Jordan is a true pro. We even talked blocking which necessitated some changes to the script. Then Edd and I completed shotlisting in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Kris watched the short film and loved it. I also slid him Kevin’s prayer. He thought it was beautiful. Confident in my choice with Kris.
I also met with Liz Tabish (Molly), Teck (Mia), and Neal this past week via Zoom. This next week: I’ll meet with a few more actors and, hopefully, Sean Astin (Gabriel).
1/23/23 - Monday
Tech Scout Pt. 1 today. I was mostly superfluous as the various department heads visited each location and discussed where to park, site needs, where to route power, etc. It’s tedious work, but exciting to see again everywhere we will be.
Also talked with Paras a bit about Rajit. He likes to save the real work for the moment, but does lots of prep beforehand. I respect that.
At night, I met with the Special Effects team and a new potential VFX supervisor, John Nelson. I think John is our guy.
1/24/23 - Tuesday
Tech Scout Part 2 today. All day affair. Also spoke with Neal McDonough on the phone today. We have a good rapport now, but he requested to come in on Sunday instead of Friday. We granted him the request, but it means costumes are really gonna be up against it to get him fitted properly before our Day 1 on Monday.
Re-shot listed with Edd the diner/family restaurant scene. Productive.
Car battery died in my rental. Van Folger and Katie Boyer helped me jump it, and then I drove it back to the airport to try to exchange it. No luck. They didn’t have any more cars. I had no idea that could even happen. Got back to the Airbnb about 11pm. Long day.
Let’s see if my car starts in the morning.
1/25/23 - Wednesday
Our all day, page-by-script-page production meeting turned into a half day meeting when every department was so completely on top of things there was no need to stretch it out further. Seriously, how did I get so lucky to have a crew this good? It’s just astonishing to me.
The shortened production meeting allowed me time to prepare more extensively for tomorrow night’s livestream when I reveal the full cast. I shot a little video taking a tour around the production office and talking to people…and then spent way too long editing it. But it turned out well, so I don’t regret it.
1/26/23 - Thursday
I woke up with a horrible nightmare that had me back in the microbudget indie mode with a scrappier form of filmmaking. For some reason, the script I had written for The Shift in that dream was completely terrible and the non-professional actors I was working with couldn’t figure out how to say it without it sounding stupid, and they were fighting with me about that. And then turning in absolutely terrible performances. Basically, I was watching my movie go up in flames and there was nothing I could do about.
Things got better after waking up.
I finished up prep for the livestream tonight and answered some questions from the props and costumes departments…but that’s pretty much every day right now.
The real highlight was talking with Sean Astin on the phone this afternoon. Sean will be playing Gabriel and it was our first time connecting. Sean, of course, made me want to have asthma because of his performance as Mikey in The Goonies. And he was Samwise Gamgee. And Bob in Stranger Things. And a million other parts. Super nice guy, super excited about joining us. Had some good story input on the script and some questions about Gabriel. He needs to study it all a little more, but he has time and he’s a pro. I’m not worried.
After that I talked to crafty about my special requests: cinnamon pecans and hot chocolate. I don’t want to be high maintenance, but if you’re going to ask me…
VFX meeting at 4pm today. Went super well! Our new VFX Supervisor—the third I’ve talked to—will be John Nelson. John fits our production like a glove. Enough experience to get the job done, but not so much that he’s going to overwhelm us with a bunch of big budget thinking and protocols. Really like him a lot.
At 7pm I hosted a livestream in which I reveled our full cast, including John Billingsley, who we recently got to replace the departing Jorge Garcia. Jorge committed to a pilot that shoots right when we need him. John is by no means a step down, however. He’s an actor I’ve admired for a long, long time.
The response to the reveal was incredible. It’s news that’s been coming for a long, long time and people absolutely flipped. I got emotional. By the time I reached John and Kris and Sean and Neal…people were besides themselves. As expected, it has completely changed the perception of the film. People I haven’t heard from in quite a while started messaging me their congratulations. Pretty wonderful.
But it’s funny, I’m making the same movie I’ve always been making. But, I guess the talent you can attract speaks volumes, right?
And then, after the livestream, as a present, my rental car battery went out again. Katherine Tucker, head of Production Design, gave me a lift back to my place. The office will replace the car tomorrow.
1/27/23 - Friday
VR Stage test day! The Brainy Pixel guys—our virtual enviroments creators for the shifting-through-the-multiverse sequence--came over to let us “location scout” our environments and put them up on the stage to see how it all plays out. We did that much, but then the screens failed and we weren’t able to conduct a camera test. Serious bummer. We have over two weeks to work it out, but now we have to fit the test in the margins.
As part of that, I did my first sit down interview for behind the scenes material—to discuss the VR stage. I wasn’t completely cognizant at the time of the problems we’re having, so hopefully Edd’s interview on the same subject went better.
We did manage to do some camera tests with the Arri of our LED lightbulbs. WOW. What a gorgeous image. That camera almost does all the work for you. Though I’m sure Edd would disagree. This movie is going to look gorgeous.
Virginia, one of our PA’s, prepared gift baskets for Neal, Kris, Liz, and Rose. And then Ken and I wrote personalized notes to each of them to put inside. A nice touch that should help us all get off to a nice start.
My car got switched, but I forgot to take out the key card that lets me into the parking lot where I’m staying. Had to drive back to the airport to retrieve it and thankfully they did still have it. Minor panic moment.
Today, I didn’t have much to do, honestly. Every department is so dialed in and everything necessary has been communicated. We’re ready.
I feel ready, too. I’m nervous, of course. We’ve done very few auditions—and none for our principals. But, I’m confident they are all going to do great. The only big question mark for me is whether I can direct them adequately and confidently. I’ve done a lot to prepare for this moment, but it’s no doubt going to be challenging. It’s going to require collaboration and leadership. I have that in me and I know God has qualified me for this purpose, but there’s still that voice that doubts and questions my abilities. I just don’t want anyone to regret joining up with me on this. I don’t want that more than anything right now.
1/28/23 - Saturday
A slower day for sure. The calm before the storm. But still significant. I woke up as late as I could (which turned out to be 8:30) and rolled into the office at about 11 or so. Hardly anyone was there, which was nice. Allowed me to wander around and just kind of meditate.
Ken had the bright idea to buy flowers for the costumes department. They’ve had to work overtime thanks to the actors coming in very, very late—the day before, for the most part. Anna and Jenna and Emma and Sophie and the whole team are able to bear it, but the flowers were a nod to their sacrifice in working much faster than usual.
Kris Polaha, our Kevin, rolled in at about 4:30. Meeting him was like meeting an old friend. Kris has an easygoing, soft spoken charm that I took to immediately. And he’s so, so into this character and the movie. He sees how different it is and it excites him. I can already tell working with him is going to be a blast.
And absolute whiplash for him as just 24 hours earlier he was shooting his final scene for the Hallmark movie he was doing. But, the guy is also a pro. He did so many fittings like he had all the stamina in the world. We didn’t finish the fittings (he has 44 looks!), but we’ll pick it up some other time.
One funny story (well, it wasn’t so much at the time): soon after Kris arrived, James, our COVID compliance office and an otherwise very sweet man, showed me a positive COVID test and told me it was Kris’s.
My heart sank. There’s a few people for whom a positive COVID test would mean delaying the film, and at quite a cost. I’m one of them. And for sure so is Kris, our leading man.
James revealed the truth quick enough that Kris was just fine. Everyone is fine, but still. A mean trick…that made me laugh.
I picked up my wife Erin and our daughter Violet from the airport tonight. 4 weeks apart is too long. It’s just too long. Seeing them was wonderful and I can’t wait to introduce them to everybody. Erin was a bit cranky after the flight and finding something to eat proved to be a lot harder in everything-shuts-down-early Birmingham, but we worked it out eventually. She felt much better with food in her.
Violet and I played Mario Kart together on the Switch she brought. Just doing something that normal felt wonderful.