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Screenplay & Film Consulting By Susan Kouguell

Tag: Rosemary Rodriguez

Award-Winning Writer and Director Rosemary Rodriguez talks about her film ‘Silver Skies’ with Susan Kouguell

 

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Rosemary Rodriguez

Last year I sat down with writer and director Rosemary Rodriguez in New York City to talk about her career trajectory, and directing for television for this publication.

Rodriguez’s television credits include The Good Wife (she directed 18 episodes, more than any other director in the seven seasons of the series) The Walking Dead, Amazon’s Sneaky Pete starring Bryan Cranston, Marvel’s Jessica JonesEmpireSex & Drugs & Rock & RollOutsidersLaw and Order: SVU,  and Rescue Me. Acts of Worship, Rodriguez’s first feature, which she wrote and directed, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including the John Cassavetes Award for Best Feature.

We recently caught up to talk about Silver Skies, her second independent feature film, which she wrote and directed. The film is being released by Joe Amodei and his company Virgil Films Entertainment (VFE) and will be available on DVD and Streaming on Amazon and iTunes April 4, 2017.

Silver Skies chronicles a group of seniors whose lives are turned upside down when their Los Angeles apartment complex threatens to be sold out from under them.

The film won the Audience Award at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, Best Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival, Best Comedy at the Tiburon International Film Festival, Best Film at the Live Free or Die Film Festival, and it was the Closing Night film at the Palm Beach Film Festival.  Alex Rocco won Best Supporting Actor at the Madrid International Film Festival.

Silver Skies PosterRodriguez: The film opened in September 2016 in a limited theatrical run, playing eight weeks in Palm Springs and eight weeks at The Villages in Florida. We played in Orange County, Arizona and around Florida. Little by little, it’s kept going. We are finishing our theatrical run March 30.

Kouguell: Tell me about the evolution of Silver Skies.

Rodriguez: It took about ten years.  I went to the MacDowell Colony with an outline for ‘Silver Skies and wrote the script there. Then, when I directed an episode of Law and Order, I hit it off with the show’s star Dennis Farina. He loved the script and helped to get the movie made. Two years later I called Dennis, told him we got the money, and we picked the start date. Two weeks later he passed away. I was devastated by his passing. Sometime later we had a script reading and producers Fred Roos and Arthur Sarkissian came, and they said, ‘let’s do this movie.’ The movie is dedicated to Dennis.

Kouguell: Did your actors have any input into the script?

Rodriguez: Yes, they definitely did. I’m a big collaborator; I want to hear what people have to say.  For example: George Hamilton’s character is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.  Jack McGee’s brother, George Hamilton’s mother, and my dad, all had Alzehimer’s and we shared our respective experiences to further develop George’s character. In a way it was a tribute for George to his mother, for Jack to his brother, and mine to my father.

Kouguell: You describe Silver Skies as very personal and inspired by your parents’ aging. The characters of Nick and Phil are inspired by your father, who was a bookie in Boston, and the character, Eve, by your mother.

Rodriguez: Valerie Perrine’s character always has flowers; that was my mother. I watched my parents get old when I was still young and I saw how their relationships changed.  I think seniors don’t have a voice in this world.  These are people who want to have sex. They want to work. They want to spend money. Make money. Have money.

On 'Silver Skies' with George Hamilton

On ‘Silver Skies’ with George Hamilton

Kouguell:  These issues about sex and money, as well as ageism and women’s power, are themes in Silver Skies that dare to challenge the viewer. Indeed, these topics have resonated with your audiences.

Rodriguez: The audience response was incredible and that’s what kept us going! When we had no money for marketing, people would show up to see these actors that they miss: George Hamilton, Valerie Perrine, Barbara Bain, Mariette Hartley, Jack Betts, Jack McGee, Alex Rocco. Then as they watched the movie, something wonderful happened: they would stop seeing the actors and start seeing themselves in these characters! That was my goal! These incredible actors pull off some extraordinary, relatable performances.

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Director Rosemary Rodriguez Bids Farewell to ‘The Good Wife’ and Hello to ‘The Walking Dead,’ ’Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,’ and Much, Much More…

Director Rosemary Rodriguez Bids Farewell to ‘The Good Wife’ and Hello to ‘The Walking Dead,’ ’Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,’ and Much, Much More… by Susan Kouguell | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Rosemary Rodriguez and I met for a few hours at a cafe on New York’s Upper East Side on a picture perfect afternoon. Joking about the sometimes deafening noise of the passing motorcycles and trucks, we agreed that the background sounds definitely would not be ideal for a film shoot but it was just the right setting for our interview.

Just days earlier, Rodriguez attended The Good Wife series wrap party at the Museum of Modern Art. Rodriguez holds the distinct honor of directing 18 episodes of the show, more than any other director in the seven seasons of the multi-award-winning series. Episode 20, The Party, the final Rodriguez directed, had just recently aired.

Rodriguez’s long and impressive list of television directing credits include Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Empire, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Outsiders, Hawthorne, Law and Order: SVU’s Rescue Me, Castle, Blue Bloods, Elementary, and Criminal Minds. Silver Skies an independent feature Rodriguez wrote and directed, just won Best Feature at the Manhattan Film Festival in April, Best Comedy at the Tiburon International Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival. Joe Amodei and his company Virgil Films Entertainment (VFE) are releasing the film.

Director Rosemary Rodriguez Bids Farewell to ‘The Good Wife’ and Hello to ‘The Walking Dead,’ ’Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,’ and Much, Much More… by Susan Kouguell | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

“Parenting Made Easy”–Behind the scenes with Director Rosemary Rodriguez (left) and actress Julianna Margulies on the set of THE GOOD WIFE airing Sundays (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Jeffrey Neira/CBS ©2011 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

It would be an understatement to say that Rosemary Rodriguez is in high demand.

Directing for Television: A Week in the Life

Kouguell:  Television directing is a collaborative process with the actors, production heads, writers, crew, and so on.  You’re not just a hired gun who steps in and waves her hands like a magic wand and everything falls into place.  You have X amount of time, often one week or less, to direct an episode.  What’s a week in the life scenario for you directing a television episode?

Rodriguez:  A day consists of either waiting for the script or I get the script for an episode and start reading. For the first read-through I look for the emotional thread of the episode and determine what it’s about. I start formulating those ideas about what’s really going on in that story and how I can go from beginning, middle, and end of the story and be able to have a completion in the episode.

From then on, I’m anxious until I get on set with actors, then I’m okay. I start sleeping better after that read. I start getting into details like location; how many locations there are, how long are the scenes, are there any scenes that have a lot of people in them or maybe one or two characters don’t have very many lines or don’t really talk, and I wonder what’s their purpose in the scene and what is everyone doing.

Susan Kouguell sits down with writer/director Rosemary Rodriguez, director of Good Wife, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Empire, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Outsiders, Criminal Minds and more! #scriptchat #screenwriting

On the set of ‘Hawthorne’ with Jada Pinkett Smith and Marc Anthony

I also start thinking about how the actors are going to respond to the script. I read it to see what each character’s journey is and what they’re doing. If there are any issues with that I make notes. If there are four or five people in the scene, or if you have one person who’s just standing around who has maybe just one line. I think about each character’s purpose in the scene.

I look for ways to visually tell the story — if there’s any kind of prop I can use or insert into the scene to tell that story or locations; it may not be in the script.

We go into prep and start a number of meetings. We have a concept meeting where everyone except the actors, are in the room because the actors are always shooting while you’re in prep.  We get in a room together, the heads of production and discuss what’s coming down the road. For example we have a party here in this scene so we have to have food and flowers.  And then, whoever wrote the script comes in and we hear what they have to say. By this point, I’ve already formulated my ideas about what I think the script is about and then I get to hear about what the writer thinks. Quite often, depending on the show, it’s usually in sync and if it’s not, it usually helps me see things in a different way. Sometimes I will pitch things of what I may see and it will help writers articulate their ideas. I get to work with really great writers and we then just start collaborating.

Susan Kouguell sits down with writer/director Rosemary Rodriguez, director of Good Wife, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Empire, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Outsiders, Criminal Minds and more! #scriptchat #screenwriting

Rodriguez and Denis Leary on the set of ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’

Then we get into casting and in that concept meeting, the casting director will be on the call, as well as the writer of the show, and the creator.  It depends on who’s in the meeting; it’s different with every show. At that point we have an idea of who the characters are and who we’re going to be casting and we get to hear from the writer about what they’re thinking about. If I’m thinking about a certain thing for a character or a certain actor that’s when I would give my suggestions. That’s when you start collaborating about casting.

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ROSEMARY RODRIGUEZ and SILVER SKIES

A Conversation With Director Rosemary Rodriguez About Her New Film ‘Silver Skies’

by Susan Kouguell

“Silver Skies,” Rosemary’s second feature, chronicles a group of seniors whose lives turn upside down when their Los Angeles apartment complex threatens to be sold out from under them.

Jack McGee, Alex Rocco, George Hamilton, Valerie Perrine, Jack Betts and Barbara Bain in "Silver Skies"

I had the pleasure of speaking with writer and director Rosemary Rodriguezin midtown Manhattan two days before her film “Silver Skies” will have its United States premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival on Saturday October 3.

Rosemary Rodriguez wrote and directed the feature, “Acts of Worship, “which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including the John Cassavetes Award for Best Feature. Her episodic TV work includes “Empire,” “The Good Wife,” (where she is a regular director), “Manhattan,” “Rake,” “Elementary” and “Vegas.” She is currently directing the new Marvel series on Netflix, “Jessica Jones.”

“Silver Skies,” Rosemary’s second feature, chronicles a group of seniors whose lives turn upside down when their Los Angeles apartment complex threatens to be sold out from under them.

Rosemary Rodriguez

We began our conversation talking about the evolution of “Silver Skies.”

Rodriguez : It took about ten years. I ended up going to the MacDowell Colony with an outline for “Silver Skies” and wrote the script while I was there. Then, when I directed a “Law and Order” episode, I hit it off with (star) Dennis Farina and he loved the script. He helped to get the movie made. Fast forward almost two years later I called Dennis and told him we got the money. We picked the start date, and then he passed away two weeks later. I was devastated when he passed away. But then things fell in place. Fred Roos and Arthur Sarkissian came to the reading of the script, and they said, ‘let’s do this movie.’ The movie is dedicated to Dennis. He was my guardian angel.

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