The Beginning

Raja Abburi, who works in the software arena, in the Seattle area (and loves it), had been wanting to make a movie. He had an idea that had been gnawing at him. Jackie Stetson, after some film production experience in Miami, moved to Boston and switched to software industry. Raja had a chance meeting with her, while she was about to wrap up her temporary stay in Seattle. "Why not", Jackie said, when Raja asked if she'd produce the movie. That was late March, 2004. They picked the second weekend of May to film the movie, at Raja's house in Bainbridge Island, that was about to be torn down for remodeling. Also, Jackie had to return to Boston by the end of May. All the production had to be done by then.

The date was set. Producer was on board. All that was needed, was a script. Actors. Crew. Good weather. And voila, it's done. But, how do you film the entire movie on a weekend? dogme style. Almost. Get two cameras rolling at the same time. And go digital for everything. From casting call coordination to filming media. Digital all the way.


Raja setup the production outfit and got the Sarinisa domain name. Sa Ri Ni Sa are notes in the Indian musical alphabet. Surprisingly the domain name was available. Jackie placed ads for casting calls at Seattle hang outs for actors. Raja called Seattle Weekly to place an ad. The ads referred people to the website, and gave an email address to send their headshots and resumes to. Not much more.

Raja hooked up with his ex-colleague, Willy Manalang , (great cinematographer) that left the software industry to spend full time on movie production. Willy signed up to be one of the cinematographers, but had to be in Japan working on another film until a few days before the shooting.

Jackie was in Seattle. Raja was on vacation for 10 days. And Willy in Japan, coordinating things by email and Messenger. Jackie booked Freehold theatre in Capitol Hill, Seattle for auditions. Website was updated. Jackie started getting good responses from the actors in the area. She sent 100s of emails and booked a packed schedule for the auditions. Now, where is the script?


For a 90 minute movie, you need about 90 pages of script, at about a minute per page of filming. Raja thought he'd expand the idea nugget into the script on the vacation. At 10 pages a day, how hard could it be? And perhaps get some storyboarding done as well. Well, let us just say that, with some really early morning typing from 3am in the hotel bathroom to not disturb family (who have been extremely supportive) and not to affect the vacation activities too much, he got through close to 70 pages, before he returned to Seattle, to end up with version 1 of the script. The story progressed well. The characters became alive. No time for storyboarding though.


Jackie managed the auditions set for Saturday, April 24th. Raja printed a few copies of the brochure and "sides" for each character at Kinkos late Friday night. Raja called his relatives in the area for help, last minute, and they came through: Kevin Klein, Karen Tucker and Eric Tucker. Saturday morning Freehold was setup with a camcorder, a TV monitor. Most of the actors with scheduled appointments showed up. Jackie and later Eric, greeted them. Karen and Kevin helped with the camera and dialogues. Each actor performed a monologue. Raja picked a character they were best suited for and they read the dialogue. They were really talented. By the end of a long day, Raja and Jackie went through the list and quickly arrived at the best match for each role with actors. Raja called the selected actors that evening. A couple of changes were made due to actor's availability for the shooting schedule. The cast was set! Brianne, Norman, Margaretta, Todd, Audra, Michael, Sahra, Tracy, Sarah and Wes. Excellent!

First Rehearsal

The first rehearsal was on the following day, Sunday, April 25th. All the cast members showed up on time early morning, back at the Freehold theatre. We got the chairs laid out in a circle and read the script with each actor covering their part. Independently, Jackie read the script also for the first time and gave Raja valuable feedback. Jackie then started the script breakdown on her laptop. Karen and Eric taped the reading on camcorder. Kevin helped read the non-dialogue parts of the script and handle food with Jackie for everyone. During the lunch break, some of the actors were caught reading ahead in the script to find out what happens at the end! Karen and Eric taped the rehearsal with separate cameras. The day ended. After the practice, the crew gathered up at a nearby coffee shop to plan the next steps. Jackie stayed back in the coffee shop, to continue the script breakdown. Karen worked hard to put a rough edit together of the reading to see what it looks like on camera. It was good, and also highlighted some areas for improvement. On Wednesday night, Raja met the cast by the street corner, as the coffee shop was closed. They chatted for a while under the street light, walked over to a nearby Kinko's to make additional copies of the updated script (version 3) and left.

Second Rehearsal

Second rehearsal, on site, was set for Saturday, May 1st. Jackie had to go to Boston for that weekend and couldn't be there. Willy was still in Japan. Kevin found a place in Seattle, Victory Studios and rented Panasonic AG-DVX 100A camera (that Willy recommended), boom mic etc. Karen, Eric helped. Mahesh, another of Raja's relative also helped. They all gathered by the ferry terminal to take the 8.45am ferry to Bainbridge Island. It was a perfect day with clear skies. Raja took some photos for the movie. After a short and pleasant ride to the Island, they all gathered at the house, after parking the cars away to not crowd the driveway during the filming. Raja wanted to shoot as much of the script as possible, almost in sequence, before the day was over. Mahesh handled the boom mic. Karen took photos and was shooting the "making of" documentary. Kevin and Eric helped with food, logistics etc. Raja took two to three takes for some scenes, more for some crucial ones and fewer for less crucial ones. The actors did a great job, becoming the characters they were playing. For each scene setup, blocking, direction, practice and filming were picking up pace, that they moved from scene to scene pretty fast. The actors got to know each other a little better and got more comfortable. Raja also took notes on what needed some fine tuning for the final filming. While everyone was eating lunch, Raja shot some early scenes that didn't need everyone. They worked late into the day until it got dark. Kevin shuttled people to the ferry terminal for their return home. Raja and crew took a late night ferry back, Kevin took care of returning the rental gear. It was an exhausting day. Raja did some rough editing to put together a couple of scenes to see what it looked like on camera and think of directional adjustments for the final shoot. The reheasal with the camera shooting was immensely helpful to find out which scenes were taking longer (and how to shoot them faster) and which ones were quick. All in all, about 60 pages were shot in the rehearsal mode. Which was a big relief given that there was just one weekend to cover all the 80+ pages.

The weekend for shooting was rapidly approaching. The actors were busy becoming their characters and memorizing the lines. Kevin got a list of all the props and started getting them ready. Karen and Eric used their graphic design wizardry for putting together beer labels, magazine covers etc. Raja was working with the actors over email on clothes and tips. Raja was also getting the crew together (more calls to relatives and some friends), some of whom could only help out on one of the days. Willy arrived in the U.S. Just as he was about to head to the airport, Raja sent the script by Messenger, for Willy to read on the plane. Willy wanted the camera rented a day early for him to get the settings all ready. Kevin picked up one of the cameras early. Willy stopped by Raja's house on Thursday night to pick up the camera, watch the rehearsal cut, and figure out how Raja's filming/movie style. Raja had been checking the weather forecast, which was all over the map from sunny to overcast to rain for the weekend. Jackie had reserved the second camera at a different place, but it turned out to be an older model without autofocus. With the hectic shooting schedule, there isn't time for manual focusing, luckily the other place had a spare camera ready to be rented for the weekend. Raja also picked up a couple of wireless microphones, in addition to the boom mics. Raja headed to the Bainbridge house on Friday night. Jackie, Willy and others were going to join the crew/cast on Saturday early morning on the ferry ride.

Shooting Day 1

Saturday morning. Shooting day 1. Kevin and Raja met the cast and crew at the ferry terminal on Bainbridge Island and brought them over to the house. Weather was cooperative. Although light changed a lot, it only drizzled a little. Kevin had visited Costco and bought a whole bunch of water bottles, breakfast items etc. Some people got the breakfast. The actors quickly got into their acting outfits. Willy and Raja got the cameras ready. Steve and Mahesh got the boom poles with mics respectively. Jackie was ready with the script getting people ready for each scene and getting the following scene ready as well. Karen was filming for the documentary. Kevin and Eric were getting the props setup, shuttling empty tapes, saving filmed ones, handling battery charging for the cameras, food, etc. while trying to stay out of the frames. The actors were ready to go. They were so much into the roles, that everyone was calling each other by the characters they were playing, than their real names.

Actors were all set. Raja gave a little bit of context setup. a little direction, and discussion of the blocking with the crew. “ Camera... Rolling (for one), Rolling (for two), Quiet on the set...Action (some impressive performances) and Cut ” with Raja capturing one angle and Willy another. Same scene repeated a couple of times with close ups and different angles. Sometimes retakes. As soon as one is done, Jackie has the next scene all setup, ready to go. Jackie was awesome. Jackie had gentle but effective reminders to keep things on schedule, move things smoothly, and provide a running start to the actors sometimes with the lines and context setup. While everyone was taking lunch, Raja and Willy filmed two scenes in parallel, to join back for joint shooting. The filming went on to late in the evening until it got dark outside. About 40+ pages got covered. It was an exhausting day. The actors continued to give stellar performances. Some of the actors were done with all their filming. It was good bye time. Most people headed back to Seattle while a few stayed over.

Shooting Day 2

Sunday, Shooting day 2. Mother's day. Why didn't Raja think of it when planning the shooting way earlier? People had to make alternate arrangements. Raja got some early morning location shots as potential backdrop for titles. Kevin picked up everyone at the ferry terminal. After some quick donut breakfast things were on a roll fast. “ Camera.. Rolling, Rolling, Quiet on Set.. action.... and Cut “ over and over again. There was good pace kept. A couple of actors had to leave early and some frantic filming was done and they were dropped off at the ferry terminal in the nick of time. Rest of the day proceeded pretty smoothly and fast. And occasionally slow, until Jackie reminded. As it was getting late in the day, things started to get hectic and Jackie managed the script a little out of sequence and a little in parallel to get more filming done. Just as it was getting dark, Willy and Raja filmed the last scene. All the other actors and crew were sitting inside the house. Jackie brought Raja into the house to announce “ It's a wrap ” After a lot of cheering, laughter, relief, with actors going in and out of character for fun, Raja recalled how the idea came about. On their goading, Raja made a cameo pizza boy appearance that Willy filmed. They all got to relax a little, before Kevin dropped the actors and some of the crew at the ferry terminal. The rest of the crew took a later ferry. Kevin and Raja stayed back. Raja got all the gear together, for rental return. Kevin started cleaning up. Raja took the midnight ferry back and fell asleep. When he woke up, a couple of cars behind him were eager for him to get moving and get off the ferry. Kevin was exhausted but strangely energized to straighten things out and took the morning ferry to return all the gear, and go to work.

It was a crazy weekend, but the filming was done!!! With a lot of creative effort and organization from various talented individuals, the script turned into 18 tapes (some 80 min and some 60 min) all in all from the two cameras,

Post Production

Raja bought a couple of 250GB Lacie 1394 disks and started copying the tapes. Willy offered to do the editing and Raja took him up on it, handing the tapes and another disk over.

Willy is currently busy editing. Raja in the meantime put the website together and thinking of background music and titles.

Stay tuned...

Send feedback to feedback@sarinisa.com.