Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Roots of the Whole Thing

Editor's note: "Family Trees" made its web debut here at Gregg Trzakowski starred in the film.

By Gregg Trzakowski

It has been a good ten years since we “wrapped” on the set of "Family Trees," finished filming. I must say right off that, I seem to recall only positive memories and wonder if there were in fact any negative ones.

The whole experience for me was both very positive and unusual. "Family Trees" was my first film experience, up to that point I had theater and on-camera experience through commercials and industrial video. Landing a lead role in a full-length feature was a great opportunity to work and learn on camera. According to memory, this was a collaborative effort; I would find out down the road that it doesn't always work this way. There were times when a shot or scene wasn't really coming together, then someone would come up with an idea and we’d try it. I credit both Lars and Ralph for being open to ideas and creating an atmosphere in which an actor felt safe in letting loose. If something didn't work we just tried it from a different approach, no harm done.

What made this special for me was the fact that we were all fairly green when it came to making films and consequently, we looked to each other to contribute what each could. Every member of the team was dedicated to telling the story, to serving the story first. Were mistakes made? Yes they were, however I think we all learned a great deal from those errors and exited the other end better at our respective jobs. I know I came out a better actor in the end.

In retrospect, the hardest part of making "Family Trees" was working around people’s day jobs.
"Family Trees" was filmed on weekends over a five month period. I do recall rehearsing the cabin scenes with Lisa (Stathoplos) and Ralph (Morang) when the three of us could get together during the week. Now that I think of it, we had shoot schedule and Ralph called to say we would be shooting the cabin scenes on the coming weekend. Now, according to the schedule it was to two weeks down the road. I panicked and told Ralph that I wasn’t one hundred percent ready. He assured me that if things didn’t gel we would re-shoot the scenes. I had the lines pretty well down and the rest was running on pure instinct, trusting Lisa and diving in head first. To this day, the cabin scenes are some of my favorite.

All things considered, I remain proud of the film we made. "Family Trees" is a story about real life, driven by characters who are not perfect or superhuman, yet extraordinary in their own way.

Please enjoy.