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Independent Films Seeing the Light of Day


The other day I got a film through Netflicks called “10 Items or Less,” made in 2006 and starring Morgan Freeman and a relatively unknown Spanish actress named Paz Vega. In a way the film parodies itself, because it is about an aging actor (Freeman) scoping out a possible film subject for an independent project. Since the film itself is an independent film and Freeman is actually an aging actor, and one of my favorite actors, much of the dialogue and plot is tongue-in-cheek.

Briefly, Freeman is dropped off at a convenience store in southern Los Angeles where checkout girl Paz Vega is in a dead end job with seemingly no future. While giving Freeman a ride home, he gives her a lesson in confidence building and going for her dream to be an actress. She has an audition and he helps her prepare for the audition as well as for life in general by repeating the thought that whatever day or opportunity comes up is just the beginning.

I remember those days when I thought I was just at the beginning of my film career. I was hired by Six Shooter Films, an independent film production company, to be in a movie called “The Girl’s Guide.” It was a derisive comedy about how girls should approach sex and dating. I was only in the pre-production phase of the film, because the company couldn’t get adequate funding.

The pre-production part of a film entails the director, cast, script and technical crew outlining how the film will be shot, cast and produced. When I say supporting cast, I mean extras and smaller roles. I was one of the four actresses to co-star in the film. The other three women cast in the roles were also unknowns, as I was.

Because it was a small production, you don’t get separated from the higher ups. In fact, in “10 Items or Less,” one of the bonus features showed how Paz and Freeman interacted with all the other cast and crew to talk through the film as a team. There was no feeling of Freeman being a star power, even though he is just that.

In “The Girls Guide,” we sat around a table with the technical crew and talked about specific shots, who would be in what scenes and what scenes would be shot when. Films aren’t shot sequentially, but according to what makes sense economically and to the production crew.

For instance, Freeman mentions in the bonus features of “10 Items of Less,” that the film had to be shot in 15 days because that was all the time Vega had open in her schedule. She had just come from shooting a Spanish film prior to shooting this on in the states and was going back to Spain immediately after. Vega is probably best know to American audiences for her role in “Spanglish” opposite Adam Sandler.

You really get the sense from interviews in “10 Items of Less” and in my own experience with “The Girls Guide” that in an independent feature there is much more opportunity for input from all the cast and crew than in a big budget film. And I highly recommend “10 Items of Less” as an upbeat, feel good, independent film. The bonus features are worth a look as well.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site

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