Dominick had worked with Deneen Melody before on the short film “Lewis” by a vividly talented filmmaker named Anthony G. Sumner. He described her as being my kind of actor, which means she shows up, knows her lines, hits her marks, and there’s not a lot of bullshit. I was daunted by the fact that we would have zero rehearsal time with her or the other actors (other than a lively 30-minute phone conversation a few days ahead of principal photography—Dom and I would be landing in Indiana the day before we started shooting). On CONTACT, which is a 10-minute short, we had two or three rehearsals prior to filming. On CRESTFALLEN, we had to hit the ground running.
She does her homework, though, and she also did a good job of sizing me up before the shoot to see what sort of filmmaker I was. I was frank with her about the content of the film, and she was brave in her willingness to go there. Deneen reminds me a little of Kate Winslet. She has a natural grace about her; she projects sensitivity and of wheels turning inside. (She’s also a major science fiction nerd who delights in talking about Peter Jackson, LORD OF THE RINGS and unicorns.) On set, she’s very well prepared, but what makes her also pleasant is she gives all due consideration to her fellow actors and the crew. She and her co-star Michael Partipilo, who plays her husband, were very generous with each other. They became friends on “Lewis” and drove in together from Chicago; they felt safe with each other. And Michael grew to feel safe with me, too, since I involved him in every bit of improvisation we did with Deneen and the other actors even if he was not participating. He had to catch the wavelength of what her character was going through. If her character was the spinning top, Michael had to be the rock. He had to be solid. Michael projects an inherent decency even after his character has been caught cheating on her. He doesn’t play the guy as manipulative or conniving. My favorite moment with him is when he is taking the daughter away; the way he closes the car door, the way he’s containing himself. He and Deneen played off of each other and intuited each other. I’m grateful to have worked with them.
The rest of the cast was brought on by Marv, and I have to say Nicole Ann Watson worked overtime in the brief role of Deneen’s friend and Michael’s lover. She has to show up, do a very intimate scene, and the rest of the time she was helping with wardrobe and hair (forget about gore; the toughest special effect ever is a woman’s hair and clothes!), to be our on-set representative making phone calls to Russ Penning back in Iowa letting him know how the shoot was going (I can only imagine how Russ felt), and be the mother to Taylor Metzger, our wonderful child actress who plays Deneen and Michael’s kid.