The great inhibitor to creating works of art-whether it be a motion picture or a television series is financing. There have been a number of methods that filmmakers has utilized to secure funding and it is perhaps with the advent of utilizing public funding platforms such as "Kickstarter" and "Indie Go-Go" that this expression of art is now more accessible to more individuals. This Examiner.com columnist recently sat in on a casting session with the director of an ambitious film/web-series project that is known as The Lobbyist which may prove to be a watershed event for the fledgling film industry in Sacramento, California.
The tag tease line for The Lobbyist is "Sex, lies, deceit. . . . that's a start." The Lobbyist tells the tale of a lobbyist named Elliot Richards as he maneuvers through the world of Sacramento politics. The most simple definition of a lobbyist is basically an individual that tries to influence legislation and legislators on behalf of a special interest group. As the tag tease suggests-the proposed series includes many of the lurid and sometimes amusing elements that has unfortunately become synonymous with politics and lobbying. It is this premise that director, John Kenneth Wagner hopes to enthrall viewers and shine a spotlight on the talent that the region has to offer. Director, Wagner begins, "it has been a work in progress for the last year and a half. I know several former lobbyists who talked about some of the experiences that they have had in government. When we were talking about all of the drama and intrigue, it seemed to me that it would be the perfect vehicle for to actually write a series or an internet series produced in the Sacramento area." Wagner continues, "it is not meant to be a slam against lobbying, but it is mostly derivative of the image that some of the people have of the wealth and power that lobbyists have. Our character, Elliot Richards is one of the most powerful men in Sacramento and in the state!"
The Lobbyist will tackle other themes beyond political brinkmanship. John Kenneth Wagner explains, "there's actually a mysterious character named Stevens who is an activist. He is very passionate about making sure that we as members of society take better care of the environment because we are choking to death. That is his position and mine also for that matter!"
A project as ambitious as The Lobbyist needs and demands individuals with vision and experience. Mr. Wagner brings such a combination to this project. Wagner clarifies, "I started in 1970 as a still photographer and I have done over one thousand head shots over the years. I have worked in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I absolutely love actors and I just found that it was so intriguing to work people who are so creative!" The director's admiration goes beyond enthusiastic waxing about actors as he will make sure the actors are compensated for their performances on The Lobbyist. Wagner states with conviction, "this is a production that has to be a paid production. All the crew and actors will be paid!"
The Lobbyist is still in early pre-production and several prospects were given the opportunity to participate in table readings that were directed by John Kenneth Wagner and filmed by actor, Doc Divecchio. During that particular frigid December evening, five actors were given specific pages of the script that enabled Wagner and Divecchio to make preliminary decisions on casting. Doc Divecchio is in the series as Pete. Divecchio explains, "Pete is a guy who is behind-the-scenes in everything. If it is happening in California or the Capitol, Pete knows about it and probably has his hand it it! He will mold the government in anyway he needs to and is not above having someone disappear!" Doc Divecchio is immediately endearing and conveys a quality of a favorite teddy bear that you have kept over the years to help you in trying times. Divecchio is also one of the producers of the project and modestly states, "it kind of came as a surprise because I just started helping out. Earlier John called me the Chief Producer and I don't exactly know where that came from!"
The readings were held at a restaurant in the mid-town section of Sacramento. The actors handled themselves well and professionally despite the competing background noise of slamming plates, endless music loops and sometimes obnoxiously loud patrons. One of the night's consistently stunning reading was handled by Dee Marshall. Marshall was involved in all of the readings and delivered pitch perfect performances take after take. She was a true image of the consummate actress unencumbered by the loud ambiance of the restaurant who sold each performance with an uncanny ability to channel her character's back story and present state with tonal inflection and subtle body language. Dee Marshall comments, "what you see on the surface isn't who she truly is. There is a lot of heartache, torture and lot of back story in her life. I just hope to bring a truthfulness to the story and how John wants it to be told!"
During such table readings, discoveries are often made and it is the opinion of this columnist that a intriguing potential actor of note was unearthed during that night's sessions. Kevin Delong answered the Facebook listing and stunned John and Doc with his remarkable improvisational skills and his ability to deliver with facial gestures. Questioned about his experience and aspirations, Delong responded, "I like to throw myself out there in different situations. I like to go for it and have fun! I did a silent movie once and I did some voice-over work because they liked my voice, but I have no experience as an actor!" It should be fascinating to follow the progress of Mr. Delong as he continues following his gut instincts.
Another actor that caught the eye of the director was J.J. Curcio. Curcio brought an impressive resume to the table when discussing his past experience. Mr. Curcio elaborates, "I have done the Investigation Discovery Channel four times. I have been on I Almost Got Away With It which airs in Japan. I did The Hangover 3 in Las Vegas and before that I did The Internship with Vince Vaughn." It is interesting how actors sometimes find themselves playing variations on a similar character and/or theme. Curcio has an air of authority about him and others must arrive at the same conclusion because he has been cast in the past as a policeman and an F.B.I. agent among others. Director, Wagner amusingly adds, "we are going to have to have a buzz cut going for you!"
All the necessary pieces of this puzzle are starting to be pieced together to form an image that many will find refreshingly engaging and tantalizing. Are the filmmakers looking beyond the internet for their audience. John Kenneth Wagner offers this exciting coda, "we want to contact people in Showtime, Cinemax and H.B.O. to find out what they are interested in. This isn't the usual violent special effects driven show. This is West Wing meets Dallas and that is how we are approaching it from the marketing standpoint. I like it to look rich and beautiful. We are dealing with people who are government types and upwardly mobile. I would like to see warm clothes and rich colors. I'd like people to look at it and see beautiful people doing not so beautiful things!"
As the project continues to be realized, this columnist will once again visit locations and the various film shoots of The Lobbyist. Future interviews will include a discussion with noted actress and photographer, Arlene Barshinger who continues to be a major driving force to this project and many others. For further information including how you can help this production, please follow the link below.