An interview with Cindy Maples – By Philip Smolen

Producer and actress Cindy Maples is no stranger to the pages of Rogue Cinema. We have been fortunate enough to talk to Cindy before and we treasure the opportunities we get to find out about the exciting projects she works on. Well, Cindy’s back this month to talk about her latest cinematic endeavor. It’s a great 44 minute film called “A Wedding Like That” (for my review, please go here) and it tells the story of a loving Midwestern father named Sam (a fantastic Mark Dessauer, who also wrote and produced) who discovers that his daughter is getting married to another woman. Initially shocked, Sam slowly begins to realize that his daughter’s happiness is what is most important to him, so he does his best to bring everyone together in order to ensure the newlyweds’ happiness. Cindy produced the film and plays Sam’s loving and all-knowing wife. I loved this movie and I needed to find out how it came together, so I dashed off a list of questions to Cindy and the Illinois native shot me back the 411 on this wonderful flick.

RC: Cindy, “A Wedding Like That” (AWLT) is the fourth film you’ve produced. In terms of logistics and budget, was it the most difficult to produce?

CM: “AWLT” was probably the easiest as far as budget goes. Mark Dessauer, actor, writer and producer, had secured all the financing before he ever even approached me about producing. As far as logistics goes, we got really lucky with this entire production. We were able to secure locations fairly easy and had an amazing response to our casting call.

RC: Mark’s screenplay for “AWLT” is phenomenal. How did you hear about it and why did you have to produce it?

CM: Funny enough I was kind of the reason why the screenplay was finished. One day I was on Facebook and I kept seeing others in the Indie Film community posting about wanting to do this and wanting to do that and I kind of got worked up about it and I simply posted something like, “Stop talking about it, and just do it!” I’m not the type of person who talks about wanting to do something; I just go out and find a way to make it happen. Well, unknown to me, Mark read that post and it was the kick in the pants he needed to finish his script. Mark had originally written a monologue with the concept about a father that finds out his son is gay and thought that it would actually make a great short film. So he went back to work on the script. The son became a daughter after Mark thought about how special the connection can be between a father and daughter and all the preconceived notions that go along with that relationship. Shortly after that he sent me a copy to read. It was good, I gave a few suggestions on changes and he continued on. He mentioned that when he had it ready he would like me to play the part of Tami, his wife, and also asked if I would like to be involved on the production side. I could already tell that it was a project that I wanted to be involved in and told him to keep me in the loop and that I was very interested.

RC: One of the most remarkable aspects of the screenplay is that it doesn’t fall back on clichéd characters. Everyone is a real flesh and blood person with strengths and weaknesses.

CM: It was very important to all of us that the characters never became a cliché or as Lewis Chaney and Neil Kellen, our directors said countless times, “Cartoony”. We wanted the audience to feel the real struggle that Sam is going through. Although this is a comedy and Sam certainly stumbles his way through his realizations, we needed to also keep those decisions based in the real world. We wanted him to make mistakes and be funny but at the same time make the audience think about how they would react to this situation. It’s a very fine line that we walked but we were able to pull it off with the more dramatic moments in the film. Again, this is all thanks to the amazing work that Mark did on the script.

RC: The subject of gay marriage can still be difficult for a lot of people to discuss. “AWLT” is almost a perfect way to introduce the subject.

CM: Thank you, that’s a great compliment. I think this film handles the subject of gay marriage very well. Because we do have opposing views on the matter represented in the film it helps the audience decide how they would react to being faced with this kind of situation in their lives. And ultimately we hope that like in the film they choose love and tolerance above all else.

RC: As the producer, was there anything in the script that you felt needed to be changed?

CM: I’ll be honest, there is one part that I had a problem with but I never mentioned it and I’m actually glad now that I didn’t because it tends to get the most laughs. Having seen the film, you can probably guess which scene I’m referring to. It’s just something that I would never do in real life, but looking at it now, I’m pretty sure my character would do that and it helps to define her more “laid back” style.

RC: How did you find your directors, Lewis Chaney and Neil Kellen?

CM: Again, that was all Mark. I vaguely remember him asking me how I liked working with Lewis and Neil. I told him if they were available and he could get them to sign on to the project, then by all means DO IT! I’ve had the honor of working with Keychain Productions, LLC a few times over the years, and Lewis and Neil are consummate professionals with so many years of experience. I knew if they agreed to do the production that we would have a winning team and that the film would look absolutely amazing.

RC: Did you encounter any resistance to the film while you were filming on location?

CM: We were so lucky when it came to finding locations for this film. Mark and I are members of the local Indiana Filmmakers Network (IFN) and we attended the monthly meeting where we mentioned that we were starting to look for locations and would be casting soon. By the end of the meeting Mark had secured the two houses we needed for shooting. The Kessler house is actually the home of Sharon Dennis who magnificently played Robin in the film. It was the perfect house for the Kessler’s and her backyard made the wedding scene one of the most beautiful parts of the film. The home that was used for the Dixons is owned by the amazing Terri Richmond. She was so excited and welcoming to all of our cast and crew, she even cooked for us. We actually got a little spoiled by Terri, especially when we showed up and she had a chocolate fountain for us. The most interesting day on location was the courthouse scene, where we had our protesters. People actually stopped and thought that there was a protest against gay marriage going on.

RC: Tell me how the film was cast. Everyone puts in terrific performances.

CM: Thank you again. We had the most wonderful response to our casting call and we had some really tough decisions. But as it usually happens, certain people just immediately stand out in the auditions. I remember when Kevin Arnold, our Andy, came in and he absolutely nailed the audition. He was standing next to Mark and it was like WOW, they actually look like father and son. Needless to say he had the part before he left the audition. We also had a young lady, Sarah McDonald from the Indianapolis area, come in to audition. We all loved her immediately and we thought that we had one of our lesbians cast. Then we found out that she was 16 and we had to readjust our thinking. We knew we had to have her in the cast but we wound up putting her in the role of the middle child Gracie, and she was fantastic. On a personal note, I’ve wanted to work with both Roni Jonah and Todd Reynolds for quite a while now, so I probably pushed a little harder than I should have to get them in the cast. But when I see their performances I know I was right to make that push. We were so amazed that we had people as far away as Chicago drive down to audition. In fact Simona Ciarlo, who played our pastor, drove down from Chicago not once but three times to be a part of this project. We could have cast this film three times; we just had that much talent to choose from. It was a very good problem to have.

RC: I really like how your character Tami knows how to read people and how to get people talking to each other. Did you have a beloved family member that you drew inspiration from for the character?

CM: My mother is never far from almost any character that I play. I definitely drew inspiration from her. She always had a knack for knowing what everyone was thinking and how they would react to any situation. But honestly, Mark did such a great job writing Tami that I didn’t have much research to do. I asked him before we started production for a little background on Tami and was given a very lengthy back-story. That was so refreshing, I’m used to writing my own and hoping that I’m interpreting what the writer has in mind for the character. In this case I had a very detailed description of who Tami was supposed to be and what role she played in the family dynamic. I also think that because Mark knew from the beginning that he wanted me to play the role that he added a lot of my characteristics into her, so that made it fairly easy to become her.

RC: How long did you shoot for?

CM: We only worked on weekends and the entire film was shot in 11 days. Lewis and Neil are very strict about not going over 10 hours in a day. They’ve done this long enough to know that after 10 hours you start to lose your actors and crew and productivity drops. We started in mid-September of 2014 and wrapped the end of October. We were very lucky that the weather held out as long as it did last fall. One of our final days on set was the wedding scene which of course was all scheduled to be shot outside. Luck was truly on our side, because although it was the last weekend of October we had one of those amazing warm and beautiful autumn days and the results of that weather shows up in that scene.

RC: “AWLT” could really be a feature length movie. Do you see any chance of that happening?

CM: That’s really up to Mark. The final film came in just under 44 minutes, which puts it in an odd category for film festivals. Most consider a short film to be under 40 minutes. I can see how it could easily be a feature. There is talk about bringing the families back together for another adventure, but at this point there are no definite plans for that or to make “AWLT” into a feature length film.

RC: What are your hopes for the film?

CM: Currently “AWLT” has been entered into 31 film festivals all over the world. We were lucky to be accepted in The Alhambra Theatre Film Festival for our premiere and we just showed at MayDay Film Festival were we received the Audience Choice Award. Both of those festivals are in Evansville, IN and it was nice to be able to share it locally. We are still awaiting notification from the other festivals that happen later this year. Obviously we would love to get some form of distribution for the film and we’ll see what happens.

RC: Who were your MVPs during film production?

CM: Everyone who ever put a foot on the set! This was a team effort. There wasn’t one person who didn’t do everything they could to make this the best production it could be. From the PAs who made sure we had food on breaks to the extras that showed up to be a part of our protest or wedding scenes. Everyone worked their butts off to make sure that this movie got made.

RC: Where can Rogue Cinemaniacs see “AWLT”?

CM: Until we know which Film Festivals we are accepted into, I can’t answer that question. But I can tell your Rogue Cinemaniacs (btw, I love this) to go like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AWeddingLikeThat and as soon as we know where we’re going to be next we will post it there.

RC: Thank you so much Cindy and good luck to you!

CM: Thank you Phil and thanks to Rogue Cinema for asking me to do this interview! It’s always an honor to be a part of one of your monthly issues.

To watch the trailer for “AWLT” please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx4Le9RvfY4