Struggles of First Time Filmmakers
By: Jason Raymond
Suzanne Doran and Jessica Pignataro of Tinker Films discuss filming a love scene for the first time
Suzanne Doran and Jessica Pignataro wrote the first sex scene for “Just Like We Used To Do” using dialogue, and leaving the action at “And they have sex.” From a French Quarter café during the New Orleans Film Festival, they recall that though relying on the actors’ chemistry, they knew how the action should strike viewers.
“We wanted the first sex scene to be gritty and dirty,” says Jessica, who went from cowriter to Producer, “raw and not romantic. It’s a release from her life with her Mom.” As the film’s Director, Suzanne describes it as “the type of sex co-workers would have at three in the morning when they’re drunk. We wanted to show the female perspective on why women might have useless sex.”
When actress Corrina Plunkett took the lead as Isadora Mitchell, Jessica and Suzanne talked in detailed about this scene. They say Corrina volunteered how she might play it, what she was comfortable with. Jessica recalls, “We ended up with her wearing her father’s flannel shirt and some booty shorts, kind of a comfy, sexy look.”
As shooting approached, the duo began to think of the scene unfolding where the physical interaction becomes aggressively passionate, including pushing Isodora against a wall. Suzanne says, “I had this vision that they would fall on the couch and go at it. Isadora’s top would come off and that would be the last thing you would see.” As Producer, Jessica wanted the environment to be as comfortable for the actors as possible. She played every form of music from Muddy Waters through Rhianna to the Kings of Leon.
However the risk taken by relying on improvisation suddenly wasn’t working for the actors. Director and Producer had to come up with another strategy to get the scene on track. “We talked to Corrina about what we all liked during sex,” Suzanne says. The director even threw her producer against the wall while blocking out the action. “Suzanne touched her nose against Corrina’s,” Jessica says, “and said she hated that.” Corrina told Michael “now don’t do that!” From Jessica’s standpoint, “We laughed and play-acted, and that helped Corrina.”
Actors Corrina Plunkett and Michael McDermott onset.
The effort began to work. While hesitant before, Corrina became specific about how they should block out the scene. “She would smack him lightly if he did something she didn’t like,” Suzanne says. In Jessica’s opinion, “She needed more physical contact from him to get the performance we needed from her. We wanted a realistic scene, and they needed extra time and encouragement from us to work it out.”
With the actors getting in sync, camera movement became the primary issue. DP Ben Chronister held the camera and had to follow the actors as they moved backwards from the front door entrance (which Michael had to slam shut), hit the wall, continue to move backwards, and then fall on the futon. Both women say the actors began throwing their clothes after taking them off. Suzanne feels “it was a good effect, but we had to change how we filmed it. And it was a long take.”
Suzanne had to tuck herself in a small corner while directing the scene, very close to Corrina’s bare legs. “You have funny thoughts after all the hours pass by,” she chuckles, “I started to hate her for the zero percent fat on her goddamn gorgeous legs.” The scene took seven takes and shooting wasn’t wrapped until three a.m.
Though editing on “Just Like We Used To Do” continues, the women feel that scene does have a particular shine. In Jessica’s words, “Michael and Corrina worked hard to please Suzanne, and it came through.”
Producer Jessica Pignataro watching a scene of “Just Like We Used To Do”
Director Suzanne Doran and Director of Photography Ben Chronister
TITLE: Just Like We Used To Do
A Tinker Films Production
LOCATION: Lehigh Valley, PA (We mostly shot in Allentown, PA, but also in Whitehall, Hellertown, Northampton, and Coopersburg – the entire area is referred to as Lehigh Valley)
MAIN CAST: Corrina Plunkett as Isadora Mitchell
Terry DeBiase as Sophie Mitchell
Jeff Irwin as Michael Finley
Film is a about a mother and daughter relationship. Isadora, a young woman, is left as sole caretaker of her elderly mother, Sophie, who is suffering from advancing dementia.
Principal Photography was Tuesday April 16th – Monday April 22nd.
WRITERS: Suzanne Doran and Jessica Pignataro
DIRECTOR: Suzanne Doran
PRODUCER: Jessica Pignataro
EDITOR: Alysa Helvig
MUSIC: Alexander Kovacs
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY – Ben Chronister
KEY GRIP – Phil Jago
LOCATION SOUND ENGINEER – Bennet Aube
UNIT PRODUCTION MANAGER – Marie Steeger