This spring, PlayGround presented its inaugural PlayGround film festival, a coproduction with Dances With Light featuring five short films by teams of local filmmakers and writers, adapted from short plays originally developed and premiered at the Best of PlayGround Festival. Playwright (and now screenwriter!) Jonathan Luskin writes about the process:
From Stage to Screen: "Ecce Homo," the Movie!
by Jonathan Luskin
Our approach to adapting “Ecce Homo” from a 10-minute play into a short film was driven by a desire to make it a visually compelling film, not a filmed play. We deliberately took on as much risk as possible as we opened up the play with new characters, new scenes, new locations, period sets and wardrobe - all on a laughably low budget. We ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that enabled us to rent the Paramount Theater in Oakland. This was crucial to our design for the film - we wanted to visually communicate the art deco glamour and vast size of the vaudeville venue and juxtapose that against the story of Gus and Fanny, our two small-time, working class hoofers striving to survive as live performance collapsed and gave way to cinema. We were fortunate to assemble a vast array of highly talented cast and crew (there were 50 people on set at the Paramount) who maintained good humor and energy during the intense 10 hours of shooting our way through dozens of setups with two units. We literally ran from location to location, capturing the last shot with a skeleton crew as we packed up to avoid union overtime.
Compromises were made, as always, and there were entire scenes that had to go. If we had more time, however, it would have gone not into shooting more video but into trimming the script. For every beat in which we were successful in visually representing the struggle of our characters against the declining fortunes of vaudeville, we might have eliminated a beat of theatrical dialogue.
We are extremely grateful to PlayGround, Jim Kleinmann and Barry Stone for the opportunity to produce the film. For more info on the PlayGround Film Festival, visit playground-sf.org/filmfest.
Jonathan Luskin is an award-winning playwright who has written for PlayGround, the Throckmorton Theatre, the Magic Theatre, and the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. He is also a director, as well as co-founder of Flying Moose Pictures.
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