Wednesday, May 27, 2009

10 Questions with Producer Toni Ann Baker

Gearing up for the eventual shoot of "Our Last Days As Children", we'll be interviewing the production team over the next 3 weeks. This week features 10 Questions about the film with Toni Ann Baker.

Q: What attracted you to the project?

What initially attracted me to the script was its original title, "Ghost in the Machine". Actually, it was the way the writer (Raz Cunningham) pitched the script to me, which involved mentioning that even though the title included the word “Ghost” in it, it was far from a “ghost” or “horror” film. That intrigued me. I had read about 500 scripts that past year, or I should honestly admit to reading the first 10-20 pages of 500 scripts. In search of a low budget feature that Two Sisters’ Productions, Inc., my company that I co-owned with my sister (Diane St. Laurent) could sink our teeth into since finishing a year long documentary project. But we were being extremely fussy.

We were looking for something that had everything. It needed to be compelling, emotional, intellectual, heartwarming, challenging, and a telling of the true human spirit. Not too much to ask for, huh? Well, the universe was ever so gracious and delivered exactly that to us, by way of Raz Cunningham. Oh, did I mention yet that it had to also be original? That’s right, a story not yet told on screen. Impossible you say? No way! We have it.

Well, I finished the entire script in about an hour and knew on page 14 that it would be my first feature film I was to produce. It was sent off to Diane (director) the next day and we formed a new collaboration instantly with Raz.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in developing the project so far?

The biggest challenge so far has been getting the writer and director to lock the script! Although the characters now leap off the page into my living room dragging me into their world, and the script can’t possibly shine anymore than it does, I had to beg and threaten them to finally get my first version of the locked script!

The second greatest challenge is raising the last of the funds for our film! Not only are we in a state that can’t seem to ever balance it’s budget and threatens and challenges the film tax credit every chance it gets, but we are also in one of the worst economic crunch of my time. Fortunately, we have extremely loyal investors, keeping our integrity intact as we move forward through the development stage of seeking more investors, partners and attaching actors.

Q: How is this film different from your previous work?

My previous work includes short narratives mostly written by Diane or myself, commissioned documentaries, many which have gone to film festivals and won small awards. We’ve also produced some commercial projects such as commercial and radio spots, promotional videos, and website trailers.

The greatest difference, besides the obvious fact that this is Two Sisters’ Productions, Inc. first feature film, is that we have acquired a third partner for this project. Not only is Raz Cunningham a wonderful storyteller, he is a wealth of knowledge and New York experience in the world of producing indie films. He has rounded out our team perfectly. It is like we have our own Trinity! Oil, Water and all the seasonings we need to make a perfect Salad. They are going to hate this analogy, but I’m sticking to it.

Q: What made you choose to shoot in Rhode Island?

Why not make it in Rhode Island is the question! A film friendly state with a great film tax credit, a film office and film community biting at the bit to support, encourage and see great works come from it’s back yard. Rhode Island takes only a little over an hour to get from corner to corner of this state. It is historical and modern. It has forests, oceans, sand dunes, country sides, city and rural neighborhoods; it is multi cultural and has every economical portrait imaginable, such as the wealthiest estates of Newport right down to the 7000 homeless people that live throughout our inner city communities.

Rhode Island has 1000 locations wrapped up in just one location! What could be more perfect for a low budget indie film? Oh, and there is the fact that we all have lived here for our entire lives. Except for young Raz, although born and raised a Rhode Islander, he was educated elsewhere and like I mentioned earlier, has been on several New York productions while living in the city for several years before moving back home. Two Sisters’ Productions, Inc.’s mission has always been to make films in Rhode Island, adding to the economic development here at home and giving opportunity to use it’s widely diverse artist community. Truly, there are so many obvious reasons for us to make Our Last Days As Children here in Rhode Island.

Q: What aspect of the project are you looking forward to most?

I most look forward to selling the film, seeing it on the big screen sending the message of our film into the hearts of government, social environments and into the intellect of the conservatives and the liberals.

Oh, and hearing the Director’s first “action” and then the First AD’s “it’s a wrap”! That would be equally as exciting for me. It’s been quite a journey thus far, I’m eager to get to the next level. I’d humbly accept Pre-production to finally begin though!

Q: There are a lot of new and interesting films coming out in the next year, what do you think will make yours rise above the rest?

Our Last Days As Children is a story that’s been waiting to be told. It is bold and original. It’s been the pulse of the human spirit since the beginning. In my opinion, we live in a world that is complex, complicated, confused and judgmental, from every direction and angle including right and left winged whether liberal or conservative. It is a world that has lost its simplistic understanding of basic reality and natural laws.

The Studios would not attempt such a controversial film. This alone, makes it valuable. The world we live in today, gives us its perfect timing.

Q: How do you think the audience might view the film?

If we do make it right, each individual should have received the gift of feeling something very personal.

Q: Without giving too much away, what in the film do you think your audience might connect with most?

We have gone to great lengths to keep this story under wraps. Even our parents and children have signed Non-Disclosure agreements. So, you won’t get much in way of the storyline from me. I will say however that there is something in Our Last Days As Children for everyone. It is a global story.

Q: When producing a film like this what is your biggest concern?

My greatest concern is that the Writer will unlock the script and make another slight modification at the urging of the Director before we get into pre-production. LOL!

Seriously I don’t have many concerns in making the film, timing is everything in life. I have learned that lesson personally and know it all so well. Our Last Days As Children is a story that has been in growing in the uterus for 18 months, waiting for it to be safe to come out. It is ready when it comes time to push.

Q: Once the film is completed, what do you think its biggest obstacle will be?

Well, from a business standpoint and a responsible one at that, we will be working hard and fast to get Our Last Days As Children through post production, working with our incredibly talented team (all who are standing by for the starting bell) to meet our current marketing strategy in making our preferred film festivals.

Next will come another 10 Questions with Director Diane St. Laurent.

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