One Step at a Time
Moving Train Pictures presents: “ONE STEP AT A TIME” – a short film celebrating Earth Day.
What was originally intended as an interim project — a throwaway piece while we waited for the opportunity to shoot a different project — ended up being a labor of love that stood all on its own.
No, seriously… we were about a week away from shooting another project when I lost my lead actor to a paying job, my co-writer to a new temp job that started a week early, one of my crucial shooting spaces, and I was on a ‘hold’ for a prime time acting role on TV. That week, it seemed like all the planets were aligning against us. I realized, however, that they were just aligning for us in a different way…
One the way back from my ‘callback’ audition, I decided I wanted to shoot a smaller, simpler project, in case I didn’t get the part. It’s hard for my group to find the time to shoot something nowadays, and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. I read a few articles online about Earth preservation that morning, and hashed out a quick idea about a kid running around trying to recycle stuff.
That little idea quickly grew into multiple layers — it was about a girl who felt very alone in her nobly humble mission, how her own imagination and one small action can inspire other people to join her cause, and how change can actually be achieved “one step at a time”.
I only had a couple of days to set this project up, and only a few days to shoot the piece. From my previous project, I enlisted Shelley — she plays the young woman. I got my little niece Brittney to play the little girl, and her family members got some cameo roles. The old man was played by my grandpa. I wasn’t even sure he could do it, but he took on role perfectly! Can you believe he’s 97 years old?! I didn’t even know that!
We shot the next few days between the hours of 4:30pm to 6:30pm – that was the only time Brittney was available and before I lost my sunlight. Half of the shots were from my notes, and half were done on the fly. We walked/drove/took public transportation to different parts of the city.
I should mention that this is the first time I directed a largely minority cast. Ironic, since I’m often considered a ‘minority filmmaker’. This was also the first time I had to direct something in two different languages — my gramps does not speak much English. It culminated with a shot of the three main characters on the final day — three generations of people, my buddy noticed.
The final piece of the puzzle came later that night. I was surfing online for inspiration when I randomly came across Tim Neumark’s music. I heard three beautiful compositions, and I immediately knew how I was going to edit the piece. I got lucky — Tim liked my idea and agreed to let me use the music in my piece. I dropped all the dialogue from the project, and just let the images on the screen and Tim’s musical notes dance around each other.
The result is a piece that’s rather lyrical in nature, a small portrait of our city, and one that’s become very near and dear to me.
I hope you enjoyed watching and reading about, “One Step at a Time.”
Director’s Notes, Spring 2012
Written & Directed by: Joseph Tran
Starring: Brittney Vo, Gia Thien Vo, Shelley Dennis