Welcome to the set of Cities of Light! I have a few moments while they shoot an interview scene with Swami Kriyananda and Juliet the journalist that Elisabeth Rohm plays, and will try to give a bit of a glimpse of what has been transpiring this past week.
First of all, the presence of God is very strongly felt. You might imagine that a crew of 40 might be an incredible invasion into a meditative community like ours, but the team has been so compatible that I personally look forward to being with them every day. Many of them have some connection to spirituality, or are simply excellent, dharmic individuals who have been hand picked for this project.
Elisabeth Rohm came into the movie just days after she had prayed for a deepening of her spiritual life, and she and her daughter, Easton, are enjoying themselves here. She has been a joy to work with, and we are in each scene at Ananda together. I've been around many celebrities both onstage and off, and have seen what some can be like behind closed doors. Elisabeth is naturally gracious both on and off the set, and has been tremendously patient with us, inexperienced as we are.
What is this movie about? Primarily, the answers that Ananda has to offer to the world, and how small communities can be a viable solution to many of today's ills in society. Of course, spirituality is a broad theme as well - how can it not? And finally - beauty. I can't post any footage yet, but I must tell you that the way in which they are capturing the vibration of Ananda is simply stunning. We get to see some of the shots on a monitor (the hard drives are 90 terabytes!), and the way the cinematographers and directors capture the interplay of light and color is utterly captivating. Furthermore, the crane shots give you the sense that you are flying through the astral gardens and settings here at Ananda. I can't wait for you to see for yourself.
Swami Kriyananda is featured in two lengthy interviews in the film, and is doing fabulously - he's a natural! Although now he says he doesn't want to be a movie star after 3 days of different camera angles of the same scene, each including multiple takes, sometimes due to technical problems or wanting to get just the right sweep of the camera.
Swamiji's answers to her questions are of course spontaneous, deeply insightful, funny, and resonate with truth. In each take he gives a slightly different emphasis, and never repeats himself the same way. Ever new, ever expanding joy.
The work and coordination that goes into each scene is quite formidable! Each scene is often made up of at least 4 different camera shots: the "master shot", a wide angle that gives the viewer a sense of where the characters are; a "two shot", with two (or more) people in the frame, reverses or "point of views" of the same (from behind the characters) and closeup shots of each character. Each of these shots require moving massive cameras, lights, tripods, baffles, reflectors, and shades. As an "actor", there is a lot of sitting around while all this happens, and one scene can take hours to shoot, but sometimes they can be waiting for us as we finish makeup and wardrobe.
So far in the filming process we've introduced Swami Kriyananda, Lalita, Narayani, Ananta, Alex and Devadasi Forrester, and myself as Juliet's host. They all have done a fabulous job, especially since we are creating this film from an improvisational approach. None of us are speaking scripted lines, but trying to speak naturally and from the heart, using our own words. Not an easy process for me! I enjoy writing because it gives me a chance to think about what I want to say, try different approaches, and edit to my heart's content. Nevertheless, they seem to be happy with what we're doing, although I'm hoping they'll still reshoot the first scene, due to my being in shock from the whole process.
The whole community is impacted by the film, as you can imagine, for we are trying to keep within a low budget by asking for volunteer assistance. The community has been so supportive throughout this past week, and we have many community members initiated into the film business as extras, drivers, assistants, and coordinators. The set has a high vibration, and they all seem very glad to be assisting.
Today It does feel odd to be sitting about, "all dressed up and nowhere to go", but at least I can be of service by writing about the whirlwind in which I find myself.