Wednesday, December 16, 2009


On Monday of this week, we had the first ever table reading for HAPPY FUNERAL, the feature-length screenplay I am co-writing with Daniel Spurgeon.

We have been working on it for about nine months together, and I had been developing the concept for about a year before then... So it's been in process for a long time.

For me, it was thrilling to see the characters come to life. We had thirteen actors performing the parts of twenty speaking parts. While it would've been nice to have all the speaking parts filled, the area was so full with performers, it probably was for the best. Everyone did a great job.

Sam Golzari, a long time acquaintance of mine read the part of the lead, while the heavy of the film, was played by Assaf Cohen.

The cool thing for me was to see the main character and the main antagonist actually played by actors of the ethnicity to which they belong.

The fact that Sam's heritage is actually Iranian and Assaf's is genuinely Israeli helped bring a lot of subtlety and nuance to the part, and both made real culturally specific elements that had been written into the script, but which actors of another ethnicities would probably be unaware.

I really should have taken some pictures, but alas things were a bit hectic.

The reading took place at a Kombucha making facility in Pasadena that is right next to Daniel's apartment. I wasn't sure about it at first- I thought it might be a little too cold an environment.

But in fact, when it filled out with an audience, it worked incredibly well.

The audience itself was a mix- professionals Daniel knows from his work as a hospice doctor and other filmmakers and artists.

I explained to the audience the genesis of the story, about how when I heard that often people approaching their death experience a great change. They begin to feel a peace they never before, they appreciate the small things of life, they are less troubled by the day to day struggles. It is, I said, not the result of changing religions, reading a book, finding a guru or having a life changing experience (other than learning they are dying).

What has happened is that they start to live in the highest pitch of awareness of what they already knew. I then explained that I thought about this, and thought, how great would it be to experience this now, while still relatively young. And then I thought about my family, particularly my Persian and Iraqi heritage, and the rich pathos and stories I wanted to mine from it.

And this thought was the the genesis of what would become HAPPY FUNERAL.

Watching and listening to the reading unfold, besides the power of watching it come to life (in thumbnail sketch-drawn-on-a-napkin form) it was also really interesting to watch listen to the responses of the audience. Their laughter and tears at very specific moments seemed to vindicate our main choices and story thrust.

At the same time, seeing where there was a drop in energy and also looking at the points where we were perhaps excessive in our exposition or a little too on the nose was also very instructive.

I look forward to advancing to the next stage and next week I plan to meet with a casting director.

We are making progress...

1 comment:

  1. sounds like it was a very valuable week in the life of this film Samah, I'm excited for you, keep us posted!