- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2008

For the second year in a row, our family is making a movie as a special project. Last year’s project, “Soul Search,” recently won a first-place prize in the West Virginia International Film Festival. This year, we are trying to increase the level of skills and professionalism, as well as give an inspiring message.

The script was developed through brainstorming, finalizing a concept, and then me sitting down and writing it. Modifications were done by the directors and other production team members, but within a week, we had a 120-page script.

Next, we held auditions. This involved putting out a casting call, fielding inquiries and creating the forms and script segments that could be used for the test scenes. Over the course of several days, we auditioned about 40 people, and found roles — or created them — for each participant.

Next came finding venues to shoot the various scenes. For this story, we needed locations including banks, offices, restaurants, stores and the real difficult ones: a courtroom and jail. Researching and nailing down these items isn’t easy, so we spent a substantial amount of time on this part of the job.

Naturally, costumes and props are essential. We have a team of several young people who are busy borrowing, buying or making the necessary items to use within each scene. According to the kids, I’m a bit too creative in this area. Among the costumes rejected: a leopard pattern hat and skirt, and a set of boxing gloves. Sigh. I really thought I was on a roll.

Now, we’re filming. This is a real military-style operation. We have the preparation team, who reconnoiter the areas, decide on angles and bring in the equipment. Then, there are the actors. The support personnel make sure the food and drinks are on hand to keep everyone fueled for the work, and arrange the details of transportation, electricity, props and communications.

Lighting is a huge area in itself — you would be surprised how even a sunny day can present many challenges in filming. Over the course of several hours, the sun’s position changes, and the shadows change, so the scene must be shot in ways that allow for this.

Sound is another technical area. Focusing the microphones and keeping out unwanted sounds are the twin tightropes the sound operators must navigate.

Later, the post-production work brings in new demands, including editing the takes to make a contiguous and believable story line, and adding other elements such as animation and music.

The final result is a complex mix of dozens of elements, each of which involves understanding and mastering new skills.

If you would like to find out more about the current film — and some of the other productions from the same team, check out www.lightsmithpro.com. If you are interested and have free time to participate, call the producers: 240/353-8234.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.