We wrapped production on our film!

We wrapped production on our film!

We recently wrapped production for A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff: The Film, and wow has it been a journey. (And the journey is just beginning – we’ll be in post production until early summer 2020, though I’ll be showing some excerpts here and there along the way, for feedback screenings as well as conference sessions.)

We carried out principal photography in Portland, OR, where most of the creative team is based. We also took a trip to NYC to film B-roll and exteriors. But here I’ll recap a bit of the Portland shoot: ten incredible, fifteen-hour days of intense and wild art-making.

My partner in the film, director/editor/co-producer/fellow-AJR Alicia J. Rose, is a longtime filmmaker and photographer. Though this is her first feature, she knows what she is doing. As for me, I have decades of writing, composing and performing experience – but it was my first time on a film set!

crew filming on a camera dolly

Director Alicia J. Rose checking out a shot with DP Asia Brown as Byron Glimmer pushes them on the dolly and producer/AD Lara Cuddy holds it all together


As an artist I know that every medium has its conventions, its ways of communicating, its unspoken expectations, and its daily trappings that are romantic to outsiders but totally unremarkable to people who work in that medium. So I tried to keep it cool and not be too annoying in my enthusiasm for the film-y things  – like call sheets every morning, and that scene marker thingy before every take, and official postings from the City of Portland’s Film Office on the front door of the building. Still, I sneaked in some pictures in between acting takes:

I was completely astounded by the professionalism, kindness and energy of the people who came together each day to make the magic happen. Also astounded by the sheer number of people: around 30 people each day including cast and crew! Making a movie, I am learning, is nothing short of a miracle, and I have the sinking feeling that I am falling in love with this wild, improbable medium.

At the same time, being on a film set also felt very familiar. Like touring with a band, or spending ten days at a writing conference on a mountain: a whole world pops up, and the outside world fades away.  It actually reminded me of the residency on Wall Street this piece is based on, where my fellow artists and I built a super sweet community over the year. Also of the time I spent crewing on tall ships during and after college. Long hours, working together and separately, each person bringing their particular skills and talents, and their positive energy; everyone relying on each other in multiple ways, pushed to the limit physically and emotionally, with deep bonds forged very quickly, hard work, and lots of laughter.

Director Alicia J. Rose in my "Happy Investor" and "Evelyn" wig.

Director Alicia J. Rose in my “Happy Investor” and “Evelyn” wig.


As you can see from these photos, we are a proudly women-led cast and crew.  Sound, director, camera, lights, producer, AD, production designers, hair/makeup artists, and of course talent (since it’s based on my solo theater piece, most of the acting is done by yours truly). All the preceding departments were headed by women/non-binary folks. At hour 14 of the last day, when we were all exceedingly punchy, we gathered for this group shot:

 

And what exactly were we all doing in that building on NW 3rd and Glisan? Here are some pics.

This film consciously balances tragedy and comedy, zig zagging between the two. So, here’s a silly moment (I’m mugging for the camera mounted at the top of the stall here, but in the actual scene I’m telling my friend in the next stall over how Bernie hated circles, but rented 3 floors of the lipstick building) –

 

 and, a deep moment:

Alicia lights a candle while 3 older jewish women circle her in track suits
 My “office” was transformed into a ritual space for an excommunication carried out with the help of a “beit din” (rabbinic court) made up of wise women

We brought in some wonderful talent for this phase, including a repeat visit from the 3 lovely actors playing our wise women-crone-muses (above/below). Incredibly, one of them is a professional translator who personally translated many of the European documents in the Madoff case!!  Director Alicia J. Rose called them Crone-DMC and they lived up to the moniker, an inspiring and intimidating trio in matching black track suits, who joined me in chanting biblical curses to excommunicate Bernie. 

Alicia holds a Torah while three older Jewish women with arms crossed surround her glaring at camera
 Whew, that was intense. Don’t worry, it’s a non-kosher Torah.

It wasn’t all bathrooms and excommunication rituals, though. We also spent a lot of time in my “office”, a recreation of my real office on Wall Street 10 years ago. Our brilliant art department made a visual reflection of my obsession with Bernie as it grew…

and also staged a big “works in progress” party for me and the other artists, during which I ran around annoying my fellow artists with my constant facts about Bernie and slowly realizing, though their responses, that I was more connected to him than I thought.


DP Asia Brown and her stellar crew dollying in for a party shot
“Holy $#@*, I’m one degree from Bernie Madoff!!” (That’s my line in the film but it’s true in real life too – I mean, to find out that one of the actors pictured above translated documents about his fraud, after casting her? It just gets weird and weirder.)

Though we still had to finish up filming in NYC (which we did in early November!), we finished the great majority of shooting at the end of the summer, which merited a mini-wrap party. It began when we finished shooting at 2 am on Sunday morning and lasted until 4 am or so. 


a little 3 am celebration (video clip here)

And now, post production begins! We are so grateful to our supporters for enabling us to make this piece about finance, spirituality, and the power of the imagination. We’re still actively fundraising to be able to cover post-production costs as well as the costs of submitting to festivals when the time comes. If you’d like to show your support and be a part of making this film, or know someone you think might be interested in supporting the project with a tax-deductible donation, here’s the link!   

As always, thank you so very much for being on this journey with us. We could not do this without you!  If you’re a social media person, follow us on insta at @akaddishforberniemadoff and FB at @kaddishformadoff.  Be well; thank you for reading; and don’t forget, there is no such thing as a straight line.

With much love and gratitude,

Alicia