Better With You, Predictably, Was Better With All Of You
by Bri Castellini
That’s right, folks- I’ve officially finished another production, which means it’s time for a round-up reflection and thank you post! This production, a Halloween romcom called Better With You, marks many firsts for me: first time hired as a director, first time directing a script I hadn’t written, first on-location shoot, first time working with an all (or mostly) female crew.
I hope none of these firsts, and none of these working relationships, will be my last. This was the absolute best production I’ve ever worked on, meaning no offense to any of the wonderful productions I’ve worked on before, but if you read on, you’ll understand why.
TVWriter™ bonus – Here’s the trailer
And don’t forget to visit Apple Juice Productions, who are making this whole thing possible!
***spoiler alert- it’s because we had more than 2 crew members and locations that weren’t just apartments and parks and also everyone was incredible at their jobs and did them without drama***
First of all, a huge big thank you to the Apple Juice Productions matriarchs Amanda Taylor and Kailee Brown. Thank you for taking my joking “well if you ever need a director…” email seriously all those months ago and bringing me onto this project. I’ve been a fan of you both and your work for such a long time, and getting to create something together has been a privilege and an honor.
Now, more specifically.
Kailee Brown is a kickass DP and an even better production partner. Thank you for always knowing what my sound effects and hand motions meant in terms of shots, for calling me out for my producer brain getting in the way of my director brain, and for being the perfect combination of efficient and innovative at every stage. I’m a worrier, but when you were by my side (or, more often, in front of me), all my nerves were calmed.
Amanda Taylor wrote a funny, heartfelt script, and I was honored just to offer feedback when it was in draft stage, let alone be the one to help bring it to life. I was worried, admittedly, that having Amanda also be the star would mean some awkward director/writer-star moments on set, but from the very beginning we had a similar goal- to make this show amazing. And we did it, because Amanda is a dedicated, funny, hard-working, incredible leader of this production company and this cast, and I can’t wait to tell her to make a snack out of a line instead of a meal again soon.
Colin Hinckley at this point should just be considered my muse, as he’s been in every project I’ve ever directed or created. This should come as no surprise that Colin was professional and fantastic in his role and a director’s dream actor. May we continue working together and contributing minor amounts of boy energy to all our projects.
Sage Nelson was our AD and the first AD I’ve ever worked with as a director to be available the whole shoot, which was an amazing experience because Sage was proactive, always prepared, always patient, and completely calming to what could have been a totally chaotic process.
Tayler Swenson, as Elodie, was warm and funny and the perfect twin sister pairing for Colin/ best friend pairing for Amanda. She’s one of those insanely sharp actors with complete control over her own performance, and was one of the most fun people to watch on and off camera.
Cheryl Holdaway plays Suzanne, a frenemy character of sorts, who was so sweet and funny that she made me root for her in spite of myself and (in many cases) the script. Hashtag Team Suzanne forever.
Tito Livas was only on set one day, as his character Mark was only in one episode, but trust me, it’ll be an episode to remember. His flirtatious physicality and subtle physical comedy are going to make you lose your mind come October.
Rounding out our cast was Cindy Manwill, playing Lucy, who brought this sweet, excitable, totally unique energy to set and to screen. Cindy was always game to try out a new motivation and was consistently good natured, keeping everyone’s spirits up.
Samantha Highsmith was our behind-the-scenes director and photographer, and even helped us out as Endor Princess Leia during a scene where we needed extras. I can’t share most of her photos yet because spoilers, but when you see them, you’ll understand why everyone was excited when the camera was pointed at them.
Cee Ryle Brown, Kailee’s little brother and our dedicated AC, was our only male crew member, but even if he wasn’t, he’d absolutely get the “best dude on set award.” Cee was the most positive influence, was hardworking and kind even at the end of supremely long days, and I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next.
Madison and Cassidy Connell were, respectively, the on-set producer (& grip) and the gaffer on Better With You. They are also sisters, with what seemed to me one of the healthiest sibling/work relationships I’ve ever seen. They kept things moving, were proactive and creative, and I wish I could have stolen them and brought them back to New York with me. There’s still time. (this is not a threat)
Kayen Lee did our sound and in spite of a mixer malfunction on the first day never quit or refused to get into a weird spot to make sure our amazing actors could be heard. She was diligent about room tone (and therefore is the love of my life) and always game to try a new strategy to make sure Kailee and I were getting what we needed.
Mia Hunt was our production designer and is equally as responsible for how amazing this show is going to look as Kailee or me. I never worried that a prop mentioned in the script wouldn’t be in one of her tote bags at the beginning of every day, and even when Kailee and I realized we needed a prop that we didn’t tell her about, she already had it! Is she magic? More tests needed.
Sarra Keddington championed HMU 5 out of the 6 days totally alone, and yet our cast looks like an entire fleet of beauticians got them ready. Sarra sped through hair and makeup to make sure actors were ready for their marks but they always looked amazing and at least as far as we could tell, she never broke a sweat. She kept everyone positive and in stitches and was a great person to have around on the longer days.
Emily Gardner was our PA, the most thankless job on set, and never once complained. On an indie set, that’s basically unheard of. She also donned a bright gold jumpsuit at one point and absolutely killed it, but shhhh. Spoilers.
Annie Tram Phan recreated a particular iconic dress to such intense detail that I still look at the photos from that day to convince myself it was real. I can’t say much more than that, and I can’t show you the photos yet, but I am absolutely delighted and I know you will be too. Thanks to Aura Martinez, wardrobe assistant, for your part in it as well!
I wasn’t a producer on this project, so I didn’t meet a number of other amazing people who helped us bring this to life, but I know Gina Taylor, Hannah Bayles, and a number of local businesses were instrumental in our success. And it was a success- this project is going to be out of this world, and it’s because of everyone in this post. I can’t wait for you to see it, because I genuinely could not be prouder.