When a painful past refuses to be suppressed, and the struggle against it becomes a power play…

R to L: Kevin, Carlo (standing), Emily

A year ago I performed for Peter Loewi’s (’12) Fine Arts thesis — a convertible stage — during the James House Block Party, which was very uncharacteristic of me.  I mean, it was in front of an audience and everything. Granted, the harder half of my performance was filmed — the gist of the piece was that I dueled against myself about artifice, so the “me” with more (and sassier) lines had been already filmed, while the live version of “me” had a more timid role. But at any rate, despite the difficulties of the live performance, I was intrigued by the grant that funded Peter’s project — the E. Clyde Lutton Memorial Fund for the Performing Arts.

Clyde Lutton (’66) was a lover of the performing arts, and in his memory Charlotte Lutton funds a creative student project each year, as long as it includes the element of performance. For me, performance includes film. So, this semester, with the backing of Charlotte Lutton and the E. Clyde Lutton Memorial Fund, I wrote and directed an original story, which I shot over spring break (+ a few extra shoots post-break) after compiling the the cast, crew, set, and equipment.

I proposed the project in the fall of 2012, with a story idea much different from the story that’s being pieced together in the editing process now. Originally, I was going to deal with more of the same ideas that I was discussing in my piece for the “Duel/Duet” — the artifice in art, it’s a mimetic representation, truth derived from fictions, etc. But as the characters became more real, and their relationships more developed, it was clear that the story that I wanted to tell was more accessible. Maybe dealing with similar tensions, but not rooted in art.

So the story evolved… I drafted about 9 scripts before I was satisfied labeling anything the “Shooting Script”.  Basically, the story centers around Lola, who is unable to remember anything about her childhood, separated from her parents and family since before she can remember. She is dating Leonard, who is earnestly trying to help her cope with her lack of identity, and who is her brother Mark’s best friend. Mark, though older than Lola, is also unclear about their past — or, so Lola thinks. But repressed memories inevitably resurface, and with them come confrontations and unveilings, in search for the truth of past time.

In January, I began the casting process, which involved placing advertisements on various websites (some exclusively for talent advertising, some for more general advertising — yes, I did use Craigslist) and receiving resumés and emails from interested actors and actresses. I had a lot of interest, and after filtering through it scheduled around 50 auditions. Some were sent in as video auditions, while most auditioned with me live, and some ended up not auditioning after all.

After two weekends of auditions, I had found my actors. I casted Emily Dabney (emilydabney.weebly.com/index.html) as Lola, Carlo Campbell (www.carlocampbell.com/) as Leonard, and Kevin Austra (Kma1723@aol.com) as Mark.

After the student cinematographer dropped out of the project due to scheduling issues, I was reaching out to different freelance cinematographers and posting advertisements and receiving interest, and after reviewing the different candidates was really excited to have Chris Newhard (chrisnewhard.com) on board.

After the original sound recorder dropped out last minute, Raymond Ogilvie (happyreflex@lycos.com), studying at Temple University, was available as a field recorder, and I was really thrilled to have him participating in the project too. After spring break, when shoots took place during timest that Raymond was unavailable, Aaron Jenkins (aaronjenkins@phantomsonics.com)

With the help of Marcus Williams and Geoffrey Labe, I secured an apartment where the majority of the scenes would be shot. The two other set locations were the Haverford Septa Regional Rail Station and the Ardmore Station Café. The first day of shooting took place at the former and apparently there had been some misunderstanding between me and the Septa representative I spoke with, but after talking with the supervisor of Septa on set, he agreed to let us continue filming. Bob Campman of the Ardmore Station Café was incredibly helpful and accomodating throughout the filming process, and I highly recommend that you try their Nutella French Toast… it’s really delicious, Carlo can vouch for that…

I prepared the apartment with props from various friends (thank you, all! too many to list here, but you will see your names on the credits!) and Amy Radbill of the Bryn Mawr Theater Department. It didn’t look half bad, and definitely passes for a young couple’s apartment.

Corey Chao of the ITC also helped me greatly in the equipment department, outfitting me with sound recording equipment and a lighting kit.

With all of those elements finally in place, we could begin shooting. Shooting was pretty standard, in its structure — start around 10 AM, run until we were done, sometimes around 8 PM, and a few times more like 12 AM. We worked off of a schedule that I created, completing about 1 scene per day, give or take a few pages.

As far as the actual substance of each shoot, it varied a lot. For the intense scenes, where Lola had a nightmare and Leonard was expected to comfort her, or when Leonard confronted Mark, for example, the set was very intense, as the actors would stay in character for pretty much the whole day. There were token lighthearted moments, though — whether it was Carlo calling Emily various nicknames, like “Lola the Patrola”, or a line delivered in the perfectly wrong way…

Some pictures of filming:

Really cold directing outside of Ardmore Station Café

Really cold directing outside of Ardmore Station Café
directing confrontations; Carlo's got a pretty intimidating glare, which is not captured here...

directing confrontations; Carlo’s got a pretty intimidating glare, which is not captured here…

Carlo messing around while Kevin looks over lines...

Carlo messing around while Kevin looks over lines…

There are no pictures of Chris or Aaron…

Overall, shooting was an incredible experience. We all worked really well together, we all learned a lot in our respective skills together, and everyone put in their best effort to collaboratively make my project into a reality, a final product that we’re all going to be proud of. I’m grateful to everyone involved in the process, each person on a very  long list of names, who respected my project, helping me tell this story that’s so important to me.

And now, I’m editing the footage. Altogether, the final project — “Bitter Root”, for now — should be about 35 minutes. There will be a screening on Saturday, April 20, at 7 PM in Sharpless Auditorium of the work-in-progress.


  1. Catherine, congratulations on a job well done! You learned a lot working through this process. I want your autograph!

  2. How did the screening go?



  1. “Bitter Root” to screen Saturday | The Clerk - [...] The film features local artists Carlo Campbell, Emily Dabney, and Kevin Austra. Casem sat down with me to talk …

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