“Do you not come to your tardy son to chide…,”
A long-overdue update
HAMLET UPDATE 8.28.2014
Chicago, IL) For over seven months, I have been making the thrice-a-week journey to downtown Chicago to hold pre-production meetings for this HAMLET film project. [The majority of these meeting went unattended with Whiteman simply sitting in the Chicago Cultural Center alone among the public waiting. Since March of 2014, actors have been cast, then quit, or asked to participate then disappeared. Some never show for meetings or rehearsals, then promise to be prepared on the day of the shoot but never are.] Still, my commitment to this project remains strong. Despite these and more setbacks, cameras rolled once again on HAMLET.
August 2014 has turned out to be the busiest month for Redshade Productions’ version of HAMLET thus far, with five days of shooting and countless days spent in planning and pre-production. August 27 signaled the end of the Summer Shoot with a day at the world renowned Newberry Library to film pieces of the Act Five finale.
The Summer Shoot opened with four days in Hyde Park filming parts of Act 3, Scene 4, where Hamlet confronts his mother Gertrude after Hamlet’s play “The Mouse Trap” embarrasses Claudius. Typically, this scenes serves to amplify the Oedipal tendencies of many directors who heighten the thread of incest born in the dialogue. Our version throws that out. We have an all-together different Gertrude in more ways than one. Gertrude has her own ambitions and plans for herself beyond being Queen of Denmark. She desires the throne itself and hopes to have Hamlet as a backer to her play for it. However, her she learns that Hamlet has his own specific plans, namely, the death of Claudius.
Jenn Michals came aboard as a first-time actress with no prior experience because she was attracted to the project’s view and representation of Native Americans. Through her study of the play, the past characterizations of Gertrude and discussions with myself, she worked up a striking interpretation of Gertrude that I do not believe, has ever been put on stage or screen before. Here is a woman of ambition and not beyond using her maternal ties to steer Hamlet into line with her own plans.
Also through these discussion, the ancient Chinese text, “Three Kingdoms” also came into play. Using the political and dynastic motives of that nearly seven hundred year-old novel to inform the background of the volatile situations of this new interpretation’s dynasties. Namely, Liu Biao’s losing of Jing to Cao Cao. Using these and other non-European influences adds heightened complexity to a play about an indecisive young man wanting to kill his uncle.
The shoot was spread out over four, five-hour shooting days. We sectioned off the scene into the three areas of the location. The front room, the dining room and the spaces in-between them and the kitchen. This was a way to cut the Elizabethan dialogue into manageable chunks. The first day we shot the beginning of the scene where HAMLET enters the apartment of his mother. They exchange their now famous banter before Hamlet, out of anger, pushes his mother causing her to cry out for help, unfortunately, exposing the hidden Polonius. Hamlet draws his pistol and shoots. “Oh what a rash and bloody deed is this!”
The end of day one.
For Day Two, we transitioned into the dining room, saving the discovery of Polonius’ body for the fourth day, which we designated our Coverage Day, in which we do pick-up shooting and re-shooting if needed. The set had a visitor in Ricky Tang, an acquaintance from Chicago Public Schools, who was interested in recording the production of the film for posterity, since it has never been attempted before, as well as working out an educational component for CPS students to visit the set to learn film production. It was great to have him on set for the day. Then, we move to the speech about the two men in Gertrude’s life, and try to convey Hamlet’s imbalanced mental state. Then, as she reaches out to him, he resists, raging more at her, then, the sees the ghost. End of day two.
For Day Three, we move back into the front room for the appearance of the Ghost. This was a difficult scene for myself as an actor in which I had to run the gamut of being afraid, being pitiful and then, turning on a dime to declare his sanity. Here also, is the moment we were building towards. In many scenes, I try to build towards a “moment”, large or small is no difference, as long as it brings a culminating point for the actors to work towards. Here the moment is halved, the first being when Gertrude, realizing her son is on his own course, most suddenly part with him. She needs him in her corner. She needs his support, his backing, for her play for the throne.
Hamlet, sensing his mother’s ambitions and his realizing that they are both after the same thing but for different reasons: the removal of Claudius. Hence, “It is most sweet when in one line two craft directly meet”.
The end of day three.
Day Four was set aside for pick-up shots and re-shoot, but also for scenes that we had to push aside to keep to schedule. We shot inserts of characters picking up and moving objects, like a table cloth, lockets, a body. We re-shot some reaction shots and shot the portion wherein Hamlet discovers he killed the wrong person. I also decided to re-shoot the opening of the scene from a different angle. Lastly, we also shot the actual shooting using camera flashes and creative angles.
This was a very full and satisfying four days for the HAMLET production. Jenn Michals proved to be a very capable actress with a strong motivation. She really worked hard to bring her vision of Gertrude to life for the film. The scene will be edited together into a short film that will be sent out to film festivals. It will make its premiere at Chicago’s First Nations Film and Video Festival in November of 2014.
The final day of the SUMMER SHOOT took place at the Newberry Library on Wednesday, August 27th with shooting portions of the aftermath of the Finale, namely the re-entrance of Fortinras into the story as well as an appearance by the English Ambassador to tie up the England/Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern plots. However, the actress playing Fortinbras was unable to make the shoot at the very last minute and so I had to work around this setback.
We shot in the famed Ruggle Hall, all without extras, production design, or much rehearsals. Dave Spencer, a great friend of mine, who agreed to the role of the English Ambassador, was very prepared that he nailed his dialogue and blocking on the very first take. This allowed me to play with and try differing angles, camera set ups and timing. Dave came prepared. We had meet up previous to discuss the character, his motivations, history, costuming, and got in a day of rehearsal for dialogue and blocking. It always pleases me to see people, like Dave, Jenn, Maria and Monica, self-professed “non-actors” try something they do not think they can do and come through with flying colors.
Mike J. Marin was also on hand to resume his role as Horatio. We are now working to schedule the completion of this scene during the FALL SHOOT of Hamlet.
FALL SHOOT PRE-PRODUCTION
Pre-production continues afoot with an eye towards a September 23 start with an exterior shoot where HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN cross paths with the CAPTAIN of FORTINBRAS’ Army. Monica Rickert returns to resume her role as the Captain in this brief exchange with Hamlet.
Also schedule to shoot during the Fall Shoot is a re-shoot of Act 1, Scene 2, where Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo arrive to inform Hamlet of the sighting of his father’s Ghost. Actors Marin, Allen Turner, and Sara Rene are slated to resume their roles. The reason for this re-shoot is not-only the audio issues with the previous shoot, but the physical appearance of Hamlet and Horatio has changed in the meantime and a visual continuity must be re-established. Such is the danger of shooting out of sequence across multiple actors’ schedules.
More shooting at the Newberry is also expected as Monica Rickert closes out her time on the production and we cover a scene added to the story of the Captain’s infiltration of Elsinore. Think Leo moving about the pagoda in the opening heist of “Inception”.
Hamlet meeting his college friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is also being readied to shoot with Cynthia Teschner and Vance Blackfox taking on the roles respectively. Much discussion about their motives, their backgrounds, and their friendship has been taking place these last couple of months and I think I found two new, great actors that will bring something fresh to these oft-overlooked roles. We plan to shoot in Pilsen for the scene before moving into the Elsinore setting.
The filming of a post-wedding, Board Room scene that introduces Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Polonius in the film is on the slate but we have had a lot of casting difficulties in the form of fired actors and trouble casting the roles of Claudius and Polonius. But this remains on the docket to shoot at the Newberry Library.
SEPTEMBER 2016 RELEASE DATE
In partnership with the Newberry Library, whom we worked hard with to secure the locations to shoot, a screening event for this completed film version of HAMLET is now in the works. We now have a premiere date on the schedule. Look for the completed Redshade Productions of HAMLET to screen at the Newberry Library, possibly September of 2016!
Once again we will ask the Chicago Native Community for help to meet our new completion date for the film by once again hold Open Community Auditions to cast the reaming 20 roles in the film. Details for this will be forthcoming.
I have been working to break this into seasonal shoots with an expected FALL SHOOT to take place between Sept. 20 and Dec. 21, a WINTER SHOOT to happen Dec. 21 through March 20, and a SPRING SHOOT to happen March to June 2015. Another SUMMER and FALL shoot will take place in 2015 to complete the film and much of 2016 will look toward audio mixing and post-production, including scoring, editing, visual effects (if any), rights and releases security, and distributions planning. We are far, FAR from finished.
We also ran into a not-minor/not-major technical issues that will cause us to re-shoot many scenes. I had been shooting the film in HD digital video at 30 frames per second. Films are typically shot at 24 frames. I was thinking that I could still create a Digital Content Packet for theaters and have the 30fps video handy for easy home video distribution. My research has shown that most theaters project 24fps DCPs. So, I have to switch. Not that big of a setback but a nuisance nonetheless.
Still, we are on schedule to shoot some great scenes and I hope we get get a couple of roles filled, namely CLAUDIUS, POLONIUS, LAERTES and OSRIC to move toward the shooting of the FINALE which is scheduled to include a bloody fencing match, gun play and a choreographed knife fight. It is big and bold in its imagining and will offer a few touching moments and great actions beats in the process.
If you wish to help us out in this very unique project, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a Community Volunteer Project, trying to complete a feature without funding to try and change the system of filmmaking for Native directors and producers everywhere in an effort at wider self-representation and first-voice in media.
I know that this will change how people look at and think about Native American Cinema and Actors as well. It can change a lot if we can pull it together and get it done. I believe that. I believe in this project and I believe in my fellow Natives. Will you accept the challenge?
Ernest M Whiteman III (Northern Arapahao)
Director/Producer/Actor – HAMLET