What A Blessing It Was To Work With Daniel Samonas

One of the key steps in the development process in making a feature film is casting the film.  We had 41 speaking roles in the film “Brother’s Keeper”, and this was a massive task for Josh, TJ and Scott, who were reporting to me and our investors in Bainbridge daily with updates on the casting process.  One of the most important roles the guys had to cast was the role of ‘Gordon LeeMaster’ – the son of the richest man in town.  The actor who played the role of Gordon had to be able to portray a young man who was good looking, spoiled rotten and used to getting his way – while (as some of you know that have seen the film) Gordon also had a good (almost innocent) side that he hid beneath his arrogant demeanor and under the cover of his parent’s wealth and influence.  Whoever we ended up casting for this role had to be very talented to say the least…  After a couple of weeks into the casting process, Joshua Mills (Co–Director and Producer) called me to let me know that after multiple casting sessions for the role of ‘Gordon’, they felt they found the perfect experienced young actor for the role – in Daniel Samonas.

For those of you that didn’t know, Daniel is a very established young actor.  He’s appeared on multiple major network hits like Entourage, CSI NY, Without A Trace, ER, and he was very well known as a teenage star as the voice to ‘Teo’ in Avatar – The Last Airbender, he had appearances on Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards Show, Zoey 101, I-Carly and Hannah Montana.  But was  most well known for his role as ‘Dean’ on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place where he was Alex’s (Selena Gomez) boyfriend on the show.

A few weeks later we were flying all of our cast and crew into Tallahassee, and were bringing them all up to their temporary new home in Bainbridge, GA.  I met Daniel on the day he arrived and going into the meeting I had no idea what to expect.  He and I are complete opposites.  (He’s young, handsome and he’s a star – we’ll just leave it at that LOL)  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Daniel is actually a very friendly and outgoing young man.  By the time we wrapped principle photography on the film weeks later, Daniel had not only become a friend of all of us – the principles of Desert Wind Faith Films – but he had befriended our entire Cast, Crew and most of the town of Bainbridge.

Working with Daniel was nothing short of a pleasure.  Not only is he a very talented actor, he is a class act both off and on the set.  He was constantly approached by fans of all ages, some very young.  It was such a blessing to see that Daniel always took the time to sign an autograph or have a photograph taken with those that wanted to meet him.  It was actually a joy to see him work the crowd and he most definitely represented our film, himself, and our cast very well.  He was so popular that there were times that taking Daniel to a local event actually caused a disruption within the crowd.  IE:  The first Friday night we had the cast and crew in town we took Daniel to a Bainbridge High School Football game.  The stands full of high school students (who were all anticipating his arrival at the game that night – and all knew Daniel very well from the TV shows they watched growing up) literally emptied down to the main floor surrounding Daniel immediately before we could even climb the bleachers to get to our seats.  Not too many of those young ladies gave a hoot about the game that night, they all wanted to meet and have their pictures taken with “Dean” from Wizards Of Waverly Place…  Daniel was instrumental in the success of our sneak peek release as well.  He and I spent 4 weeks together on a road trip ‘Press Tour’ just before the sneak peek release.  We hit 6 cities in the 4 weeks and I had the pleasure of watching Daniel speak at a pep assembly at the Boaz High School in Boaz, AL, and in several other schools in several other States.  Every town we stopped in Daniel was always pleasurable to all we came in contact with, and he always had a smile on his face – even when we were dead tired.

If you haven’t had a chance to meet Daniel in person I hope that you get that opportunity sometime.  He’s an incredible young man with a vibrant personality – who has an incredible future in front of him.  We sure hope we get the chance to work with him again, and are honored to have become his friend…

StevenDaniel Samonas

YOU COULD HAVE HEARD A PIN DROP!!!

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One of my favorite moments from the making of “Brother’s Keeper” was the prom scene, and the prayer that Brother Carl Marshall led just before we rolled cameras that night….

We were in our 2nd week of a 5 1/2 week or 27 day shoot (our team averaged 15 1/2 hour days during this 27 day period). Our locations team had partnered up with local Climax, GA City Officials and had found an old abandoned gym to be the perfect location for this Prom Scene/night shoot. Let me tell you, when I first saw it I was a little concerned. This gym was old, dirty and hadn’t been used in years – but our team soon came to realize that it was perfect. This little gym that was so authentic it could have been the gym used in the film “Hoosiers”… Our Set Design team spent days working on this location. There was no electricity or air conditioning and it was HOT. (God Bless our crew for how hard they worked, for the conditions they worked in, and for the job they did), and by the evening we needed them to be ready, our team had converted that gymnasium into what really could have been the gym for The 1957 Bainbridge High School Prom.

Call time out at the gym that evening was 6pm. After shooting the “Bainbridge High School” scenes at the Middle School all day, our crew loaded up all of the gear and trucks for a company move out to Climax, GA for the Prom Scene. There was a lot of excitement and a buzz in the air. This was going to be a BIG NIGHT and arguably our biggest scene in the entire film. Our costume team lined up all of the students that had been selected for background for the big dance scenes, and started getting the boys in their tuxes and the girls in their 1950’s prom dresses. Then the kids were shuffled into hair and make-up from there… It took a couple of hours for our crew to get the lights, cameras and all of the sound gear set up, and during this time our costume dept was pumping out local high school kids in full 1950’s period prom scene attire, along with quite a few adults who were background prom supervisors for the scene. We had overwhelming support – as we did for the entire shoot – from the local community, and over 100 high school students from 4 different local high schools including Bainbridge High School we’re used in background for this scene. As they came out of costume these students were practicing their dance moves (choreography they learned from Candace Read – in two days of practice) all over the place and they were getting ready for the big scene… Just as our crew had transformed that gym into the 1957 Bainbridge High School Prom, these kids transformed themselves into high school kids from that period. It was AWESOME!!!

It’s now about 8pm. Josh, TJ and Scott (Co-Directors and our Director Of Photography) are dialed in, the kids are all ready, and Katie is all geared up on the camera. We are just about ready to ROLL… That gym is packed with all our our gear, almost 100 members of our crew, all of our cast for that scene (Alex & Graham Miller, MacKenzie Mauzy, Daniel Samonas, all the guys from BadHorse we up on stage as our prom band, and many others), along with hundreds of background students getting ready for the dance scene. By now we had also packed the bleachers full of investors, local supporters, press, and parents of the kids that were performing the scene. We asked Brother Carl Marshall to come in and lead a prayer for the evening’s shoot just before we roll cameras. (Brother Carl Marshall played the funeral Minister who buried Maggie in the film and was a local Pastor who had just completed building a Church that would hold 1,000 people in a town that had a population of only 700). We escorted Brother Carl up on the main stage, and handed him the microphone. (Remember there are hundreds of people running around, excited anticipating the scene, our crew was preparing to roll cameras, there was a ROAR in the room) It was an incredible moment. As soon Brother Carl started his prayer in his booming voice the place went silent – you could have heard a pin drop in that gym. All motion, all noise and all movement stopped immediately. You could feel God’s presence there with us as Brother Carl led all of us thru that prayer… I’m getting chills just recalling that moment. After all of that preparation and anticipation, we were finally ready for this big scene, and Brother Carl kicked it off with a very powerful prayer. A fitting way to start an incredible evening, (we ended up rolling cameras until after 4am – thank God the local school officials had given all of these students an excused absence day that next morning) and a moment that I personally (and many others I think) will never forget…

Steven

A Dry and Barren Land

Filming in the Rain

This interesting story comes from Director, Josh Mills, talking about what happened while filming one of the final scenes for the production. The crew was on location in Cairo, GA at the old Grady County Jail. They were shooting a scene that was taking place in the rain and the jail was doubling as the location for the Georgia State Penitentiary. There was a significant amount of water that was needed for all the rain in order to pull off the shot.

The production crew had installed huge rain bars in the foreground and background. We were going to need water… LOTS OF IT!

As we were filming in this tiny, little town of Cairo in rural Georgia, there were no large water trucks available to keep pumping water into our constructed rain bars. We did get lucky and the local fire department donated two of their fire trucks with full water tanks in order for us to try and get the final shots we were going to need. We knew it was going to be close though because there was only enough water in those fire truck tanks to last just a few takes.

To add to the tension, we were also on a tight filming schedule and there was no way there would be enough time to send these trucks back to get refilled once they were empty of all their water. It would have taken hours for the drive back and forth and to get everything setup for more takes.

This particular scene was a difficult and dramatic sequence to film and after a few takes the trucks were bone dry. Unfortunately, we still hadn’t gotten everything we wanted from the shoot. We were drained, figuratively and factually with no more water available to flow out of those rain bars.

At that moment, the skies opened up and it started to down pour. We all scrambled back to our gear and finished the shots we needed…IN THE RAIN!

This particular area of Georgia had been experiencing a severe drought and it hadn’t rained in months at this location. Twenty minutes earlier, clear skies. Now with the shots we needed on film and our crew soaked to the bone we were wrapping up.

Divine intervention? Your call.

 

Don’t Hurt My Baby

…while we were ramping up for the shoot, we had 17 picture cars that people locally and a club in Tallahassee donated to the shoot…some requested certificates showing that the car had been used in the film and small amounts like gas money…most just let us use their cars…  But, the car used in the 3rd love scene I described below was an old Plymouth, just a beautiful car, babied by the older couple that owned ‘her’.  (yes, they referred to car as a ‘her’)  That couple actually shipped this car up from somewhere in Florida to the shoot since they didn’t want to drive the car up, they made us sign a bunch of disclosures regarding the production insurance we had, etc…  On the evening of that shoot I describe below, this couple drove up from wherever in FL in their personal car…I took them to dinner at a local truck stop or diner, and escorted them out to set…after re-assuring them over and over that Josh, TJ, Scott and our team would take care of their baby….  After dinner we get out to location, I’m in the car with the older couple, and as we pull up, TJ and Josh have a 30 FT Crane with Katie and Scott manhandling the camera, hanging over this beautiful car, and both Mackenzie and Alex (pete and maggie) were literally laying up on the hood of the car filming…   LOLOL   I almost died, and thank God the couple handled it just fine and there were no dents or indentations on the hood….

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