CLEVELAND - The filming is now finished and I am like a child on Christmas Eve, anticipating the next big event. In this instance, it is the debut of a film in which I have a starring role. To be one of the lead actors in the Cleveland-based film, "Cleveland, I Love You," is a treat. The anticipation of how it will be received by the public excites me.
We finished filming my segment several weeks ago. The production is really 11 self-contained stories in one film, much as was "Paris, I Love You" and "New York, I Love You." So my image and my words are in the hands of the editor and those others involved in the post production work of the film whose job may take several weeks more before the movie rolls on the big screen.
The story in which I played the character Thomas Williams is "Love of Country." The drama revolves around a Cleveland family with a son who joins the U.S. military and goes off to fight in the war in Afghanistan. The emotions run high in the family over his enlistment into the Marine Corps. In every turn of the story, there are surprises, including a big one involving the person who comes to visit the Williamses.
There were long hours of filming our parts in a house we used for the family's home in suburban Lakewood and other locales in Greater Cleveland. Although I have worked in front of television news cameras for decades and acted in feature stage roles in front of a live audience in theater, working with director Amy Tankersley Swinderman, producers Eric Swinderman and Mark Pengryn, and screenwrigter Robert Mason was greatly different. It was also an exciting task.
In many ways, the hours I spent with fellow cast members Yvonne Oliver, Imani Sherfield, Hakeem Sharif, and Brendan Potter helped cement our on-camera relationship. Hollywood has long been a draw for me. Beginning in my childhood, movie theaters became special for me in that I was able to be whisked away to a different locale and follow the lives of others on the big screen.
It is my hope the vignettes in "Cleveland, I Love You" will do the same the audience that will view the film. The producers of the project hope to get the film in a national distribution deal. There is also the possibility it can be viewed in film festivals.
Now that I have completed my part, I mentally run through my lines almost daily, letting my mind take me back to the moments when I was on the set of the feature film. Perhaps theater patrons will view the work we did with the kind of relish I viewed the work of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, and dozens of others who have success in Hollywood.
It takes a while for editors to finish a film, where each shot is considered and judged and music is added in the appropriate places. My work on the film is complete, yet I write these words with great anticipation, hoping the audience will respond favorably. Certainly, the director pushed all of us to find every nuance in the script we could find as we spoke our lines and hit our marks for the camera and microphone.
I have read the life stories of many of Hollywood's great stars. Each began with a chance to perform in a film. In their performances, they looked for the best in themselves and those around them. I am thankful I had such a wonderful crew and cast to help me find my way through the many emotions my character needed to find.
Swinderman, with her keen eye for making good pictures, talked all of us through our dialogue and shots. We now wait to see how we did. When the edit to "Cleveland, I Love You" is complete, look for me in the theater where the film is unrolled, flickering from the little room in the back of the theater. I'll be seated on the aisle a few rows back from the silver screen, remembering how wonderful an experience it was to make a movie.